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A workout watch

Product render of Fitbit Versa in 3 quarter alt view in classic black showing default clock

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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My friends at Verizon recently shared a smartwatch with me, the Fitbit Versa. Much like the Fitbit activity bands, this has all of those features of step and calorie counting and more.

The one I had was black with a black band, but it comes in a variety of colors including rose gold and silver, plus there are different band options as well. The watch comes with both small- and large-sized bands so that you do not have to choose in advance which size you need.

Fitbits are generally simple to use, and this is no exception.

Different watch faces can show various information. The watch face that I liked to use displayed heart beats per minute, a step counter and a calorie counter — all available on the face with simple taps to get to more information.

It also displayed the date and time. Plus when emails, calendar reminders, or text messages notifications came through it showed them on the watch screen.

Versa Saddle Stitch Leather

One complaint that I had on the watch was that it did not display when I raised my wrist. It took tapping the watch or activating a button to wake up the watch so that I could see the display. On other smart watches, the screen will illuminate by just raising your wrist towards your eye line.

There is no mistaking it, the Fitbit Versa is a workout watch.

While wearing it and pairing it to the Fitbit app, one can track steps, calories, water intake and more. It can also be used for sleep tracking and even for female health tracking. It gives you reminders to take steps each hour and tracks how many workouts you have done in the last week, congratulating you if you have been consistent in your routine.

While the watch can only show you so much on the screen, the companion app for your smartphone has a plethora of information, including the aforementioned health tracking data.

Built into the watch is a Coach mode that can take you through a few quick exercise routines. You can subscribe to Fitbit Coach Premium to get even more workouts and tailor your routine.

The Coach mode that I tried out was a seven-minute exercise that provided vibration prompts to move onto the next exercise and kept track of time for a countdown while coaching me through the exercises.

Versa Periwinkle

It looks like the prices ranges $150–$200 depending on where you buy it, with $200 being the original retail price.

Paired with Bluetooth earbuds, the Versa can play music straight from the watch from Pandora and Deezer (I had never heard of Deezer before).

Battery life was great. I charged it maybe twice per week, and the charging time was fast so that I was not without my step counter for very long. It is also water resistant up to 50 meters so you can use it in the water without fear of it getting damaged.

The Fitbit Versa also works with Android, iPhones and even Windows phones, so there should not be any compatibility issues. The Versa uses your phone’s GPS to track length of workout, pace and distance and then can share this so that they can be tracked and synced with other devices.

The Fitbit Versa is a solid watch that provides the most benefit when being used as a fitness tracker.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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A portable photo printer

Photo printer

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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I got to try out a great gift idea from my friends at Verizon, the Lifeprint 2×3 Photo and Video Printer, a photo and video printer that prints on special thermal paper without ink.

How do you print videos with a printer, you ask? Well, by using the free app for both Android and iOS (Apple), one can see an augmented reality video by viewing the photo through the app. Lifeprint calls this Hyperphoto.

So if you wanted to send grandma a photo of yourself, but really wanted her to see a video, you would record the video and let the app do the rest by embedding it in the photo with a small code on the corner. It will print out as a photo, but will be viewable through the app as a video when you hold the app camera over the picture and let it read the code printed on the corner.

I would like to point out that you don’t need the printer to download the app. Only one person needs the printer for embedding the videos in photos, and then any person can view the augmented reality video by using the app to view it through.

Lifeprint with Phone

These are small, portable pictures. The pictures themselves print out at 2 inches by 3 inches and are cute, but understandably not the best possible prints available. However, for their size and purpose, they are great.

The photos also have a peel apart backing so that they can be stuck up anywhere. The photos take about half a minute to print.

When you go to print, the app offers to “Print and Share,” and this allows you to share the photo with any friends you are connected to on the Lifeprint network. They can then see your photo without having to wait for you to print it and send it to them.

The printer itself connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth (again, both Android and iPhone) so there is nothing to physically connect. The wireless printer itself is about the size of a large deck of playing cards, making it very portable.

Lifeprint

By logging into your various social media accounts including Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and more, the app pulls in all of your pictures to make it easy to print them out or pull in from your camera’s own photos and videos.

It took me a few minutes to realize that I had the printer upside down, but that is about the total time it took to set up. Once the app is downloaded and the printer is paired to your smartphone via Blutooth, you are ready to go.

