Posts Tagged ‘Android’
“Cool. I didn’t know it could do that!”
That’s a phrase Agents hear every week. Most customers spend a good deal of time preparing for their major tech purchases – comparing features, checking system compatibilities, measuring dimensions and reading product reviews. The strange thing is that many seem to forget how their new gizmos can simplify their lives between the time they say “I’ll take it” and they get it out of the box at home. Yeah, it’s all in the manual, but who has time to read the manual?
Here are some tips and tricks you may have forgotten since the salesperson mentioned them back at the store. Never hurts to be reminded…
There’s so much more you can do with a smartphone beyond making calls.
So many people said technology would kill reading as a pastime. But e-readers and tablets have only increased our appetite for the printed word. Here are some steps you can take to help your devices help you.
These days televisions are for more than watching shows and movies. High-definition displays and internet connectivity mean getting the most out of your TV is a bit more complicated than making sure all the cables are hooked up correctly. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Web connectivity has made gaming systems more fun than that old Nintendo machine you grew up playing.
If you aren’t sure that you are getting everything out of your new computer, home theater or gaming system, we can help.
Agent Ron G. has been battling the forces of unruly technology run amok since 2001, prior to Geek Squad’s acquisition of Best Buy. When not busy creating video & technical training content for Geek Squad Agents in the field, Agent Ron enjoys home brewing, international travel, and learning how to cook new cuisines.
There have been a number of articles in the tech press lately about vulnerabilities with smartphone passcodes. Phones using both Android and iOS systems have been plagued by hacks that allow unauthorized users to get around the passcode lockscreen. Apple recently released an update to their operating system intended to address this problem. A similar issue was also discovered in Galaxy Note 2 phones.
When things like this hit the press it’s often difficult for most users to understand whether they should be concerned or not. Lifehacker has a good article that discusses what these vulnerabilities allow unauthorized users to do, how passcodes work, and how best to secure your phone. If you’re concerned with the security of your smartphone, it’s definitely worth the read:
If you still need help understanding and using your smartphone, Geek Squad can help.
Choosing the “right” tablet to give as a gift can be challenging. Before you plunk down your hard-earned cash on one of the many tablets out in the market, here are some things to think about.
When you think about the cost of the device, does it include a service plan or an accidental damage plan? Since tablets are made to be mobile, they take a lot more abuse than your desktop computer. At our world-class repair facility — Geek Squad City — we see many units that have been accidentally dropped, or damaged because they had fluid spilled on them. Having coverage that repairs or replaces the unit in the case of catastrophe is vital.
Currently there are three operating systems for tablets: Android, iOS, and Windows. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. When choosing a tablet as a gift, think about what kinds of tech devices the person for whom you are buying it currently uses. If they use a smartphone with an Android operating system, an Android tablet would be a natural choice. The same thing is true for if the person is a Mac user. And Windows users? Most of the newer Windows tablets come with a tablet version of Windows 8. Tablet users have been surprised about how well they like the new system.
Tablet screens today range from about 4.5″ touchscreens to almost 12″. The size of the screen makes a big difference for kids or older adults who may have trouble holding and using smaller devices. You may also want to consider the shape of the product and its thickness when deciding if the device fits the person’s lifestyle.
How will the gift recipient use the product? Take what you know about their use of tech into account. If the person is going to use it to check email or watch movies and videos that require Flash, then you will need to choose a compatible product. Does the person like to take pictures or put files on detachable media? You’ll want to be sure to choose something that has a SD card. Does the person need a web camera? What about two cameras (front and rear facing)? Thinking about how the recipient of the tablet is likely to use it will also help you choose the right accessories for it.
Generally most tablets come with between 2 Gigabytes (GB) to 64GB of internal storage. Some products allow the internal storage to be expanded by using SD cards, while others do not. If the person you are giving the tablet to is likely to use it to store music, photos or other data, you will want to make sure the device has a good amount of internal storage.
I suggest that you go into a store and actually hold tablets you are considering to give as a gift. Talk to a sales associate and ask questions. Play around with them and see which one you like best. Consider the person to whom you are giving the gift and what he or she might like best. Make sure you understand the return / exchange policy. Some stores charge a restocking fee, or will require that the return be made within a certain number of days from the date of purchase. A gift receipt is always a good idea. Also, ask if it is possible for the person can exchange the product for a different brand or model if there is an issue with the size or operating system.
Agent Kate B is a 3 year veteran of Geek Squad, currently on assignment at Geek Squad City. Follow Kate on Twitter @AgentKateB.
Mobile phones, tablets and portable computers — oh my!
