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A day without devices, March 3 is National Day of Unplugging

teens-cellphonesParents of teens and even elementary school age kids are often complaining of them being addicted to their smartphones and social media, and the sad reality is that these habits start early and follow them into adulthood.  In fact, many of them are modeling the behavior of their phone-addicted parents.

March 3 is a day to unplug and look around at all else the world has to offer, off of our phones, tablets, laptops and other devices. For many, it will be a day of reckoning, when they realize just how often they turn to their phones instead of human interaction.

According to a NationalToday.com survey, 77% of women and 68% of men spend 3 hours or more per day on their computer, phone, or tablet. Half of women and 41% of men spend 5 hours or more per day looking at a screen.

To conduct the NationalToday.com Day of Unplugging Survey, conducted Feb. 14, 2017, the pollsters at National Today [www.nationaltoday.com]—an online destination dedicated to quirky and fun holidays—asked 1,000 Americans to dish on their digital dependence.

TOP 3 MOST INTERESTING INSIGHTS ABOUT OUR DEVICES
#1: When I have down time, I spend it on my phone, computer, or tablet (35%)
#2: I spend more time interacting with people online than I do in person (13%)
#3: I feel like I’m addicted to my phone (13%)

MOST AMERICANS SPEND 3+ HOURS A DAY ON THEIR DEVICES
75% of Americans spend 3+ hours per day on their computer, phone, or tablet. 48% spend 5 hours or more per day looking at a screen, while 13% spend 10 hours or more.

TOP 5 PLACES AMERICANS SPEND THE MOST TIME LOOKING AT THEIR PHONES
#1: When I wake up (32%)
#2: When I’m in bed going to sleep (26%)
#3: On work breaks (20%)
#4: In the bathroom (10%)
#5: On my morning commute (4%)

BED ISN’T JUST FOR SLEEPING ANYMORE
For 58% of Americans, bed is the most popular place to check their phone, be it when waking up (32%) or when going to sleep (26%).

RANKING OF THE TOP 3 DEVICES AMERICANS SPEND THE MOST TIME ON
#1: Smartphone (76%)
#2: Computer (17%)
#3: Tablet (7%)

MEN CARE SLIGHTLY MORE THAN WOMEN ABOUT THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA IMAGE
5% of women say they closely monitor how many “likes” they get on social media, compared to 7% of men who say the same.

If you are looking for ways to unplug in life and stop and smell the real versus virtual roses, check out a great book that really made a difference in my life, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!

handfree-mama

And have a happy National Day of Unplugging!

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PlayMG Lets the Kids Have It

PlayMG, a smartphone-ish Wi-Fi Android app gaming system for kids, is just the ticket for parents whose children always ask if they can play on Mom or Dad’s phone.  The sleek design, feel and weight of this handheld device is similar to leading smartphones, so kids won’t know the difference, except this device does not have a phone feature.

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For sophisticated very early adopters, i.e., kids as soon as they are able to hold a cell phone, those silly mock smartphones are no match.  These savvy tech toddlers know by the kiddie colors and light-weight plasticy feel that those made-for-children devices are toys.   PlayMG on the other hand, with its 4” touchscreen, front-facing camera, and stereo headset jack would pass as the real deal even to an adult; in fact, its styling is superior to many authentic smartphones out there.

The obvious main advantage of the PlayMG over a true smartphone is that there are no data charges and kids can’t rack up high phone bills; but that does not mean a child can not incur charges.  As with all Android devices, some downloads are free and other apps and media cost money, which can be paid with a few taps on the device.  To help prevent this, PlayMG created the MG Family Collaboration System which includes a $10 offer when you by the system from SpendSmartTM prepaid MasterCard®.  Other features include the “Digital Wallet” and “Remote Trust” notification functions so that parents can oversee what kids are spending.

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Because the ICS 4.0 system operates on Wi-Fi, there are not data charges, but you do need to connect to a network to access certain games and media.  While you do have to either find a free hot spot or otherwise get a subscribe to a carrier to get Wi-Fi service, with PlayMG there are no monthly charges or expensive cartridge games to buy.