The printer charges via the included micro-USB charging cable. It does not come with a power adapter, but you can easily use the power adapter that came with your phone or plug the USB into a computer to charge. It also says it will hold a charge long enough to print 20–30 photos on a complete charge.

There are a limited number of devices that the company says it is optimized for. You should check here before purchasing: lifeprintphotos.com/pages/compatibility.

It runs $129.99. This would be a fun gift to give to someone that likes physical photos, sticky photos and the ability to share video in unique way.

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Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Apple’s latest and greatest

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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I recently got to try out the iPhone Xs, Apple’s latest flagship smartphone. It is a great phone, and this is the phone to get if you are an Apple lover (or maybe the larger form factor iPhone Xs Max).

I really like almost everything about this phone. The only issue for me is that it is built on Apple’s ecosystem, and I prefer Google’s ecosystem built around the Android operating system.

The device is easy to use with a smooth operating system that uses simple gestures to navigate through the phone. The layout is basically the same layout that Apple has used for the past decade. All of your apps are always available on your screen, and there’s no app drawer, a feature common in Android to store apps that you don’t need to have on your screen.

More and more, I have seen that the Apple/Mac ecosystem makes it very easy to get used to the phone if one is already using an Apple laptop or desktop. You have similar apps on the mobile and desktop OS for mail, calendar and more. Using it on one provides a similar feeling for using it on the other.

The iPhone Xs uses Face ID to unlock and secure the phone; there is no option to use a fingerprint anymore. Face ID is fast and works well in low light so that I never really saw any problems using it to unlock the phone.

The only issue I have with Face ID is having to still swipe up to open the phone after Face ID recognizes your face. If Face ID doesn’t work, the fallback is to use the regular 4- or 6-digit passcode.

The phone uses a Super Retina display with HDR, which is Apple’s OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen. The screen is sharp with nice colors and blacks.

Pictures look great on the phone. The display is 5.8 inches diagonally, while the larger iPhone Xs Max is 6.5 inches diagonally.

That leads us to the cameras.

There are two 12 megapixel cameras on the rear of the phone, one for wide-angles and one that works as a telephoto lens. The camera produces images that are considered among the best in the industry. Photos are sharp and crisp with rich colors and nice definition.

The front facing-camera has a wide-angle lens, and both cameras have a portrait mode that allows you to blur your background and focus on your subject. You can even adjust that blur after you have taken the photo.

The front-facing camera also has special light sensors that are used for depth mapping and Face ID recognition, as well as infrared dot projectors for Face ID.

The phone is splash, water and dust resistant with a rating of IP68, allowing the phone to be submerged in up to two meters of water for up to 30 minutes.

For charging, it uses Apple’s proprietary Lightning cable, but now also includes Qi wireless charging standard too.

Siri, Apple’s smart digital assistant, is still there to help with all of your needs. Siri works within the operating system well, but I prefer to still use Google Assistant on the phone for deeper searches.

With the latest iOS 12 release, Apple added new Siri integration with third-party apps, so a user can create special Siri commands that trigger actions in third-party apps.

The iPhone Xs is available from all major carriers and starts at $999 for the base model with 64 gigs of space.

All in all, this is a great phone. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the only reason this is not the right phone for me is that it is based on Apple’s ecosystem and meant to use the built-in apps for mail and such.

For someone who is already immersed in the Apple ecosystem, or someone wanting to switch to it, the iPhone Xs is Apple’s latest and greatest smartphone yet. It offers high-end smartphone features that can definitely hold their own against other manufacturers.

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Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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A big screen and a stylus, too

Galaxy Note9This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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The Galaxy S9 is Samsung’s flagship phone for 2018. The Note9 steps it up even more.

My friends at Verizon sent me a Samsung Galaxy Note9 to try out, and it is quite a phone. It is a very large phone with plenty of features and includes a stylus known as the S Pen for use with the phone. More on that pen later.

The Note9 is an Android phone running Android Oreo out of the box with Samsung Experience wrapped around it, giving a Samsung feel to the operating system. Samsung’s own enhancements seem minimal, and the operating system looks clean.

With a 6.4-inch diagonal screen, this is one big phone that takes two hands or a stylus to control. The screen is a beautiful Quad HD+ Super AMOLED display with rich colors and strong blacks. The screen is also edge-to-edge with very little bezel around it. The phone has an Always-On Display, or AOD, that displays the time, any music playing through the phone, notifications, calendar appointments and more.