In a world that is constantly on the go, we are always looking for new ways to be entertained while on the road, in the air or relaxing at home. The Google Play market for Android devices gives mobile app users a wonderland of games to keep them occupied any time of the day. Here a few of my favorites that won’t break the bank!
A fantasy-puzzle game that takes players through a realm of dragons, knights and other fairy tale creatures. With many diverse puzzle games and over 50 levels to adventure through, this free storytelling adventure will pass the time while it helps build your mental muscle.
A new take on a zombie adventure! In this game you are a blacksmith, and your world has been taken over by a curse. It is up to you to defeat the curse. Your main companion is an ill-tempered , uncooperative zombie head. You have swords, crossbows and a musical horn to complete quests, solve puzzles and beat monsters as you seek to save the world.
Moving from fantasy into sci-fi, this graphically brilliant star fighter game brings together the worlds of Wing Commander and Starcraft. In this flight simulator game you complete missions, upgrade your ship and destroy space monsters. Star Splitter 3D is not your typical mobile game and will require high-powered hardware to play.
Are you into creating your own world? Then Cosmic Colony may be just the game for you. This Sim City-style game puts you in the shoes of an architect /astronaut who has been sent to build, maintain and expand a space colony on a distant planet. With the help of your trusted scout robot E.A.R.L., your goal is to build your colony while exploring the vast uncharted lands of the Planet Mochwoi.
In this now-classic mobile game, you advance through levels by using a slingshot to hurl specially-powered birds at a variety of structures. Your goal is to move through each level (using the fewest birds possible) while making sure the evil Pig kingdom members are crushed under the rubble of the buildings you destroy. With many expansion packs, Angry Birds provides players with substantial problem solving opportunities and Pig-ageddon. (It’s a word. Look it up.)
From free games to those that cost a few bucks, the Google Play app market has gaming entertainment for all ages and gamer styles! These are just a small taste of the massive market place, so check out Google Play on your device and make your own top five. You will never have a boring airport wait or family car trip cross country again!
It’s vacation time! Get ready to lovingly bubble wrap that tablet, gently pack that smartphone into its case and stock up on a myriad of chargers. Technology withdrawal is no laughing matter. (Trust us, we know.)
Yes. And a voltage converter plug too.
Clothes are always a good idea. So is bringing an adapter plug for your tech gear. (Afterall, martphones do not run on oxygen.) In the UK, we have 3 pin sockets that run on a different voltage to US electrical items.
American smartphones are usually 115v products, but UK sockets are 240v. Iif you have a 240v smartphone, you need to purchase a 2 pin to 3 pin voltage converter plug - not just a regular one – or you risk blowing fuses in your expensive hotel room.
No. Just because Nyan cat says so, doesn’t make it right.
Listen up, this is very important. Turn off data roaming before boarding that plane. Please do it. Oh please. If you don’t turn your GSM smartphone off, it will automatically connect to the most appropriate UK mobile network as soon as one becomes available, and pump out all the lovely interwebs juice you usually inject into Facebook, Song Pop and Sound Cloud.
Settings > general > network > data roaming – toggle to off.
Settings > mobile network > data roaming - untick it.
Settings > Mobile Network > Data Roaming Options – tap ‘don’t roam’.
Menu > settings > networks and connections > mobile network – set ‘While Roaming’ to off.
Your smartphone is simply bursting with stuff that’s important to you, from contacts whose numbers you never bothered to learn, to photos of that thing that happened that one time which nobody mentions in public. Hey, you don’t want to lose all the music you spent hours adding to your computer, then to your phone, then to your computer and, sigh, the process is never ending. So, for goodness sake, back up your smartphone before travelling abroad.
While abroad, don’t be tempted to switch on 3G on your GSM mobile and connect to a UK network, which can be very costly. Connect to a secure Wi-Fi network whenever you want to frantically thumb through Facebook to see all the posts from your crush or best friend that you’ve missed during your vacation. If a network doesn’t ask for a password or network key when you attempt to connect, it isn’t secure. We advise you not to connect to unsecure networks when checking anything personal. If your hotel doesn’t provide access to a secure network, try BT Fon, which allows you to connect to a network of Wi-Fi hotspots, for a pre-paid daily charge.
We’re not saying that Britain is any more hazardous to your smartphone than the US, but if your phone does get lost, broken or stolen while you’re over here, pop into a Carphone Warehouse and chat with a Geek Squad Agent there for help. Find out more here.
Have a safe trip over here in the glorious British summer rain, and remember that Geek Squad UK are always only a phone call away whenever you need technology support.
