At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: smartphone

Do You Need a Bluetooth Desk Clock?

You’re probably wondering, “What’s a Bluetooth clock?” Heck, I’m sure some of you are asking why would anyone even need a clock on a desk anymore. But hold on… The trick is this clock can connect to your smartphone…

You’re probably wondering, “What’s a Bluetooth clock?” Heck, I’m sure some of you are asking why would anyone even need a clock on a desk anymore. But hold on… The trick is this clock can connect to your smartphone…

I didn’t realize it, but clocks are an endangered species. To be more specific… desk clocks with digital displays have just about disappeared.

“Poppycock,” you say?

Take a look around… the time is proudly displayed everywhere.
(So where’s the conspiracy?)

Clocks are engineered into all of your tech… on your smartphone… your computer… your DVR…your stove… your car… and of course, on your watch.

And even on your cable set top box.

But time keeping as a singular function in a little box that sits on your desk or shelf doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe there’s no market for it, because that functionality is already baked into just about everything else you own.

The one exception is a clock with the old-time hands. There are still plenty of those around. Unfortunately, I usually want to know exactly what time it is, and a digital readout is more precise.

I Don’t Know What Time It Is
Remember that cable box I returned…?
(Argh….)

You’ll recall the one feature I’ve been missing from that silly box isn’t the TV programming… It’s the network-controlled digital time display!
(That bleeping clock!)

Without that constant glow of numbers, nobody knows what time it is in my home office anymore.

When you walk in, it’s like a time bubble. And that’s not so great when you’re rushing to get dressed in the morning and trying to catch the next train into the city.

So I decided it was time to buy a simple replacement clock for my office.
How hard could that be…?

Would you believe… impossible?

They Don’t Make Clocks Anymore
Sure, there are plenty of radio-controlled atomic clocks out there, which will supposedly stay in step down to the second.
(As long as they can sense that low-frequency signal from
NIST Radio Station WWVB)

The problem is these clocks’ displays are cluttered with so many other readouts… day… date… hygrometer… and temperature.

I don’t want all of that!

If you’re looking for an unobtrusive atomic clock with a digital readout that only shows the time…. I challenge you to find one!

So now what?

Near Miss
Well, I loosened up my criteria a bit.

I figured maybe I could give up the atomic piece and reset the clock every so often if I could locate the right form factor.

I came close with this Marathon LED clock for $39.95 on Amazon.
It’s technically an alarm clock, but happily, it just shows the time and not the alarm setting. Its bright display is simple and clear, and the clock’s form is sleek.

The only problem is reviewers have complained about the blinking colon between the numbers. And as I planned to place my replacement clock near my little office HDTV, I think that would also be an annoyance for me.

Pass.

Hello, Marathon!
The good news is Marathon makes plenty of other digital display clocks!

  • Some are atomic.
  • Some aren’t.
  • And others are…

…Bluetooth.

What?

Yes, Bluetooth-controlled.

The trick is you can pair these clocks with a companion app on your smartphone to sync the time and other functions via Bluetooth.

Huh.
That sounds pretty cool.

The only downside is these Bluetooth models also display the day and date, which I was trying to avoid.

Sticker Shock
There’s another downside… price. These Bluetooth clocks ranges from $80-$125 on Marathon’s website.

The good news is Amazon has it for less. A lot less…

I zeroed in on the $100 Marathon CL800001GH Bluetooth Panoramic Clock System in brushed graphic… for $29.00 on Amazon.

My iPhone could keep it in perfect step, and my time woes would be over.

I know… Fifty bucks is still a pretty penny to pay for a simple clock that sits in your office. I’m sure most of you would save the Ulysses S. Grant and suggest I just grow up and put my watch on.

Yeah.
(sigh)

Please don’t judge….

Click.

More than a Clock
The package arrived swiftly via Amazon Prime, and I eagerly opened it up.
What did I find…?

