Tag Archives: Greg Gazin

Smart TV

TCL-ROKU TV is small on size, big on features

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TCL-ROKU TV is small on size, big on features

It’s not uncommon to see a 60-, 70- or 80-inch TV in some homes. However, a compact model might be better suited for a small apartment, a dorm room, or for when you want to binge-watch a series while getting your steps in on the treadmill. Older, CRT boob tubes may have been regulated to the basement, as they lack the features of today’s smart television sets.

Today, we expect that all TVs are HD, and work with any cable box, satellite receiver or antenna, and that they can easily connect to any gaming console. And, of course, it must have WiFi and connect to the Internet.

Just the thing

Built for the Canadian market in 2019, the 32-inch, TCL-Roku Smart LED TV (32S327-CA) measures a mere 28.8 x 17.1 x 3.0 inches. It comes with attachable feet, or it can be mounted to a wall. Weighing in at under 10 pounds, you’ll be amazed at how slim it is. You can carry it under your arm, put it in the trunk and take it anywhere.

Despite it’s diminutive size and simple black housing, it has crisp 32-inch FullHD (1080p) LED widescreen display. It features dual band WiFi, and three HDMI ports to connect external devices. It also has a USB port for viewing your own media. There’s a headphone jack for quiet listening, or to hook up an external speaker, as well as a digital audio output to take advantage of its Dolby Digital Plus premium audio. In addition, there’s a composite video jack, with a cable, to connect older video and gaming devices, and one to hookup your cable TV or satellite box.

Easy peasy

The TCL-Roku is designed to accept an HD antenna for over-the-air TV channels, but there’s also a Roku streamer built right in, so there’s no need for an external gadget. Roku gives you access to thousands of streaming channels so that you can enjoy unlimited movies, TV shows, live sports, music, news and much more. Most are free, but some may require a paid subscription.

Using this TV is a breeze starting with the step-by-step, on-screen setup. You don’t have to wade through complicated menus. Both the TV’s functionality and Roku’s streaming services are integrated. This intuitive interface allows you to navigate with one easy-to-use remote that has one-touch access to services like Netflix and YouTube.

But that’s not all

Other nifty features include mirroring, so that you can watch media from your smartphone, your tablet or your PC on your TV. Guest mode is perfect if you run an Airbnb. You can restrict access to your streaming services, while guests can sign on to their own accounts and are signed out when they leave. Should you need to adjust the picture, simply go to settings and select dark, darker, normal, bright or brighter – that’s it.

TCL is fairly new to the North American market – barely a year on the Canadian TV scene. They produce a series of low-cost, high-definition TVs. The TCL 32-inch Roku Smart LED TV (32S327-CA) retails for $219.99 on Amazon, at Best Buy and at Walmart. A 40-inch model is also available.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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Bells & Whistles - Ford's in-car SYNC 3 infotainment system

Bells & Whistles – Ford’s in-car SYNC 3 infotainment system

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Bells & Whistles – Ford’s in-car SYNC 3 infotainment system

If you combine the words information and entertainment you get ‘infotainment’ – and this is exactly what you’ll get in the 2020 Ford Explorer. The Ford Motor Company has come up with the perfect combination of a car stereo with an information and navigation system – SYNC 3.

Anticipating your needs

Smartphones and tablets are becoming more intuitive and easier to use with each new generation. Up until now, infotainment systems have often seemed like an after-thought, and operating them seemed counter-intuitive.

Not only do these systems need to be secure, functional and seamless to use, but they also need to keep you, and your family, safe while driving. “The SYNC 3 has been based on customer feedback – by the same people who are driving and interacting with their Ford vehicles every day,” says Chuck Gray, director of electrical and electronic systems engineering at Ford.

This is the first version to be fully designed in-house at Ford, and was recently unveiled at the company’s high-tech Connectivity and Innovation Centre (CIC) in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

More than good looks

The SYNC 3 might seem familiar to use, because it’s based on Blackberry’s QNX operating system. It’s no longer a scavenger hunt to find functions, and you’ll immediately feel connected.

