Loss and Damage for Your Phone 101

Loss and Damage for Your Phone 101

Your phone is with you at all times, until one time, it’s not. That’s when you realize that you are never prepared for this to happen. Panic sets in.

This is easily preventable – not losing your phone, but retaining control over finding it. There’s also ways to prevent hundreds of dollars from going missing from your wallet anytime your phone takes an unsupervised swim, or a drink from the toilet. You’ll thank ‘past you’ who was wise enough to purchase a warranty when it costs you hundreds less to replace your phone after an accident.

Here are a couple tips to help make sure you’re saved from the headache that comes with a lost or damaged phone.

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Mobile Phone Buying Guide: August 2015

Technology seems to be changing at the speed of light. Unfortunately here at Aumnia, we work at a human speed. In our brief hiatus from keeping you informed on all things mobile, we’ve been working hard (or hardly working?). With a little more manpower at the helm, we’re back and we’ve got an awesome phone buying guide for you this month- just in time to wrap up summer.

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Mobile Phone Buying Guide: February 2015

Mobile Phone Buying Guide: February 2015

This edition of the mobile phone buying guide is a bit of a tough one. We’re entering a period that I like to call “upgrade limbo”. What is upgrade limbo? It’s when we’re in between major phone releases making it difficult to suggest or recommend different handsets. However, this is a phone buying guide, so here are my suggestions if you are in the market for a new device.

As in previous editions, I’ve split the guide into three sections – iOS, Android, and off-contract. I’ll start with iOS (meaning iPhone). You can skip directly to Android by clicking here, or directly to the off-contract section by clicking here.


iPhone Buying Recommendations

Given that it’s been almost 5 months since the iPhone 6 came out, we’re at a point where upgrading is questionable. It’s always best to upgrade your iPhone shortly after the latest model is released so you can maximize the benefit of the new device and stay in sequence with the Apple upgrade schedule. While this isn’t the worst time to upgrade to the iPhone 6, just be aware that new models will be coming out in about 6 months.

The big question: iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus?

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 PlusBoth the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are excellent devices. The 6 Plus does have a couple of advantages. First, since the battery is larger, you will get more time between charges. Second, the camera is supposedly a touch better, but I’m not certain it’s enough to influence your choice.

The downside of the 6 Plus, or upside depending on how you look at it, is the size. If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s, the 6 Plus will feel massive in comparison. It may be shocking at first, but most people I know have gotten used to the size quickly and love it. However, if you like to carry your phone around in the front pocket of your jeans, you may find the size of the iPhone 6 more appealing.

Bottom line, it’s a personal choice. I’d recommend that you go to an Apple store or carrier store to see the devices first hand. If you’re unsure after looking at them, inquire about the return policy and take advantage of it if the device you choose isn’t to your liking.

iPhone 5s recommendation: wait

iPhone 5sIf you like the size of the iPhone 5, my past recommendations have been to go ahead and get the iPhone 5s. At this point though, my suggestion if to wait and not upgrade. Rumors are that Apple is going to upgrade their 4-inch models to the latest hardware so there will be three new phone models released this year – a 4-inch, 4.7-inch, and 5.5-inch iPhone model.

Since the iPhone 5s will be two years old this fall, buying it means that it will likely only last 1 more operating system upgrade, 2 at the most. If you can wait for the newer model, you’ll have a phone that will be guaranteed to last through your contract and beyond.

iPhone 5c recommendation: don’t

As with previous recommendations, don’t get the 5c. It’s just an iPhone 5 repackaged in colored plastic. The hardware is going on 3 years old, and I suspect that Apple will be phasing out support for this model over the next 12-18 months, especially since the 5c never really caught on.


Android Buying Recommendations

If you’re in the market for an Android device, now is definitely a good time to wait. A major show in the wireless industry, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, is taking place at the beginning of March. New Android devices will be announced during the show. I suspect HTC will announce a follow-on to their HTC One M8, and Samsung should announce the Samsung Galaxy S6.

In the meantime, if you need to purchase a phone, here are the recommendations:

Moto X – 2nd Generation

If the Samsung Galaxy series isn’t your thing, or you’re looking to try something new, the Moto X 2nd Generation is a great device. It runs a vanilla version of Android which means it gets the latest operating system updates quickly. For example, it’s already running Android 5.0 – Lollipop. Plus, since the refresh cycle for the Moto X is in the fall, you’re fairly safe upgrading to the Moto X.

Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy S5If you like the larger “phablet” size such as the iPhone 6 Plus, then the Note 4 is your best option. There are quite a few phablet size Android devices, but Samsung has done the best job building devices in this size range.

Samsung Galaxy S5

If you’re a fan of the Galaxy S series phones, then the S5 is the current upgrade path. However, I’d recommend waiting a month until the S6 comes out. I don’t suspect there will be a lot of changes, but you will get slightly better hardware for the same price as the S5.

Droid Turbo

If you’re on Verizon, I’d suggest taking a look at the Droid Turbo. It’s a slightly enhanced version of the Moto X – 2nd Generation that is exclusive to Verizon.


Off-contract Buying Recommendations

The off-contract market has gotten a little bit tougher. In the past, the Nexus 5 was my go-to off-contract device, but it has gotten very hard to buy from the Play Store. There are also rumors that Google will be phasing it out, which is a shame. It was a great deal at under $350.

In lieu of the Nexus 5, here are some other devices to consider if you want to get some good hardware and save some money by going off-contract:

OnePlus One

OnePlus OneStarting at $299 with flagship equivalent specs, the OnePlus One is a steal. The problem is that it can be very hard to get your hands on one. You can only purchase it directly from their site (click here), but it requires an invite. They occasionally open up non-invite periods, so you’ll have to follow the tech blogs to see when one of the non-invite purchasing windows opens up.

Moto G (2nd generation)

For $179, the Moto G is a great value device. It doesn’t have all the latest and greatest hardware, but if you’re looking for a 5-inch device that will let you text, email, take pictures, and access the latest Android apps, the Moto G is your device. Plus, at $179, you can always upgrade if something better comes along without feeling like you lost a lot of money. The Moto G is also a great device if your current device goes for a swim or MIA. It’s a great way to bridge the time until your contract rolls over so you can get your next flagship device.

Moto E

One of the best kept Android secrets is the Moto E. It’s a full fledged Android device that you can purchase off-contract starting at $120. As you would expect, there are some feature compromises, and you don’t get the best features for $120, but it’s a phone that works and has access to all of the latest Android apps. It’s a great first phone for a teenager or pre-teen. I got one for my pre-teen, and it certainly alleviates a lot of the anxiety of her breaking it or losing it, which seems to be a common occurrence for this age group.

Off-contract iPhones

There are two options for off-contract iPhones. The first is to buy directly from Apple, which means you’ll be paying full price for an iPhone. The iPhone 6 starts at $649, and the iPhone 6 Plus starts at $749. The other option is to try and pick-up a second hand, refurbished device from an online carrier store, eBay, or Gazelle. Either way, expect to pay a lot more than you will for an unlocked Android phone.


Windows Phone

I would strongly suggest staying away from Windows Phone for now. Microsoft is in transition to Windows 10, which will unify the Microsoft operating system across desktops, tablets and phones. It remains to be seen how compatible Windows 10 will be with existing phones, so buying a Windows Phone now could result in owning an obsolete device by the end of the year. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend considering a Windows Phone device until 2016 at the earliest.


Carrier Recommendations

Since carrier quality varies significantly by region, I generally stay away from specific carrier recommendations. That being said, if you are looking for a carrier or want to make a change, check out my article, Choosing a mobile carrier, for tips and guidelines.


If you have questions about any devices, feel as though I left one out, or have personal experience with any of devices, please share in the comments.

 

Wearables and Real Estate

There’s a lot of talk in the technology space these days about wearable technology, or “wearables” as they’re most often called. Google initiated the discussion with the Glass product they launched last year, and a multitude of vendors have signed onto the Android Wear initiative for developing smartwatches, our as Google puts it, connecting “your phone to your wrist.” Even Apple’s latest quarterly report had analysts abuzz when CEO Tim Cook hinted at a busy fall lineup, which many took as an indication that an Apple iWatch is on the horizon.

It begs the question: as a real estate professional, should I be investing in wearables?

I’d like to divide the question into two parts, focusing first on Google Glass and then on smartwatches. I’ll take a look at what’s available today, discuss use cases in real estate, forecast where each technology is headed, and provide my recommendations.

Click here to jump to the smartwatch analysis


Google Glass

Google Glass

about glass

Google Glass, as the picture above shows, is a set of glasses that puts a small display within your eyesight. The glasses are relatively light, come in different colors, and are available in plain, prescription, or shaded versions. In addition to being innovative, Glass is also highly controversial as I’ll explain in a bit.