Well, first off, the ‘panoramic’ model I bought was a little large for my needs.
It’s fine, but bigger than I expected.
(6”x 9”)

The Marathon Watch Company does make a smaller version for $39.95.
(But I wasn’t as keen on this ‘tabletop’ model, because it looks more like an alarm clock with white and orange bars on top.)

My sleeker panoramic model is technically a ‘wall clock,’ though I didn’t know that until I discovered that detail on the box when it showed up.

All this said, my model works well enough as a desk clock, because it also sports a handy kickstand.

I skimmed the instructions, which reviewed the special sauce that the “Bluetooth Smart” technology provides…

  • Multiple alarms
  • Countdown timer
  • Temperature and humidity with historical chart on the app
  • Battery status
    (No, the clock doesn’t plug into an outlet.)

But the main attraction:
“Auto time synchronization with your mobile network through your mobile device”

The Magic of a Bluetooth Clock
First, you’ve got to download the Marathon Clock app for your smartphone or iPad:

The name of the app in the Apple App Store or Google Play is “Clock System.” (That’s actually not in the instructions.)
I figured it out by going to marathonbluetooth.com…
(Which the instructions do tell you to visit.)

Then, I paired the clock to my iPhone just like you do with any Bluetooth device.
(There’s a Bluetooth button on the back of the clock to press.)
Marathon iOS Clock System App

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s it.

Bingo… The precise time from my mobile network popped onto the clock.

Sweet!

So whenever my iPhone comes within range… Sync!
Well…not quite.

Yes, the Bluetooth automatically connects, but after a few trial runs, it looks like you’ve got to navigate into the app for the syncing process to begin.
Marathon iOS App Time Syncing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not terrible.

The Verdict
A few other thoughts…

-There’s no backlight for the clock’s display. So optimally, you should position the clock where another light source can reflect off of it.

-This Marathon also has a blinking colon between the numbers, but because of the clock’s size, I didn’t end up placing it near my TV.
(So problem solved there)

-The countdown timer is really interesting…
Marathon iOS App Countdown Timer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It might have some future application when it comes to managing how much time is left for my son’s ‘screen-time’ activities.

-I’ve got to say the temperature and humidity tracker on the app is the niftiest feature, although I’m not sure why I’d need to chart my home office’s comfort index.
Marathon iOS App Tracking Temperature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Ultimately, it’s okay that the clock’s screen has a minor reference to the date and day of week.
(While I usually know what day it is, I sometimes have to check the date… So having it there is kind of helpful.)

Do You Really Need One of These?
Yes, fifty bucks is still a little steep for a digital clock.
(I imagine you can find a stripped-down cousin on the bottom of a Cracker Jack box.)

But this Marathon clock certainly has lots of tricks up its sleeve.
(Not that I was specifically looking for most of them.)

And it does sync to network time.
(That’s really cool… admittedly in a geeky sort of way.)

Happily, I’ve popped my home office’s time bubble.
(I’m finally free to move forward in this dimension’s timeline.)

Tick tock.

Is Your Smartphone Safer with the iRing or Bunker Ring?

Do you worry about dropping your smartphone in the toilet? You should if you often practice a one-handed grip. If you’re also using a stick-on ring for total security, you may want to rethink your plan…

Do you worry about dropping your smartphone in the toilet? You should if you often practice a one-handed grip. If you’re also using a stick-on ring for total security, you may want to rethink your plan…

Ten months ago, I experienced a watershed moment… I attached an ‘iRing’ to the back of my iPhone 6 Plus. (Actually, my Tech 21 case.) And I immediately felt invincible. Of course, this tiny plastic square absolutely ruined the perfect sleek profile of my Apple device.

Sacrilege.

But let’s face it, these plus-sized iPhones are huge, and I must admit they’re a little difficult to handle one handed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my little phablet.

