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.


App review: Location sharing and safety apps

App review: Location sharing and safety apps

While we may not like to discuss it, the fact of the matter is that there are risks involved in being a real estate agent. Agents are often called upon to show vacant homes to strangers, conduct listing presentations at a stranger’s house, or host open houses alone. Recent events involving Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter who was kidnapped and killed showing a vacant, bank-owned home to a stranger and a California real estate agent who was assaulted  while securing the lockbox on a new listing have put safety at the top of everyone’s mind.

In this article, I’d like to show you a couple of tools available on your phone that you can incorporate into your safety strategy. As a disclaimer, the apps and tips in this article will not keep you safe. As Inman contributor Theresa Boardman points out, mobile apps are not the solution to safety. These are merely tools that you should consider adding into your overall safety plan. I encourage you to first follow the safety guidelines and requirements provided by your office along with your association, whether it be at the local, state or national level. If you’re office or association doesn’t have safety guidelines in place, then take the steps to develop your own safety plan. Your safety is ultimately your responsibility. Before delving into some of the tools available on your phone, here are a few articles and resources that can help you to develop a more comprehensive safety plan.

Location sharing

Both Android and iOS devices have location sharing capabilities that allow you to share your location with specific people. Sharing your location could be one way to have people check-in on your whereabouts in addition to the occasional text message or phone call. You may even find some uses for the location sharing outside of business, such as trips to a shopping mall or crowded amusement part.

While there are many apps and services that will allow you to share your location, I am going to stick to two methods provided by Apple and Google. Since these companies control the operating system of the phone, it’s a way of limiting the number of companies who can access my location. So yes, I am a little paranoid about privacy.

Messages in iOS 8

If both you and the person (or people) you want to share your location with have iPhones with iOS 8 installed, you can share your location using Messages. Simply select the conversation with the person (or group) that you want to share your location with, press ‘Details’ in the upper right corner, and on the next screen select ‘Share My Location’. You will then be asked if you want to share your location for one hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely. You can disable the location sharing whenever you like.

For a more in-depth description with pictures, see this article courtesy of the site WonderHowTo: How to Send & Share Your iPhone’s Current Location in iOS 8.


For a solution that works across platforms, you may want to try Google+. Google+ is that “other” social network that hasn’t really caught on, but there are some useful things you can do with it. One is the ability to share your location with a set group, or a circle in Google+ terms. Of course, anyone you want to share your location with in this fashion has to have a Google+ profile setup for this to work.

Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, you can follow these instructions which Google has put together: Share you location with Google+.

Here’s the video they created that shows some of the other uses for location sharing:

Safety apps

As with location sharing apps and services, there are quite a few apps that cater towards personal safety. I am going to highlight the Guardly app here, since they’re business is built around security and safety. However, if you aren’t comfortable or don’t like Guardly, there are a number of other apps, along with wearable technology solutions, mentioned in the Inman article: Real estate agents using apps, wearable tech to stay safe.


GuardlyGuardly is an app designed specifically with security in mind. Its safety features are easy to engage. When you open the app, it immediately start a countdown timer, at the end of which an emergency alert is sent to your family and friends contact list that you setup when you download the app. Cancelling the alert takes you to the preferences screen where you can access Guardly’s other features, or you can manually send an alert to any contact list you’ve setup.

In addition to alerting friends and family in case of emergency, the app can also automatically connect with emergency services, provide real-time location tracking, and allow you to activate an emergency beacon in the form of a loud whistling sound. Some of these features are part of Guardly’s paid service, which costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. You can get more details as well as watch a promotional video at their site by clicking here.

This article is not meant to heighten paranoia nor should it induce fear. I decided to write this because I’ve met a lot of outstanding real estate professionals over the last ten years who I care about, many who have become close friends. By providing a few tips and suggestions, I’d like to encourage them to incorporate the tools available to them through their mobile phone. However, and most of all, I’d like to strongly recommend they take their safety seriously and make it a priority to create or adopt a safety strategy if they don’t already have one in place, regardless of whether it involves the use of technology or not.



Introducing the Surterre Properties native mobile application

Surterre Properties mobile applicationWe are pleased to announce that the Surterre Properties mobile application is available for download in the App Store and Google Play. Based in Newport Beach, CA, Surterre Properties is Orange County’s leading luxury real estate brokerage. Surterre strives to provide their clients the best of both worlds. On the one hand, they employ experienced, successful, locally based agents who are dedicated to delivering personalized client service and results. On the other hand, Surterre possesses the strategic vision, marketing acumen and global reach one would expect to find at a much larger company. We worked with their in-house marketing and design team to package and add native mobile features to the mobile web presence that we developed for them earlier this year.