The internal guts include an octa-core processor with 6 gigabytes of RAM and 128 gigabytes of storage (which can be upgraded to 8 gigabytes of RAM and 512 gigabytes of storage). It also has the option to expand storage via a MicroSD slot that can take an SD card with up to 512 gigabytes of additional storage.

Storage should not be an issue on this phone. This phone is fast and reacts quickly and responsively to actions.

According to Samsung’s website, the phone has an IP68 rating allowing it to be submersed in “up to 5 feet of freshwater for up to 30 minutes.” It has the capability of fast charging for both wireless and wired charging and the fast charging really does speed up the amount of time it takes to charge the phone.

Wired fast charging will always be faster than the wireless option, even for fast charging. For charging, the phone has a USB-C port. I found that the battery easily lasted all day long on a single charge. Plus, it still has a headphone jack.

The Note9 has three cameras: an 8-megapixel lense on the front-facing camera and two 12-megapixel lenses on the rear camera for both wide-angle and telephoto modes. The camera is fast to load and takes very nice pictures. I found colors to be rich and sharp with good detail in the photos.

The phone has Bixby, Samsung’s answer to Siri or Google Assistant, built in. Bixby can be called up via voice or a dedicated button on the left side of the phone. While I did not use Bixby much, it has matured and appears to be a solid digital assistant.

The S Pen, mentioned before, is a stylus that connects to the phone and pops out as needed to control actions on the phone. It can write on the screen for editing, drawing or note-taking.

The S Pen has a super capacitor that allows for 30 minutes of usage with just 40 seconds of charge time. (It gets charged inside the phone). New this year, the S Pen can remotely control phone actions via Bluetooth from a button on the stylus; these include taking photos by pressing the button or changing slides for presentations.

I liked using the S Pen for photos. I could hold the phone and press the stylus for capturing the pictures.

The phone’s retail price is $999.99.

Overall this is a great device as long as you can handle the size of it. It is not a one-handed phone, but the size helps enable a gorgeous screen and a large battery that will get you through the day.

I like this phone a lot and appreciate its size, but I can’t quite figure out many uses for the S Pen.


Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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A smart speaker with more

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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This month I am looking at a smart speaker sent to me by Verizon Wireless.

The JBL Link 20 is a portable smart speaker with Google Assistant built in. It functions like a Google Home or Amazon Echo with the voice assistant providing the ability to answer questions, control smart devices and, of course, play music.

It is a portable, rechargeable speaker and can be used outside of the home. But it must be connected to a wireless network to get the smart capabilities to work. It is very similar to the discontinued Amazon Echo Tap, which also was portable and built to be moved around.

The JBL Link 20 was very easy to set up with the Google Home app, which is available for Android and iOS (Apple). The app guides you through the quick process of getting logged on to your wireless network and ready to begin answering questions and using its smart features.

The JBL speaker is about the size of a wine bottle and has a robust, full sound thanks to its 360 degree speaker. It comes in black and white. There are volume and play controls on top of the device, as well as a top button to press to activate the Google Assistant manually, but all of those features can be controlled via voice from across the room.

You can also control it from your Android phone, which recognizes when music is playing through the speaker and allows you to control playback functions. I was unable to test this feature with iOS.

Built-in Bluetooth allows the speaker to be connected to a smartphone for streaming music directly from the phone. I could see this being useful for music you may only have on your mobile device or for when the speaker is off of Wi-Fi, but generally online streaming from the Link 20 is easier and allows you to quickly get a playlist going by just asking for it.

When paired with speakers that have Google’s Chromecast ability (which the Link 20 has), it can be used for multi-room playback. You can have music streaming the same song throughout your home. You can create zones for music to only play on specific speakers in your home or based on specific rooms.

According to JBL, the Link 20 offers 10 hours of playtime. I also tested that it can be used while plugged in — which is nice in case you let the battery run out.

Waterproofing (IPX7) allows the device to handle water and dust without damage, and it provides confidence to use it outdoors. Even just taking it out to your backyard, it is nice to know that the device is safe from the elements and accidental spills.

The JBL Link 20’s list price is $199. This is a bit high for a smart speaker, but you do have to look at the fact that this is made by JBL and had stronger sound than a basic smart speaker.

It is a fun device with good sound, but I don’t really see the appeal of moving this around the home or taking it with me for a picnic or tailgating. Perhaps that is why the Amazon Echo Tap was discontinued.

