Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple unveils iPhone 6 devices with mobile payments technology

Apple appears to have done it again with the debut of the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. With much fanfare Apple kept the "wow factor" going with the seventh generation of the iPhones that will be available with a 4.7-inch display for the iPhone 6 and 5.5 inches for the Plus model.

Apple is calling the new iPhones the "biggest advance in the iPhone design since the original iPhone," which was introduced in in 2007.

The specifications for the iPhone 6 has been leaked to the hilt over the past several months and there wasn't much left for Apple to announce. But it's just good to get a look at the new, larger iPhone with rounded corners and many new features like an A8 processor with 64-bit architecture, M8 Motion Processor and a new health app. The A8 chip is smaller then previous processors, but also faster with better graphics.

The camera for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is now 8MB and seems to protrude a little from the backside. It also has Autofocus with Focus Pixels, more advanced video capabilities and a new time-lapsed mode. The Plus model comes with Optical Image Stabilization.

Perhaps the biggest news of all and something that Apple fans have been waiting for is the inclusion of the Near Field Communications, or NFC, technology. According to Apple, when shopping and it's time to pay, you'll just hold your iPhone near the retailer's contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID" for a one-touch experience. The merchandise can be charged to one of several participating banks, such as American Express, Bank of America, Chase and Capitol One.

The NFC technology has been around in Android devices and certain other smartphones for a few years, but has failed to gain much traction in the retail arena. Maybe the new iPhones with the Apple Pay feature will bring some much-needed life to mobile payments.

Among the many unique features that the Touch ID sensor will offer, the one that caught my attention is the ability to approve purchases from iTunes, iBook and the App store without having to enter your password. Just a press of the finger will get the job done. To that, I say "hallelujah," as I have too many passwords to remember.

The new iPhones are designed to work seamlessly with your Mac by using iOS 8 and the Mac's OS X Yosemite. The Handoff feature will allow users to share file in Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers and other applications. You'll also be able to answer calls on your Mac or iPad and send video or text messages from any iOS device.

Apple had bragged about the previous iPhone 5 being the world's thinnest phone at 0.30 inches in depth and the iPhone 6 can keep the bragging rights by showing up at only 0.27 inches thick. So it looks like the Samsung Galaxy line of S devices, such as the Galaxy S5, with a thickness of 0.32 inches, will have to keep a back seat for a while longer in the slim competition. As for the weigh-in, the iPhone 6 wins again at only just over 4.5 ounces, while the Galaxy S5 could only slim down to 5.11 ounces.

I'm sure no one is surprised that the Dr. Dre line of Beats headphones are available as accessories for the new iphones. You'll be able to choose from Over-Ear headphones, a Dr. Pill XL Speaker and Powerbeats In-Ear headphones. A couple of specially designed leather and silicone cases are available.

As expected, the iPhone 5 will run on AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile with VoLTE support. C Spire has also announced that it well offer both models when available. Some carriers are offering a free iPhone 6 if customers sign a new two-year contract.

The iPhone 6 will come in a silver, gold and space-gray combinations and will be available on Sept. 19 for $199 for 16GB, $299 for 64GB and $399 for 128GB.The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 for the 16GB version and tops out at $499 for the 128GB option. Pre-orders will start on Sept. 12. Bargain hunters might consider the previous iPhone 5S, which now moves down to $99 and the iPhone 5C will be free.

All of the new features in these iPhones, such as the enhanced Touch ID Sensor, health and fitness tracker and Apple Pay will be enough to keep you standing in line at the Apple stores.

Time will tell if Apple has a couple of champions in their corner with the larger iPhone 6 devices. I'll call it early; they are winners.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Favorite apps include crowdsourcing, databases, passwords keeper

I have over 100 apps installed on my iPhone and I think they’re all important.

They all caught my attention in the iTunes App Store, but there are several core apps that I think I can’t live without. I use these day in and day out.

eWallet: If you’re anything like me, you have a gazillion passwords, usernames, account numbers and the list goes on and on. I depend on eWallet to help me remember all these, which means I only have to remember only one password instead of a hundred. Everything can be backed up to the cloud or synchronized with your computer. The eWallet password manager is my buddy and resides on my iPhone's homescreen.

HanDBase: I always been a fan of databases and have extensive experience with the desktop versions of Filemaker Pro and Microsoft Access. For my mobile database, I choose HanDBase, where you can build custom fields and queries to organize just about anything. I have databases on books, movies, medical records and anything else I might dream up. I’m in and out of HanDBase several times a day.