It has a thoughtful, common sense layout. You can identify things clearly and navigate efficiently. You can also adjust the screen’s brightness and font size to help avoid squinting, so that you never have to take your eyes off the road for too long.

Minimized multi-tasking

The number of steps that are required to complete a task have been minimized on the SYNC 3. Many functions can also be accessed via voice control. Some controls have been moved from the console cluster to SYNC 3. Everything is easier to find, and if you’re not sure how something works, there’s an animated visual indication or a video to explain it to you – no manual required.

All your radio audio presets (AM/FM/XM) appear on the main screen, regardless of the media stream. You can switch from an AM news channel, to a rock station on the FM dial, and then to the Beatles channel on SiriusXM.

SiriusXM radio enthusiasts will appreciate the smart favourites and tune start features. The former buffers the last 30 minutes from your XM favourites as soon as you turn on the engine, and the latter ensures that the song begins on the first note when you switch to your favourites.

A first on the 2020 Ford Explorer’s platinum trim package, is the 10.1-inch, high-definition, portrait display. Other models have an eight-inch-wide screen. It’s positioned vertically on the dashboard, at a height and an angle, that makes it easy to see.

Always improving

With the customer’s consent, the SYNC 3 can capture analytics in terms of how its being used. Real-live testing and improvements are ongoing. At Ford’s Accelerated Life Test Lab, the software stability team simulates the software running in a vehicle in order to detect any pain-points.

When hitting the road, it’s comforting to know that the practical application of ‘infotainment’ is as reliable as the technology that we’ve come to expect in our homes.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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Simply Tech: Square - micro payment

Be Square: You, too, can accept wireless payments

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Be Square: You, too, can accept wireless payments

You’ve heard of it, and most likely seen one. Chances are, you’ve made a payment to a company who uses Square. Step into a cafe, a market, or stroll down an art promenade and you’re likely to see their iconic logo, and someone swiping their credit card through a small white square dongle attached to a smart phone.

Personal use

Perhaps you’ve decided to downsize, or start up a business initiative that’s always been on your mind. Since fewer people use cheques or carry cash, you can offer a quick and easy mobile payment option with Square. It’s an easy way to get paid, especially if you want to rid yourself of no-longer-wanted items.

It’s been approximately five years since Square introduced their micro-payment system to Canada. Payment is enabled through a magstripe reader that’s plugged into the headphone jack of your mobile device. It has changed the way that small businesses process their transactions. It’s put budding entrepreneurs and service providers, as well as street market sellers and garage sale vendors, on a more level playing field.

Easy peasy

Being able to make a secure, credit card payment transaction (with a simple swipe) was a privelege previously reserved for major players.

With the free companion Square point-of-sale (POS) app, you can track your activity, add product photos and prices, and manage your inventory. Square’s invoice app allows you to bill your clients, and send invoices and automatic payment reminders via e-mail. This allows secure payment transactions to be facilitated when not dealing face-to-face.

Getting better and better

Square is taking advantage of the latest technologies, and has now included more features and payment options, so that customers can pay the way that they want. Not only are you not limited if your mobile device doesn’t have a headphone jack, or if their payment requires a chip and a PIN, but you’re not limited to just accepting credit cards.

For users with iOS devices, including the iPhone or iPad, Square now has a magstripe reader that plugs into the lightning port. However, Square’s new Contactless + Chip Reader has to be its finest feature. This palm-sized, battery-powered, wireless device quickly pairs with most Bluetooth enabled mobile devices.

With this new reader, customers can simply tap for purchases up to $100. For anything over that amount, they insert their chip-enabled credit card into the reader, and enter their PIN number on their mobile device to complete the transaction. Customers can also tap for payments via Interac Flash (debit), as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Square encrypts the card information, so the data is never stored on your mobile device in order to protect the customer.

