Fixes for Common iPhone Issues

By Tracey Dowdy

Having a smartphone has put a calendar, a camera and a music library in our pockets. I depend on mine for everything from online banking and scheduling appointments to snapping photos at a wedding last weekend.

I love my phone and am absolutely dependent on it, but because I use it so frequently and for so many purposes, I run into three issues fairly frequently: lack of storage, battery drain, and cutting it close on my data usage. These tips and tricks have helped me work around those issues and make the most of my iPhone.

Storage

Problem
I have a16G iPhone 5C. The catch is that with the operating system and native software factored in, I really only have 12.6G of available storage. Videos, photos, music, messages and apps eat up space so trimming them is the easiest way to free up space.

Solutions
Delete Apps: Go to Settings app > General >Usage > Manage Storage to get an overview of what’s taking up the most space. You can delete any unused or unnecessary apps from within settings by tapping on them in the list. You can also delete apps by holding down the app icon on the home screen. The apps will start to shake and simply tap on the X that appears to delete.
Delete Messages: Swipe left and tap Delete from within your message history.
Delete Photos and Videos: The easiest way to clear out your photos and videos is to open the Camera Roll or Video albums. Tap Select, tap each photo or video you want to delete and then tap the trash can icon.

Battery Drain

Problem
I’m one of those people whose anxiety spikes when my battery level drops below 30 percent. Who am I kidding, I hate when it gets below 50 percent! Several things can contribute to battery level dropping quickly and if you know it’s going to be a while before you can recharge, the following changes can make a big difference.  

Solutions
Lower the Brightness: Lowering the brightness level on your display has a big impact on how quickly your battery drains. Go to Settings>Display>Brightness and slide the cursor to the left.
Turn off Location Services: Location tracking services are a constant drain, as once you’re off Wi-Fi your phone starts searching for the nearest tower. Open Settings> Privacy >Location Services to toggle off.
Close Apps Running in the Background: The fastest way to close apps running in the background is to double tap the Home Button. Your phone will display all the apps currently open, just swipe up to close them. Your other option is to turn off Background App Refresh. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and toggle off.

Reduce your Data Usage

Problem
Unless you have an unlimited plan, you run the risk of going over your data usage. However, a few simple changes can keep you within your plan’s limits. The most obvious choice is to disable your mobile data and only turn it on when needed but that’s a hassle and there are better ways to reduce usage and prevent those expensive overage charges.

Solutions
Change your Settings: Go to Settings>Mobile>Mobile Data Usage. Two counters are displayed: Current Period and Current Period Roaming which lets you know where you are in your usage since the last time you reset – if ever – the counter. Below the counters is a list of apps using mobile data. Simply scroll through the list and toggle off any apps you don’t want using data when Wi-Fi is unavailable. If you reset the counter each month, you’ll have a fairly accurate picture of where you are in your usage but keep in mind there’ll be some delay.
Change Settings within Apps: Some apps have their own settings that let you chose data or Wi-Fi only. Open the app in Settings and toggle off any you don’t want eating up your usage.
Disable Background App Refresh: Background App Refresh is great if you want updated information when you open your apps. If you’re okay with the information being downloaded just when the app is launched, go to Settings>General>Background App Refresh. You can disable it completely or choose specific apps to restrict.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

5 User-Friendly Photo Apps for Your Smartphone

By Chantal Bechervaise

The cameras on today’s smartphones keep on getting better and better. I often admire the photos that I see on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook that others have taken with their phones. While your smartphone camera is the most convenient camera that you probably carry around with you everywhere you go, it can be intimidating to use. Here are 5 user-friendly apps that can help you become a ‘pro’ (even if you are a novice) at taking photos and editing them with your smartphone. You can also learn about other smartphone photography tips and tricks here.

Camera+

Use this app instead of your iPhone’s default camera.  With this app you can preview your photos before taking them and do some edits to them beforehand. One quick edit that is convenient is called ‘Clarity’ which will magically transform your photos into brighter and more focused ones. Other options include exposure and focus, a grid option to help compose better photos, and a photo flashlight.

