10 Apps & Sites For Easily Earning Rewards

10 Apps & Sites For Easily Earning Rewards

The internet has made it easier to make money selling your stuff, but you may not know all the other ways you can earn rewards (including money) without selling a thing.

Not long ago, I wrote an article all about how to sell your items online. Now it’s time to talk about the many different ways you can earn money, gift cards, and items through different apps and websites.

There are a lot of different apps and sites that ask you to take certain actions to earn points or build up a cash total. In this article, let’s take a look at some of the most well-known, established, and tested ways you can earn rewards with just a little effort.

What can you earn?

Depending on the app or site that you use, there are many different things you can earn. Some services let you use your accumulated points to choose from certain branded items. Others might have you use your points to get discounts and promo codes. Many let you choose gift cards and, in some cases, actual money.

What do you have to do?

Different apps and sites ask for different actions. With some rewards services, you’re asked to watch or interact with sponsored content or surveys. You might need to exercise to earn your points, or you could get your rewards by getting rebates on purchases you were already going to make anyway.

What should you watch out for?

The idea of earning rewards for things you either already do or things that are relatively simple is very appealing. Because of this, there are some services that may very well be scams, as well as ones that just don’t work as well as they claim they will.

Before you start using a rewards app or site—including the ones listed in this article—look a little closer at it to make sure it’s actually as good as it appears. Consider doing some of the following things:

  • Make sure to read the reviews on an app’s page so you get an idea of how satisfied other users are
  • Check to see how many downloads an app has (too few might mean it hasn’t been well-tested yet)
  • Do a web search with a phrase like “is [this app] legit” or “is [this app] a scam” and look for credible sites discussing the service
  • Read the app’s or site’s fine print to make sure there are no catches
  • Look at the service’s app or site to make sure it looks professional and well-maintained

Remember: never give your personal information (like your bank information) to a service without researching it first to make sure it’s safe and secure!

At the time of writing this article, all of these apps and sites appear to be legitimate, but some formerly popular apps (like the now-deleted Pact app) have later been found to be untrustworthy. It’s important to check for the most recent reviews and news.

10 apps & sites you can download and visit now

Now that we’ve discussed how some rewards services might work, what you can get from them, and how to look out for scams, let’s look at some apps and sites you can try! These are just ten rewards apps and sites that can earn you money, items, and other rewards.

Achievement

Achievement is an app that rewards you with money for doing things that manage or improve your health. It uses monetary rewards to encourage you to keep track of your eating habits, walk more, get more sleep, and other various health-related activities. You simply connect one of the health apps you already use (like Samsung Health, Fitbit, or Garmin), then build up your points for your activity. 10,000 points can be redeemed for $10, and you can earn as much money as you want, with no maximum. Once you can redeem your points for money, they’ll be sent to you using PayPal or a direct deposit to a bank account.

AppTrailers

This app rewards you with points for watching trailers. The trailers are for other apps, as well as other entertainment videos. You can also earn points by doing quizzes and playing trivia games. Once you have enough points built up, you can redeem them for gift cards or money sent through PayPal. They offer gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, and iTunes.

Charity Miles

This app is different from most of the other apps on the list. If you enjoy helping good causes, you can use this app to earn rewards in the form of donations to the charity of your choice. If you already donate to the cause, you can give even more using this app, or you can use it as the sole means of donating. With Charity Miles, you earn money for a charity by running, walking, or biking. After opening the app and starting to track your distance, with each mile you complete, you add more money for your charity. There are many different charities to choose from, including well-known ones like Habitat for Humanity, American Diabetes Association, ASPCA, and World Wildlife Fund.

Ebates

Ebates is a well-known rebate service that pays you back for some of the purchases you make. If you’re already planning on purchasing something, this is a way to get some money back. When you buy from different stores online through Ebates, you can earn money. You can search through Ebates for certain stores, certain items, and more. There are also some rebate offers that are in-store only. Once you find something you want, you can see how much of a rebate you’ll get. After your order is verified, you can get your money through a check or by PayPal payment.

Google Opinion Rewards

This app from Google offers small amount of money for taking surveys. As soon as there’s an available survey, you’ll be notified. There are all kinds of different surveys you might take. You can earn as much as a dollar for a survey, though most of them seem to be closer to ten cents each. If you use the app with Google Play, your money is given to you as Google Play credit, while iOS app users have their money transferred with PayPal.

