Category Archives: Mobile Tech

And now a better document scanner, too

I have become a big fan of Adobe Acrobat Reader (available for iOS and Android) on my iPhone and iPad. I was in Denver during Bancroft‘s last acquisition, and had to sign a slew of documents while away from printers and fax machines. Using my iPhone, I was able to pull the PDFs from email to Acrobat Reader, then sign them with my finger and email them back. Why do we print anymore?

And now, in case the document that you need to send is in paper form, Adobe has added scanning to Acrobat Reader. It’s incredibly easy to scan, crop, reorder, sign and email a document.  Watch the video to see just how easy it is. Let’s all hug a tree.

Is it Time for Mailbox?

About a year ago, I tried a slick new iPhone App called Mailbox as a replacement for the default Mail app. I was drawn in by rave reviews, a slick, clean interface, and the promise of an app that played nice with Gmail, which handles the e-mail for The main feature of Mailbox is numerous swipe gestures that help you quickly get to “Inbox Zero”, a state of nirvana for which you are rewarded with a zen image of the day.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 7.06.39 AM

You can short swipe right to archive a message, long swipe right to delete it, or long swipe left add it to a list (To Buy, To Read, and To Watch are the defaults, and you can easily add others). But the killer feature is the short swipe left, which allows you to “snooze” a message. This gets the message out of you inbox for now, but brings it back in the future. So you get to Inbox Zero by pushing off the emails that you need to deal with, just not right now.


Though there were many aspects of the app that I enjoyed, especially the snooze feature, I had been using the Apple Mail app for so long that it was difficult to get used to the new interface. Further, at the time there was no app for my Mac, so I was using two different interfaces. I eventually gave up.

But then, three things happened. First, Mailbox was acquire by Dropbox, which means they now are well-funded. Second, Mailbox released a public beta of their Mac app in October. And third, I got an e-mail stating that I’d get another Gigabyte added to my Dropbox account if I downloaded the new Mailbox iOS app and signed in with my Dropbox login info.

I have been using Mailbox for about a week. While the interface is still different from my trusty Mail app, it is a bit closer with the new release. Having the Mac app working in conjunction with iPhone and iPad apps has helped immensely. But it’s the “playing nice” with Gmail that has sold me this time. It searches through archived e-mail as quickly as if it were on the device. And when I delete something, but want it back, undo actually works (it doesn’t for me on Mac Mail-believe me I’ve tried to fix it!).

So I finally hit the Help Me Get to Zero button yesterday. I was afraid, because the default badge for Mailbox  shows you the number of messages in your Inbox, not the number of unread messages. My number said 10,000. I think it’s stops counting at that point, because I actually had 16,000 messages in my Inbox. By clicking the button, Mailbox took every read message in my inbox and archived it. I never would have done this with the Apple Mail interface, because searching through archived messages was always spotty.


So I reached my first Inbox Zero image of the day (that’s actually it above). When you click on it in the apps, you get to see the full image. Then sit there and reflect on more important things.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Mailbox. It’s definitely worth a try, if for no other reason than to grab 1 GB for your Dropbox account. There is even an Android app for you now, Peter.

A Data Plan for Travel

When I took my family to Europe for three weeks last summer, a great concern was the expense of roaming data. We did not plan every detail of our trip before we left, so I knew we would need to conduct research on the fly. But I did not want to return home to a huge data bill.

For $15 a day, I rented a wifi hotspot from Xcom Global ( Xcom FedExed a package the day before we left that included the small hotspot, and sim cards for the two countries we visited (England and Italy). While we roamed the streets of London, we were able to make reservations at the Tower of London without worrying about those scary cell data bills you hear about. Though $15/day works out to an expensive $450/mo, a couple hundred dollars for a few weeks abroad is well worth the piece of mind. And 10 devices can connect to it at once, meaning the kids could text pictures to their friends back home.

There are other services, but Xcom worked well for me and is well-reviewed (just check their site). But I also encourage you to check your cell provider’s plans. As of this writing, AT&T offers 800MB for $120, with the added benefit of international calling at only $0.35/min. We used the Skype app on our iPhones to make phone calls over the wifi connection. I am not sure how much data we used through Xcom, but it sure was nice to not worry about it.