Available for Apple iOS $2.99 for iPhone and $4.99 for iPad


 

Camera 360 Ultimate

This app is one of the most popular camera apps available. The app currently has close to 400 million users worldwide.  Camera360 has 200+ exclusive and free photo filters with multiple professional editing tools such as tilt-shift, overlay, textures etc.  Camera360 also helps you classify your photos by date for easy photo search and management.

Available for Free on Apple iOS and Android


Over

This app is great to use for photos that you want to post on social media.  Over lets you overlay text, logos or artwork onto your photos.  It’s perfect for creating picture-quotes, adding places and names on family vacations photos, and can also be used to create some creative images and artwork for your own website or blog.

Available for Apple iOS $1.99 and Android $4.95


Aviary

Aviary has basic photo editing functionality but also offers some fun editing tools such as; stickers which lets you add hats and mustaches to people in your photos; splash which lets you add a burst of color to black and white photos; cosmetic fixes which lets you fix  red-eyes, remove blemishes and whiten teeth in photos .  Aviary is basically your one stop shop for all your photo editing needs.

Available for Apple iOS and Android, Free but has in-app purchases.


Sketch Guru

Sketch Guru lets you transform any photo into various types of pencil sketches. Choose different effects such as pencil, watercolor, colored pencils, gouache and others. This is a fun app to use. You can share your creations on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Sina Weibo, E-mail, etc.

Free versions for Apple iOS and Android

What photo apps do you use?

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Best Tablets for Back to School

By Tracey Dowdy

My youngest brother started Kindergarten the day I started university. Our school supply lists looked a little different but I think it’s safe to say we were equally excited about our backpacks!

Today, instead of pencils and paper, backpacks contain technology that makes my Texas Instruments calculator look like a sundial. Since students depend on their smartphones and other devices to assist with everything from research to note taking, your first thought may be to go for a new laptop, but these days there are several lightweight, feature-packed tablets that give laptops a run for their money.

Before choosing a tablet, it’s important to consider factors like the age of the student, how the tablet will be used, whether you will need Wi-Fi capability, and the size of the display. Specifications vary widely between devices and savvy consumers should do their homework before they purchase.

Fire HD 7 Kids Edition

firehd_kidsedition250The Amazon Fire HD 7 Kids Edition comes with the “first ever” two-year worry-free guarantee, perfect for your child’s first tablet. It also offers a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Wi-Fi, app approval or blocking, a durable case with a fully detachable cover, time controls, a web browser for kids, a webcam, a fingerprint resistant screen, 8 hours of battery life and 8GB of storage. (Price: $189)

Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10

lenovo250Starting at just $79, the Lenovo TAB 2 A7-10 is one of the more affordable tablets. Perfect as a first tablet for younger students, the A7-10 runs the Android 4.4 operating system, has a 7-inch touchscreen, a 1.3 GHz, quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage and a front-facing camera. It definitely offers fewer features than other tablets on this list, but many students won’t need all those features and the price is hard to beat. (Price: from $179)

Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0

samsung-tab-8250Newly released, the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0 is a solid piece of technology at a great price. The A features front and back cameras, 1024 x 768 pixels of HD resolution, 1.5 GB of RAM, as well as 16 GB of built-in storage. Users also have the option of adding a micro SD expansion card. It runs Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and is lightweight at just 11 ounces. (Price: $229)

iPad Min 3

ipad-mini3250The iPad Mini 3 is a smaller, less expensive version of Apple’s iPad Air. The iPad Mini 3 features iOS 8, Touch ID security, a 7.9-inch high-def touchscreen, a 64-bit A7 processor, front and back cameras, and weighs just under 12 ounces. Prices range from $399, $499 or $599 for 16, 64 or 128 GB of built-in storage and adding wireless capability will cost an additional $130.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Surface250Starting at $799, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is definitely at the high end of the price range but its ability to bring together the best of both tablets and laptops makes it worth the investment for students looking for a feature-packed device. The Surface Pro 3 comes with a full 12-inch, 2160 x 1440-pixel touch-screen display, an adjustable kickstand, a backlit Type Cover that can be magnetically propped  and angled, full Windows desktop productivity applications, and a pen feature that allows users to write directly on the screen for easier note taking. (Price: from $799)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

7 Favorite Chrome Tips and Tricks

By Chantal Bechervaise

More and more people are turning to Google Chrome as their preferred browser of choice. I love using it myself, as it updates my Google Now cards across all my Android devices with relevant information based on past searches. Here are some tips and tricks for using Google Chrome that you may not be aware of.