However, I did find myself recommending the JBL Link 20 to a client who would be using the smart speaker in different rooms through the house. So it really comes down to preference and style of use.

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Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Smart Home Tech that Adds Value to Your Home

Let’s be honest: nobody wants to have to go through the process of selling their home. It takes time, energy, and a lot of planning, which, in today’s day and age, are all very valuable things. Luckily, there are things that can make the process a bit easier.

Home improvements are often thought of as ways to make your home more desirable and updated, but they can also be quite expensive. Additions and upgrades can cost thousands of dollars, and you aren’t guaranteed to see a high return on investment. The better solution? Technology. Smart home technology can be affordable, and it can also make your home much more valuable in a matter of minutes. Here are some ideas:

Use technology to make your home more efficient

Almost every homebuyer looks out for energy efficient homes. Yes, these homes are absolutely more sustainable, but they’re also way better at keeping energy usage at a low and, in turn, keeping the energy bill low as well. A quick and inexpensive way to make your home more efficient is to change out the lightbulbs. LED light bulbs last much longer and use between 20% and 80% less energy than other bulbs on the market because of the way they’re engineered.

An automated thermostat that is connected to your heating and cooling units will also save you money on energy. A high percentage of units are designed to run continuously, whereas units hooked up to an automated thermostat turn off once the room hits a specific temperature. Especially in areas with hot summers and frigid winters, automated thermostats can save homeowners money and help you sell your house today.  

Use your smartphone

Smartphones and mobile apps have come a long way, and many electronics, appliances, and in-home utilities can now be controlled by them. One way to make your home stand out to potential buyers, including both those enthralled by technology and those who have mobility issues, is to hook specific pieces of your home up to your smartphone. These pieces can include the heating and cooling systems, lights, television, sound system, and security system.

Update security

Everyone wants to feel safe in their home, and a proper security system can give you that piece of mind. Regardless of the neighborhood your home is in, potential buyers will be on the lookout for homes that are guarded by security systems. New advances in technology have allowed us to keep an eye on our homes even when we’re far away from them. Smart security systems link cameras and sensors up to the cloud so that we can see what’s happening even if we’re thousands of miles away.

If you’re looking for tips on how to sell your house, look towards technology. Not only will your home look super cool, but it will also be more accessible, safer, and energy efficient. For assistance on how to take advantage of incoming technology, how to use it, and how to find gadgets and appliances that are suited for you, contact the Gadget Guy MN!

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This article is written by Julia Aldrich. Julia is currently living and thriving in Colorado, though her roots are in Pennsylvania. Some of her hobbies and passions include writing (obviously), running, traveling, and eating good pizza. She’s also a lover of quirky books, and suggestions are always welcome.

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Get your digital movies together

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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I like watching movies, but it is rare that I make it out to the theater to see a movie. For the most part, I simply watch movies at home.

I use both Netflix and Amazon Prime for watching movies, but there are some special movies that are worth buying and adding to my permanent collection; often they are kids’ films. This month I am excited to share about a fun, new movie service called Movies Anywhere which allows you to combine your digital movies into a single collection.

Movies Anywhere is a service that lets you combine your purchased movies from various vendors (i.e. Amazon, Apple, etc.) into a single digital collection of films. Movie studios 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Universal, Disney and Warner Brothers agreed to allow their films to live on multiple platforms once they are purchased.

Is this sounding confusing? Let me try to break it down.

Here is an example of how I used the service: I am a big “Star Wars” fan and own all of the movies (nine available and increasing). However, I bought the original six films through Google Play Movies and subsequent films through Amazon’s video service (called Amazon Prime Video). In the past, I would have had to jump between services to watch the different movies, but with Movies Anywhere, I can link my accounts to each other and all of the movies show up together under the accounts on each service, regardless of whom I originally purchased them from.

The eligible services are Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, VUDU, Google Play Movies, and FandangoNow. All of your eligible movies (the ones that the movie studios have allowed; all of mine were eligible) will be displayed under each movie service. I should point out that the service does not work for TV shows. 

If you like the user interface of iTunes for your movies, for instance, you will see all of your movies there and can stick with that interface; same goes for the other eligible services. You can use the Movies Anywhere website or apps to log in and see all of your movie collection in one place there as well.