Ibotta

Ibotta is a rebate app that can be used to earn real money or gift cards. If you shop at any of the stores they have listed, you may be able to accumulate a high enough balance to get real rebates. You can use the app to get rebates on items you’re already buying, or you can use it as a way to find out about more products you want to try. You can find available grocery stores that you can add to your favorites, then look through the categories to find items you’re interested in. To add some products to your list, you might have to watch a short ad or answer a poll. After you’ve bought some items currently available in the Ibotta app, you use your receipt to add your rebates to your account. Once you have $20 racked up, you can have the money transferred to you in several different ways, including PayPal and Venmo. Or you can get gift cards to places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart.

iPoll

iPoll offers rewards for performing activities like reviewing products, visiting certain stores, and more. All of their activities are typically based around learning your opinions on certain brands and products. Some of these activities could include recording a video or taking photos. Once you’ve performed an activity, you can earn rewards like money transferred through PayPal, gift cards, and entry into a cash drawing.

Swagbucks

Swagbucks rewards its users for doing a number of different things. Swagbucks users earn rewards for taking surveys, watching videos, searching online, playing games, and buying certain items for a rebate. Once you have enough points, you can either have the money transferred via PayPal, or you can get a gift card. Gift cards are available for many different outlets, including Walmart, Amazon, and Bath & Body Works.

Sweatcoin

This app hopes to encourage people to exercise more by offering rewards. The app acts as a step counter. The more you walk, the more “Sweatcoins” you earn. You can then use these Sweatcoins to purchase rewards. Rewards include actual products (like Apple products), as well as services (like exercise classes) and events. You can even choose to donate your Sweatcoins to a charity.

Walk for a Dog

Walk for a Dog by Wooftrax is another app that gives a different kind of reward: the knowledge that you’ve helped an animal-based organization. This app doesn’t specifically give you a reward, instead letting you donate money to your favorite organization that helps animals. Whenever you walk your dog, you simply use the app to track how much you walk. This builds up activity for the organization you’ve chosen. After a certain period, all the funds raised are given to the organizations people chose. If you don’t have a dog, you can walk a shelter dog or a friend’s dog. Or since the app simply follows you as you move, you can walk without a dog (though walking with a dog is much more fun).

iTunes is Now in the Microsoft Store

iTunes is Now in the Microsoft Store

If you use Windows 10, you can now find iTunes in the Microsoft Store.

According to Ars Technica, iTunes is now available to Windows 10 users in the Microsoft Store. Ars Technica notes that bringing iTunes to the Microsoft Store was actually supposed to happen by the end of 2017, making its addition now a bit late. But it seems to be a welcome addition.

The program still works the same way as iTunes does if you download it straight from Apple, says Ars Technica, but they also note downloading from the Microsoft Store has some advantages. In particular, you won’t get prompts asking you to download other Apple products, plus it won’t install things that run in the background (which can seriously bog down a computer).

iTunes was previously available for Windows and MacOS. This means it was likely already accessible to many people who can find it in the Microsoft Store now. But there were also some people who now have access who didn’t before: those using Windows 10 S devices. Windows 10 S devices can only install programs from the Microsoft Store, so these users can now download iTunes. This is useful since iTunes is still a hugely popular service. It’s not just a music service, either; you can download music, movies, shows, podcasts, and more.

The Microsoft Store previously already offered other popular music programs. You could already find the streaming services Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, SiriusXM, TuneIn, and more. So if you’re simply interested in streaming and you have an account with any of these services, the addition of iTunes may not excite you much.

But if you specifically enjoy iTunes and like having a way to organize your media and access more than just music, this new platform may be good news for you. You can find iTunes in the Microsoft Store right now.

Google Makes Major Changes to Gmail

Google Makes Major Changes to Gmail

Gmail users on desktops and mobile devices are going to spot some major changes to the popular email service.

Gmail has now been updated to include some interesting (and welcome) new features. NBC News reports that there are a number of changes in the update. Though it doesn’t look all that different, there are some great new features.

Disappearing messages are one notable new feature. Gmail users can set their messages to disappear in whatever time frame they choose. And they can also decide to essentially “un-send” an email after already sending it to someone else (even if the other person isn’t using Gmail).

NBC News also reports that there’s a new “nudge” feature that reminds you about emails. Gmail will learn to recognize which emails are most pressing, then make them show at the top of your inbox to suggest you respond.

There are also other little additions, like the ability to get a reminder to reply to an email (using the new “snooze” feature) and “smart replies” that suggest what you might want to respond to a message with.

You can get this updated version of Gmail by clicking the settings button above and to the right of your inbox, then choosing “Try the new Gmail.” Once you click to switch over, you get the opportunity to choose a layout (including one that will look almost exactly the same as the one you’re used to). You might notice bigger, clearer fonts and more rounded buttons instead of quite a few links. You’ll also spot the sidebar on the right side that has a calendar, note keeper, list of tasks, and a plus sign that once clicked on lets you choose other tools to keep handy on your screen.

You’ll also soon spot one specific new feature from this update if you use Gmail on an Android device. Android Police reports that the new snooze feature is also rolling out Android users. Like the desktop version, you can snooze emails and get reminders to check back in on them later.