By Agent Brown (UK)
Thinking of heading abroad this Summer? In this connected world, we take our smartphones everywhere. Here’s our guide on making sure your beloved device works the way it should during your holidays!
In the USA, there are two different types of mobile network, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications, originally Groupe Spécial Mobile) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). These two types of network use different technology to make and receive calls, making a CDMA phone not compatible with a GSM network and vice versa.
In the UK, all mobile networks use GSM, so if you have a CDMA handset then you will not be able to connect it to a UK mobile network at all.
If you want to know if you are on GSM or CDMA then you just need to know which carrier you are with. Verizon & Sprint use CDMA. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. If you are with a smaller carrier, you will need to check with them to find out which system they are using. This is definitely something to check before you travel, as you could get a nasty surprise when you touch down and try to make a call!
If you have a GSM phone and SIM card, using the UK mobile networks will be as easy as turning your phone on and waiting for it to connect. The phone should automatically pick up a UK network and you should be able to start making and receiving calls and texts as normal.
Make sure to check the charges with your carrier before you travel. Making calls from abroad can be very expensive.You don’t want your fond holiday memories spoiled by a huge phone bill when you get home.
Your network may allow you to add a special holiday bundle to your account, making it cheaper to use the handset when you are in the UK. This usually involves making a one-time payment to will provide you a pre-determined amount of time and will likely save you a lot of money if you intend to use the phone a lot.
A data connection can be particularly expensive, so most phones will not allow you to use data services while abroad unless you specifically turn on data roaming in the settings menu. If you do need to get online to check your emails or update Facebook, it is best to do this by connecting to a Wi-Fi network. Most hotels will have Wi-Fi available and there are thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK.
If you are using a CDMA handset, then you will not be able to make or receive calls or texts on your handset via any UK network. However, there are alternative ways you can communicate with your friends and family back home if you have access to a Wi-Fi connection.
If you have an Apple iPhone on iOS 5 or above, you can use Wi-Fi to make and receive free video calls using Face Time. You can also send text message to other iPhone users using the free iMessage service. Both of these options work automatically without any further setup if you have a Wi-Fi internet connection.
If you have a different brand of smartphone, you can use applications like Skype or WhatsApp to make internet calls and send free instant messages over Wi-Fi. Skype allows you to make free calls and send messages to other Skype users, on either a smartphone or a computer. You can also call landline and mobile numbers from Skype for a minimal charge.
WhatsApp is another popular way of sending free text message over Wi-Fi. Unlike iMessage, WhatsApp is universal, so there is a version available for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Nokia and Blackberry. This means you can contact pretty much all of your friends and family who have a smartphone with the WhatsApp app..
There are a number of other messaging applications you can use depending on what your friends are using on their handsets. Facebook messenger for example, is another popular app that allows you to communicate with any of your Facebook friends who have messenger installed. And of course you always have the option of just sending an email from your phone.
We hope you have a safe, happy trip in the UK. If you need assistence, don’t forget to pop in and see your friendly neighbourhood Geek Squad Agent at a Carphone Warehouse store.
By Agent Hall (UK)
London is one of the world’s most exciting cities. There’s so much to see and do– from free art exhibitions, to jaw-dropping musical productions and family-friendly festivals (Like the chocolate festival, aaahhh). While you’re there, make the most of your trip!
Leaving on a jet plane? Let’s face it you’re probably looking at hours aboard a tin can on wings. But at least these handy planning apps can make the prep stage a little easier.
TripIt (all platforms – free) – organize your flight the easy way! Forward any booking or confirmation emails directly to email@example.com, and get a personal itinerary sent to you automatically. You can sync your itinerary with Google calendar or iCal. TripIt can also synchronise with other travel apps like FlightTrack for an even better service.
WorldMate (Android, iPhone – annual subscriptions service) – If you like the look of TripIt, but want to squeeze even more options and services out of your apps, WorldMate should suit you well. Although the WorldMate service carries an annual subscription charge, it offers a massive amount of functionality, including updates for delayed/cancelled flights and offers of alternative routes and transport.
The Trainline (all platforms) (free) – as far as UK train travel goes, Thetrainline.com has always been a boon. The mobile app is easy to use, lets you check train times and book tickets quickly and securely. It also syncs your booking with your Google calendar..
Virgin Trains (all platforms) (free) – you can use this handy app to book trains up to ten minutes before departure and collect them from Virgin’s FastTicket machines.
London Bus (iApple iPhone – £0.69) – similar to Google’s Layar app, London Bus by Press Elite uses augmented reality to show the location of tube, bus and tram stops. It also ties in with places to rent bikes, attractions and refreshments. If you prefer augmented reality to staring at a map, this will be the app for you.