But I’m the first to admit that I’m a multitasker throughout my day. I often find myself balancing my iPhone in one hand while my other hand is doing something else. Dropping my digital companion while trying to ‘one hand it’ would be something of a game-over moment.

So the ideas of attaching a ‘non-destructive’ stick-on plastic square with a ring to the back of my iPhone and then sliding my finger through the ring for extra support seemed simultaneously strange and brilliant.

So, I gave it a go…
And quite honestly, it was a game changer.
To be able to hang your iPhone from your finger…. Whoa!

Plus, you can use it as a kickstand to watch videos on a table with others.
Like…. “Hey, look at this.”
(Plop.)
(Play…)

So Weird, It’s Cool
I simply loved my iRing. Not to mention I discovered this $20 add-on became something of an unexpected fashion statement.

More than a few folks asked me,

“Hey, what’s that on the back of your phone?”

“Oh this little thing…? It’s an iRing.”

“Ooh…”

Suddenly, I’m the cutting-edge, ‘early adopter’ guy.
(When I often choose not to be)

And all I’m actually trying to do is not drop the darned thing in the toilet!

These were halcyon days.
Until….

My iRing Lost Its iPhone Connection
A couple of week’s back I was holding my iPhone using my fabulous iRing…
In no particular strange way or stressful positioning…
And my magical power circle… It… just… popped off.

What?!
(I was sitting at a table. So, my iPhone only had an inch or so to drop. I was insanely fortunate.)

It had been ten months since I first stuck the iRing to my life.
I would have thought the heralded ‘restickable’ adhesive would have lasted longer than that…

But have no fear… The iRing’s makers say you can reuse the iRing ‘hundreds’ of times.

Really?
Okay then…

So I ran the adhesive section under running water to ‘recharge’ it as per the instructions.
(No I don’t understand how that works either.)

And I pressed it back on.

Two days later, the iRing came off again.

A third attempt lasted for only 24 hours.
(By this time, I was mostly palming my iPhone to protect it from what seemed like the inevitable.)

No doubt about it – My iRing had reached the end of its useful life.
‘Cause really… If you can’t trust the ‘stick’… it’s simply a liability.

So now what?

Plenty of Other Choices
I could buy another iRing and hope to get a year out of the next one. But just the knowledge that it is doomed to fail, suggested I should try my luck elsewhere…

Actually, there are plenty of other competing smartphone ‘rings’ on the market.
Here’s a bunch I quickly found on Amazon:

Hello, Bunker Ring
As I did my research, all of these stick-on rings all started to look the same…
And maybe some of them actually were!
(Plus, you’ve got to wonder if the adhesive technology they’re all using comes from the same ‘sticky-goo’ lab.)

My brain started to feel fuzzy, and I began to loose focus on my quest to regain my grip.

Then, I happened upon another choice –

Bunker Ring in Box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmmm…

  • It had a solid name.
    (Not unimportant)
  • The product was supported by a professional-looking main website.
  • And it’s received better overall user reviews than the competition on Amazon.

Bunker Ring Essentials

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bunker Ring seemed like the real deal… as opposed to some reseller popping their own name on a generic unit.

That said, the Bunker Ring is more expensive than the other choices above.
(I certainly hope that means it’s got more going for it.)

A couple other details:

  • The ‘Essentials’ model is a fifth generation design.
    (Maybe the fifth time is the charm?)
  • The flat ‘super pad’ is a little larger than the iRing’s.
    (Hopefully that will give it more sticking power.)
  • The outside of the ring part is circular as opposed to having one flat edge like the iRing.

Bunker Ring Vs iRing

 

 

 

 

 

 

On that last point… the iRing had won out in my first search last year, partly because that one section on the outside of the ring was flat, theoretically making its ‘stand’ functionality more stable.

Meh.

Ironically the Bunker Ring is marketed on Amazon as a “kickstand,” and while I’ve used that trick a bunch of times, the one-handed ring maneuver is really what I need to perform flawlessly multiple times every day.

