Tag Archives: verizon wireless

Customizing Your Smartphone

By Tracey Dowdy

Smartphones have moved beyond being an accessory to become an extension of ourselves. It’s how we communicate with each other, how we do business, how we capture our memories and keep track of our schedule. Just as you make your home a reflection of your personality and interests, customizing your phone is another way to express yourself. But don’t think of customizing as limited to wallpapers and ringtones; there’s a whole world of customization waiting for you.

Choose Your Case

Considering the cost of the device in your hands, you’re likely going to want to protect your phone with a case. But before you splurge at the dollar store on a case that looks good but offers little protection, or you choose a case that offers industrial strength protection, take the time to consider your needs.

Durability: If you lead an active lifestyle or work in an area that puts your phone at higher risk of damage, you may want to choose a case that provides serious protection such as those made by companies like Otterbox or Griffin. If like most of us the risk isn’t that high and the biggest danger is dropping your phone, the options are endless. You can choose a high-end case from designers like Kate Spade or Marc Jacobs, buy a Star Wars themed case from a kiosk at the mall, or even design your own through sites like SkinIt or DecalGirl.

Design is important not only in the style but the functionality of the case. Before making your choice, consider things like whether you’ll be able to charge with the case on, how easy it will be to clean, how it feels in your hand, and whether it’s waterproof. The material the case is constructed of will give you an idea of its durability and the protection it will offer a dropped phone.

Remember, as in most areas of life, price doesn’t always reflect quality. Cases made of poor quality materials are at both ends of the pricing spectrum and there are a lot of reasonably priced options that fall somewhere in the middle. Look at it this way, a good quality case is definitely cheaper than a new phone.

Choose Your Accessories

Because our phones are so integrated into our lives and lifestyle, there’s a wealth of smartphone accessories available.

Headsets and headphones – Whether you’re listening to your 80’s playlist to keep you calm in traffic or using your Bluetooth to call your mother because it’s been way too long – now you know how I spend my drive time – you’ll want a good headset or headphones. Verizon Wireless offers a huge selection of in-ear, over-the-ear, wireless, and hands-free options.

Camera and Photography – Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, there are a multitude of camera accessories available. With choices like selfie sticks, GoPro cameras, an AudioVox ShutterBall that lets you take selfies from up to 60 ft. away, or a HTC RE Camera that shoots underwater and streams live to your YouTube account, you’ll be able to take your photography game to the next level.

Make Yours a Smart House – Take smartphone integration one step further by pairing your smartphone with products like the Nest Home thermostat that allows you to change the thermostat even when you’re away from home, a Tagg Pet Tracker that lets you know your pet’s location at any time and tracks them if they wander off, or Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speakers that bring theater sound into your home.

Get Organized

From your Home Screen to storage, you can rule your world from your phone. Although the iPhone user interface isn’t customizable to the extent an Android or Windows phone is, you can still make it your own.

Home Screen – Organize your apps by pinning the most used apps to your home screen and organize apps you don’t use as often into folders. Further customize your screen with wallpapers, fonts, and widgets (Android) to make your phone even more a reflection of your personality.

Storage – Smartphones can’t really deliver the storage that’s promised on the box. For example, a 16GB iPhone 5c only has about 12.6GB of storage available once you account for the space the OS takes up. Once you start adding apps, music, photos and video, storage fills up fast. So take stock of what you need and go from there. Move photos and videos off your phone and store them on an external hard drive or choose a cloud option like Amazon Cloud. Review your apps and decide which ones you’re using and which ones are just taking up space. Movies, music and podcasts take up a lot of storage. Be selective of what you’ll need to entertain yourself on-the-go and get rid of the rest.

Choose Your Apps

Since both iTunes and Google Play offer well over one million apps in their store, chances are no matter what you’re looking for, there’s an app for that.

Consider storage – Before downloading, consider how much storage space it will require. Games generally eat up a lot of storage, so consider how often you’ll play before committing.

Consider Price – There are thousands of free apps and just as many if not more available for purchase. Beware many apps – games in particular – offer in-app purchases which could end up costing a lot if not managed.