Look for the option to try the new Gmail on desktop now, and look out for the snooze feature on Android as it continues to roll out.

Track Your Day with Apps

Track Your Day with Apps

For some people, there’s so much to do in a day that it’s hard to keep up with everything. By the end of the day, you might not be sure what you even did over the past 12 hours. Or you might not be incredibly busy, but you just don’t remember to stop and think about specific aspects of your life.

If this is the case for you, you might benefit from an app like the ones in this article. There’s an app for nearly everything, and of course there are apps that can track most areas of your daily life.

Why track your day?

You might have realized you want to keep up with what you’re eating, or maybe it dawned on you that you’re not sure when you last spent time with your friends without looking at your phone. Maybe you’ve been forgetting to budget for travel expenses or grocery costs. Whatever it may be, there’s a way to track it.

Tracking certain parts of your day can make it much easier to evaluate what you’ve been doing. It can make it possible to understand certain issues in your life, and it can show you things you’ve been doing well (and things you didn’t know you needed to improve on). If you don’t know what to fix, then you won’t know how to fix it. By tracking how much you exercise, how much time you spend on your tablet, or how big your environmental footprint is, then you’ll have a starting point for change.

What can you track?

Here are just some ways you can track your personal life. There are apps listed for each area. Of course, these are just some of the apps you might want to try. The app store on your phone will likely have even more to choose from. So if one of these doesn’t appeal to you, take a look around to see if there are other options that fit you better.

Track your food

There are many different apps you can use to track your food throughout the day. Most of them will let you set goals (like how many calories you can have, how much sugar you can consume, etc.) You can often set a weight goal, as well, and get food intake suggestions. Here are a few apps to try:

  • Your device’s built-in app: Depending on which phone you have, you might already have a food tracker on your device. For instance, there’s Samsung Health, which offers quite a few health tracking features.
  • MyFitnessPal (Android & iOS): MyFitnessPal is an app from Under Armour. It lets you track your food intake, find out nutritional facts, add your own recipes, find food from restaurants, scan barcodes to look up products, and more.
  • Lose It! (Android & iOS): Lose It! is specifically designed for weight loss, but you can of course just use it to track what you eat. You can use it to set and meet goals. It lets you input and track your eating every day, take part in challenges, plan meals, and more.

Track your exercise

If you’re not sure you’re exercising enough, you can always try keeping track of your fitness regimen. You can log how long you’re exercising, what kinds of exercises you’re doing, and more. Most apps will give you an idea of how many calories you may have burned during the day, as well. Here are a couple apps to check out:

  • Your device’s built-in app: Like above, some phones have a built-in health app that offers useful features. Using Samsung Health as an example again, you can choose from different exercises (like push ups and jumping jacks), then log how long you did them.
  • JEFIT (Android & iOS): With JEFIT, you can track your training and your progress, as well as set and meet goals. Along with all the instructional features and its social aspect, you can log your workouts in the app.
  • HeavySet (iOS): With this app, you can track your weightlifting and other equally intense workouts. It’s specifically designed for logging exercise. It also tells you when you set personal bests and lets you look back on past time periods to see trends.

Track your gas costs

If you commute to work, like to go on road trips, or are just worried about the current cost of gas, then you can try tracking your transportation costs. Gas prices have been soaring, and it could be a good time to figure out just how much you’re spending. You may make decent money at your job, but if you commute to work, your gas costs might make a huge dent. Or you might have gone on a trip but then forgotten to calculate how much you spent fueling up. Here are a couple apps that can help you keep a log of how much you’re spending at the gas pumps.

  • Fuelio (Android): With this app, you can track basically everything related to your auto costs. You can track how much you’ve spent filling up your tank, how many miles you’ve put on your car, how much you’ve spent servicing your car, and more.
  • Fuel (iOS): Fuel, like Fuelio, lets you log how much you spend at the gas pumps. It also lets you input other car expenses, include more than one car, and look at clear charts showing your spending.

Track daily costs

If you find yourself running low on money before each paycheck, it might be useful to start figuring out where most of your money is going. Using an app, you can track how much you’re spending on your shopping trips, then look for any trends, places you can cut back, or things you can actually spend more on. These are just a couple of your options:

  • Wally Lite (iOS): With this app, you can scan receipts, manually input spending, set a budget, and track where you’ve been spending your money.
  • Mint: Mint is a popular multi-purpose finance service. It can help you track your bills, set a budget, and get a visual of your spending, along with many other features.