Glass is a pretty powerful device packed into a small piece of hardware. Here’s a short list of things you can do with it:

  • Receive and respond to notifications
  • Display directions
  • Send messages and make calls (when paired with your smartphone)
  • Perform Google searches
  • Translate written documents such as signs and menus
  • Take pictures and video
  • Share items over social media sites
  • Get updates through Google Now
  • Receive news headlines and sports scores

This isn’t a complete list, and the amount you can do with Glass is increasing all the time.

Glass is not a full resolution display, so it’s not good for reading messages with lots of text. Notifications, messages and things like search results are provided in a card format that provides a summary of the information. In order to standardize the format of the data, Google has provided strong design recommendations for working with Glass. Hopefully, it will help to bring some consistency to the presentation of information.

It’s not absolutely necessary to pair it to a smartphone or tablet, but not pairing it will limit the functionality. In other words, you’ll want to pair it to get the maximum benefit from the product.

use cases for real estate

Here are some use cases where Glass could come in handy for real estate professionals:

  • Property walkthroughs
    Initiate a call/hangout with a client and walk through a property to show the client the features of the property from a first person perspective.
  • Messaging and alerts
    Get alerted to key messages and notifications regarding property transactions and respond quickly as appropriate.
  • Navigation
    Glass could be used for directions to showing appointments, listing presentations and open houses.
  • Augmented reality
    While not quite here yet, looking at a house could provide key details about the property without having to do a search.

technology direction

I see Google Glass developing as a great technology for industrial, training, entertainment, customer service, law enforcement, and military use. Here are some examples:

  • Industrial applications
    I can see doctors wearing Glass to instruct them through key aspects of a procedure, mechanics using it to help them identify parts and guide them through repair processes, pilots using it to help with navigation and landing/takeoff procedures. In other words, anywhere that someone can benefit from the use of a hands-free computer, Glass conceivably has a place
  • Training
    Taking first person videos with Glass could make it much easier to create training videos. In addition, the student could wear Glass and be guided remotely with a teacher or professor seeing the first hand video and delivering verbal instruction to the student
  • Entertainment
    Glass could make for a whole new first person viewing experience for action sports. It could also make for interesting perspectives and camera angles for movies and television shows.
  • Customer Service
    “This call may be recorded for customer service and training purposes” may not be a phrase you just hear on the phone. You could hear it from a salesperson, service associate, or cashier when performing transactions in-person.
  • Law enforcement
    Police and fire could use it as a heads-up display to get information about people, buildings, and stolen goods, or to perform forensic analysis.
  • Military
    Applications could include threat analysis and identification, target acquisition, and recreation of battlefield events.

recommendation

I do NOT recommend Glass for everyday use for two main reasons.

  1. It’s invasive to people’s privacy
    Believe it or not, but the majority of people do not like to be caught on video or photographed without permission. Just the threat of it will influence and affect people’s behavior. It will inhibit reactions and cause people to avoid genuine interaction.
  2. It disengages and defocuses
    Being regularly bombarded with alerts and messages creates an environment that does not allow you to focus on the conversation and/or task at hand. It also has the effect of disengaging you from the conversation or meeting you’re in. I’ve seen it first hand in a meeting where someone wearing Glass starts looking in the corner and swiping their frames. It’s distracting and rude, even more than checking their smartphone or watch.

So while Glass does shine in some real estate settings, I don’t recommend that you buy it today. The large up front expense of $1,500 does not justify its limited use cases. If these limited use cases are important to you, you can address them with your smartphone. For example, you don’t need Glass to do a first person walkthrough of a property. You can use Facetime on an iPhone or Hangouts on an Android device.

Bottom line, save the $1,500 and wait for Glass to mature. Even then, I’m not so certain it will become a mainstream technology. I believe it will remain a niche technology for the industries and uses I listed above.


Smartwatches

Galaxy Gear 2

about smartwatches

Smartwatches are a compact, more discreet form of wearable that come without the “creep” factor associated with Glass. Most of the major manufacturers, including Samsung, Motorola and LG, have introduced products this year. The major company missing from the list is Apple, but the anticipation is building that they will release a product later this year.

