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 for navigating instead of looking at my phone while driving.
  • "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, Tomorrow at 8pm - this is the quickest way to set a reminder and I use it often.
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 on 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