Consider Battery use – Some apps will drain your battery faster than others. For example, if you’re using Google maps for turn-by-turn directions, your battery will run down more quickly as your phone is constantly pulling in data to give you accurate instructions. Editing your photos won’t impact your battery life in the same way, as you are working with content already downloaded to your phone.

Whatever your device, whatever the operating system and whatever the service provider, customizing your phone is limited only by your own imagination.

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.

Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

By Tracey Dowdy

For most of us, our cell phone is how we connect with friends, family and even co-workers. We call, we text, and we post pictures of our lunch, our kids and our pets.  We check our email, we do our online banking, we surf the web for news and entertainment. For victims of domestic violence, a cell phone is far more than a way to stay entertained – it’s a lifeline.

What Does Domestic Violence Look Like?

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior intended to establish power and control over another individual, either by fear or intimidation which often taking the form of physical aggression. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness in America and it crosses every social, ethnic, gender, racial and economic boundary. One in every three female homicide victims is murdered by a current or former partner. From an economic perspective, domestic violence costs upward of $37 billion annually in law enforcement involvement, healthcare costs, lost productivity and wages, and legal costs and court fees.

According to Safe Horizon, America’s largest organization helping victims of crime and domestic violence, 1 out of every 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime. It’s important to note that victims are not always women; men are the victims of 4 million domestic assaults each year.

What is HopeLine®?

Seeing a need, Verizon Wireless established HopeLine® in 2001 as a way to support victims of domestic violence. Since its inception, Verizon has collected over 10.8 million phones nationwide, given over $21 million in cash grants to domestic violence organizations, and donated over 180,000 phones to victims and survivors to help break the cycle of violence.

How Can You Participate?

To participate, you can donate your unused phone and accessories in any condition, from any provider, by dropping it off at a Verizon Wireless store, by mailing it in, or by hosting a HopeLine® phone drive. Complete instructions on preparing and donating your phone can be found here, including a postage paid mailing label, as well as instructions on hosting your own HopeLine® phone drive. It couldn’t be simpler.

I Donated, Now What?

If Verizon receives a reusable phone, they will refurbish the device, which includes removing any existing data. Phones that are too damaged or unable to be repaired are responsibly recycled, keeping them out of landfills. Restored phones are distributed through the HopeLine® program. Survivors receive phones loaded with 3,000 anytime minutes and include Verizon Wireless nationwide coverage, call forwarding, call waiting, caller ID, basic voice mail, as well as texting capability.

Here in the United States, twenty people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. Everyone matters and everyone deserves a life free of fear and violence. You can help make that happen. To learn more about the HopeLine® program and how you can get involved, visit the Verizon Wireless HopeLine website.

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.

Last Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts

By Tracey Dowdy

There was a time when last minute Valentine’s Day gifts meant a single rose in a plastic tube or a tiny teddy bear and a mylar balloon with “I Love You Beary Much” stenciled across it.  They all carried the sweet smell of gasoline and coffee – the scent of the gas station where they were purchased on the way home from work.

Thankfully, those days are over. Say goodbye to dusty roses and faded teddy bears, now you can order everything from couples massages to an at-home feast straight from your phone. Skip the flowers and candy and surprise your Valentine with one of these sweet gifts.

For the foodie:

OpenTable searches restaurants near you and lets you know which ones have open reservations. You can search menus and make a reservation straight from your phone or tablet. LocalEats focuses its search on smaller restaurants in your area, allows you to make reservations (through OpenTable) and even order a cab.

If you can’t get the reservation that fits your schedule, bring the food to you. Ordering in isn’t limited to pizza or Chinese anymore. Many restaurants offer carry out service and apps like Eat24 and GrubHub search nearby eateries, allow you to choose your cuisine, order and pay all from within the app.

For pampering:

Consider a spa package for him or her. SpaFinder gift cards are good at over 20,000 locations so chances are there’s one near you. Cards are valid not only for pampering services like manicures and massages but also for yoga, spinning and other fitness classes, or can be used toward a spa vacation.

Another fun option is to go with a monthly subscription to a service like Pop Sugar’s “Must Have Box”. For $39.95 a month, recipients have a box filled with an assortment of sample and full-size fashion, cosmetic, beauty, home décor and wellness products delivered to their door.

