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Tag: smartphone

Take these 6 Steps to Protect Your Tech from the Next Snowstorm

You can’t capture cool pictures of winter if your camera battery isn’t charged up. But if the power goes out, that may be the least of your tech problems…

A looming winter nor’easter will create plenty of heartache that you can’t control. Fortunately, you can usually take action to protect your precious tech. Just think about how unstable power caused by these windy snowstorms will affect your gear.

Here’s my checklist of 6 ways to prevent ‘techtastrophy’ before your lights start to flicker and after the power goes out…

Avoid Direct Connections to Wall Outlets
First off, just don’t plug your electronics directly into the wall. If you expect the power might fluctuate, that can also include a power surge. Why take the chance of frying your gear? You should always plug your power supplies and chargers for your delicate tech (smartphones, laptops) into surge protector power strips.
(Remember, they’re not just designed to give you more outlets.)

If you happen to have a whole-house surge protection system, then good for you. Otherwise, invest in a few power strips with some surge protection.

Get a UPS for Your Computer
A power strip isn’t going to cut it if you’re using a desktop computer that requires a constant flow of electricity. Any irregular (dirty) power is bad, but when a blackout hits, you don’t want to be working at your computer and unprepared. So, you’ll need a more advanced solution…

Your desktop should always be plugged into an uninterruptable power supply. A ‘UPS’ is essentially a battery backup unit with surge protection and automatic voltage regulation. So, during bad weather, you can type away in relative peace.

I bought a great UPS for my iMac.
It’s made by CyberPower (model CP 1350PFCLCD) and goes for
$189.95 on Amazon.

Turn Off Your Desktop During Stormy Overnights
Even with a UPS in place, I’d still recommend you turn off your desktop overnight during a big storm instead of just putting your computer into sleep mode.
(Why take any chances?)

Activate Your Portable Power Generator
A battery-powered UPS can only handle your computer for a short while… enough time to finish up what you’re doing and then safely shut down. If you need a more powerful solution, then you’ll have to invest in a portable power generator for your house that can run for hours or days (depending on your fuel reserves).

I own a Generac LP5500 liquid propane portable generator.
No, I don’t have it just to power my iMac. I bought it to keep the actual essentials at home going during a blackout… like our heating system.
But you get the idea…

Juice the Backup for Your Smartphone
If you don’t have any beefy power creation solutions in place, then at least invest twenty bucks on a pocket-sized battery power bank. It will give your smartphone an extra charge or two while the rest of your home waits in the dark.

I carry around the Anker Astro E1 Portable Charger.
($19.99 on Amazon)

But a little power stick can’t come to your rescue if it’s not charged! So, make sure it’s juiced up before the snow hits.
(And it wouldn’t hurt to top off your smartphone either)

Keep Your Smartphone Warm
Your particular smartphone model might be water resistant, but its battery is still sensitive to winter. It will drain down faster when exposed to frigid temperatures.
(And that’s why you shouldn’t keep your AA batteries in the refrigerator)

So, if you’re out and about after a storm, try to keep your smartphone as warm as possible. Otherwise, you may find it suddenly needs a recharge.
(Then, please see tip #5!)

Power Up!
Sure, it’s hard to function in the dark. But it’s easier if your critical tech isn’t down for the count. Here’s hoping you successfully weather the next ‘Snowmageddon’ along with your gear!

How to Pay Less and Get More Out of Your Cell Phone Plan

Do you feel you’re paying too much for your monthly smartphone usage for what you’re getting? Maybe it’s time to more closely review your plan…

Here are two clues you’re probably spending too much on your mobile bill… Either you haven’t chosen a fresh deal lately. Or you just opted into a shiny-new plan, and then you inexplicably get more perks for free.
(Like… how often does that happen?)

Here’s a cautionary tale where I tripped over both scenarios…

Data Limits are a Drag
For years, I’ve been holding for dear life onto my legacy unlimited wireless plan from AT&T. Not that I use all that much data…

I do stream the occasional video while I’m commuting on the train to
New York City.
(Netflix/Amazon Prime Video)

But I’m not risking the integrity of the entire wireless network!

I just like the idea of not having to worry about data limits. And when unlimited plans went out of vogue some years back, I clutched to mine even tighter.

Time zipped by, and I thought I still had the deal of the century.

Unlimited Data Plans are Back
But a funny thing happened. I recently spotted some advertising from the competition about new unlimited plans. Huh!
(What’s old is apparently new again.)

Then I realized my legacy plan was no longer such an unbeatable deal…

International Day Pass
I stumbled upon this unsettling realization when I temporarily upgraded my iPhone’s plan to help it operate overseas during my family’s vacation to Barcelona.

In preparation for a lot of Gaudi and a little Cava in Spain, I called 611 on my iPhone to contact customer service and find out about my international-use options.