MileBug: I do a lot of running around for charitable purposes that need to be included on my tax forms. I use Milebug to record my trips and mileage and compile a detailed report at the end of the year. MileBug makes it easy by including fields for starting and ending mileage, which vehicle was used, trip purpose and then calculates total miles and cost estimate. MileBug is my year-end tax buddy.

Clear: For grocery lists and any other kind of “do this” list, Clear is my choice because of its simplicity and ease of use. Just enter it, complete it and swipe it off. That’s about as simple as it can get for list management. I'm sure if you try it, you’ll like it.

Waze: I really like Waze for traffic reports. This is a genius of idea and that is executed well in GPS fashion. In a nutshell, you open this app before starting your commute to see if other nearby Wazers are reporting accidents, road hazards or traffic jams. And of course, I report any accidents or hazards I come across for other drivers. Waze has become my navigation companion, with accurate maps and timely traffic reports.

Merriam-Webster: Since I write quite often, I’m constantly using the Merriam-Webster dictionary app to make sure my articles are error free. Although most word processing programs have built-in spell checker, I still find myself accessing this app for synonyms and tricky words that spell check might not catch. I also use it for composing emails and social media posts. This is another one of my go-to apps several times a day.

I like social media and I check them all – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and others – with an element of being surprised every day. For saving notes, Evernote does a fine job. I’m also a newshound and depend on Ap Mobile and USA Today apps for breaking national news stories. But my core apps that are mentioned above get most of my attention.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

AvoiDeer app warns drivers of animal hazards with real-time alerts

Let's say you're cruising down a dark highway and there is a deer smack in the middle the road. Just standing there.

It happened to me several years ago in my little light-duty truck, which caused around $1,500 in damage to the bumper, grille and hood.

With today's technology and crowd-sourcing apps like AvoiDeer, a collision is less likely and could possibly be avoided.

The AvoiDeer app comes to us from Scandinavian developers in Bodo, Norway and Southport, England, where they sought to create a road-safety app to warn drivers of wildlife along highways in North American and Northern Europe.

One of the unique features about the AvoiDeer app is the warning of "real" sighting with a visual and audible alarm. The concept is simple, with real-time reporting of any deer or other wildlife sightings with a simple tap. Any AvoiDeer user in close proximity will receive an audible and visible alarm on their smartphone to warn the driver of potential danger ahead. The warning will remain active for 30 to 60 minutes.

The app opens to a detailed map with your location highlighted. There is button for reporting a sighting, such as a herd of deer or a single animal, and another button for accessing overall reports and your reporting stats.

Once you're on the road, it's a simple matter to tap the "Report Sighting" button to warn other AvoiDeer users. The GPS position is used together with the date and time of the sighting to warn other AvoiDeer users. A convenient zoom feature is handy when your need a closer look at the map.

According to research from UK Deer Initiatives, there are 1.2 million wildlife and vehicle collisions each, which caused up to 500 injuries and 400 deaths. On European roads, deer collisions number in the 74,000 range.

The AvoiDeer app, which grew from a British and Norwegian partnership, launched on March 1 and is now available on the iOS platform for an international audience. An Android version is coming soon.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Tobii Glasses 2 introduces wearable eye-tracking technology

With the rise in wearable technology and expected growth in glasses that'll act like computers, the tracking of eye movements is the next logical step for researchers and software developers to learn more about consumer behavior when viewing media and other forms of communication.

That's where the Tobii Glasses 2 will come in with a "first of it's kind wearable eye tracker" for research and the development of consumer applications.

Manufactured by Tobii Technology, a Swedish company recognized as a global leader in eye tracking and gaze interaction, the Tobii Glasses 2 package offers a wireless video stream of exactly what a person is looking at, which can viewed on a Windows 8 tablet or Windows 7 or 8 computer.

The 1080p wide-angle scene camera and four eye cameras give the wearer complete freedom of view, along with what the company calls "true view" to participants, as well as a peripheral view for activities such as driving.

The company expects the eye-tracking platform to open up possibilities to sync data from other wearable devices and foster applications for research, sports, gaming, automotive, medical and other consumer technology areas. A software development kit will be available for the new platform.

At this point, the Tobiil Glasses 2 are targeted for the research and development community, with package options starting at around $14,000 for a Live View package to $29,000 for a Premium Analytics package. A 12-month subscription package is also available for $800 per month.

If you're itching to get your hands on a pair of Tobii Glasses 2, orders can be placed now, with shipments expected in October.

The wearable technology and the array of devices coming down the pikes is growing fast and is likely to be the next big thing in the consumer technology arena.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

LeapFrog unveils the LeapBand activity tracker for children

The fitness band craze is heating up and even children will be able to join the bandwagon.