The cost of doing business

Cost for Square payment processing is only 2.65 per cent for all credit card transactions and only 10 cents for debit transactions. Apple Pay + Google Pay fees will depend upon whether the customer has a credit card or debit card connected to the account. There are no other hidden fees or service charges. Your funds are sent directly to your bank account, and are available in one to two business days.

The Square Contactless + Chip Reader retails for $59, and includes a free magstripe reader. Both can be connected to your devices at the same time. There’s also an optional wedged-shaped reader dock for Square Reader ($39), in order to keep it charged. Available at Staples, Best Buy, Telus or Apple Stores.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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Simply Tech: Point and Shoot Cameras

Point and shoot – the little camera that can

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Point and shoot – the little camera that can

You might be thinking that traditional point-and-shoot cameras are going the way of the fax machine, but don’t dismiss them yet. You might also wonder why you’d even need one when smartphones have become the default gadget for taking pictures and shooting videos. Built-in cameras in phones, including the iPhone XS and Google Pixel 3, are now better than ever in terms of picture quality and high-definition video, giving Digital SLR cameras a run for their money. Plus, smartphones are always at the ready to capture that special moment, and then fire it off to family and friends.

Rational reasoning

Discard the idea that the smartphone can do it all. First, and foremost, you don’t want to always be recharging your phone’s precious battery. Nor do you want to use up valuable storage space.

Purists actually like the touch and feel of real buttons, as well as a physical shutter, a viewfinder and the flexibility to adjust the settings. While higher-end smartphones have decent lenses, they’re not good in low light conditions, and everything else is only average. The quality of the photos are just not as sharp as they could be.

Photo enthusiasts prefer a point-and-shoot to take advantage of a camera’s actual optical zoom. This type of zoom offers a true lens adjustment. It gives you the same number of pixels in your frame, providing the same resolution as if you were close by. In contrast to a digital zoom found on most standard phones, objects appear closer by making the pixels larger as you zoom in. The result is a more pixelated, or grainy, photo or video.

A standalone camera allows you to unplug and focus on your craft, and you don’t want to take a $1,500-plus device to the beach with all your precious data on board. If damaged or lost, the replacement cost of a point-and shoot is much less.

Enhanced photography

Like smartphone cameras, point-and-shoots have also evolved. The compact Fujifilm FinePix XP140 has a massive 16.4 mega-pixel CMOS sensor, allowing you to print a quality photo as big as 11.5 by 15 feet. You can also record ultra High Definition 4K video, and it has a high quality Fujinon 28mm wide-angle lens, with 5X true optical zoom for really sharp, hi-res photos.

The FinePix XP140 is also equipped with an enhanced ‘Scene Recognition Auto’ mode to help detect the main subject in the scene by automatically optimizing the camera setting. The ‘Eye Detection’ feature makes for better portrait shots by focusing on the eyes, along with the auto-intelligent, self-timer mode to detect a smiling face. When detected, it automatically releases the shutter.

This little camera also has optical image stabilization to reduce blur from camera shake. It can also do time-lapse photography, so that you can capture a series of photos over time. If you do have your phone, this camera also supports ‘Remote Shoot’. An example of this would be placing your camera in a tree to capture some wildlife, and standing somewhere else to get the shot.

The Fujifilm FinePix XP140 is dust-proof, shockproof (to 1.8 metres), freeze proof (to -10 °C) and waterproof (to 25 metres). It comes in five colours, and features the latest Bluetooth technology.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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Simply Tech: Books vs Kindle Paperwhite

Put down the book – It’s time to pick up the Kindle Paperwhite

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Put down the book – It’s time to pick up the Kindle Paperwhite

For book lovers everywhere, this is a touchy subject. There’s something tangible about a book – even the smell of it triggers our senses. However, if you’re an avid reader, and are always on the go, books can be very heavy. Plus, they take up a lot of room (and weight) when packed in a suitcase. Even if you have a tablet or an iPad, you might want to consider the all-new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle Paperwhite is a compact, low-cost, high-resolution e-Reader that electronically stores thousands of books with an innovative display screen – you almost think that you’re reading from a paperback. It’s only 6.6 inches tall, 4.6 inches wide, 0.30 inches thick and weighs less than seven ounces, making it easy to hold in your hand, and slip into a large pocket, purse or knapsack.