Smartwatches can tell the time, but they’re specialty is connecting to your phone to provide notifications. In other words, without a phone, the watch isn’t “smart.” Here are a few of the features that the current generation of devices will perform:

  • Messaging and alerts
  • Appointment notifications
  • Weather updates
  • Voice commands to respond to text messages and emails, or to get answers to questions
  • Pair with apps to track fitness goals
  • Control of music applications

This list isn’t comprehensive, and similar to Glass, I expect it to expand over time as developers get more comfortable with the technology.

As with regular watches, smartwatches come in all sorts of different colors, sizes, and shapes. They are meant to be as much of a fashion statement as they are an information device. Smartwatches will continue to get more fashionable as the technology matures – particularly as the devices get thinner. One of the more fashionable watches today in the Moto 360, which is shown in the video below.

use cases for real estate

Here are some ways that smartwatches could be used in real estate:

  • Reminders
    Get calendar notifications and alerts so you don’t miss an appointment or forget about a deadline without having to pull out and check your phone.
  • Transaction alerts
    Get alerted when key documents are ready for signature or transactions have moved past certain milestones, such as final inspection.
  • Messaging
    Check messages discreetly and respond quickly with short responses when busy on showing appointments, caravans, or inspections.
  • Property alerts
    As an example, Trulia has announced a smartwatch app that will alert you to homes nearby, new listings, or properties that meet predefined criteria so you can get a quick look at the property details before reaching for your phone. A smartwatch app could also alert you to property price changes (up or down) and changes in status (on/off contract).

technology direction

Smartwatches are more of a mainstream wearable technology than Glass. As the technology matures, the watches become more fashionable, the available apps more capable, and the pricing more reasonable, smartwatches will become widely adopted.

Here are the top items that need to be addressed, in my opinion, for adoption to take off:

  • Thinner – need to find a way to cut down the thickness so they are more comfortable to wear
  • Battery life – Getting 4 or 5 days on a charge will be required; unfortunately, getting thinner works against battery life
  • Design options – watches are fashion statements; there needs to be a lot of design options to suit everyone’s individual taste
  • Pricing – $200 – $250 is a lot to pay for a watch; get it down under $100, and the market will take off
  • Apps and functionality – this is the least important; no matter how capable the watch is, no one will buy it if it costs $300, looks like you strapped an iPhone to your wrist, and needs charged every 8 hours

Overall, smartwatches will become more widely adopted than Glass, but they’re not nearly as disruptive. They don’t require massive changes to user behavior or have the potential to disrupt industries. They’re more about convenience and performing simple tasks without reaching for your phone.

recommendation

A smartwatch is something that you can wear everyday as a replacement to your everyday watch. It won’t make you feel out of place and won’t distract you any more that your smartphone will. They’re a wearable that I would recommend – I just wouldn’t suggest running to the store and buying one right away. As with any technology, there will be plenty of bugs to work out in the initial versions, so it’s worth waiting until the technology ages and matures. Once some of the issues I mentioned above are addressed, particularly the styling, battery life and price, then I would recommend purchasing one.

Plus, I would wait until the developers have had some time to work with the technology. You will see a lot more innovative applications get designed for the smartwatch over the rest of this year, and it’s possible some will require advances in the hardware.

Bottom line, wait at least until the holidays before purchasing a smartwatch. Buying one today would be the same as buying an expensive watch from a department store or your local jeweler.


Wearables is an area of technology that is worth keeping a close eye on. The technology is evolving rapidly, and manufacturers are investing heavily in the space. It will be a volatile, dynamic situation over the next 12-18 months with advancements coming quickly, much like the evolution of the smartphone. Just think of the changes between the first and third generation iPhones for an example, and that’s the kind of advances I suspect you’ll see in wearables. It’s going to be fun to watch, and an exciting ride. I can hardly wait.

 

Mobile Phone Buying Guide: July 2014

Since the smartphone market is dominated by the iPhone and Android devices, I’ve reorganized the buying guide a bit this month to provide recommendations depending on which device type you are looking for. I’ll start by providing recommendations for people looking to upgrade or buy an iPhone. To go straight to the Android recommendations, click here.


iPhone buying/upgrade recommendation: DON’T

Why DON’T?

Because the iPhone 6 will be available soon, really soon.

Here’s what we know, or should I say are projecting, at this time.

