Sunday, December 22, 2013

Verizon's Ellipsis 7 is a good deal in the small tablet arena

When the Ellipsis 7 tablet from Verizon Wireless arrived in my hands, I had a feeling that it could be a keeper. This is Verizon’s home-bred, in-house, call-it-their-own device and I could hardly wait to take it for a spin.

The first thing I did was to see if it would fit the inside pocket of my business jacket. Bingo, it did. So finally I had found a tablet that I could carry around without having to hold it my hands or place in a brief case. Just tuck it in my inside coat pocket and go.

The Ellipsis 7 is a 4G Android device running the 4.2.2 operating system, also known as Jelly Bean. It has a seven-inch display and front-facing speakers along the bottom that sound really good. Along the top of the device you'll find the headset port, which is where I think all headset ports should be located – hint, hint to the iPhone 5 designers.

Along the bottom is the USB mini port for charging, while the right side holds a MicroSD card slot, microphone, power and volume keys, along with the SIM card slot.

On the back is a 3.2 megapixel camera, which is probably the weakest link of the Ellipsis 7 features. But who takes serious photos with a tablet, so I didn't mind having a lesser-quality camera than some of the competing tablets. Having only 8 megabytes of memory could be also be looked at as a weak link, compared with other tablets in this category that are sporting an average of 16MB and tops out at 128MB for some tablets, such as the iPad Mini.

Setting up most email accounts only required a username and password, with the tablet doing most the behind-the-scenes setup. My Google and Hotmail email accounts were up and running in a matter of minutes. Setting up a corporate Exchange account was equally as easy, you’ll just need to pay close attention to your Domain and Server settings. I had Exchange mail arriving in under five minutes.

Although I have access to a Mac desktop, laptop, iPad and iPhone, I found myself using the Ellipsis 7 often to check multiple email accounts, conduct google searches and monitor my social media accounts. The speed of Verizon’s 4G network and the 7-inch size made this tablet quite handy. I especially like the front-facing speakers and the quality of the sound, which was great for YouTube videos.

During my time with the Ellipsis 7, I download several apps from the Google Play store without a hitch. Again, the fast network was the key for a smooth download process. This device also comes with several desirable apps installed, such as iHeartRadio, Flipboard, Amazon Kindle reader, and Redbox Instant for movies. The included Navigation app is also pretty handy.

The other tablets in the 7-inch display category have similar or better features, such as the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy 3. Although they also might have more memory options or a faster processor, the Ellipsis has them all beat on price. At the current time the Ellipsis 7 can be a great holiday gift until Dec. 31 for $49 with a two-year contract, or for $249 if you don’t want to sign a contract.

When you think about a starting price of $329 for the iPad Mini with Retina display that can quickly rocket to over $800 loaded, or around $400 for a fully loaded Kindle Fire HDX, the Ellipsis 7 looks good for the budget and will satisfy most digital needs.

If you need more display area, the iPad Mini’s 7.9-inch display is very generous for a small tablet, but you’ll need to open your wallet a little wider. Or you can move up the 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX for a few more bucks.

But if the budget is tight, the Ellipsis 7 will take you anywhere you want to be in the digital world and perform like a champ for less cost. I’m call it a good deal.

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fight crime, earn rewards with the sic-Shot crowd-sourcing app

The technology of crowd-sourcing is gaining more widespread use, as more applications are put into play. One of the latest efforts of this technology is a community-based tool to share public safety concerns via a new app named sic-Shot.

By using the sic-Shot app, individuals can provide confidential information through photos and videos to law enforcement officials that need information to help solve crimes.

The idea behind sic-Shot is to encourage anyone with a desire to support public safety to be on the lookout for acts of violence, unusual conduct or suspicious behavior. When a sci-Shot user witnesses a criminal act or notices suspicious behavior, a photo or video is recorded and posted to their sic-Shot account. These images can be browsed by law enforcement subscribers to help identify suspects and solves crimes.