A sight for sore eyes

Its six-inch, hi-res screen offers 300 pixels-per-inch resolution – the same as a standard photograph. The glare-free (almost) screen makes it a beach-worthy companion. If you read at night, it’s less likely to keep you awake after you turn off the lights due to E-ink display technology. This feature doesn’t emit the same type of blue light as you find on televisions and tablets, which, apparently, keeps you more alert. With a five-LED manually adjustable backlight, you can comfortably read at night without additional light, and without disturbing your partner.

How many times have you picked up a book and found that the type was very small? With the Kindle Paperwhite, you can adjust the font type and the font size. The built-in dictionary is easy to use, plus the extended battery life requires less downtime for recharging and is ideal for a lengthy plane ride.

Enhanced highlights

The biggest improvement of the fourth generation of the Kindle Paperwhite is its new waterproof body. Previous models were toast if they got wet. Now that it’s IPX8-rated, it’d still work if it was soaked for an hour in two metres of fresh water – making it less of a worry when beaching it with the family.

The standard model now comes with 8GB of storage. You can store thousands of e-books on the device, and you can store Kindle e-books in the cloud for free. Millions of titles are available on Amazon, and many are free or cost less than $1, making it easier to discover new titles and authors. It’s important to note that Kindle still doesn’t support the e-Pub format, which is commonly found on other platforms and at public libraries, but you can store your own PDFs and select documents.

The new 32GB model includes more storage, and supports Audible. While you can listen to audiobooks, it appears (at the time of publication) that files from Audible U.S. accounts currently work with this model. There isn’t an on-board headphone jack, but the new Paperwhite is equipped with Bluetooth, so you can connect to a wireless headset, a speaker or earbuds.

Kindle Paperwhite models are available with Wi-Fi, or Wi-Fi plus free cellular connectivity, which lets you download your books from anywhere for free. Prices start at $139.99 for the 8GB Wi-Fi model.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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SIMPLY TECH: Roomba i7+

Roomba i7+ – the automated vacuum you’ve been waiting for

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Roomba i7+ – the automated vacuum you’ve been waiting for

You may have considered purchasing a robot-type vacuum in the past. While the idea was good, they didn’t seem to be up to the whole job. But, hold on to your cord, as the new Wi-Fi connected iRobot Roomba i7+ Robot Vacuum might be just the one you’ve been waiting for.

With their pervious experience, along with technological advances, iRobot went back to the drawing board. This model has a better understanding of how a robot vacuum can take the latest technology, relate it to how we live and adapt it to our routines.

Follows your floorplan

The newest model, with a companion iRobot Home app and third generation intelligence, is always learning the lay of the land – or in this case, your home. It uses Imprint Smart Mapping, and as it goes on its rounds, it gets better at figuring out the best way to clean each room. Using the latest iAdapt 3.0 Navigation system, along with an array of sensors, it cleverly makes its way around, and under, furniture. It also maps its surroundings, and pegs individual landmarks to keep track of the area that’s already been covered, or that still needs to be cleaned. You can see all of this for yourself via the app’s history report.

Within the app, you can label each room, and create virtual barriers if you don’t have a physical separation between rooms. If you have a smart device such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, you can simply say, “Roomba clean the dining room.”

And, it’s designed to remember multiple floor plans, so you can also map out the layout of your cottage. With the app, you can set schedules, select rooms, and manually start and stop cleaning even when you’re not at home – all with your mobile device.