Backup Power for your iPhone

It’s a major bummer when I am caught out with a dead iPhone or iPad. That’s why I carry the Mophie Powerstationin my backpack. It’s smaller and lighter than my iPhone, yet can recharge it twice on one fill-up. It can also charge an iPad to about half a charge. I much prefer it to a case with a built in battery, because on most days the iPhone’s battery is good enough for me all by itself. It takes about an hour to charge an iPhone to 80%, but you can use your phone while it charges. It’s only $80 on, and it has lasted me through three iPhones and still looks and acts new. A great gift for a person on the go.

How to upgrade to new iPhone for Free

Apple announced the new iPhone 4S yesterday, and there are many reasons you should get it. My favorites:

1. The A5 processor. Keep those speed bumps coming. The iPhone 3GS was an incredible leap over the iPhone 3. I think this new dual-core processor will provide a similar leap in snappiness.

2. The Camera. The camera in the iPhone 4 made the iPhone the most used camera in the world. The leap to 1080P video, faster time to first picture, and using the volume up button to take the picture will only add to that lead.

3. Siri. This is the big Wow. Siri is your new intelligent assistant that truly ushers in the robot age. It reads texts and e-mails to you, dictates responses, sets appointments, tells you the weather, finds a great local Indian restaurant, and more. So I can say, “Remind me to call my wife and buy milk when I leave work”. Since my iPhone knows where I am, the moment I leave work Siri will ask me if I would like to place a call to my wife and reminds me to buy milk on the way home. Sick.

But how do you get the new phone for free, you ask? Well, first of all you need to be eligible for a new, subsidized phone. Apple has set up the ability to check eligibility through AT&T or Verizon (Sprint, which is finally getting to sell the iPhone, will be on the page soon). If you are eligible, you can order the new iPhone this Friday (October 7, 2011) for delivery on October 14 for only $199.

Once you transition to your new iPhone 4S, go ahead and sell the old iPhone on eBay. My brother just sold his old iPhone 3GS for $265. That price might come down with the new phone coming out, but my guess is that you still come out positive. And if you are selling an iPhone 4, you should fare much better.

Malware hits the Mac

Malware is targeting Macs. But only if you are duped. It’s a problem that has effected major sites such as A user visiting an infected site will see a pop-up that looks like it came from the Mac Operating system rather than the website. If the user is tricked into entering their computer password, the software will install itself and act like a virus protection program called Mac Defender (it can also go by other names). It claims the users computer has been infected and tries to get the user to register the software by entering credit card information. An elaborate fishing scam, but all you need to know is that you should shut down your browser if you see it, and be wary of the last website your were viewing. Read this article and be careful out there – CNET News via @cnet.

So you want to buy an iPad?

The iPad hit store shelves on April 3rd, 2010. In Apple’s December quarter, the company sold $4.6 billion worth of them. Not that the number needs perspective, but consider that the computer company sold $5.4 billion worth of computers in the quarter. They sold their first computer 138 quarters ago.

So you’re not alone in wanting an iPad. But which iPad? And what are you going to do with it?

I waited in line last April 3rd with my nerdy eight-year-old and was one of the first on my block to have one–a 16G Wi-Fi model. I have been entirely happy with it. My biggest gripe is that I keep coming close to having it smacking me in the nose when I fall asleep. But I assume it will shed weight as it evolves.

Wi-Fi or 3G?
I have Fios at home and at the office, and rarely take the iPad anywhere else, so I am usually OK with my Wi-Fi iPad. But the few times I have ventured off the grid–a doctor appointment, a business trip, road trips up to the mountains–using my iPad is an entirely different experience. Except for a few functions, like reading a book or playing Angry Birds (and, yes, you should play Angry Birds), the iPad is meant to be connected to the Internet.

The 3G version of the iPad costs $130 more. But you are not forced to pay for the service until you want to use it. So if you are heading out of town for a week, you can pay $14.99 for 250MB, or $25.00 for 2GB of data over the next month. Friends who use the 3G version tell me that $14.99 typically handles casual data use while away from Wi-Fi (just make sure to turn 3G off when you are not using it so that you’re not downloading large e-mail attachments as you drive around town).

