Why Upgrade Your Cell Phone?

As technology spirals out of our grasp and into the hands of the younger generation, it’s easy to become confused, frustrated, and frankly, lazy. Why should we spend so much time learning to use these new tools when our old ones suited us just fine?

A common example is the cell phone. With smartphones becoming more and more popular, it can be hard to find a nice, effective, ‘regular’ cell phone with proper coverage and a normal price range. Your children, friends, co-workers and even your cell phone provider keep pushing you to upgrade your phone…. But why should you?

Well, here are a few good reasons:

Organization: Smartphones were created to act as personal organizers, with electronic schedules, diaries, shopping lists, reminders and contact lists that allow you to keep track of everything in both your work and personal life.

Flexibility: The portability of your smartphone allows you to take notes as well as change and review appointments, contacts, emails and documents while you’re on the go.

Connectability: The speed and data quality of smartphones allows you to connect to the internet, and even to your remote computer network from any location. Information sharing is made easy with a smartphone, which can process large email attachments or data files from almost every website. These features can ease the life of remote workers or mobile workforces, as well as people who travel frequently.

Information: Smartphones can access thousands of services, opening an entire world right at your fingertips. With a smartphone, you can access maps, navigation help, news coverage, weather reports, traffic information- even Google search!

Quality: The quality of a smartphone’s camera, voice calls, text messaging and web browsing are all significantly better than those on older cell phone models. Communication is faster, conversations are clearer, and photos taken while on the move can actually be cherished in albums or files both online and off.

Getting the Right Cell Phone Plan

Shopping for a cell phone plan may seem like a daunting task, but there are actually dozens of ways to find the plan most suitable for you and your family.

Cell phone service providers offer numerous individual and family plans to meet the needs of every person’s social or business life, as well as provide the most cost-effective option available. Many, if not all, of the options can be found easily online, and cell phone companies offer personalized advice to individual customers as well. There are also websites that offer analyses of your personal cellphone use and suggest the most cost-effective plan.

Many companies, such as T-Mobile, offer classic individual plans which include unlimited minutes and texts, and a certain amount of data at a particular speed, for a regular monthly fee. These plans tend to include two-year contracts for phone discounts, unlimited calls within the same network, unlimited nights and weekends and free domestic long distance roaming throughout the United States.

Family plans are similar to individual plans, but they enable two or more cell phone users to access a shared pool of minutes, and receive a single bill. These plans go by slightly different names, depending on the provider, including Verizon’s Family Share, AT&T’s Family Talk, Sprint’s Power Pack Family Plans, T-Mobile’s Family Time and Nextel’s Team Share. These plans usually include the same benefits as the individual plans, such as unlimited nights and weekends.

Both tracks can be changed if one finds they are not the perfect match for their lifestyle. With some cell phone service providers, there is also an option to create your own, more flexible plan based on your particular cell phone use. The most confusing parts of your monthly bill are the data charges. Data is used when browsing the web, downloading updates, checking your Facebook, sending or receiving emails and so much more. Many plans used to come with unlimited data packages, but that practice was recently changed. Now, there is a monthly fee based on your data plan, and overage charges when more than the allotted amount of data is used.

Where to Purchase Cell Phone Accessories

There are many online stores that stock a wide variety of cell phone accessories. First you need to work out what accessories are going to be most useful for your needs and then investigate the stores with the best prices and varieties. Of course, Amazon and eBay are usually good places to begin, but you might be surprised at the accessories that are on sale through local vendors in your area – either new, or in good, second-hand condition. Sometimes people just get bored of their perfectly high-quality cell phone cover and want to switch it as they are encountering a new “color mood.” But for you, it could be a case of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

If you are buying cell phone accessories second-hand, be sure to check the credibility of the seller – usually these online sites have ratings for other sales that have been made. A good bargain doesn’t become much of a great deal if the battery you buy from someone has been over-used and won’t give you the longevity you seek.

Next, it is often easier and less time-consuming to find a site that is selling all the accessories you need for your cell phone – rather than having to shop around different sites and make several credit card purchases. Find a trustworthy site that offers batteries, chargers, cell phone covers, cases, ringtone cards, clips, screen protectors, adaptors, Bluetooth accessories, add-ons, headsets, speakers, face plates, etc and anything else you need.