Application Shortcuts

If you regularly use certain Google applications (like Gmail) or have favorite websites that you visit every day, you can create shortcuts for them. First, open the Google application or website in your Chrome browser. Next click on the Settings Menu – that’s those three horizontal lines located in the top right corner. From the drop down menu, click on Tools and then click the Create Application Shortcut. You will then have the option to pin the shortcut to your desktop, the start menu and the task bar. Select one or all of them and the click create. Your shortcuts will now appear in the chosen locations.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Here is a small list of some useful keyboard shortcuts for Chrome. (Remember – your browser window must be open for these to work.)

Ctrl+Shift+N – New Incognito Window

Ctrl+N – Open a new window

Alt+Home – Load Your Home Page

Ctrl + T – Open a new tab

Ctrl+Shift+T – Open the most recently closed tab (You can use this command more than once to open other previously closed tabs.)

Ctrl+Tab – Scroll through open tabs

Ctrl+J – Opens your downloads screen

F1 – Opens the Help Center in a new tab

Adjusting the Text Size

Ever have trouble reading small text on a webpage in Chrome? Chrome lets you zoom in and out to easily re-size text and images on a page. There are two ways to do this. The first way is to click on the Settings Menu button and then use the Zoom controls. A faster and easier way is to hold down the Ctrl button and use the scroll wheel on your mouse to zoom in and out.

Rearranging Open Tabs

I am a bit OCD when it comes to organizing my apps on my phone and tablet, but I also get this way with open tabs in my Chrome browser. I like having them in a certain order so I can flip back and forth between tabs more productively. Rearranging tabs is easy. You just click on a tab at the top and drag it along the row to the position that you want. If you want to open one of your tabs in a new window, simply click on it and drag it to the desktop. Release the mouse button and a new window will open. To access the tab options menu, right click on any tab. The tab options menu will let you reload tabs, close all tabs to the right of the selected tab and even re-open closed tabs. (Chrome will remember the last ten closed tabs.)

Pinning Tabs

Another cool thing that you can do with tabs is pin them. This is also another great feature that you can use for your favorite sites. Pinning a tab in Chrome means that whatever is shown on the tab when it is pinned will automatically be loaded the next time that you open a new Chrome browser session. To pin a tab, right click on the tab and select Pin Tab from the menu. Pinned tabs will appear slightly smaller in your tab row at the top than unpinned tabs. To unpin a tab, repeat the same process as before but select Unpin Tab from the menu.

Save Webpages as PDF Documents

Google Chrome allows you to turn your web pages into PDF documents. This is a great idea if you would like to save an article to read off-line. Press CTRL+P on a Windows PC or CMD+P on a Mac, and a pop-up box will appear asking you to print it and what printer you would like to use. Instead of sending it to the printer, press “Save as PDF” and you’ll end up with a file of the web page on your desktop.

Create Your Own Keyboard Shortcuts

If there is a particular Chrome app that you use all the time, you can create your own keyboard shortcut that will launch the app. Type “chrome://extensions” into your address bar,  and then scroll down to the bottom. Next, press Keyboard Shortcuts and you’ll be able to set them up in there. You can choose whichever shortcut you find the easiest to remember, but keep in mind the shortcuts that you already use as you don’t want to overwrite them and stop them from working.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Monday, August 24: Back-to-School

BACK-TO-SCHOOL

#LifeOnFiOS

When: TODAY, Monday, August 24, 2015
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
It’s that time of year again!
Join the #LifeOnFiOS team TODAY at 8 pm ET as we recall what ‘Back-to-School’ meant to us when we were kids, and reflect on how digital technology continues to transform the educational experience!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win one of TWO JAWBONE UP3 Activity Trackers!
(Click here  to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)
To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: LifeOnFiOS) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/QLNeE 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#LifeOnFiOS) today between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon.)