16GB, 32GB or 64GB
As with iPhones, I land on the low end where memory is concerned. Why not put that $200 toward the next version of the device when it comes out? But if you really need to carry around your entire music collection (I use an iPod for that) or a large collection of videos (an HD movie is around 1.5GB), then decide if the extra cash is worth it for you. Otherwise,just sync more often to refresh your content. But your 16GB won’t be overwhelmed by books, apps or e-mails.

What will I use it for?
This is the first thing I ask a new iPad owner. And the answers vary greatly. For most, it’s e-mail and surfing the Internet. I bought a laptop three years ago thinking I would use it when I jumped into bed at night. But I never did that much because of the form factor. A laptop is meant for sitting at a desk or table. The iPad is great on the couch or in bed. You typically hold it with one hand and operate it with the index finger of your other hand.

So I take it everywhere I used to take a book, magazine or newspaper. But it delivers so much more because of its connectivity. I read books in Kindle or iBooks. I get my news from New York Times and USA today. ESPN and Yahoo! Sportacular provide my sports news and scores. I access my e-mail, contacts and calendar–all synced over the cloud. Angry Birds and Word with Friends provide entertainment.

But that’s just a start. Go to the App Store and browse the Top Paid Apps or Top Free Apps and you’re sure to discover a few new gems.

When to Buy?
Typically with Apple products, pricing is set on release and then does not change until a new model is released (or it may not even change then). So to get the best deal, you’ll want to buy toward the beginning of the product cycle. You don’t want to pay $499 for an iPad, only to have a new version released the following month for $499.

My best guess is that the iPad will follow the same annual update schedule as the iPhone. With the anniversary of the original release looming, rumors of a new iPad abound. It will likely have a camera for video chatting, a faster processor, and a thinner form factor among other improvements. So if you can stand waiting a few months, I recommend you do so.

iPhone 4, you complete me.

I was one of the lucky few able to get the AT&T servers to work for me the day the iPhone 4 was available for pre-order. As such, my phone arrived by FedEx the day before they were available at the stores. Apple allowed FedEx to deliver some phones early because even FedEx could not ramp up to deliver 600,000 phones on one day. And tracking my iPhone’s delivery that day proved that, like AT&T two weeks before, FedEx had a server melt down at the hands of a half million geeks clicking reload to see when their tracking number would return “Out for Delivery”.

So I have had a week with my new little friend, and I love it. I feel sorry for my iPad. Jilted after only a few months in the top spot. But the iPhone 4 sets a new standard for gadgets. It is a beautiful thing to hold in your hand. It’s smaller than its predecessor, but ways the same, which gives it a very solid feel.

The top five reasons to upgrade (you do already have an iPhone, right?):

1. Speed. Speed. Speed. I had not upgraded to the iPhone 3Gs, and the 3G was just too pokey, especially after the upgrade to iOS 4.0. The new A4 processor makes every swipe of the finger send the phone zipping along.

2. The screen. Sick. Apple’s new term is “Retina Display”, which means that the display on the phone is beyond the capability of the human eye when the iPhone is held at a reasonable distance. It is amazing. Pictures and video on the phone are crisp and more lifelike.

3. Your new camera. Don’t ever buy a “point-and-shoot” camera again. Just get this phone. While the camera is only 5-Megapixels, it is the quality of the sensor (the digital film) that gives pictures more stunning than most cameras on the market.

4. Videos in a jiffy. I have stopped carrying around my HD video camera, too. The iPhone now take beautiful HD movies. And with the $4.99 iMovie app, I can produce a quality film with titles and transitions right on my phone within a few minutes.

5. Facetime. While I initially thought this feature would be as gimmicky as video chats on the computer, I have found it far easier to use and, since you always have your phone with you, more useful in a variety of applications. The kids videochatting with their grandparents and cousins is great, but you can also use the camera on the back of the phone to make your friend envious of the concert your taking in or the sunset from your ocean-front deck.