Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mobile Location-Based Apps and Services

There are approximately 93.1 million smart phone users in the United States today, up 11% from 2011.  With this increase comes more access to location-based apps and services.   

Location-based services have become very useful in social networking today.  Advances in smart phone technology are allowing people to use their mobile devices to get location-based information in real time with apps such as Foursquare, Pearescope, and Yelp

Here are just a few ways location based apps can be useful:
·         Locating people or objects – finding the whereabouts of a friend or the closest ATM machine
·         Target marketing – identifying consumers shopping habits in order to send specific ads or coupons
·         Recommendations – finding what is the best seafood restaurant in downtown Atlanta
·         Directions – finding the best route to get to Turner Field from Stone Mountain

Mobile location-based apps can collect your location data in three main ways – by you “checking in” at a location, by revealing your location when you snap a picture using an app like Instagram, or by an app working in the background to grab your location (whether or not you are currently using the app). 

Location-based capabilities are being integrated in more and more apps every day, many times unbeknownst to you.  Whether you take your personal and digital privacy matters seriously or not, there are four types of settings you can check to determine how much information these services make available to the world.

1.       Amount of Personal Data Shared – Most apps require you to fill out at least a minimum amount of personal information in order to create an account.  Many times this information is visible as part of your user profile, but the amount of data and who gets to see it can vary.  Check for “sharing” or “privacy” settings within the app and set a level that you are comfortable with.  Some apps allow the personal information you entered to only be visible to “your friends” as opposed to “everyone”.
2.       Exact Locations Shared – Location-based apps take pride in the accuracy of the exact locations they deliver.  Many apps allow you some degree of control when pin pointing specific locations, such as the location of your home or work place.  Check the apps “privacy” settings to see if you are able to “hide” certain locations.
3.       Preloaded App Settings – When you download an app, it typically comes with preloaded settings based on what the company would like to see in terms of behavior and data usage, which may differ from what you would like.  Go through the settings of each app before you start using it in order to understand what information it collects and potentially shares.  Many times you can modify these settings to your comfort level.
4.       Automatic Check-In – Just because you are not engaged in a location-based activity on your mobile device doesn’t mean an app isn’t logging your location and posting it.  There are usually two places this kind of setting can be located on your mobile device – within the app itself or within your general phone settings.  For the latter, look for “location services” within your device’s general settings.  Here, you should be allowed to at least turn an apps location tracking on or off.

When you combine location-based services and mobile devices, you have a really powerful tool.  As mentioned earlier, there are currently around 93.1 million smart phone users.  By 2016, the number of people utilizing smart phones is expected to rise to approximately 192.4 million.  The current and expected growth in usage is fueling the location-based apps market, whether it is for entertainment purposes or marketing competition.  So be aware and before you using any new app you’ve downloaded, check the security and privacy settings and set a level you can live with.

If you need help with any smart phone, mobile device, or app settings, give Kardon Tech a call.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tablet or E-Reader? B/W or Color? WiFi or 3G? Please, make it stop.

In the last blog, we helped solve the maze of products that has become the Amazon Kindle line of products. From entry-level e-readers to a color feature-filled tablet, there is a Kindle product that will fulfill your mobile computing desires.
Now, before you run off and go Kindle shopping, the important thing to remember is there are tablets falling from the sky these days. Big, small, heavy, light, color, black and white, tablet, e-reader....the options never end. Just as with the Kindle products, there is a decision process needed to find the best product (for you) to buy.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

During the decision-making process, do not get overwhelmed with the options? Going to a store and looking at a dozen different choices can lead you to getting confused or missing an important factor that may sway your purchase. It comes down to asking simple questions and narrowing the field based on the answers that mean the most to you. What do you want to do? “I want to have a tablet” may not be the clearest answer. The biggest decision in buying can be made with this somewhat simple question. Are you looking to have a library at your fingertips or are you looking for a fuller mobile computing experience? If reading books and magazines is the extent of your desire, then an e-reader may be sufficient. You can find a wonderful product under $150 with the various Amazon or Barnes & Noble products. Starting with the basic Kindle at $79 through the competing Kindle Touch and Nook Simple (both at $99). There is even a backlit Simple Touch at $139. If you are looking for an actual tablet experience (beyond just reading books), then you will be making a decision on price and size. There are mid-size tablets and full-size tablets that can provide similar multimedia experiences. The Apple iPad line, Samsung Galaxy, and Asus Transformer line can do everything under the sun. Whether it is watching Netflix, checking your mail, reading books, and even document editing are possible with these devices. You are going to be getting a slightly larger (and color) touch screen with these devices which opens the door for everything short of having a laptop in front of you. With the additional performance, you will be shelling out more money for the devices. The bigger tablets will run between $400 and $900 while the smaller versions can be found under $350. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet provide a stepping stone between simple e-readers and full-fledged tablet computers. They sacrifice benefits from both ends of the spectrum to allow for a good all around experience. If you are looking for a color tablet that provides an avenue towards reading and regular tablet computing, these are the devices for you. Both devices also provide a stepping stone in terms of price as they can be found under $200. Tablet computing without shelling out the better part of a grand is very enticing. Where and how are you going to do what you want to do? There are two factors that can affect usability, screen type and connection type. The two available screen types are a black and white e-Ink and a color LCD screen. The black and white screens are seen in the e-readers. The screen is designed for book reading. There is less strain put on your eyes and outdoor glare is limited. This is balanced by the need for a light in darker environments. The LCD screens are backlit and designed for a fuller computing experience. The glare limits them when used outdoors and you are not going to be reading books constantly on those devices. The eyestrain would be the same as sitting in front of a computer. Connection types vary between pure wireless to a readily available global wireless to data plan 3/4G compatible devices. You can, essentially, find an available connection at each level of device. There are e-readers (Kindle Touch), mid-sized tablets (7” Galaxy Tab), and larger tablets (iPad) that allow for data connections, but there are also wifi only devices (Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, iPad and Galaxy Tab) if you are looking for a device around the house or at the office without needing something truly “on the go”. It is important to take the time to think about when and where you will be using the device as a data plan can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of a device (per year) just to use it. An extra device around the computer can give you flexibility (personally, I have found the Kindle Fire finding its way into my daily routine when I did not originally see a need for a tablet). There are countless other decisions that can be made for these devices. Processing speed, available RAM, the need for a camera, available apps and programs, types of media desired, web browsing experience, and you can go on and on. Personally, I feel that personal preference decisions can be as varied as the people making those decisions. I cannot provide an answer on the feel or look of a device nor can I tell you what programs you may enjoy or the operating system that suits you. However, I am surprised at the number of people who look to make a purchase without using the available devices. If I can give you one bit of information.....USE THE DEVICES! There are dozens of stores selling the devices and there are always display models available. Pick one up and hold it. Browse the internet. Read a few pages of a book. You could spend a day reading 20 reviews only to find that you do not like holding one of the devices after the first 30 seconds.