Monday, August 31: The Benefits of FiOS

THE BENEFITS OF FiOS

#FiOSNY

When: TODAY, Monday, August 31, 2015
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join the #FiOSNY at 8 pm ET TODAY as we discover what a reliable Internet, fast connection speeds and great TV programming can do for you and your family!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a Kindle Fire HDX tablet!

(Click here  to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: FiOSNY) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/QLAtv 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#FiOSNY) today between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon.)

Thursday, August 13: Home Entertainment

HOME ENTERTAINMENT

#FiOSPhilly

When: TODAY, Thursday, August 13, 2015
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join the #FiOSPhilly team TODAY at 8 pm ET as we explore the latest options in digital home entertainment!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a Kindle Fire HDX tablet!

(Click here  to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

To RSVP:
  1. Email RSVP@theonlinemom.com (subject line: FiOSPhilly) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed: http://ow.ly/QLy1v 
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#FiOSPhilly) today between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon.)

Back-to-School Apps for Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

Getting kids ready for back-to-school takes roughly the same level of planning and commitment as the Allies invasion of Normandy and is only slightly less expensive. Unfortunately for Eisenhower, neither Google Calendar nor the Cozi Family Organizer were available back then, so the Allies had to rely on pen and paper and Morse code to keep everyone in the loop.

Fortunately for us, there are a multitude of apps to help us stay organized. If you’re getting ready for back-to-school, these apps can help.

For Younger Kids

For most kids, the first day of school means big changes in routine and adjusting everything from snack time to naps. For some kids it’s also a cause for nervousness or anxiety, because they’re out in the big wide world for the first time without a parent or caregiver.

“iStoryTime Kids Book – My First Day of School” (iOS; 99 cents) focuses on Charlie’s first day. He’s nervous but soon learns there’s a lot to look forward to and answers questions a lot of kids might have about their first day.

“Hurray for Pre-K” (iPad only; $1.99) lets you personalize the story to make it feel even more comfortable for your child. It even uses photos of kids in class so your little one can see what to expect.

Little Critter gets ready for his first day in Mercer Mayer’s interactive book, “First Day of School” (iOS, Android; $1.99). Kids follow along as he chooses his clothes, his lunch and gets on the bus. Kids can choose three different reading options and tap to tally all the spiders and mice hidden in the illustrations.

Lunchtime

My daughters were tired of sandwiches within the first couple of weeks of school and coming up with alternatives that were nutritious and delicious was sometimes a challenge.

“LaLa Lunchbox” (iOS; free) comes to your rescue by combining forces. Kids select foods for their lunches (or any meal for that matter) by picking monsters, colors and sounds which then becomes a handy dandy grocery list for you. Kids are both empowered by being part of the process and then accountable for their choices, so there’s no good excuse for not eating their own selections.

School Supplies

Parents seem to be of two camps when it comes to buying school supplies: love it or hate it – there’s no middle ground. I loved it. My daughters and I had a blast picking out notebooks and pencil cases, backpacks and pencils. So. Much. Fun. The downside of course is that if you’re not careful, that list can add up in a hurry and end up costing as much as your first car.

‘RetailMeNot” (iOS, Android; free) offers coupons and deals on school supplies to help keep you within your budget. Simply type “school supplies” in the search bar and the app provides a list of coupons and deals from both online and traditional brick and mortar stores, including Amazon, Wal Mart, Target, Blick, Toys R Us and Office Depot.

Staying Organized

Once you’ve got the kids out the door, the challenge becomes keeping things organized.

“Cozi Family Organizer” (iOS, Android, Amazon; free) is the app dreams are made of. Well, dreams and software but you get my meaning. Keep everyone’s schedules, activities and appointments in one convenient place and link across all your devices. You can create and share chores, grocery lists and even store your recipes so meal prep is easier.

“TeamSnap” (iOS, Android; free) is ideal if you find yourself coaching soccer or are parent assistant for Glee Club. Keep track of practices, games, rehearsals, performances and whose turn it is to bring snacks all through this user friendly app. Users can even send play by play action to family and friends that couldn’t make it to the game.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Hallelujah, Windows 10 is finally here!