As a bonus, several top games come pre-loaded on the device, including $10 worth of top EA Mobile games ‘Need for Speed Hot Pursuit’ and ‘NBA JAM’ preloade, eight Com2uS popular game titles, Slice It, Swing Shot, Homerun Battle2, Tiny Farm, Tower, Defense, 9 Innings Baseball, Super Action Hero and Derby Days.

The only stand-out odd detail of PlayMG is its egg-like shape.  It has two rounded handles at either end, with cut-outs presumably to thread with a lanyard or wrist strap.  The disadvantage of this peculiar profile is that the device does not fit any existing cases on the market.  The concern of course is that the device may break if dropped; and because of its slippery, smooth design, this is a real concern, especially in the hands of children.

Besides the awkward shape, the PlayMG is a welcome alternative to turning over a fully functional smartphone to a child; so next visit to a restaurant, long car ride, wait in the bank line, or wherever else bored kids nag to play a handheld video game, PlayMG is a great answer.

PlayMG is available at Target, Amazon and Toys R US.  PlayMG Product (8GB) $159.99;
PlayMG Bundle w/ Charger (24GB) $149.99; PlayMG Bundle with Charger & Case (40GB)
$169.99.

Momentage Photo Sharing App Makes Moments Memorable

For the aesthete who loathes the selfies that litter the online social sphere, there is a new app in town.  Momentage is a one-of-a kind photo sharing platform that adds beauty and elegance to instant posts, arranged in collages combining still images, video and SoundImagesTM , the latter a unique feature that allows recording audio underneath photos.

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It’s understandable that Momentage is drawing a community of amateur photographers, but it’s also a refuge for anyone who wants to craft and share their special moments — with family and friends, groups or the community at large.  Part of the beauty is the gorgeous layout, starting with the Discover page spotlighting featured users; and another layer of beauty is in the posts themselves which encompass everything from breathtaking sunsets to cute Chihuahuas and foodies’ fantasies.

discover

Lastly, the beauty of Momentage is in its community.  As their tagline promises, Momentage is a community for new creatives, which is open to interpretation, but which I believe means creative spirits who have embraced technology and social media to express themselves. The community is overall friendly, supportive, inspiring and, of course, creative.

The app offers a lot that its competitors do not, like up to 30 seconds of video and the ability to record sound under photos. These options are in addition to an assortment of filters and effects.  Unlike other apps that make you choose just one image, Momentage allows you to use multiple images and upload up to 15 photos at a time. You can continuously add to a moment and have the option to edit or delete individual photos if you are not satisfied with a post.

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Even if you just want to capture moments to keep private for yourself, Momentage is the app for that.  Best of all, I don’t have the worry about posting publicly and opening myself up to snide and snarky comments.  In fact, I’m impressed with the level of civility and support I see in remarks, including artistic feedback and advice, from, “Love it, your photos are amazing,” to the most common and very simple, “Beautiful.”

Power Trip – iWALK’s Chameleon and Chameleon Easy

iWalk's Chameleon for iPhone 4/4S

iWalk’s Chameleon for iPhone 4/4S

For those who don’t have time to recharge their iPhone 4/4S on the go, iWALK’s Chameleon high capacity power case is a convenient solution to extending battery time.  The Chameleon utilizes a 2,000mAh lithium polymer high capacity battery that lasts up to 500 full charges.  The case features an LED battery level indicator that displays the battery life, an on/off switch to preserve power, and a special design that does not interfere with the iPhone’s photo functions, including a coating around the camera lens designed to eliminate “flashback” while taking pictures.

The Chameleon comes in five different interchangeable face plates in white, black, pink, lime and yellow – hence the name, and it charges with an included micro USB cable.  Available at select Sprint stores and select retailers nationwide or at www.iWALKUSA.com for $59.99.  For the Galaxy S3, the Chameleon Easy, available for $64.99, provides the same portable power functions and stylings.  Both come with a one-year warranty.

Raising the Bar on Cell Phone Reception

Boosters Solve Weak Signals and Dropped Calls

Zombies may be all the rage, but being in a dead zone is no fun when it comes to your cell phone.

In a phone culture like Los Angeles, dropped calls can mean lost opportunity.  No matter how fancy your smartphone, if you don’t get a strong enough signal, you are not connected.  For Angelenos who depend on their cell phone, Robert Galeano is the answer man.  His Canoga Park-based company, Cellular Outlet, has found a niche in raising the bar on signal strength — by installing booster antennas.