I quickly realized the best move was to add AT&T’s “International Day Pass” plan to my account for just ten bucks a day. This offering gives you free calling and texting and mirrors the same data plan as you have at home.

For me, that’s a far better deal that AT&T’s older “Passport Gold” plan, which costs a whopping $120/month, plus 35 cents/minute calling, plus a paltry 800 MB for the month. And then 15 cents per MB of overage.

So I thought I had the perfect solution…

AT&T Unlimited Plus Wireless Plan
But then the operator told me my existing unlimited data wireless plan was “too old” to ‘accept’ the International Day Pass feature.


She explained I would have to upgrade to one of AT&T’s newer plans.

I defiantly proclaimed that I wasn’t willing to give up my cherished unlimited data flow.

But then she said the oddest thing…
“What about upgrading to one of our new unlimited data plans that will work with the International Day Pass feature?”


“Yes, we just started offering them.”

“It’s really unlimited data… like my legacy plan?”


“No catches?”

“No, sir.”


“And our new AT&T Unlimited Plus wireless plan is forty dollars less expensive per month than your old plan.”

“It’s cheaper?”

“And that’s with the wireless hot spot feature.”

“I get the hot spot option too for my iPhone?”
(That’s always an à la carte add on.)

“Yes, sir.”

Still in consumer shock, I finally agreed to let my legacy plan go and entered the less expensive present of wireless phone plans.

But the story doesn’t end there…

Hello HBO Streaming!
A week later, while on vacation in sunny Barcelona, I received a text from AT&T telling me I would also be receiving HBO streaming for free, because I had so wisely joined the new Unlimited Plus club.
(The text didn’t really affirm my consumer prowess… but it’s how I felt.)

Clearly, I had bought into a higher-level tier plan. Deep down, I knew I didn’t really need to take the full boat. But I was paying less per month than I had been. So it still felt like a really good deal.
(Plus, I’ve been meaning to catch up on some HBO programming.)

I’d say you can confidently place me in the column of happy AT&T customers!

Your Old Deal Stinks
The moral of the story is you just need to pay attention when it comes to using consumer tech.
(Buying at a good price is often just the beginning of the journey.)

Is your wireless plan really the latest and greatest?
(Yesterday’s deal never lasts forever, even if the monthly costs do!)

Yes… sometimes it makes sense to hold onto a feature that gets discontinued… but usually the rule of thumb is both tech and tech usage get less expensive over time.

There’s always a better deal waiting around the corner…

So go find it!

How to Make Your Old iPhone Act Like New

Is your iPhone having trouble holding a charge? If you’ve owned it for long enough, that’s inevitable. Now it’s time to take your phone on a little trip…

Is your iPhone having trouble holding a charge? If you’ve owned it for long enough, that’s inevitable. Now it’s time to take your phone on a little trip…

My iPhone was in big trouble. After not even two and a half years, the battery in my old iPhone 6 Plus was showing some serious wear.

It just couldn’t make it as long anymore without a little pick me up. And never for more than a day. Sometimes it couldn’t even get to lunch. And then there were the times the battery level would suddenly go from 30% to zero.

In the cold… forget it. My iPhone would shut down faster than you can say,
“I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me,” five times fast.

Time to Make the Doctor’s Appointment
So I brought my ailing companion to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. The Genius ran the diagnostics on the battery and reported it was almost due for replacement… but not quite yet. I asked if it would last me until this fall.
(Yeah, I’m planning on pulling the trigger on the latest and greatest then.)

“Definitely not,” she said.

“How much for a new battery?”

“Eighty dollars.”

So the way I saw it, I had a choice:

I could nurse my iPhone with a power drip and carry around an external battery or stay close to power outlets for as long as possible. And then rush back to the Apple Store for the operation when there was no longer an alternative…

Or I could electively do the battery swap out now.

Is that even a choice?

The Cost of Living in a Digital World
Look, no battery lasts forever.
It would have been nice for my iPhone to go a full three years on its original power cell, but it’s not like I didn’t get a lot of use out of it.

Is there any other device you depend more on every day?

Is $80 a lot of money for a silly battery? At one level… yes.
But considering the original cost of the iPhone, not at all.

Think of it as a simple maintenance cost…
(The thing doesn’t run on Pixie Dust.)

Tech Zen Restored
So my iPhone was whisked away to the back of the Apple Store for a ‘Battery Replaceadectamy.’
(No, you can’t do it yourself… or at least, you’re not supposed to.)

Now… my iPhone is back to its old self again.
And I’m a whole lot happier… not having to stress about all this.

Look at all of the time I’ve brought back into my life not having to always figure out how to feed my smartphone a little more juice.

I think it’s the best eighty bucks I’ve ever spent.

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