Using mobile to differentiate

When Surterre Properties initially approached us regarding the project, we were excited about the opportunities it presented. Surterre wasn’t interested in simply checking a box so they could say they had a mobile presence. They wanted to create a unique experience that would reflect the effort and care they put into servicing their clients.

The first thing you’ll notice when you open the app is that it is does not look like your typical real estate mobile application. It is not a standard template re-branded with different colors and a logo. It’s a unique experience that reflects the approach and effort they put into all levels of their marketing. It contains vivid imagery and utilizes the colors, textured backgrounds, and brand elements that are present throughout their other marketing materials, both online and offline. The application stands out from other real estate apps and is a true representation of the company’s brand and the level of service that they provide to their clients.

The approach

Surterre Properties mobile application - open houseTo create the native applications for the App Store and Google Play, we used the mobile web application as the basis for the development. It allowed us to achieve two important goals:

  1. From a user experience perspective, the interface between the mobile web and native apps is identical. It allows a client to use either version of the application without having to learn new gestures or user interface conventions. It also eliminates the disjointed messaging that can occur between application versions, which is common when different companies produce the mobile web and native versions of the app.
  2. We were able to leverage the existing code base which allowed us to more efficiently develop both the iOS and Android versions of the application. The result was completing the project in a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost than building separate applications for each mobile platform.

Furthermore, moving to the native development platform allowed us to include a few additional features that were not possible in the mobile web version of the application.

  • Clients can add agent contact data to their address book with the press of a button;
  • Clients can add open house dates and times to their calendar with the press of a button; and
  • Property search results are presented with larger, full bleed images.

Surterre Properties mobile application - property searchWell, the last features isn’t a native specific feature, but one that we chose to add to differentiate the user interface of the native application from the mobile web version. It also makes for a more engaging and visually appealing application, and it’s a feature that we may chose to migrate to the mobile web version in the future.

We have only scratched the surface with regards to what’s possible. The foundation we have put in place will allow us to leverage more native capabilities over time. The result will be an even more personalized client experience and an enhanced vehicle for highlighting and promoting their listings.

Raising the bar

As Orange County’s leading luxury brokerage, Surterre Properties is using mobile to engage their clients at a deeper level and to differentiate themselves from the competition. Their mobile presence, both web and native, supports the company’s strategic positioning as a real estate company that provides personalized service and superior results to their clients.

It’s been a pleasure working with the Surterre Properties marketing and design team, and we’re looking forward to continuing our partnership. The features we have planned for their mobile presence will help to them raise the bar further and reinforce their place as Orange County’s leading luxury brokerage.

Download the Surterre Properties native mobile application for yourself and see how they are using mobile to reinforce their brand’s image, create a competitive advantage, and provide an engaging, personalized experience for their clients. iPhone users can download the application from the App Store by clicking here, and Android users can download the application from Google Play by clicking here.

If you’d like to learn how we can help tell your brand’s story with a differentiated mobile presence, feel free to contact us by phone or the web through our contact page, or via email at sales@aumnia.com.


App review: Starbucks

Ever been to a Starbucks and wonder why people are flashing their phones at the baristas or cash register? If they’re like me, they’re using the Starbucks app to pay for their food and drinks. Whether you go to Starbucks occasionally or have a table named after you there, I highly recommend the app. I’ve been using it for a couple of years, and I find it easy to use and very convenient. For this app review, I’m going to look at how the app works, and give you some tips I’ve learned over the years on how to get the most out of it.

How the Starbucks app works

Starbucks app home screenBefore you download the Starbucks app from the App Store or Google Play, you’ll want to go to their website first and setup an account (if you don’t have one already). I know it sounds painful, and yes – you’ll have to manage yet another password, but in order to take full advantage of the app, you need to have an account.

Once you get your account setup, you’ll need to have a Starbucks card available to load into your account. Usually, you’re prompted to enter a card when you setup your account, but it’s pretty easy to do later if you don’t have one available. Once you have a card loaded into your account, you’re ready to head over to the App Store or Google Play to download the app.

After you have it installed and open, the app will ask you to login using the account you created on the Starbucks website. After the login is verified, the card you loaded at the website will show up with its current balance. (see picture right)

To use the app, you can go to any Starbucks. After placing your order, pull out your phone, open your Starbucks app, and press the “Pay Now” button at the bottom of the screen. Then show the barista the bar code that pops onto the screen. The barista will scan it (or have you point it at the scanner), and you’re on your merry way. Now you can look cool just like the rest of us – at least that’s how I like to think I look while I’m paying with my phone!