Leapfrog, known as a leader in educational entertainment for children, is rolling out the LeapBand, their first wearable activity tracker for young techies. This device will encourage playful activities with 50 different challenges to earn points to unlock additional games and earn virtual toys.

The LeapBand comes with eight virtual customizable pets that include a cat, dog, dragon and a monkey, that can have their own color and name. As the child becomes more active, LeapFrog's Learning Team is hoping they will develop habits for physical exercise and healthy lifestyle.

"We understand that helping a child reach their potential not only includes making sure they are versed on the ABCs and 123s but they are encouraged through play to establish healthy habits and get the exercise they need every day," said Dr. Jody Sherman LeVos, director of LeapFrog's Learning Team. "LeapBand is a great way to get kids up and active and help them develop a strong foundation for healthy lifestyles."

A free downloadable companion called the Petathlon will be available for the wireless LeapPad Ultra, as well as iOS or Android devices. The app will allow kids to as compete as their virtual pet in games such as archery, surfing and bobsledding.

Taking design cues and inspiration from adult wearables, the LeapBand includes a built-in accelerometer, a high-resolution color screen, a rechargeable battery and water-resistant design. The activity tracker is targeted for children 4 to 7 years old and will come in green, pink and blue.

It is expected be available in August and cost around $40.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Retailer iQ to bring new features to digital coupons, digital receipts

The checkout experience is going to change for shoppers and retailers in the near future.

Coupons have already gone digital and Coupons.com, a digital promotions platform that connects brands and retailers with customers, is taking another step to make this trend even more enticing with their Retailer iQ platform. which is a targeting and analytics interface for grocery, drug and mass merchandisers.

By using digital receipts, which are available as an option at more and more checkout counters, retailers hope to engage consumers and learn more about their shopping behavior. Then we'll start to see personalized recommendations for products, discounts, integrated shopping lists and other digital media experiences.

Walgreens, which is listed as the largest drug retailing chain in the United States, is already on board and began rolling out Retailer iQ earlier this year to more than 8,000 stores. With more than 100 million Balance Rewards members, they now offer Paperless Coupons and digital receipts. Customers also have the capability to clip digital offers and redeem them by swiping their Balance Reward Card at the checkout counter.

The digital receipts will be the key component in the power of the Retailer iQ and as more and more customers elect to receive them, a connection will be established between the e-receipts and digital coupons that can be added directly to the customer's account.

According to Coupons.com, the implementation of Retailer iQ is expected to be announced for four other retail partners before the end of this year.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Real estate deals could go all digital for buyers and sellers

The process of buying and selling a home has always involved a big stack of forms and the famous "closing meeting" where you sign your livelihood away for the next 15 to 30 years.

But a company called Homevana Inc. is striving to simplify this process through the use of "For Sale By Owner 2.0," a free online platform to allow buyers and sellers to complete the deal with "zero commission." Buyers will submit offers online and work the deal with sellers right on up to executing the contract using an electronic signature.

According to Homvana officials, it is possible to sell your home and complete the deal without a real estate agent and for free, with no commission. All of the paperwork and tools needed are available online to close the sale and have complete control of the process from your own computer. Buyers and sellers are connected to each other worldwide - offering a vast collection of potential real estate deals.

Homevana was rolled out in California and partners with Retopia, a national real estate brokerage firm that would like for you to enter into an agreement with them or other Homevana partners for certain services, such as listing your property in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The twosome offers a website and videos for instructions on how to get started using the platform.

Homevana's website makes it clear in the "terms and conditions" that they are not a real estate agent, broker, attorney, or have the authority to give legal advice regarding real estate transactions. They will not give a customer any advice. The California corporation is simply a platform for bringing sellers and buyers together in the digital world for real estate deals.

If this catches on in more locations around the country, buying and selling a home might become just another Internet transaction with our digital devices.

Real estate experts not sold on online services

As more and more of our daily activities are able to be done online, such as banking and buying vehicles, selling or buying a home is no exception.

Although websites are emerging that promise to streamline the process of real estate transaction, some real estate experts say "not so fast" and that sellers should resist the urge of trying to save on a realtor's commission.

The Lubbock Association REALTORS is reinforcing all the things that a good realtor would handle, such as staging your home, showing it a moment's notice, handling marketing and negotiating an offer. The association also warns online customers about the possibility of listing your home for the wrong price and missing out on additional profits.

Because of the large list of contacts and extensive multiple listing service (MLS), the association says as a seller, websites simply can never replace having a real expert working directly for you, especially if the buyer is using one.

Any money that is saved by using an online service might be lost when negotiating against a trained professional.

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