One way to save money on cell phone accessories is to look for deals; sometimes there are great bargains through the various “deal-a-day” companies sprouting up throughout the nation. Talk to your friends to see if they are looking for the same accessory and if, perhaps, you can get a 2 for 1 deal or free shipping for a larger order. In cases where you are not pressed for time, you’d be surprised at what deals crop up at the last minute, selling exactly the accessory you’re looking for, in the right color and style, at an unbeatable price.

So have a clear picture in your mind of exactly the type of cell phone accessories you need and then start looking. Get an idea of general prices through the main online stores selling them, and then keep an eye out for a good deal. That way you’ll end up with exactly what you want at a perfect price.

The Only Thing Worse Than a Wet Dog…

Getting your cell phone wet doesn’t need to mark the end of its life. Of course, it’s not exactly optimal to have the cell phone anywhere but a dry place, but these things do happen and there are often ways to salvage the phone. Also, bear in mind that many cell phones these days comes with a plastic protective cover – that already gives an extra layer of “hope” in the restoration of a soggy cell phone. It probably takes at least 15 seconds for the water to seep in past the cover, so the quicker it is retrieved, the greater chance it has of not encountering any major damage.

There are a few other practical tips to remember once your phone has either fallen down the toilet or gotten stuck in the washing machine. Do not turn it on. Let it dry out first. If you turn it on when it’s still wet, you are likely to cause it to short circuit. In addition, if you are unable to pull it out of the water immediately but are able to access the battery, remove the battery while the phone is still submerged in the water.

Once the phone is out of the water, take out the battery – water and electricity is an inherently bad mix. Phone circuits can survive if they remain detached from a power source during submersion. Next, remove the SIM card (for the GSM carrier phones) since even if the cell phone doesn’t survive, at least the object with the important data has a fighting chance. As well, SIM cards tend to be able to cope with moisture pretty well – so they are likely to survive getting wet more than a phone is.

Next, take off any other layers on the phone – extra covers, connectors etc., allowing the cell phone to “breathe” through all its slots and holes. This is a good time to dry the phone as much as possible, with a towel, padding gently. It is ill-advised to move the phone even a little bit while you’re drying it since the more it stays in one place, the greater chance it has of not pushing even a few drops of water deeper into the phone. Sometimes a vacuum cleaner (not a hairdryer) can work well at sucking out any excess liquid if used carefully.

Another little-known tip is to leave the phone in a bowl of uncooked rice overnight since these small grains are able to absorb any remaining liquid. Then, the next morning – or at least 24 hours after you have completed these processes – put the battery back in and test your phone.

What Age Should a Child Have a Cell Phone?

Deciding at what age a child needs a cell phone is an extremely individual and personal decision. So much so, that even within the same family, kids may be given cell phones at different ages.

The most important question to ask yourself is if your child actually needs a cell phone. If your child is pushing to get a cell phone simply because friends at school have one, then there is no reason to purchase one. If however, the child is often in situations where a cell phone might be an important aid, then it becomes a reasonable purchase. Such situations could include times when the child must frequently travel alone, after school activities that require the child to call a parent to be picked up and the like.

Perhaps you want them to have access to a phone for that rainy-day emergency. You may want them to have a phone because they regularly need to call a parent or caregiver from a location where there isn’t a landline; finally, you may simply want to be able to keep tabs on your child. These are the main reasons a child would be given a cell phone.

Once you have decided to purchase a cell phone for your child, be sure to put limitations on its usage. A lot of people choose a calling card option (so bills do not spiral out of control), remove the SMS feature and data plan, block certain numbers, or apply a combination of all of these. Work out what you want your child to use the cell phone for and then talk to the company about how best to enforce the limitations.

Certainly, it is beneficial to sit down with your child to discuss your expectations and limitations. You’ll need to make clear to your child why you are giving them a phone, when you expect them to use it (and not use it), how much money you are willing to pay for each month, and more. Setting the ground rules when the phone is first turned on will, hopefully, save you from grief and miscommunication later.

A Walk Through Time: The History of the Cell Phone

The cell phone as we know it today is really quite a new invention. It’s almost difficult to remember life without them, but for those of us who are nearing or beyond middle age – we spent most of our lives without these devices.

