Mar 30, 2015

G Watch by LG

While all the buzz is about the new Apple Watch, I've been wearing my G Watch by LG since Christmas (thanks to the Husband). I get asked about it all the time, especially when volunteering with children. They are always up on the latest gadgets!

I'm not a gadget person, but I see watches as a natural extension for technology. Many people already wear or grew up wearing a watch. Many are willing to spend a lot of money on watches as jewelry, as a show of wealth or just for fun. The watch doesn't get in the way, it's just there. I don't have to get it out of my pocket or purse. The G Watch doesn't buzz or ring, it lightly vibrates when it wants my attention, and I like that. It's polite.

There are many apps that interact with a large offering of Android watches, (Check out Google's Android Wear page for all the options) but I keep it pretty simple. The commands I use most often are:

"Ok Google..."
  • "Navigate to..." Trader Joe's, Target, Anne's Home, you name it - I prefer this to looking at my phone and 
  • "Text..." Any of my contacts - It's best for quick texts, because I find it misunderstands me more than my phone's voice commands. So I save it for "Text Anne... On my way", "Running late", etc. 
  • "Set alarm for..." 1 hour, 6:45am - 
I also like how I can quickly see my incoming texts and emails, without really interrupting what I'm doing. However, it is not the place to read through existing or old messages. Here is a comprehensive video from Phandroid. Just a few things you can do with your Android Wearable:

You can purchase the G Watch right now on Amazon for $159, compared to the reported $549 price of the Apple Watch.

Stitcher Radio for Podcast

The recent success of the podcast Serial has people who have never heard of a podcast searching for ways to get it! What is a podcast? It is a digital audio recording that you can listen to, much like a radio station.

Podcasts are not as intuitive with Android devices as they are with iPhone (via iTunes), but I've found the Stitcher app is the best choice. Stitcher also has lots of radio and news stations, including KQED, PBS, NPR, MSNBC, CNN, FOX etc. where you can listen to specific shows from those networks. For example, let's say you're fan of Anderson Cooper's CNN show, AC360, but it is on during your evening commute home. You can subscribe to AC360 Audio via Stitcher, and listen to the show in your car. In this example, the podcast is an audio recording of a TV Show, but that is not usually the case.

I love this video from from NPR's This American Life host Ira Glass, and his friend Mary, and it has THE best description of how to get a podcast.

Mar 27, 2015

Cardboard - Google's VR Device

My kids are big gamers and when they first heard about Oculus Rift they were EXCITED! Then we learned that a very inexpensive piece of folded cardboard can simulate the Virtual Reality (VR) experience, and we had to get one! During my volunteer work for Hour of Code I brought our Cardboard to a 5th grade classroom and the kids absolutely LOVED it.

I thought Google Cardboard would make a great gift for Christmas to my Android and iPhone owning family members. Unofficial Cardboard (aproximately $15) was the device I chose. Although Amazon has several options available. There are two different sizes depending on the size of your phone/device.

You can find a growing list of apps that bring the VR experience to your Android from the Play Store HERE. A few of my current favorites are:

Cardboard - The official app by Google that includes a few fun VR experiences, including Windy Day, Google Earth and a tour of Versailles.

Tuscany Dive - This is a great first experience into VR! You can explore in and around a villa in Tuscany. Look at your feet to begin walking, and away you go!

Cartoon Village VR - Fun little walk around for kids

Orbulus, for Cardboard VR - This app has several different photo spheres you can explore.

Mar 24, 2015

Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans has finally come to Android! It has long been an iPhone hit and will be the same on Android. The game is very similar to World of Warcraft, but after some initial game play allows Multiplayer action. You can make your own clan or join someone else's clan and team up. You can attack others and be attacked, which makes it more addictive than most games.

You can also use the Link Device Option to play with multiple devices and even switch between your Android and iOS devices. The kids prefer to play it on the Nexus 10, which gives you lots of room and looks beautiful.

Clash of Clans is free to download, but there are lots of opportunities to spend money with this game. In fact, my children have spent more on COC than any other app ever (by far). They started asking for Google Play gift cards for birthdays and holidays just to spend it on this game! My Valentine's gift FROM my children this year was also a Google Play gift card so I could upgrade my own Clan Castle to Town Hall 8 (known as TH8 in COC).

Note to Parents:
There is a Global Chat in COC that does * out any curse words. In fact, it goes a bit overboard on this and will **** out regular words too. However, kids are smart and quickly learn to out smart the system and make their message clear without being censored. You can also REPORT inappropriate behavior, but it takes several players to report one before they are banned (temporarily) from chat. But I have found that SuperCell, COC's game maker, is very responsive to abuse reports made via their Parent's Portal. Always take a screenshot of the abusive behavior.