The benefit of using the Movies Anywhere website or apps is that there are included bonus features, including bonus features for older films that I own and did not expect to have bonus footage. One issue that I have seen with the Amazon interface is that the movies are sorted by date added, and that can be a bit frustrating when searching for a film. Other services allow you to sort by various criteria. 

The service is easy to use and easy to link up your accounts with. Once you have linked your accounts, you can start viewing any of your movies

 If I recall correctly, there may have been a slight lag before all of the movies showed up. It should be noted that only one account can be linked per service. So you could not link together two different iTunes accounts or two different Amazon Prime Video accounts.

This really is a true convenience to have my entire digital collection available under one streaming service. When I want to browse my movies I can see them all together rather than have to jump up and back between different services.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Clip it and forget it

Google Clips

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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Verizon Wireless loaned me the most recent product to try out, called Google Clips. Thisis a small, square camera that looks like a miniature security camera. But what is it really?

Google Clips is a smart, hands-free camera you can set up and forget about, allowing it to take pictures on its own when it deems the setting and participants to be picture perfect. Its machine learning and artificial intelligence decides when to take pictures and can recognize what it considers to be good photos.

It actually captures little motion “clips” without audio. You can then look through the saved clip frame by frame and save a single frame as a photo. There is a manual capture button, but there is no preview screen unless you are looking at the live preview on your smartphone —in which case it would be easier to just take the picture directly on your phone.

According to Google, “Google Clips learns to recognize familiar faces. The more you’re with someone, the more it learns to capture clips of them. It can also pick out pets like cats or dogs.” Additionally, “Google Clips features Moment IQ, a machine learning algorithm that’s smart enough to recognize great expressions, lighting and framing. And it’s always learning.”

In a blog post from Google, “Clips’ improved intelligence can help you capture more of the candid and fleeting moments that happen in between those posed frames we are all so familiar with.”

I love the idea of this — grabbing those candid moments effortlessly.

At $250, this is a pricey gadget that does very little. Google Clips has a 130 degree field of view, captures 15 frames per second and has 16 gigabytes of storage built in, with about three hours of capture time. Videos are captured at 1080p.

It is a simple device, and there is not much more to it than that. The rubber case that it comes in includes a clip that can be used as a stand or attached to something else.

Google Clips requires very little user interaction other than to review the motion clips on your smartphone, where you can choose to delete or add them to your Google Photos account directly. Google has announced that functionality will be added so that you can view the clips from multiple smartphones. This makes sense, as I would like to be able to share the photos with family members.

The problem for me is that I don’t quite get it. I have tried it out, placing it in stationary positions and even clipping it onto my shirt while my kids were playing outside. Google Clips has taken some decent clips for me, but nothing that seems to justify purchasing a device like this.

The demo clips that Google has on their website show clips of young kids and pets, all from great angles. In use, I didn’t find that leaving it on a table produced desirable clips.

I really like the idea of setting it up and letting it do its own thing, but I just haven’t found anywhere good to set it up. My kids don’t remain in one room long enough to get any good pictures.

With the right setup for a good vantage point, this could be a fun device capturing those candid moments and preserving them without having to be prepared for them at all times. For me however, I think I am used to being more in control of my photos.

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Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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A device with a mission

Xtorch

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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This month I got to try out a product from EJ Case, a local startup company based in Edina that manufactures and distributes a multi-use device called the XTorch. The XTorch is a portable, handheld device — a rechargeable, solar powered flashlight, lantern and cell phone charger all in one.

It gets even more interesting. According to a statement on their website, their mission is: “To bring mobile light and power to those who suffer without; working in partnership with International Non-Profits in support of their efforts in disaster relief, refugee aid, medical and general humanitarian outreach.”

Said founder Gene Palusky: “The idea of the XTorch came to me after my time spent working in Equatorial Guinea, Africa and the Dominican Republic, where I witnessed the difficulties the local populations suffered each day and night due to the lack of reliable light and power.”

Palusky continued: “We have devices in over 20 countries, working in partnership with humanitarian non-profit organizations that focus on emergency relief, refugees, medical outreach and orphanages. We have also just begun to sell domestically, via our website and use part of the profits to donate devices around the world.”

Their website states that 25 percent of the XTorch’s retail net profit will be donated to assist non-profit organizations to support children’s education, women’s safety and small business development. Sounds like a great mission to me!