London Transport Pro (Android – £1.49) – out of the many London transport apps on Google’s Play Store, this one has it all. Merging information from Tube and DLR services with live departure boards for London’s bus network, London Transport Pro allows you to set your favourite locations making it even easier to get from A to Zoo.
Google Maps/Navigation (all platforms – free) – get walking or driving directions, public transport information, all with turn-by-turn and voice guided navigation. When you pair this with the exceptional Google Maps website, you can plan your route on your computer and use your smartphone to find your way.
Navfree: Free GPS Navigation (Apple iPhone, Android - free) - a decent, cost-effective alternative to Google Maps, powered by OpenStreetMap. Navfree features turn-by-turn navigation with voice prompts, and offline map storage to save data.
Google Places (Android, iPhone – free) – Places works with Google Maps and uses your phone’s GPS to find local businesses and attractions. Simply load up the app, tell it what kind of service you’re looking for and let it search for relevant places nearby. You can see other people’s user ratings and pick the best service near you.
Yelp (All Platforms – free) – Yelp acts in a very similar way to Google Places but relies more on user reviews and opinions. Yelp has an easily accessible mobile webpage for smartphones.. Download the app and try it out.
Time Out London mobile app (Android, iPhone – free) - In my opinion, Time Out London is the best way to find hidden gems like free art exhibitions and family-friendly festivals. Find nearby restaurants, bars, films, gigs and entertainment to enjoy during your stay.
Toptable mobile (Android, iPhone – free) - I’ve been using toptable to find great local restaurants and make online bookings for years. It’s great because you get honest user reviews, star ratings and candid photos, plus booking reminders and rewards.
We hope you enjoy your stay in the UK. Don’t forget — Geek Squad is available 24/7 in the UK, should you need any assistance with your technology.
By Agent Peter Cruickshank (UK)
Sending physical postcards to your loved ones via a smartphone app sounded like a dream just a few years ago, but now you can snap a photo and get it sent to your family in just a few clicks! There are numerous postcard making apps available, for Android-powered smartphones and iPhones. We’re here to help you stay in touch with a little personality and flair this summer.
Picture this (pun very much intended); halfway through your summer holiday, you decide to send a postcard to a friend back home. First you have to find a shop to buy a postcard, spend ages searching for something suitable, find somewhere flat to write the card and then find out your pen has run out of ink. After all that, it’s usually a certainty that you won’t be able to find a post box for miles as well. If you’re anything like me then this seems like a little too much work for someone supposedly enjoying their holiday.
Thankfully, some innovative mobile app developers have created postcard apps for Android-powered smartphones and iPhones. There are several options available, each app allows you to snap a photo on your handset, personalise it and have it sent to a friend. A few days later, a printed copy of this postcard will arrive on their doorstep. (Winning.)
One of the biggest selling points of this app is that it integrates Instagram, Facebook and your phone’s photo album into one simple interface. Once your photo has been selected, you can then add a short message, along with your name and a photo of yourself, to truly personalise your postcard. Where Postagram really impresses is that the photo can later be popped out of the postcard. So even after the message in the postcard is no longer relevant, your friend still has a great photo to keep for years to come. With postcards only costing 99c, (£0.64) and the first 5 free, this really is impressive. (Available via iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.)
(Please note, this App costs £0.69 to download via the App store, your first postcard is free, and subsequent postcards carry a minimal postage cost depending on recipient’s location)
Snapshot offers a simple set of controls to add a photo, a suitable border if necessary and fill out your message on the back. The app has several font choices for the front of the card but strangely doesn’t offer a way of changing the font for the message on the back.
This app certainly seems the most straightforward out of the apps reviewed here, but is the only one to have an odd way of purchasing credits. Rather than an in app purchase it requires either a Paypal account or a credit/debit card. The app comes with the first print free which is a great way to try out the service. Available through the iTunes App Store.
(Please note, this App is free to download via the App store, but postcards carry a £1.93 cost)
This app is provided by a professional photographer and has some advantages over the competition, as well as a few limitations. It is free to download but there is a cost associated with sending postcards.
Like most postcard apps, you can send your creation to multiple recipients. What makes this one unique is that you can’t edit the photo on the front, but you are able to hugely personalise the back of the card. There is a handy guide available when you first start the app, so you’ll probably be creating masterpieces in minutes.
Cards cost $3 (£1.93) but with the amount of personalisation available this is quite reasonable. It would have been nice to have a free first print like the other apps though.