With advanced smart technology, it cleverly cleans, and empties, even while you're away.
With advanced smart technology, it cleverly cleans, and empties, even while you’re away.

The way of the future

The Roomba i7+ uses a three-stage cleaning system with dirt detection sensors to ensure a decent clean. Instead of traditional rollers, which tend to get tangled, it is equipped with dual multi-surface rubber brushes – one lifts and one cleans. It can handle carpet, tile, vinyl and hardwood. The built-in filter helps to control allergens.

With its deep cleaning abilities, the bin can fill up quickly. Consider the optional Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal. Plug it in, and with the the app, you can configure it to return to the disposal base, which contains a vacuum bag, and have it empty itself (up to 30 times), so that you don’t have to.

Roomba i7+ is powered by a built-in lithium-ion battery, which is designed to run for up to 75 minutes, and is recharged when docked. While they’ve come a long way, they don’t do steps – yet. However, it does have a cliff detection sensor.

Available at all major retailers and Amazon.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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SIMPLY TECH: You Have The Power

Smart apps and products that make life more efficient

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Smart apps and products that make life more efficient

by Greg Gazin

Instead of using those old-time timers (which you always forgot to set), you can now relax while you’re away, and automatically control your lights and home appliances from wherever you are. With smart bulbs, plugs and switches – you have the power.

LIFX smart LED light bulb

Smart Bulbs come in many different shapes and sizes, but the LIFX LED bulb is compatible with any fixture that uses a standard bulb. Just screw it in, and download the free LIFX mobile app to control it from your iOS, Android smartphone or tablet.

With the app, you can manage your lights and adjust the brightness. You may prefer a softer, white light in the living room, and daylight-type lighting in the kitchen. In addition, you can select from 16 million colours. So, whether you’re in a somber mood or ready to party, there’s a colour for you. To augment a festive mood, you can make the light flicker like a candle, cycle through colours or strobe like a disco ball. Plus, you can set schedules for your lighting to go on and off – all of this without changing the bulb.

The LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb (BR30) is compatible with Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Homekit (Siri), so you can control with your voice. It also integrates with Nest Smart Thermostat and Smart Cam, and doesn’t require a hub, so it can be controlled from anywhere when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. And, compared to a 60-watt bulb, LED light can reduce energy consumption by up to 80 per cent.

TP-Link smart wi-fi plug mini

This smart plug fits into any standard AC wall plug, and is small enough so that it doesn’t interfere with the second socket. It’s not just limited to controlling lights. You can plug in your coffee maker or a crock-pot, and set the timing. It can also control power-hungry devices, like a heavy-duty fan.

The free companion app, Kasa Smart, allows you to build a schedule for turning on and off, and you can set it to turn off after a particular length of time. The app’s ‘away mode’ can be set to cycle at random times – an ideal setting to deter would-be burglars. It, too, can be controlled remotely and has a voice control option.

Smart wi-fi light switch

To round off this smart home trio is the Wi-Fi light switch (HS200). While it doesn’t take up extra space (replaces your current switch), you may require a qualified technician to install it. The switch is handy for controlling a fixture with multiple bulbs. You can program it so that your kitchen light comes on at meal times while you’re away. The switch supports program scheduling, remote control, away mode and voice access. A dimmable alternative is also available.

With the TP-Link Kasa Smart-Home ecosystem, all devices can be controlled from the same app, and new functionalities are always being added. Available at Best Buy, Staples and The Source.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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SIMPLY TECH: Portable Power

SIMPLY TECH: Portable Power

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SIMPLY TECH: Portable Power

by Greg Gazin

Weego goes wherever you go

We all have stories about batteries running out on smartphones, tablets, computers – and our vehicles. To the rescue is Weego Jump Starter 44. This compact gadget jumpstarts cars and boats, powers air compressors and charges all of your devices.