The company has already helped Compassion International, Haiti by providing 195 XTorches to school-aged children to help them with reading and studying in the dark. They also donated to Medical Ambassadors International for their midwife training programs in Argentina and Haiti, where midwives are often working and traveling in the dark.

The Xtorch is designed for camping and off-grid use, as well as emergency use when one’s home electrical power goes out. It is physically built for these uses too, being water resistant and built to float. Additionally, it has a spring-activated clip for hooking onto your other gear, a glow in the dark gasket and is built of high-impact ABS/polycarbonate.

XTorch

I love the company’s mission and the applications for the device. My main takeaway is that this is a flashlight and lantern first and foremost and a cell phone charger second.

The company claims that the XTorch can charge a cell phone up to 50 percent, and that is a great additional feature, but not a major selling point domestically in my opinion.

It was slow to charge my phone, but no complaints here, as this is great as a backup device for your phone: helping you get some juice into a dead device, as opposed to charging your phone up for a fresh day of use.

The XTorch sells for $44.95. And remember that 25 percent of retail net profit gets donated towards charitable causes.

The XTorch lacks any method of checking the current battery charge in order to tell whether it needs to be recharged or not. This would be nice feature to have, so you know whether you need to charge your charger so that it is ready when needed. It would also help to know how much time is left while it is charging.

It comes with multiple micro-USB cable connections for Android and a lightning cable connection for Apple devices. However, it is not USB-C compatible without an adapter or using your own USB-A to USB-C cable, and this is worth noting as many new Android smartphones are coming with USB-C.

Aside from its benefits to disaster relief and general humanitarian outreach, I consider the XTorch an excellent device for camping and keeping in the car or home for emergencies.


Paul Burnstein is a tech handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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Samsung’s new galaxy

Galaxy S9This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

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Verizon Wireless sent me a brand new (not yet released at the time of my writing this) Android phone to test out recently, the Samsung Galaxy S9.

This is Samsung’s flagship phone for 2018, and it is quite a phone. I have been a fan of Samsung for years, and this phone shows why. Samsung also happens to be the largest mobile manufacturer in the world!

The specs are all state of the art with the newest chipset available for Android, the latest version of Android, expandable storage, wireless charging, waterproofing, headphone jack, Dolby Atmos sound with stereo speakers and more.

The 12-megapixel camera is great and has a variable aperture system that can seamlessly adjust the camera from f/2.4 to f/1.5 in low-light conditions. Colors are sharp and details are crisp.

There are neat features such as selective focus, which allows you to focus on a specific object and slightly blur out the background. When I tested the selective focus on some flowers, the photo came out great; the focus made the picture look like I knew what I was doing with photography.

For security, it has a fingerprint reader on the back. But more fun than that is the Intelligent Scan function, which uses facial recognition combined with iris scanning to unlock the phone. The only time I found that the Intelligent Scan didn’t work well was in a very dimly lit room with my glasses on; once I removed my glasses it worked fine.

While I think the Intelligent Scan is a very cool feature, it is slower than the iPhone X’s facial recognition and still requires a screen press prior to the Intelligent Scan before unlocking the phone.

Price appears to range from $720 to $800 depending on where you pick it up, but there are great trade-in offers from Samsung, Verizon and others as well. That is a great price point for a super-premium phone.

While I did not get a chance to check it out, I have read that the larger Galaxy S9+ model has more RAM (6 GB versus 4 GB), better cameras (the S9+ has the highest-rated camera ever, according to testing site DxOMark) and stronger Wi-Fi performance, according to PC Mag.

Both the S9 an S9+ have an OLED edge-to-edge “Infinity Display.” The Galaxy S9 has a 5.8-inch screen, while the S9+ has a 6.2-inch screen and dual rear cameras and costs about $120 more than the Galaxy S9. Both have a display with a ratio of 18.5:9.

I find the S9 to be a bit small for my liking. If I were to buy this phone, I would opt to pay more for the S9+.

I should point out, though, that I like large phones, and the S9 is small enough that it can be used with one hand. The S9+, like the Galaxy S8+ before it, requires the use of two hands to reach across the screen at times.

There are some innovative features — like the augmented reality stickers that you can make with your own face or the dual screen option that allows two apps to be open at the same time — but these are not features that I would use.

All in all, this is an excellent smartphone, albeit a bit small, with all of the bells and whistles you could hope for. The price is good and build quality is solid.


Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

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