Other features of the app

In addition to paying for your coffee, the app also allows you to do the following:

  • Track your rewards
    I don’t go to Starbucks often enough to bother tracking my rewards, but the app makes it way too easy. Turns out, I went more than I thought and made gold status last year!
  • Find stores
    If you’re in an unfamiliar location on vacation or business, the app can help you find the closest store to get your fix. You can also see the hours of operation, what services are available, and get directions from your location to the store.
  • Card reload
    I know you’ll find this shocking, but Starbucks makes it easy to reload your card with the app. You can do it in manually or have it set to reload automatically when the balance gets low or hits zero.
  • Use offers, discounts and rewards
    Any special offers, discounts or reward drinks you earn are auto-magically transferred onto your card. No more searching around for emails or printing out coupons. Just show the barista the code in your app. In some cases you can just tell them you have a reward available and the app will do the rest!
  • See recent transactions
    If you’re curious just how addicted you are to Starbucks or how often you go, you can see a list of your recent transactions.

Starbucks app Store FinderStarbucks app My Rewards

A couple of tips and why I like it

Aside from being a cool way to pay for my drinks and track my rewards, here’s a couple of tips and why I like it:

  • It’s convenient
    It’s faster than paying with credit and even cash. Plus, no more fumbling for cards or loose change. Just “show-and-go” at the register.
  • You can aggregate old cards
    When I first loaded the app, I had a bunch of orphaned cards that I had received as gifts over the years. Each card had a balance of under $2 that basically made it useless. The app let me enter all of those cards and transfer the balance onto one card. I had enough spare change on my orphaned cards to buy almost 3 drinks!
  • You can control your habit
    It’s not a “feature” of the card, but here’s how it works. If you’re trying to tame your coffee habit or reduce your Starbucks spend, try this trick. Load a set amount on your card at the start of every week (or month, or day, depending on how severe your addiction has become). Once you spend your budget, no more Starbucks until the next week!


For Starbucks regulars, the app is an absolute must have. However, even if you only go to Starbucks once in a while, it’s still a great app given its convenience and effortless reward tracking capabilities. It has helped me to use up the remaining balances on a bunch of cards I had lying around, to make gold status even though I don’t go that often (2-3 times a month is all it takes), and to look super cool when checking out (or super-nerdy, depending on your point of view). In short, I highly recommend it.



App review: FloodMap Mobile

FloodMap Mobile splash screen - framedI normally don’t review or recommend paid apps, but this month I’m going to make an exception with FloodMap Mobile by Atkins North America. The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices and costs $1.99, which is very reasonable given the functionality. In fact, I’d consider it an essential app for any agent or real estate professional.

As you would expect from the name, the app tells you the flood risk of a property address based on FEMA flood maps. You either enter the property address or use your location, and the app will show you the flood maps for that area. By entering some additional data about the address, such as the value of the property and its contents, the app will provide risk and insurance estimates. I wouldn’t recommend using the app as the official word regarding flood analysis, but at least you’ll have preliminary information when reviewing properties with buyers or discussing property risks with sellers.

In addition to maps, risk and insurance estimates, you can also access more detailed FEMA Flood Mapping Information including the FEMA Region, Community Number, Map Number, and Flood Zone for future reference. There is also a share button (labeled “Email”) that lets you email a report, post it to social media channels, or create notes through other installed apps on your phone.

Below are a few screen shots showing how the application works. In the first screen shot, you will see that the app is displaying my current location using the blue dot, which is our office (click image to enlarge). It allows me to quickly see if I am in a flood zone, which is shown by the red/orange crass-hatched areas. Thankfully, it appears that we are safe!

FloodMap Mobile - Office Location

If I want to get more information, such as flood risk and insurance information, I can choose the Location option and enter my address. In this case I entered our office address. If I want to get more information, I simply touch the property icon that appears on the map, and then the “i” (or information) icon on the pop-up display.

FloodMap Mobile - Request Info

The application then asks me for some property data, including the estimated value of the property and its contents. Then it will tell me the flood risk and provide an insurance estimate. I can also email this report to myself (or others) if I want to reference it later when talking with an insurance professional.

FloodMap Mobile - Property Report

These are just the basic features. There are options that let you compare properties and access additional map information through the “Layers” menu. Layers include Base Flood Elevation, Flood Hazard Structures, Coastal Barriers, Dams, Bridges and Non-FEMA Floodplains.

For anyone who is a real estate professional, FloodMap Mobile is an essential tool and a $1.99 well spent. It gives you an initial look at a property’s flood risk so you’ll be aware of any possible issues should you proceed with a transaction. Just be sure, as mentioned above, to validate any information you receive from the app with an appropriate professional to insure its validity and accuracy.