Netflix is now giving their app users a chance to preview shows before watching.
The Netflix app now has what they’re calling mobile previews, Fortune reports. These mobile previews will seem like a familiar feature if you use an app that has Stories (like Snapchat). The previews appear at the top of the app and can be clicked through one after another. You can even go straight to the content from a preview if you see something you like.
According to Fortune, most of the previews are around 30 seconds long. You also don’t have to turn your screen to watch them because they’re vertical videos instead of horizontal.
If you watch on your gaming console or laptop, you’ve likely already seen their auto-playing trailers. These trailers promote content, sometimes showing previews of shows you may not have seen, other times showing a preview of the content you currently have selected. They have also been quite an annoyance for many people. There have been consistent complaints about how the auto-playing videos can’t be disabled, meaning if you stay on one screen for too long while browsing for what to watch, you have to either click away, open content and pause it, mute your TV, or find some other creative way to stop the videos from playing.
Fortunately, the previews now added to the Netflix app are something quite different. They don’t auto-play, which is surely a relief to Netflix app users who don’t want to have previews blasting through their headphones as soon as the app opens. And they appear to be a genuinely useful way to find out about more content you might actually like, particularly since you can tap a preview that’s playing to skip it and move on to something more relevant.
Mobile previews are already available on iOS devices, says Fortune, and Android users can expect the feature to arrive “soon.”
It’s time to go on vacation! Where do you even begin? Vacation planning can be a headache, but it doesn’t have to be if you use some of the site and app recommendations below.
Quick disclaimer: Most of the apps below are designed for urban areas, and work most places in the U.S. But depending upon your vacation destination, they may or may not work extremely well (or at all) in all locations.
Stage 1: Inspiration
Pinterest is built on inspiration. Just go to the Travel boards and explore. Or use Pinterest to pin things you would like to save from other sites. I pin things to my Travel Board just because I like to look at them all at once, side-by-side.
Google Voyager- Travel makes looking around strange cities a breeze. Get a sample of the famous landmarks, look a little closer by using Street View, and save places to My Places so you can find them when you actually get there, using Google Maps.
TripAdvisor is a great all-around resource. You can get destination ideas by entering the kind of vacation you like, find restaurant and attraction suggestions, and see what other people thought of those places. You will come up with a wealth of recommendations just by reading the comments.
Stage 2: Planning
Find a vacation package deal:
In the age of the internet, travel agents aren’t doing so hot, so you can find some pretty amazing deals where most of the work has been done for you; you just have to show up.
Groupon always has fabulous vacation packages for not a lot of money. My latest 2-week vacation to 5 capital cities in Europe cost around $4000 for 2 people—and that included airfare, hotels, multiple tours in each city, and flights or trains between cities! A word of warning: before booking, make sure to Google reviews for the agency you are considering. There are plenty with a bad reputation running deals too good to be true.
Cruisecheap.com searches a bunch of cruise lines all over the world for the best deals. Maybe you prefer to cruise where it’s sunny and tropical. Maybe you’d rather see the Alaskan coast. Maybe you would like to cruise down a famous river in Europe. Just select your dates, preferred departure port, and destination, and see what kind of deals you can find
Flight deals are mostly the same across the web. The factor that affects flight prices more than the retailer is the travel date, and even the date it is booked. Time is on your side, and you are usually better off if you have more than two months to plan.
Google flights is better than other flight bookers, and here’s why—they will tell you when the price of your desired flight is about to go up, they actively provide tips that will save you money (like tweaking your travel dates a bit), and you can use the “flights” filter in Google maps to see what it costs to fly to several different cities.
One of the biggest expense of travel is the accommodations. This can also determine how much you enjoy yourself: a hotel with free wifi, private bathrooms, and a definition of “clean” that is similar to yours is far preferable to the alternatives.
Hotwire is my personal choice of hotel booker, though I’ve heard that some of the others are becoming more competitive. I like booking the “Hot Rate” hotels—you get some details (general location, comparable chains, amenities, and reviews), but the actual hotel is a mystery, which makes it exciting. This is also how you can stay in a 4-star hotel for a 2-star price.
Airbnb lets you book a single room or an entire house, and if you are traveling with a group, booking a house or condo might a lot more economical than staying in a hotel. Not to mention that staying in a local’s house is more interesting, and you can ask them where to eat or what to see. And safety isn’t an issue.
Stage 3: While you are there
Renting a car can be super convenient if you have a long distance to drive, or you are not in an urban area. Otherwise, it’s a hassle. Who wants to drive in traffic or find parking (that you then might have to pay for)?
Uber makes getting around super fast, easy and cheap. The app is incredibly easy to use, and your payment happens through it. Not to mention that the company tracks your car through Google maps, making sure that the driver is taking the most direct route (unlike some cab drivers who take you all over the city to get an extra $20). And the background checks and strict review system make it hard to be a bad Uber driver.