Birchbox offers a similar service but focuses on high-end beauty and lifestyle products. Because you’re getting samples instead of full-size products the cost is lower, but it’s a great opportunity to try more expensive brands at a reasonable cost. Birchbox also offers a men’s version with 3-4 grooming samples and a full sized accessory like a bar tool or headphones. The women’s Birchbox is $10 a month or $110 a year and for men the cost is $20 a month or $195 a year.

If you really want to impress your sweetheart, get them a Barkbox for their four-legged friend. Every month their pup will receive four or more items ranging from toys and treats to hygiene products and gadgets. Even better, 10% of the profits go directly to rescue organizations, shelters, and volunteer training. Boxes start at $19 a month. How sweet is that?

For the techie:

If your Valentine is a techie, Verizon Wireless has great deals on last minute gifts like phones and tablets, Fitbit wristbands and Beats headphones.

Go even further and add a subscription to a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, or Rhapsody for the music and movie lover in your life. For book lovers, gift cards to Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Audible are a guaranteed hit.

Or, simply buy them an app. Seriously. There’s an app for every budget from 99 cent games like “Heads Up” all the way up to VIP Black app (also known as the “The Millionaire’s App”) to the tune of $999.99.

So there’s no need to panic. With so many great options in the palm of your hand, this could be your best Valentine’s Day yet!

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.

Should You Switch Wireless Plans?

Read the fine print before you jump to another network.

By Paul O’Reilly

In a sure sign that the US mobile market is rapidly maturing, it appears that some wireless carriers are less concerned about attracting new customers to the wonderful world of smartphones and tablets and are instead concentrating more on luring existing customers away from the competition. This has led to a jumble of early upgrade offers, termination fee payments, and other incentives, as the emphasis switches to the cost of wireless plans rather than the ever-improving excellence of the devices themselves.

While this may sound like good news for wireless subscribers, it has mostly led to more confusion in a marketplace that wasn’t exactly a model of clarity in the first place. If you thought it was hard to choose the right wireless plan before, try figuring it out when data allowances change every month, extra gigabytes are thrown in on a seemingly random basis, and one carrier is even offering to cut your existing bill in half.

This last promotion comes courtesy of Sprint and, perhaps more than any other offer, it highlights the complexities facing consumers as they try to save a few bucks on their monthly wireless payments. Taking a page out of T-Mobile’s playbook, Sprint specifically targets customers of the two biggest carriers and asks them: “Wanna cut your monthly Verizon or AT&T bill in half?” Of course, like many of these offers, the details are in the fine print – in this case over 550 words of fine print.

Sprint’s offer starts out looking reasonable enough. You have to turn in your old phone (or multiple phones if you are on a family plan) and sign up for a brand new one with a two-year contract, but you would have to do that with your existing carrier eventually anyway. Sprint will even pay up to $350 per line in termination fees, although you might have to wait up to 12 weeks for the money to arrive in the form of a Visa Prepaid Card.

However, there is one thing to note about turning in your old phone under the Sprint deal: you get nothing for it, even if it’s a phone with good second-hand value like an iPhone 5 and you have paid it off in full. But again, this is probably not a deal-breaker. That phone was most likely destined for the kitchen drawer anyway.

However, as you keep going with the fine print things start to get a little murkier. You eventually discover that Sprint is not offering to cut your whole bill in half but only the amount you pay for talk, text and data. As most people pay nothing for talk and text, that’s half off what you now pay for data. Depending on how much data you use, that could be a little or a lot, but again, you’re only saving half of one line of your monthly statement rather than the whole bill.

But if you’re a heavy data user – heavy enough to make a 50 percent saving worthwhile – there’s one big problem with switching to Sprint: according to a recent RootMetrics report, it’s got the worst network of all the top wireless carriers.

Not only is Sprint’s inferior network likely to result in slower download speeds and less reliable performance, it could also have real unforeseen consequences for your new Sprint deal. Again buried in the fine print, there is language suggesting that other plans (i.e. plans that pay the full data rate) might receive “prioritized bandwidth availability.” In other words, in times of heavy data traffic, half-price ex-Verizon and AT&T customers will have to wait.

Even worse, there is also a clause that allows Sprint to terminate your plan if more than 100MB of data usage each month is “off-network,” i.e. data consumed while the user is outside of the Sprint network. Considering that my family gets through 300MB a day and Sprint has the smallest network in the country, this is definitely not a deal for anyone that uses more than a few hundred megabytes of data a month.