The first person to communicate through wireless was probably Dr. Mahlon Loomis between 1866 and 1873. A dentist, he was clearly a forward thinker who figured out a way to transmit messages telegraphically at an 18 mile distance from the top of the Cohocton Mountain to the top of the Beorse Deer Mountain in Virginia. He was awarded a $50,000 research grant (an enormous sum of money in those days) and he used kites that had copper screens linked to the group with copper wires to use the Earth’s atmosphere as a conductor to transmit messages.

Fast forward a century and we come to Dr. Martin Cooper, who is given the title as the inventor of the first portable handset. He began working for Motorola in 1954 and was tasked with the goal of developing portable products. AT&T was racing to introduce the first cellular communication at the same time, but Mr. Cooper won the race. He created the first working prototype of a cellular phone, called the Motorola Dyna-Tac. After testing it with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington for a while, he and Motorola took the phone to New York.

Playfully showing AT&T who was boss, Cooper placed the first cell phone call in New York City to the AT&T Bell Labs. After this miraculous breakthrough, Cooper spent the next ten years figuring out how to bring this technology to market. In 1983, Motorola introduced the 16-ounce “DynaTAC” for commercial use. Unlike today’s amazing prices, each cell phone then costs $3,500.

Cell phone popularity grew exponentially during the 80s, although most of these were actually car phones. Most people still weren’t carrying cell phones in their hands; rather they had them installed in cars. There were some models that came in tote bags so that they could easily be hooked up to the car’s battery with the DC outlet, while others came in briefcases to hold the large batteries that were necessary.

By the 1990s, the second generation (2G) phones were available and could be used with mobile phone systems like GSM, TDMA and CDMA. These networks allowed for better call quality, less dropped calls, and faster network signaling. Technological advances also enabled cell phones to become hand-held, requiring much smaller batteries.

Today, of course, we have 3G and 4G cell phones that allow users to do an enormous range of functions. They offer everything from email and Internet access to streaming videos and TV, accessing WiFi and beyond.

Cell Phones as Hot Spots

Cell phones

The less tech-savvy among us might first like to know what a ‘HotSpot’ is before we discuss how you can use your own cell phone as a personal hotspot.

Luckily it’s not all that difficult to understand. Here is an example from real life. In the olden days, let’s say five years ago, most people connected to the internet either at work or at home by physically attaching their computers using a cable through their phone lines.

As computer mobility increased and larger numbers of people began using laptop computers, it became incredibly convenient to have wireless access to the internet. A hotspot is the place where it is possible to access the internet, over a wireless area network using a router which is connected to an internet provider. Typically a hotspot uses WiFi technology to connect to the internet.

Hotspots can be found in a huge number of public spaces, from internet cafes, to waiting rooms in hospitals, to airports. Bookstores, department stores, RV parks, and even entire municipalities can allow people to surf the web wirelessly.

But what happens if you are in a place that does not have a hotspot but you want to get your computer on-line? Not a problem if you have a data enabled cellphone. It is possible to create your own personal hotspot using your phone. There are several ways to accomplish this goal, depending on what kind of smartphone you have. If your phone does not have built in WiFi then you will need additional hardware, but if your phone does have WiFi, which the vast majority of smartphones have today, then all you may need is additional software. In many cases your phone may already come with the necessary software to create a hotspot.

Once you have a phone that can create a hotspot for you, you can then connect several WiFi enabled devices, often five or more, to the internet through your cellphone. Now that your phone brings the internet into your home or office, there is the possibility of saving money by dropping your internet provider. Since you are already paying your cellphone company to connect you to the internet, and since you can connect five or more devices to the internet through your phone, it is easy to see that having an internet provider is a superfluous waste of money.

There you have it. The way of the future may be connecting all our internet devices, phones, computers and more, to the internet with our mobile smartphones, simplifying life and saving money, too.

Convergence is the Key to Cell Phones of the Future

The high-tech world is advancing at a breakneck speed! The influence and penetration of incredibly versatile devices into our daily lives is dramatically changing the way we live. It was not so long ago that if you needed to call someone from a public space, you needed to use a public phone. And if the person you wanted to get in touch with was not at home, leaving a message on an answering machine would just have to suffice.