Lyft is Uber’s direct competitor and may be easier to use in some cities.
While Google Maps works extremely well in some locations, it really doesn’t in others (like Vienna).
Transit authority’s app (if available). Some cities make getting around easy (mostly cities that get a lot of tourists every year) by providing an app. If the app gives you options for multiple modes of travel, great. If it doesn’t (maybe it is owned by one transportation company, and only shows you how to get around using that company), you’re better off finding a third party app that shows everything available.
Google Maps is still my favorite map app, because it is easy and puts navigation, public transport, and saved places in one spot. Very occasionally it isn’t available. Or is extremely inaccurate, depending on the support they have in each city.
Citymapper is a free app which includes options for train, underground, bus, Uber, or bike.
BONUS: Citybike is a bike sharing service in Vienna that I used. The concept is that you rent a bike at a kiosk, ride it to the kiosk closest to your destination, and then turn it in. The whole process is automated, and the first hour was free, with the second hour costing 1 euro, and then rising from there. If you are on a budget and comfortable on a bike in a city (and some cities are better for bikes than others), check out more about bike sharing.
Why do we travel? TO EAT! Or is that just me?
Yelp is my favorite site/app combo to see what customers really think about a restaurant. Reading the comments also can give you ideas about what to order on the menu.
Eat24 is a great app for food delivery. Hey, I didn’t come all the way here just to look at the inside of a hotel room! I know, but also my feet can’t take anymore. If you’re wiped, but also don’t want to eat out of the vending machine (or room service), get something delivered. Different cities support different apps: in Paris, we used Deliveroo to get food delivered to our hotel from a place that didn’t do delivery, for 2 euros extra. Nifty!
If you go somewhere they don’t use American dollars, you need to know local exchange rates. Trust me, some vendors will take advantage of your unfamiliarity with their currency.
XE Currency is an excellent app that calculates prices for you using the most current exchange rate.
Sure, a lot of places have a lot of English speakers. But once in a while, you need to know the word for something pronto. And it seems like the best restaurants and stores are always run by little old ladies who don’t know a word of English.
Google Translate is a quick and easy-to-use app, has voice-to-text AND can translate signs using the camera. Watch people smile when the phone asks them where the nearest bathroom is, but beware: Google Translate is improving, but it isn’t perfect. You may experience a misunderstanding or two. Chalk it up to stories to tell when you go home!
Maybe the most important tool to use in a strange city, a digital map has several perks over a paper one, one being that you look less like a tourist if you are looking at your phone rather than a big paper map.
Google Maps lets you can drop pins over places you want to see (along with notes to remind you why you wanted to see it), which lets me save places directly to my Google account and have them available on the app. Directions, public transit, and all of the power of Google is in one place. But beware: not all cities have great support for Google maps (Vienna didn’t).
BONUS: Disney World and Universal Studios have their own convenient apps that track your Fast Pass, dinner reservations, and on-resort hotel details.
Prime seems expensive: the upfront annual cost went up to $99 since I signed up years ago. But if it was worth it to me then, it is a steal of a deal now, if you consider all the newly added benefits you get access to.
Get Prime by the month: Don’t have $99 lying around, or don’t think you need an entire year of Prime? Sign up by the month and pay $10.99. And you get a deal if you qualify for low-income benefits: it’s only $5.99 per month for customers with an EBT card. Sign up for Prime around Thanksgiving and cash in on all the online Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals, with free shipping to boot, and then drop it when you’re done.
Prime Student: Use your school email (ending in .edu) to score four $49-years of Prime. Act soon and you can get 6 months free.
Amazon Household: A Prime account is for your whole household, not just one person. Two adults living in the same house, and with separate Amazon accounts, can link their accounts to share the benefits of a single Prime account. You can share payment methods, and even add profiles for up to four children so your kids can take advantage of all the free reading and streaming of videos and music without being able to order anything. (You cannot use Amazon Household if you have a Prime Student discount).
Prime Wardrobe: Try before you buy. Choose 3 or more items of clothing, and have them shipped to you to try on. Send back what you don’t want in a prepaid box, and only pay for what you keep. Keeping more items earns you discounts, too: up to 20%. Currently, Prime Wardrobe is in beta, but you can ask to be notified when it launches.
Prime Video: Originals like Transparent and Catastrophe are available. They also have Downton Abbey, The Wire, and you can pay a little extra for channels like Showtime and HBO.
Unlimited cloud storage for pictures: Store as many precious memories in the secure Cloud Drive as you want, and stop worrying about losing them.
Prime Music: Choose songs, albums, or a station. More than 2 million available songs and you can also upload your current collection and listen on any device with the app. There is also a paid subscription that gives you access to tens of millions of songs for $7.99 a month; however, the family plan is $14.99 per month and allows up to six family members to use it. That’s $2.50 per person! Quick, I need five people! Anybody?