The Weego 44 is powerful, putting out 400 true-cranking amps – power the battery can deliver for 30 seconds at 0˚C. It’s more than enough to jump start a car, as well as a truck, a boat, ATV and motorcycles – anything with gas engines up to 7 litres(L) and diesel engines up to 3.5L with 12V lead-acid batteries.

User-friendly

The Weego 44 has a handy charging port for all of your standard USB-type devices, plus a 12V/10A accessory port and a 19V/3.5A laptop port – both of which require optional adapters. The 12V port can power accessories that have a cigarette lighter plug, like a lantern or an air compressor, as well as some laptops. The 19V port can charge some popular laptop models. Note: this excludes MacBook Pro, which uses Apple’s proprietary MagSafe connector. MacBook with USB-C can be powered only via the USB port.

With a 12,000mAH Li-poly battery, Weego 44 can charge devices like the iPhone 8 more than six times, or a Samsung Galaxy S9 more than four times. When depleted, Weego 44 can be fully recharged in about three hours. This can be done up to 1,000 times, and it can sit on standby for up to three years.

CAPTION: The 12V port can power accessories that have a cigarette lighter plug, like a lantern or an air compressor, as well as some laptops.

Safety First

For added functionality, Weego 44 also has a handy built-in 500-lumen, dual-LED flashlight that can light the way for up to 14 hours. In case of an emergency, it also has strobe and SOS modes that will flash for up to 28 hours.

Weego 44 includes a jumper cable that is equipped with proprietary Smarty Clamps. More than a cutesy name, the clamps provide a snug grip on the battery terminals, and won’t activate until they are properly connected. This avoids sparks and possible battery damage if the clamps are inadvertently attached the wrong way. The clamp’s smart box guides you with both sight and sound. A green light with no beeps means that you’re good to go. The Smart Clamps will also shut down in the event of a power surge.

Since not all devices charge at the same rate, the Weego 44 has a Detect-O-Matic charging system, which is cleverly designed to charge your phone and tablets at the fastest possible rate.

Weego Jump Starter 44 weighs less than 1.5 pounds, and is water, dirt and dust resistant. This power companion comes with one set of Smarty Clamps, wall and car chargers, a hook and lanyard for hanging, as well as a water-resistant pouch, a manual and quick-start guide, plus a respectable 18-month warranty. Available at Walmart, Amazon and myWeego.ca.

Greg Gazin is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life magazine.

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SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

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SIMPLY TECH: Fitbit Feedback

by Greg Gazin

Much more than a step tracker

Fitness trackers have come a long way since the pedometer – the original step counter. Not just for health enthusiasts, the latest Fitbit models also include practical applications to help you to enjoy your day. In addition, Fitbits are now downright stylish and affordable. And to top it all off, they’re app-enabled and can connect wirelessly to over 200 devices, like iOS, Android and Windows, as well as smartphones and tablets for even greater functionality.

The Fitbit Charge 2 really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet.
The Fitbit Charge 2 really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet.

A helping hand

The Fitbit Charge 2 has been a permanent fixture on my wrist since the beginning of the year. At first glance it looks like a sleek digital watch – which it is. But its simplicity stops there. If I push the side button or lightly tap on its OLED display, it brings up the time, the date and the number of steps that I’ve taken. Tap it again and I’ll see my heart rate, so that I can ensure that I’m not overdoing it. Tap it again, and I’ll see what distance I travelled throughout the day, how many calories I’ve burned and more. The side button also gives me access to a stopwatch, as well as a battery indicator, so that I’ll know when it’s time to recharge.

Two additional functions that might seem like redundant smartphone features, save you from having to fumble in your pocket or purse for your phone. It’s a definite plus to have an alarm alert, as well as message display capabilities on the Fitbit.

As a handy wake-up call in the morning, preset alarms can alert you to upcoming appointments and serve as a reminder to take medication. You can set up to three alarm times via the companion Fitbit app, and you’ll be notified by a gentle vibrating on your wrist.