By Tracey Dowdy

Windows 8 was like New Coke – it seemed like a great idea at the time but no amount of splashy advertising was going to compensate for the fact that they ruined a good thing. My husband – easily the most patient person I know – bought a new laptop with Windows 8 installed and subsequently very nearly lost his mind in frustration. In all fairness, not everything about the Windows 8 was a disaster, but for many users, the bad often outweighed the good.

Apparently Microsoft heard our screams of frustration. Skipping over Windows 9 to put as much distance between versions as possible, Windows 10 was launched on July 30.

One of the primary issues with Windows 8 was that Microsoft put too much of the focus on making it work for tablets and touch screens, leaving keyboard and mouse users frustrated. CNET goes so far as to call Windows 10 the Goldilocks version, as it’s a “just right” balance of the best features of Windows 7 and 8.

By taking a more balanced approach and by engaging a virtual horde of beta-testers for most of the past year, Microsoft has eliminated a lot of the glitches and headaches that normally come with new operating systems. Best of all, it’s free for most users. And you have a full year to upgrade, so for those who like to wait until after the first roll-out to let those initial hiccups be addressed, there’s no rush.

Let’s look at what you can look forward to and what you need to look out for in Windows 10.

The Start Menu is back! Why Microsoft ever got rid of it is a mystery to me but like original Coke, we’re just glad to have it back. Just as in previous versions, the left side displays shortcuts to the programs you use most but now on the right side of the menu are the animated tiles from Windows 8 that act as app shortcuts and widgets. Click and drag the edge to re-size the menu, and if you’re not a fan of those widgets, unpin them and go back to the traditional menu we were used to before Windows 8.

Edge is the new Windows 10 browser and replaces Internet Explorer, two words that make Peter, the IT guy in my office, flinch like a nervous cat every time he hears them. While there are lots of great features – it’s fast, it has Cortana built in,  and it has excellent security features – it can’t compare to Google Chrome. You can’t sync bookmarks from other devices or import from other browsers and downloads start automatically without giving you the option of where they’re stored. Even more frustrating, changing to another default browser is complicated and requires digging deep into your PC’s settings.

Cortana is Microsoft’s cloud-powered virtual assistant, designed to be an extension of the Start menu. Available on Windows phones since last year, Cortana takes over search capabilities in Windows 10 and provides an editable overview of your day. Cortana also offers voice recognition capabilities, which while really useful on my phone, is not that valuable on my computer. Maybe it’s a familiarity thing and I’ll use it more as I get used to it, but for now Cortana’s voice recognition is a feature I won’t use too often.

One of the features getting the most positive feedback is the new Virtual Desktop. Click on the Task View icon in the task bar to get an overview of open programs and apps, then click and drag them to the Virtual Desktop to create a new independent workspace. Each Virtual desktop is autonomous and there’s no limit to how many can be open at one time.

New to Windows 10 is Continuum, Microsoft’s latest attempt to bridge the gap between touch and non-touch devices. Where Windows 8 forced users to re-think and re-learn how to use their PCs, Windows 10 realizes we’re not all there yet. If you have a 2-in-1 device, Windows 10 automatically shifts in and out of tablet mode when you remove/attach your keyboard. If like me you’re working on a traditional laptop, you can disable the feature completely.

Charms is now Action Center and serves as a hub for tracking notifications similar to your smartphone. Action Center also provides quick access to many of the controls on your PC. For me, someone who skipped Windows 8, Action Center is where I’ll find most of the settings I’m looking for.

Some of the features of Microsoft 10 such as Virtual Desktops have been around for a while but were only available as third-party apps. Some, such as Wi-Fi Sense are a great idea in theory but not in practice. I’d like to share Wi-Fi with guests when they’re at my house and because it gives access without sharing the password, there’s little security risk. However, you can’t choose which contacts to share with – it’s all or nothing. No thanks – I’ll wait for the next iteration before I enable Wi-Fi Sense.

Obviously there are far more features than I could possibly cover in one post, and as Microsoft continues to send out daily updates and fix glitches in the system, Windows 10 will only get better. In my opinion Windows 10 is already a win both for both Microsoft and for consumers. Microsoft says it’s the final version of Windows – from now on they’ll just be improving and updating this version based on customer and developer feedback. That’s an approach we can all appreciate.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.