Food: Have some grocery staples shipped to your door: Prime Pantry boxes ship for $5.99, and you can save 15% with Subscribe and Save. Weekly deals and coupons also make grocery shopping online attractive.
Prime Rewards Visa: For serious Amazon shoppers, the 5% back (in credit, not cash) may be a draw. Add a $70 gift card for signing up.
Free two-day shipping: Of course, this perk is awesome, but it can only be used for certain items. If you shop Amazon for everything, this perk may be worth the fee on its own: leading up to Christmas, the free shipping alone more than pays for my account. However, sometimes you can opt in for slower shipping and get credits for books, music, and more.
Prime Reading: There is a large rotating collection of books, magazines, comics and more available free with your Prime account, and some even have Audible narration, if you would rather listen.
Video games for Prime: Twitch Prime includes a Twitch subscription and free content. Prime discounts on video games could save you some real money, and some pre-orders are delivered ON THE RELEASE DATE. That means you can skip the line and still get that new game the second it is released.
It’s hard to resist all those perks for about $8.25 per month if you pay by the year. Amazon Prime members are much more likely to only shop at Amazon (I can see why), but beware: sometimes they have the best deal, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they really don’t, and getting free shipping may not make up the price difference, especially considering that other online retailers like Walmart and Jet are making a major effort to compete by offering their own free shipping. So remember to shop around.
On Wednesday, 6/21, Snap Chat rolled out a new feature called Snap Map, and it has some parents nervous.
Snap Map allows people on your friend list to see your photos superimposed over a map, which allows them to know your location, and possibly where you live, go to school, etc. Considering that many Snap Chat users are pretty young, some parents are understandably concerned about predators and stalkers being able to use the app to track their children.
How is Snap Map meant to be used?
Snap Chat has described Snap Map as “a new way to explore the world,” and with the popularity of real-world interactive media like Pokemon Go, it makes sense that other media companies would want to explore new formats. People are curious about how other people live, and what things are like in other locations, which is easy to see in the popular hobby of using Google Street View to explore remote locations. The company also describes Snap Map as an easy way to meet up with friends in a crowded location, and the trend of apps that encourage more activity and face-to-face interaction can’t be all bad. Facebook’s Live Location feature (available thorough Messenger) will likely be competing with Snap Map.
Snap Map could also help people see where an event (like a concert or festival) is happening by showing a “heat map”—a location where a lot of people are Snapping.
What privacy policies are in place?
The company stresses that the Snap Map feature does not activate unless the user goes into the settings and turns it on, and that even then, only people on the user’s friend list has access to their location. Users can also adjust their own privacy settings to further limit who sees their location. However, after the update, a tutorial will play when the app is opened to ask if you want to turn on the new feature. Someone pushing buttons without reading the details might accidentally broadcast their location without realizing it. The app notifies your friends of your location every time you open the app—not just when you send a Snap—so it’s like walking around with a bug in your pocket.
What can you do?
While this new feature has its perks, you may want to check in with your kids and have them check their settings just to be safe. Like all social media, it is worth your time to do a little research and regularly update your privacy settings, exercising reasonable caution, so that you aren’t giving away more than you thought.
There are a lot of calorie counting apps out there. Seriously, switch over to your App Store and search “calorie count” and check out how many pages of what amount to the exact same app show up. Some of those clones actually ask for your money to do the exact same thing that hundreds of free versions are already doing. Mealviser is entering a crowded market, but it offers some unique features (and for now a free price tag) that make it stand out from the crowd.
Mealviser is part calorie counter and part AI controlled meal advisor. Just like any other calorie counter app you have to enter the food and exercise that make up your day, but then something special happens. Instead of just giving you summary of your eating and exercise habits, or making simple recommendations on how much harder you should work to achieve your goals, Mealviser actually recommends meals that are tailored to meeting your needs. Their AI system takes the information you provide and compares it to what kind of food and nutrition you should be taking in, then offers meals.
From the developer:
Just tell Mealviser what you’ve had to eat and what type of exercise you’ve done today. Mealviser will track your calories, fat, protein and carbohydrate intake, then provide a custom meal recommendation for what to eat for dinner. You can choose from our huge library of recipes or choose dishes from nearby restaurants (USA only). Why is it coolest ever nutrition app? -It doesn’t require counting calories, log your food and get your next dinner suggestion. -It has an AI on board. We tortured top dietitians to make our AI know their secrets. -You can keep losing weight even if you skip a meal or overeat And YES it’s FREE with already included PRO features
It’s similar to how a dietician might review your lifestyle and eating habits to make recommendations, and while we would never recommend replacing a medical professional’s opinion with an app we would recommend giving Mealviser a try to see if it can help you eat and feel better.
Interested in checking out Mealviser?