By Agent David Clayton (UK)
Last week, Google started rolling out a set of important changes that will affect devices that use its Android Operating System. The biggest change they made was to the name of their service, which is now known as Google Play.
Why the name change? Google wants to become content-centric and has decided to make their Android Market service into an “entertainment hub”, offering music, films and books on top of the Android apps and games already supplied by the service.
The most noticeable difference is the name and icon change. You will now need to keep an eye out for “Play Shop” as your source for new apps and the icon is now more colourful than the original green and white shopping bag. Google Play can be accessed from your computer’s web browser in the same way as Android Market and visiting www.market.android.com will divert you to the new address of www.play.google.com.
You will start seeing digital books, music and films appearing in the Play Shop which are available for sale or rent. This content can be downloaded to your Android phone or tablet in exactly the same way apps are downloaded. In fact, you don’t even need an Android device to enjoy the new services! You can download media content from Google Play using any computer that can access the internet.
Play Shop has already started rolling out across the globe, and the website has already been updated. If your phone or tablet still shows the Market icon, open the app and agree to the new terms and conditions (once you’ve read them and are happy with the changes, of course). Shortly after you accept the terms, the Market icon will change and you will be granted access to the Play Shop.
-Agent Peter C.
Covert Agent, Geek Squad UK
Agent Peter C. is a Covert Agent and contributor to Geek Squad UK’s knowledge Vault. See the original article on GeekSquad.co.uk, available here.
Today, Google held a press event to discuss the Honeycomb version of their Android operating system which is geared toward tablets. The goal, according to Google, was to “equip developers with the best possible toolkit that we can build then just get out of the way.” There were several parts of that toolkit revealed and reviewed today. Here are some of the highlights:
The OS is optimized for larger screens and now includes tablet-friendly features such as a multitasking button which provides a scrollable visual preview of all recently used apps for quick multitasking access. Widgets can also present larger blocks of data and are now scrollable in several ways, such as standard in-widget scrolling used for e-mail, stacked widgets for pictures, and block widgets for a list of bookmarks, to give a few examples. Multitouch even allows for scrolling on two different widgets simultaneously.
Notifications are still unintrusive, but will now contain more information. For example, when receiving an IM, you will now see the picture and part of the message for a brief moment in the corner of your screen where you can choose to open the notification or ignore it. In the same corner, there is a headphone notification button when the music player is running. Tapping this brings up a small widget to play, pause, skip or adjust volume quickly and easily.
“Application fragments” work as frames within an application to allow more flexibility in how information is presented. Each fragment represents a part of the full app and the presentation can be customized more effectively with this method. This also allows new dragging features, such as dragging an e-mail message into a folder in the folder list.
A brand new graphics engine called “Renderscript” delivers a fully immersive three-dimensional experience demonstrated by the new tiltable Google Maps which features 3D buildings and by a port of the PS3 game Monster Madness. Another app highlighting these capabilities is the new Google Body, which was referred to as “the Google Maps of the human body” with 3D layers demonstrating muscle, skeleton, circulatory system and more, with all parts searchable by name.
Support for front and rear cameras means support for video chat, which was demonstrated quickly and effortlessly with a call from musician Cee-Lo Green. Image stabilization has been a major focus of the video chat functionality. The camera itself also has a new software interface which puts white balance, exposure, color effects, flash and more at your fingertips.
Also announced was a very interactive new way to find, purchase and install apps. By visiting http://market.android.com, you will be able to search and sort through apps much more efficiently. You can hotlink to individual apps using this web store and tweet that hotlink right from the site. Opening the hotlink from an Android device will take you right to the installation screen.
The app pages themselves are much more robust with the ability for developers to upload high resolution banners, larger icons, YouTube videos and more to each app’s page. A sidebar shows all other apps from the same developer. If you are browsing the market through your computer and decide you want an app, you can click “Install” and it will automatically download and install on your Android device. A “My Market Account” section shows all apps you have downloaded and makes it easy to download these to additional Android devices, helpful if you get a new phone or an additional device.
Several apps were featured to highlight added functionality including Tap Tap Revenge 4, which will be one of the first apps to allow in-app purchasing. This functionality means that you can buy bonus levels, virtual currency, premium versions of apps and more straight from the application itself for the first time. Also featured was the upcoming CNN application which, in addition to providing a rich multimedia news experience, also allows users to take photos and video of events as they happen and submit them, with text, to the network’s popular “iReport” section.
All things considered, it looks as if the tablet market is only getting hotter and hotter. Honeycomb is Google’s proverbial throwing down of the gauntlet in what should prove to be the next big technology battle. What would you like to see out of Honeycomb? Tell us in the comments!
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