My children are allowed to play this app, but I have seen all sorts of bad behavior on COC. In Global Chat gay bashing, sexual talk, general bullying and sharing of KIK accounts (to share photos outside the game) are very common, but it is clear that it is mostly a child just testing their limits. You can MUTE and REPORT that individual. Within a clan, mostly the atmosphere is friendly, since you need to play together to win. However the clan leaders can KICK you out, and that can be upsetting (even to adults!).

Price: Free, with the potential to spend A LOT on in app purchases
Get it now

Dec 2, 2013

Gifts for the Android Lover

ChromeCast  - $35
This is a great gift at only $35 that will pack a big punch this holiday season! Just plug the ChromeCast device into your HDMI TV set and you are ready to stream content from pretty much any Android device. My kids love watching their favorite YouTube videos on the big screen with this, but there are so many other uses. At this price it makes a great stocking stuff for anyone in the family including college students and hard to buy for parents.

A few apps you can currently stream are Google Music and Play content, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora, Redbox Instant, Vimeo, YouTube.

Nexus 7 - $199
 Forget the iPad Air and go for a Nexus 7, which is currently on sale for $199 for the 16GB (or $279 for 32GB) This snappy little Android tablet is a perfect gift for the techie traveller. It is basically a giant Android phone and won't disappoint. My kids love this device and have all their favorite apps installed. Fits in my purse to take to restaurants to entertain the kids. For me, the Nexus 7 is my preferred reader device and where I use my Kindle App the most. This one has great multi-user support, so the whole family can use it as our own device. We have several tablets, and this is hands down our favorite.

I would recommend going for the 16GB if budget isn't an issue.

Chromebook - $244
I'm writing this post from my own Samsung 11.6" Chromebook, and I love it! For $244 (it is currently $5 off am Amazon, plus free shipping) you really can't beat it. The only thing my family can't do on a Chromebook? Play Minecraft, which is major problem for the kids. But it is perfect for me and what I use 100% of the time now. When I have it out and about people always want to check it out and ask what it is. Sure, you will have to use Google Hangouts, instead of Skype, and Google Drive Apps instead Microsoft's suite. But the future is in "The Cloud" so I'm confident in my choice. The Chromebook also does an excellent job of managing users, so whomever is logged in feels like it their own laptop.

This is what Santa is bringing the Grandparents this year...shhh!

Nexus 5 - $349
This is a high end splurge, but running pure Google Android 4.4 (KitKat!) the new Nexus 5 will put a smile on anyone's face. Available in White or Black and with 16GB or 32GB, this phone starts at $349 shipped from Google. With a slim 5" display Google claims it "keeps you connected at blazing speeds. Add in the cutting-edge 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 800 processor and you’ll race through games, zip around the web and switch between apps at the flick of a finger".  Personally I hate that cell phones keep getting bigger and bigger, that is what the tablet is for. But if you like the latest and greatest, the Nexus 5 is it!

Google Play Gift Cards - $10, $25, $50
These Gift Cards are also great gift and can be found at numerous stores (including Target, Walmart, Safeway and a dozen other retailers).  They can be redeemed for Apps from the Google Play marketplace, along with music, books and movies. My kids will be getting a few of these in their stockings.

A few other ideas are the Nexus 10" tablet which is currently at a great price on Amazon for $90 off),  and the high-end ChromeBook Pixel with touch screen for $1649.

Happy Googlemas!

Jun 8, 2013

Top 10 Fonts for Google Docs

If you aren't using Google Drive yet, you should be! While it isn't perfect (yet) the mobility and ability to share seamlessly make it my go to document editor.

Google Drive is great for functionality, but I want beautiful documents that are easy on the eyes. To do that you need to install additional fonts into Google Docs from the Fonts Menu.  There are over 450 fonts to choose from, but these are the best new fonts in Google Web Fonts:
Coming Soon
Crafty Girls
Fredericka the Great
Homemade Apple
Love Ya Like a Sister
Mountains of Christmas
Vast Shadow

Adding these 10 fonts to the basic preinstalled fonts will help you develop attractive and creative documents quickly.

Currently you cannot add new fonts to Google Spreadsheets (or Google Sheets, or whatever they are calling it this week). I'm sure that will change in the near future and it will work similarly.

Quick video of how to add the new fonts to Google Docs:

May 5, 2013

Pinterest for Android

New social networks seem to pop up everyday, but Pinterest is one that is generating lots of buzz. Pinterest defines itself as "a tool to collecting and organizing things you love". If you are a visual person and haven't discovered Pinterest, then check it out!

The things you can collect and organize are endless: recipes, fashion, hair and makeup tutorials, photography, travel, exercise, crafts and design are just beginning examples what others are pinning on Pinterest.

Pinterest is also a great way to promote your own website or blog. It has become a top traffic driver. You can sign up via your existing Facebook or Twitter accounts, and share you pins on those social networks. You repin existing Pinterest content, or you can pin original content that you find online.  I prefer the browser interface on my laptop, but when I'm out and about the Android App is great!

The Pinterest app for Android (and iOS) is free.