Déjà Vu?
After going through all of this mishegoss, I realized I had actually considered the Bunker Ring Essentials my first time around, but the iRing’s flat edge was more appealing and took the prize.
(Hey, it was ten months ago. Sometimes, I can barely remember yesterday.)

Bunker Ring Vs iRing angle shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe it was time to give the runner-up a shot…

Click.

Never Dismiss the Strength of Five Fingers
So I’m happy to report I’m again one-handing my iPhone with confidence. My Bunker Ring Essentials is firmly attached, and my hand is back in control of my huge smartphone.
(For now)

But really… who am I fooling? Do I really expect any super-stick voodoo to last forever?

Before, the iRing made me feel totally secure. I didn’t need a net…
My iRing’s failure says more about me than its chemical engineers. That I would totally entrust the safety of my iPhone to some marketing promise was silly.

Perhaps I should actually thank the iRing for its sticky failure. That experience will now force my hand to pay a little more attention when relying on the support of my Bunker Ring Essentials.

Yes, tech is there to make our lives better… but it’s rarely perfect. You should never give up total control…

Or else one day… you could find your life in the toilet.

How to Join a Conference Call without Remembering the Code

When was the last time you had to remember someone’s phone number? These days, your smartphone is used to handling all that. Right? Did you know it can also dial the complex code at the right moment when you’re joining a conference call? As long as the human ‘leader’ remembers this lesser-known step…

When was the last time you had to remember someone’s phone number? These days, your smartphone is used to handling all that. Right? Did you know it can also dial the complex code at the right moment when you’re joining a conference call? As long as the human ‘leader’ remembers this lesser-known step…

So I’ve got to first admit I didn’t know about this little trick when joining a conference call using your smartphone. I’m sure it may be an obvious point to the majority of you. I’m embarrassed to even bring it up…

But this blog is intended to be a safe space to discuss how to navigate our tech-infused world… no matter how ‘advanced’ you may or may not feel.
(Okay… there’s the disclaimer. So don’t hurl any “Duhs” at me, please.)

Okay, here goes…

The Power of Three Commas and Your Next Conference Call
Who really prefers dialing manually into a conference call when you can tap the listed number on your smartphone, and your phone dials the number for you?
(No, that’s not the trick. Come on. Wait for it…)

You’ve got to believe the entire smartphone-enabled human population is quickly losing its collective ability to memorize any phone number, because smartphones now do all of that heavy lifting for us.

Then, you’re forced to tap in the participant code.
(The password to get in)

And how easy is it to remember another set of seven or more random digits?
(I’ve often had to double check the participant code at least once while tapping the numbers.)

Recently, while joining a conference call, I stumbled across the ‘better way…’
(Thanks to someone a bit more At Home with their Tech)

After I tapped the conference call number with my index finger, my iPhone somehow grabbed and dialed the entire line, which also included the participant code.

Then, magically, my iPhone waited the perfect amount of time to offer up the code, and I seamlessly joined into my call without doing anything more.
(It was like butter…)

How did all that happen?

Was it due to some new iOS update?
No…

I looked more closely at the conference call invite and noticed three commas between the phone number and the participant code.

Was that some kind of typo?

No… that was the trick.

The three commas are what simply directed my iPhone to pause long enough and then dial the participant code.

Huh.

Okay… you can say it.

“Duh!”

Hashtag It
So the next time you set up a conference call, use the ‘three comma rule’ to speed up the day of your smartphone participants on iOS or Android.

Remember…. three commas.

Oh… and don’t forget to include the pound sign at the end of the participant code.
For all the cool kids on the block, that’s a hashtag.
As in…

#HowToSetUpAConferenceCallForDummies

This Post will Self Destruct in Ten Seconds
Okay… Now, you can take your right hand down from above your head with your index finger and thumb extended.
(I just did.)

Remember, this blog is a safe space.

But let’s not discuss this again.
Really.
Enough said…

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