Even if you take advantage of the Kardon Technology New Computer Consulting and Purchasing service offered, we still advise you to look at an actual product. Be sure to check out the below links. They each provide excellent in-depth reviews complete with physical hardware comparisons, usability comparisons, and cost expectations.

Too many reading choices? Understood. Contact Us for assistance.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kindle Komparison

If the market for tablets and e-readers was not confusing enough, Amazon has been nice enough to throw out half a dozen Kindle models to choose from. There are enough choices to make your head spin and the choices provide just enough doubt to wonder if you are buying the right device for you.

In this blog post, I am going to look at the bare basics of the four major models (Kindle, Touch, DX, Fire). There are, obviously, 3G and wireless models for the Touch and the Kindle DX and Kindle Keyboard mirror each other with the DX simply being slightly bigger.

First, let’s check out the basics:

Kindle Touch
Kindle DX
Kindle Fire
Screen Size (in)
Screen Type
eInk Pearl
eInk Pearl
eInk Pearl
Color IPS
Weight (ounces)
Size (in)
Battery Life (hr)
Internal Storage (GB)
WiFi only
Wifi or 3G
Free 3G wireless
Wifi only

Looking at the above table, there are a few differences that may be the make or break properties before getting to any deeper issues.

Price is, obviously, the big factor. Simple basic e-readers can be found with the basic Kindle and Touch. You are not getting any fancy do-dads and there are no frills. This is not to say that the other options are not cost effective. You need to realize that each device is solving a slightly different niche. People that want just books in a small device can save a noticeable amount of money compared to other available tablets. Yet, even when considering the Kindle Fire, if a tablet is what you are looking for (more functionality than an e-reader), then $200 is a great deal. The DX gives you a much bigger screen in a heavier device. Easier to read and more to handle at the expense of battery life. Considering the price, you may be turned off by such a trade-off.

The second set of distinctions are connected, battery life and screen type. The eInk Pearl screen is the standard e-reader screen. It is only black and white and you will need a light to read in the dark. However, there is no glare similar to other tablets (Fire, iPad). The eInk Pearl screen type can be used outside with ease and does not strain the eyes to the extent of a computer screen. For the purpose of reading, they function flawlessly. If you want more than just an e-reader, then the Kindle Fire’s color screen is where you need to go. The color screen does cause the massive battery loses and the glare makes outdoor usage a struggle, at times. But, with the added media functionality, a color tablet may be what you are looking to buy.

Personally, connectivity issues are secondary to the above factors. Looking for an e-reader vs a tablet or having color/B&W or several other factors play a big role before deciding on how to get your software. But, it is still important to review the mobility options since these are, well, mobile devices. The basic Kindle is limited to wifi, as is the Kindle Fire. As an owner of a Kindle Fire, I first thought the WiFi only ability would be quite limiting. But, the usage around the house and replacement of computer usage really surprised me. Do not discount WiFi only as a reasonable solution to your problem. Spend some time to determine locations of usage and go from there. If you really cannot be limited to WiFi, then there are 3G versions of the Touch and the DX which provide 3G wireless globally. Whether it will replace a laptop at home or be the book on a bus, there is an option for you.

A final purchasing decision would come down to personal preference connected to usage combined with the above hardware differences.

If you want a barebones e-reader, then the basic Kindle will solve all your problems. It has a simple 5 button control and is a library in your hand. There is not much to talk about beyond that. With the Touch and DX, you are getting the same capabilities with slightly improved functionality. The Kindle Touch is, of course, a touch screen while the DX is a Kindle Keyboard on steroids. And, finally, those looking for a tablet alternative to the expensive iPad and Galaxy Tab, you have the Kindle Fire. A color screen and the ability to play countless audio and video filetypes (while the others struggle) make the Fire an economy tablet for those looking for some functionality and some price savings.

Yes, there are countless versions and, when first looking at it, you may not be able to decide which way to go. However, the differences are stark between the devices and you can quickly determine what fits for you. Your budget, your usage preferences, and even your hand/eye comfort will help to push you in the right direction.  However, if you really don't have the time, or the patience, to compare, Kardon Technology offers a New Computer Consulting and Purchasing service, which can also be used for mobile devices.  We can compare the Kindle with countless other options based on your answers to a simple questionnaire.  Contact Us for more details.

In the next blog post, we will compare the Kindle e-readers and Kindle tablet (Fire) with other e-readers and available tablets in the marketplace. You probably determined which Kindle is the Kindle for you, but is there another device out there that does the job better?