  1. The next iPhone will have a bigger screen. It’s pretty much set that we will at least see a 4.7″ screen size (compared to 4″ today). It’s possible that there could be a 5.5″ version, although rumors indicate that Apple is having quality issues producing the 5.5″ device (see here).
  2. According to Bloomberg’s sources, production has started this month in anticipation of a reported launch date at the end of September.
  3. The phone design is expected to be more iPod touch like, which means it will be thinner with more rounded edges.
  4. As you would expect, it will have a new processor meaning it will be even faster and more capable than the iPhone 5s.
  5. To improve durability, Apple is supposedly switching to sapphire glass technology. Rumors are that the new sapphire screens can resist scratches and all sorts of torture, except being run over by a car. Given how hard my teenage kids are on their phone, they (and I) will appreciate the improved durability.

I suspect that an announcement regarding the phone’s release date will be coming sometime during the second half of August, once most people are back from their summer vacations. I’m sure that lines outside the Apple stores will start shortly thereafter.

If you’re interested in seeing what the new device might look like, here is a video showing a comparison of an iPhone 6 mock-ups to existing devices. You can also check out this link for a lot more pictures and videos.

If, for some reason, you absolutely cannot wait until September because your iPhone decided to go for a swim or went MIA, then do the sensible thing and get an iPhone 5s. Do not buy the iPhone 5c, it’s based off of the iPhone 4s which is almost two years old at this point – an eternity in mobile time.


Android buying/upgrade recommendations

For Android devices, I’m going to break things down into on-contract and off-contract devices. My personal preference is to buy devices off-contract for the flexibility and freedom to choose the best available plan, but it does require more up front investment. If you like the discount and don’t mind the commitment a two-year contract requires, then on-contract may work better for you.

Best on-contract Android devices

Samsung Galaxy S5Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung’s latest Galaxy device has one of the best cameras out there, and it’s features are the most polished given they’ve had four prior generations to perfect them. If you’re currently using a Samsung Galaxy device, say an S2 or S3, then I would definitely recommend the S5 for the smoothest and easiest upgrade path.

HTC One M8

The HTC One is my personal favorite due to its superior build quality and construction. I’ve always been a fan of HTC’s devices. They just don’t have the same name recognition as Samsung due to inferior marketing. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the HTC One M8 or Samsung Galaxy S5.

Best off-contract Android devices

Nexus 5Nexus 5

Even though the device is about a year-old, it’s still a great device, and a virtual steal at $349 without a contract. In addition to a lightweight, thin design, Google is really good about getting all of the latest Android updates onto the Nexus 5 really fast since it uses a stock Android build. That alone is enough to highly recommend the device.

Moto X

I’ve been using the Moto X for my daily driver for the last 6 months, and I would highly recommend it. It is very close to a stock Android experience, and Motorola has been very good about updating the device quickly with the latest Android improvements. It also has a lot of design options, including wood covers, and it’s a good bargain at $349. It’s also not nearly as big as most Android devices, making it a little easier to carry around in your pockets.

Moto G - no contractMoto G

If you’re looking for a great budget device, get the Moto G. For $219, I’d even recommend keeping a Moto G around as a back-up or loaner device, especially if you use AT&T or T-mobile as your carrier. Its specs won’t match up with flagship devices from Samsung or HTC, but as a starter device for a first-time smartphone user or for kids, it’s a great bargain. I’d still contend it’s one of Android’s best kept secrets.

By the way, if you’d really like to go cheap, you can check out the Moto E, which is only $129 off contract. I’d only recommend it as a backup device in case you lose or break your primary phone as it compromises a few too many specs, including connection speed (no LTE) for it to be feasible as a daily device.


Windows Phone and BlackBerry

I would stay away from both of these devices, and if you’re currently using one, I would advise switching. There are too many gaps in available apps that will hurt your productivity and diminish your smartphone experience. In addition, the market share is too small to be a priority for developers. New apps are geared toward toward iPhone and Android devices due to shear volume, and because of that, some apps never make it to the Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms.

I know Microsoft is trying hard to make Windows Phone relevant, but until there is a compelling reason to switch, I wouldn’t. As for BlackBerry, their best days are behind them. For loyal BlackBerry users this is a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner you accept it and move on, the better off you’ll be.


Carrier recommendations

Since carrier quality varies significantly by region, I generally stay away from specific carrier recommendations. That being said, if you are looking for a carrier or want to make a change, check out my article, Choosing a mobile carrier, for tips and guidelines.


If you have questions about any devices, feel as though I left one out, or have personal experience with any of devices, please share in the comments.