The reports by sic-Shot users can be rewarded $1 or more for a photo or video purchased by subscribers. As more photos and videos are taken, the sic-Shot user earns badges to receives the  highest level of reward dollars, which will be redeemed through gift cards from leading online vendors. But a minimum balance of $25 must be earned before any reward money is paid.

If the information is considered essential in solving a crime, the sic-Shot user can be rewarded up to $50 per photo or video.

According to the developers, the sci-Shot app will be available in December for Android users and is listed as "coming soon" for iPhone fans. Users are encouraged to sign up to participate in the limited app release.

With this idea of a community-based social network and the sharing of public-safety information with law enforcement subscribers, the traditional Neighborhood Watch program is going hi-tech and mobile.  

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Waze app provides real-time traffic alerts from community drivers

As I got into my car for my daily commute to work, my latest iPhone app tells me there are 25 other drivers nearby ready to assist me with real-time traffic reports and commuting information.

The commuting information is from Waze, a traffic and navigation app that I have been testing over the past few weeks. I can truly say that it works and also has very impressive GPS capabilities.

The technology behind the Waze app is based on a community of other drivers with the Waze app, or "Wazers" as they like to call themselves. The beauty of the concept is that these drivers are local to your area and drive some of the same routes that you would take every day.

Once in your car, just fire up the Waze app, type in your destination and leave the app open. You'll notice right away that your location is accurately displayed and a little icon tracks your route on a three-dimensional map, or 2D if you prefer. As you drive along, you might notice alerts on traffic jams or simply slow traffic, accidents, road hazards and other information – all in real time. These alerts are coming from other "Wazers" traveling the same route and have submitted alerts along the way.

On my particular route to work, I was alerted of a "car on the shoulder" a few miles down the road. Sure enough, a few minutes later I came upon a stalled vehicle on the right shoulder of the interstate. Amazing.

If you see a need to report the location of an accident or other road hazard alert to share with other drivers, just tap the "report" icon and choose from several options, such as a Traffic Jam, Police, Accident, Hazard or Closure. After choosing which side of the street or interstate, you'll simply choose "submit" and the apps marks the location of where the report button was first pressed. For a traffic jam report, there are "Moderate, Heavy and Standstill" options. A photo can be taken to share with the report.

During another four-hour trip on a major interstate, I came upon slow traffic and knew something was wrong ahead. I fired up the Waze app to discover an accident had been reported a few mile ahead by a fellow Wazer.

The GPS features of the Waze app is amazingly accurate, with the location of my vehicle dead-on in relation to the map on the display. The icon for my vehicle passed through intersections on the map display as I did in real time. When stopped at a red light a few vehicles back from the intersection, that's where my location was on the Waze map. The GPS technology of the Waze app is very impressive, with functions similar to a genuine GPS unit, complete with day and night modes for the display.

As you drive along with Waze, the map automatically zooms in and out, based on the detail being shown on your smartphone display. All gas stations and public landmarks are displayed, such as parks, rivers, lakes and dreams.

Some of the additional features of the Waze app include adding your home and work addresses, as well as Facebook integration to interact and coordinate your trips with your Facebook friends. A tap of the "Gas" icon displays a list of gas stations and fuel prices nearby.

According to the company, Waze is being used by around 50 million people and I would imagine this is growing, as each time I log in, the number of Wazers nearby seemed to have grown. A team of seven developers from Silicon Valley, Israel, the United Kingdom and other locations are responsible for this innovative use of crowd-sourcing with traffic reports and other commuting information.

Waze is free at this time and is available for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone devices, with the latest version being 3.7.6, which added a voice-based search for finding addresses and places. Maybe a version for the BlackBerry platform is on the drawing board.

In the latest twist of Waze marketing, Comedian Kevin Hart is lending his voice for turn-by-turn navigation in the app.

I'm sold on the technology of the Waze app and its community-based traffic reporting. I won't leave home without it.

Visit us on Facebook | Follow on Twitter