Robert Galeano of Cellular Outlet installs a cell signal booster on a duplex in South Carthay, a neighborhood in Los Angeles plagued by frequent dropped cell calls

“A dead cell zone can occur right in the middle of an urban area. Most of my customers use their cell phones as their only phone. They rely on their cell phones to do business, so connectivity is a must for them and dead zones can seriously impact their productivity and quality of life,” said Galeano.

Dead zones can occur due to buildings, hills, and even dense foliage.  There are also many surprising causes of poor reception, such as tinted glass windows made with metal oxide, and heavy concrete walls – and even the commonplace lath-and-plaster and stucco walls of many Los Angeles dwellings – that signals can’t penetrate.

Of course, the distance between a cell phone and the nearest cell signal repeater also affects a signal, which is why Galeano’s business is especially robust in neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, were civic groups have opposed installation of cell towers due aesthetic and safety issues.

Galeano says he is aware of the concerns people have regarding the presence of towers and dangers of radio frequency, which is why he explains to customers that boosters do not increase radio frequency radiation any more than normal use of the cell phone, when it’s resting against your ear. He stresses that, “Boosters are a safe, legal, and cost effective way to eliminate dead zones.”

Unlike the eyesore of a cell tower in a tony neighborhood, the booster antenna is discreet.  The booster has three main components:  An external antenna, which mounts on a roof; a small signal amplifier, which is placed inside the house in a closet, garage or equipment room; and an internal antenna, which can be mounted unobtrusively on a wall.  In the case of a very large house, more than one internal antenna may be needed.  The three components are connected by coax cable.

Unobtrusive cell booster antennas are favored by homeowners who reject the aesthetics of a nearby cell tower

The booster only serves one household.  The external antenna receives the weak signal and sends it through the cable to the amplifier inside the house.  The signal is amplifies and sent through the cable to the internal antenna, which sends the signal around the house.  The booster can improve signal strength by as much as 20 times.  Galeano also installs boosters made for cars that work in a similar manner.

Booster don’t require a telephone line or Internet connection, and users do not need to register their phones to the booster, so even guests in a building with a booster benefit from improved cell reception. A booster can be used by multiple people who are using multiple types of cellular devices and accessing service from multiple cell carriers – all at the same time. The boosters are usually carrier agnostic, but with the new 4G services there are some differences, so an installer will need to know who your cell provider is.

The initial investment for the booster system – such as the popular Wilson Adjustable Gain Signal Booster — is around $2,600 for a large home with three antennas. The installation should be done by a professional and takes about three hours. There are no subscription or maintenance fees.  Professional installers like Galeano generally include at least a year’s service agreement in case there are any problems, which are rare since the system needs little to no upkeep, similar to a telephone or cable installation.

Boosters can be installed in just about any building – apartments, multifamily dwellings, hotels, hospitals and businesses. All antennas, splitters, cable and boosters can be concealed inside an attic or basement, except for the approximate 6” by 4” outside antenna that goes on roof.  If there is no basement or attic, cable can be run on the side of a building and penetrate a side wall.  A booster works best if the outside antenna is on the roof, but if needed an antenna can be installed on a terrace or a ledge or even on the side of the building as long as the antenna is pointed in the direction of the strongest signal, which the installer can determine.

The compact command center of the booster is usually installed in a basement or attic but can be placed on the side of a building if needed

The booster’s performance is unaffected by weather, unless the weather actually causes a power outage or interferes with the cell tower’s ability to transmit and receive signals.

While Galeano serves an A-list of clients whose names he keeps confidential, he says you don’t have to be rich and famous to have a cell booster.

“Anyone who has a weak cell phone signal and suffers through a lot of dropped calls can benefit. We have many clients who are parents who stay at home with their children and want to make sure their cell phones work in case there is an emergency,” said Galeano.

Galeano, who is ranked as Los Angeles’ top installer of the Wilson cell signal booster, says his business has expanded exponentially over the past few years.  As he spends more time on the road traveling to perform installations, he finds himself more and more reliant on his own cell phone in his car, in which of course he has installed a booster.

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