In just a few short years connecting with people has become virtually instantaneous. Unless you are at a place where you must turn off your cell phone, there is nothing preventing instant contact. But of course connecting with friends, family and colleagues is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities of today’s hand-held devices. (I hesitate to say “cell phone” because many devices today are really computers that also happen to have a cell phone function.)

And that brings us to the future of cell phones. Today we are at a turning point where having a mere phone is seen as a waste of the plastic the phone is made from. There are no longer many cell phones that don’t allow internet access, and more and more phones are of the ‘smart’ variety, containing within them an amazing number of functions from GPS to cameras, to large memories and storage capacities.

What is there to prevent our “cell phones” from truly becoming our computers? They are already loaded with great memory, apps, and operating systems. Everything else that a computer allows you to do can exist on the internet, in the up and coming “cloud.” Eventually, it seems pretty clear, we will be able to take our computers everywhere we go, and when we get home, or arrive at work, all we will need to do is place our devices down on our desks, wirelessly connect to our keyboards, mice and monitors, and we are ready to roll.

And if a great photo op presents itself, just pick up your computer (phone!) and snap a picture; or if your spouse calls to tell you he/she is running late, just press a button, (or maybe you won’t even need to press a button) and start speaking. And let’s not forget about the entertainment aspect of our cell phones. We are already using our phones to house our vast music and video collections which we then access via our TVs and stereo systems. In the future TVs and stereos will most likely be made obsolete by our versatile phones. As our technology continues to advance, we might not even have to touch our phones to operate them. Hand gestures, and speech will more likely than not become the mode of operation.

The future of cell phones is a future in which almost everything we do to interact with the world around us will be achieved through the convergence of all the various tasks into one, hand-held device. Who knows, maybe your ‘phone’ will one day even have a personality all its own, listening to your troubles, soothing your worries, and even being your newest, disembodied best friend.

Getting the Facts on Cell Phones for Seniors

There are many important considerations to factor into the purchase of a cell phone for the elderly. Whether you are the older person yourself, or you’re trying to decide on a phone and plan for a parent, there are many features that you need to consider.

Cell phones are an important tool to help elderly people with emergencies and medical needs.  The 5 Star Urgent Response system, for instance, is a phone that works like a personal emergency response system.  It includes a large button that the user can push when they need to contact a 5 Star Agent.  When a call is placed, the 5 Star Agent will be able to identify the user’s location, assess the situation and provide assistance or conference in 9-1-1 as needed. It’s a brilliant way for the user to feel safe and to have immediate help when needed.

Cell phones are also important for the elderly as they can serve as a medication management tool.  There are Mobile Apps available for cell phones today, like GreatCall’s Mobile App, that enable users to set up their medications, prescriptions and pharmacy information in the MedCoach app.  Users will get regular pill medication reminders and can even order refills right from the smartphone!

When searching for the right phone for an elderly person, usability is also of paramount importance.  A phone like the Jitterbug, for instance, features extra large buttons, a bright color screen with large numbers, and a simple navigation that includes “Yes” and “No” buttons. This creates much easier usability and allows the older user to navigate with ease.

For usability, some phones also have raised, separated number keys.  Phones such as the Pantech CDM8635 and the LG Wine II from U.S. Cellular make these tasks that much easier for elderly use.

Hearing is another important consideration when purchasing a cell phone for elderly care.  Many cell phones today are designed to work with hearing aids.  For some people, having a speakerphone might be enough, while others will need the extra help from the hearing aid tools.  These considerations should be carefully thought out and looked into to offer the best usability for the elderly user.

Finally, anyone helping the elderly user with the purchase should consider the user’s economic situation and plan needs.  Most elderly people will not need an extensive or complicated cell phone plan; they’ll need the minimal amount of air time and will probably need very little to no texting capabilities.  Shop around to find the best deal for the user, and ask about senior discounts everywhere that you go.

As a final note, make sure after the elderly person has his cell phone, that he is given an extensive tutorial about how to use it.  Just because this person now has a cell phone in his hand doesn’t mean that it will help him to keep track of his medications or to be safe should an emergency arise.  The tool is only as good as the user’s understanding – so make sure to properly train him before handing off the cell phone to an elderly user!

This video from the Today Show offers even more suggestions to help seniors with their cell phone needs.

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