And there’s the rub. The “cut your bill in half” promotion from Sprint is really only designed for low data users. But if you are a low data user, you aren’t going to see much in the way of savings anyway. And if you are a Verizon or AT&T customer, you are going to exchange those meager savings for a markedly inferior network.

As it continues to mature, the wireless space is starting to look more like the rental car industry, where Hertz and Avis charge premium prices based on service, reliability and network, while the competition carves out a variety of lower-priced alternatives. Of course, a maturing marketplace also results in more knowledgeable consumers, who are better equipped to make sense of the myriad of choices they now face. If you’re a wireless customer, you might want to remember the old adage that has guided savvy shoppers for countless generations: You get what you pay for.

You can follow Paul on Twitter.

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

Inside Motorola Mobility’s New Chicago HQ

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the brand new global headquarters of Motorola Mobility, located in the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. I was there with the Midwest #VZWBuzz team, part of an ongoing social media initiative for Verizon Wireless.


Motorola has a long history in Chicago, having started out there as Galvin Manufacturing Corp some 90 years ago. At over 600,000 square feet, the new Motorola Mobility facility represents the largest downtown lease since 2005. It occupies the top four floors and rooftop of the Merchandise Mart, space that previously housed over one hundred home interior showrooms.


The architecture firm Gensler was hired to effect the transformation, and the result is an eye-popping blend of high-tech imagery, graffiti art, and flexible office space that fully reflects the innovative ideals of the new company.


About 2,000 employees have moved into the new space, which includes 75,000 square feet dedicated solely to labs. These labs are now at the forefront of the design and testing of the new Motorola Mobility devices that will follow in the footsteps of the Moto X, Moto G and the iconic Droid smartphones.


The new facilities also include nine kitchens, a game room, and what seems like acres of open work space. Employees are encouraged to move around to facilitate collaboration and there are even treadmill desks if they get tired of sitting still for too long. Of course, landlines are a thing of the past, so no-one is tied down by desktop communications.

Kudos to Motorola Mobility for having the vision and resolve to create such an amazing space.

Quality Portable Sound with the Bose Soundlink Mini Speaker

Bluetooth technology has given rise to a whole new catalog of smart devices, including head phones and headsets, fitness trackers, smart watches, and even heart rate monitors. But Bluetooth technology has probably had the biggest impact on a far more traditional consumer electronics category: sound systems and speakers.

Remember when we used to spend a fortune on speakers that were tethered to one corner of the living room? Or when we spent even more to wire the whole house with a multitude of static speakers? Now, thanks to Bluetooth and smartphones and tablets, we can take our music – and a quality sound system –  with us wherever we go.

I have recently been enjoying the Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speaker from Bose and it has taken the idea of a portable music system to a whole new level. Whether it’s sitting on my desk serenading me with my favorite tunes, or blasting out the sounds at my daughter’s high school BBQ, the Soundlink Mini is versatile and powerful enough to deliver a quality listening experience wherever I set it up.

The Soundlink Mini is small enough to fit in just about any bag, and, at only 1.5 pounds, I didn’t even notice the extra weight. The Soundlink Mini has a range of about 30 feet, so it’s easy to control the playlist and volume from across the room. So far, my family and friends have paired it up with two different iPhones, an iPad, a Motorola Droid Ultra, and a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. How do I know? Because the Soundlink Mini remembers each device, so re-connecting is easy.

The Soundlink Mini eschews the boxy design of other portable speakers to deliver the traditional Bose elegance. From there, you can customize your speaker by adding a protective cover in a choice of 7 different colors, including pink, mint, green, orange, gray, red and blue.

While the Soundlink Mini delivers up to 7 hours of continuous playback, it also comes with a charging cradle that can serve as a home base for your speaker. A wall charger can be plugged into the cradle or directly into the speaker. There is an auxiliary input port for additional audio devices and a micro-USB port for software updates.

If you’re looking for a lightweight wireless speaker option for all your on-the-go music needs, then the Bose Soundlink Mini is a great choice. It costs $199.95 and is currently available from Verizon Wireless with free shipping.

The Online Mom receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.