Memory trigger

Your Fitbit can also be configured to receive notifications, and will vibrate with calendar alerts and text messages. With an inconspicuous glance, you can check to see who’s calling. This is a convenient feature when out with friends, in a meeting, or in a place where it’s inappropriate to have your phone out.

Fitbit really shines when partnered with your smartphone or tablet. From the app’s dashboard, you can set your goals and see your stats. You can also track workout routines, and it will help you to navigate new adventures, guided in real-time through your smartphone’s GPS.

Even if you’re not in training, a little motivation can provide that much-needed nudge so that you do at least 250 steps every hour, and it rewards you when you do so. Fitbit apps offer tools for managing your weight and nutrition, and measures your hydration. And if you feel the need for a little mindfulness, it will guide you through a two-minute relaxation.

Fitbit never sleeps, but it can keep tabs on you when you do, as well as the quality of sleep that you’re getting.

Stylish Options

The Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate and Fitness Wristband comes in a variety of colours and band styles, including leather and metal. It has a built-in battery and comes with a proprietary USB charger. It retails for less than $200, and is available through Best Buy, Staples, The Source, and Sport Check.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

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SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

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SIMPLY TECH: Phones ON

by Greg Gazin

Save money when travelling

Worried about outrageous phone and data charges, many people turn off their phones when travelling, so that they don’t come home to massive cell phone bills. Rules and regulations are starting to change, and there are now more affordable choices.

Your carrier or service provider may offer special travel add-ons to your current plan. While this would be the most convenient route, it’s not the most economical. Canadian mobile phone and data rates are very expensive compared to other parts of the world. In fact, as a result of a 2016 study by Nordicity Group, CBC reported that Canadians pay much higher rates compared to other G7 countries and Australia. In one example, an entry-level wireless package in Canada was quoted at $41.08 (on average) compared to $17.15 for a comparable package in Germany.

Photo, bigstock.com
Photo, bigstock.com

If you pick up a cheap phone when you’re abroad, you won’t have your apps and contacts with you. A great solution is to purchase a local SIM card and insert it into your own phone. Previously this wasn’t an option for Canadians, as phones sold in Canada were locked with the carrier that you were under contract with. Even if you bought an unlocked phone, it would often be locked with the carrier that it was first used with. This all changed on December 1, 2017 when the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) ruled to update the Canadian Wireless Code of Conduct, giving you the right to have your phone unlocked by your service provider upon your request – at no charge. New phones that were purchased after December 1st are to be unlocked.

The carrier that your phone is locked with, must unlock your phone. If that’s Bell or Rogers, call them and they will do so. Telus can’t help you. If your device was previously lost or stolen, you may be blacklisted. Or, you may have an issue if you have an outstanding balance.

When travelling, you’ll still want to use Wi-Fi whenever you can, but in addition to cheaper calling with an unlocked phone, you’ll be able to leverage lower data rates, which is handy when using maps and apps that require connectivity. You can find local SIM cards just about everywhere, like the airport, electronic shops, gas stations and convenience stores. Often they’ll also work in nearby countries.

If you spend your winters south of the border, companies like Vancouver-based Roam Mobility offers complete Talk+Text+Data monthly plans, which may turn out to be lower than your current bill. You can pick up a SIM card in Canada before you go, including 7-Eleven stores.

Do your homework. Newer smartphones should work globally, but there are always exceptions. A local SIM card, as well as a pay-as-you-go phone, will have a different phone number, so you’ll have to alert family and friends. The advantage is that your number will be local to the country that you’re staying in.

Whether you’re travelling or not, an unlocked phone makes it easier to switch providers, and if you choose to sell it, you’ll have a larger pool of potential buyers if your phone isn’t tethered to a specific carrier.

Greg Gazin (a.k.a The Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg) is a syndicated tech columnist, blogger, podcaster (host and producer), and contributes to Canoe.com, Troy Media and Active Life.

GadgetGuy.ca


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