Track environmental impact

There are many things we do every day that can be wasteful or otherwise bad for the environment. With an app, we can remind ourselves to make environmentally-conscious decisions. We can also see a visual representation of the environmentally sound things we did that day, as well as learn about other little things we could be doing better. Here are a couple apps that can help:

  • JouleBug (Android & iOS): With JouleBug, you’re inspired to take note of what you do every day to try to be a little more green. The app offers suggestions on how to be more environmentally friendly, then gives you points and achievements when you actually do Earth-friendly things. Your points are a great indication of how environmentally sound you’re being each week.
  • Oroeco (Android & iOS): Oroeco is an app that encourages you to be environmentally friendly and then rewards you when you make an effort to do so. You can earn rewards when you do green things, and you’re given suggestions for ways to be kinder to the environment.

Track your mood

Keeping up with how you feel throughout a day can be difficult. You might not even know when you’re in a bad mood or if you’re experiencing mood swings. Keeping an eye on your mood can give you an indication of what the underlying causes might be (whether it’s something as basic as stress or something more serious). The following apps can help you track your mood throughout each day:

  • Realife Change (iOS): This app is a motivational app that offers a “virtual coach.” You can track your moods and various different emotions and thoughts throughout your day, then receive advice based on what you logged. You can also track your moods using hashtags.
  • iMoodJournal (Android & iOS): iMoodJournal lets you log your moods throughout the day (including hashtags), then look back at charts showing your trends. You can even include extras (like photos), and you can track other things, like energy level and stress.

Track screen time

If you’re like most people with access to tech, you probably spend a lot of your day looking at a screen. Phones, computers, tablets, TVs—there are screens everywhere. Some screen time is unavoidable, and realistically, it would be difficult to cut it out completely. But it is possible to learn how much time you’re really spending on it and then set goals to cut back. These are just two of the apps that you can try:

  • Moment (iOS): Moment is an app for iOS users who want to know how much time they’re spending on their iOS devices. It tracks screen time automatically. You can then see how much you’ve used all your devices (and you can include your family’s devices, too) and set daily limits.
  • AntiSocial (Android): This app runs in the background of your device and then provides reports on how much screen time you’ve used. You can use it to set limits and block access to certain apps, as well.

Tech For Your Pets

Tech For Your Pets

If you’re like me (and all the other pet owners I know), you probably care a lot about taking good care of your furry friends. You feed them well, walk them (or leave them alone, depending on the pet you have), and dote on them.

What’s great is there’s plenty of tech out there ready and waiting to make your pet’s life a little bit nicer. Here are just a few of the cool things you can get for your pets (and for your own peace of mind)!

Petcube Bites Pet Camera

This device is a fun, multipurpose bit of tech that is designed to be fun for pets while also being useful for pet owners. Using the Petcube app, you can watch a stream of the device’s camera, enabling you to check in on your pets while you’re away. It captures moments for you using its motion and sound detector, and you can even “talk” with your pets through its two-way audio. Plus you can brag about your pets by sharing video clips with others.

What makes it different is that it’s a camera and a treat dispenser. Using the Petcube app, you can have the device throw a treat to your pet whenever you want. You can use the sample treats that come with the device, then get some of your own (keeping in mind you’ll want to get a certain size of treat for the dispenser). So while you’re out, you can not only look in on your beloved pets, you can even reward them for good behavior (or just spoil them). You can find this device on Amazon.

ASPCA—Emergency Pet Safety

This app is a very useful way to make sure you and your pets are ready for an emergency. This app from the ASPCA is meant to help pet owners prepare for and recover from major storms. It shows people how to get ready for a storm, even letting you enter your pet’s health information for safekeeping in the app. It can then inform people of what to do to find a missing pet, even letting them design a lost pet flyer they can share. If you live anywhere that is prone to major storms, this app can give you peace of mind.

CleverPet Hub

There’s a lot to consider when caring for a pet. Sometimes people forget how important it is to give their pets proper exercise. The CleverPet Hub is one way to take care of that. It stimulates pets’ minds and gives them exercise. Pets are able to solve puzzles and get food rewards as they finish challenges. You can create a schedule for your pets, as well as track what your pet is up to using the connected app. And since the Hub is designed to be durable and stationary, it can withstand a lot of use (even if you have a very energetic pet). You can find this device on Amazon.

Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor

We like to track our own activity, so it seems only natural we’d like to track our pets’ activity, too. With this tracker, you can keep up with what your pet has been doing. You simply attach it to your pet’s collar and harness, then set it up using your WiFi. You can create a “Place” your pet is meant to be, then receive an alert if your pet leaves that location. You can also see where your pet went over the course of the day. And, of course, it tracks other aspects of their activity, like their level of activity and the amount of rest they’re getting. All of these features make it possible to keep up with your pet’s health even if you’re away from home for a large part of the day. You can find this device on Amazon.

Dog Walk

With this app, you can track your pets while you’re with them. This app lets you keep track of the walks you take with your dogs. It tracks where you are, as well as how far and how long you walked. It shows you your route on a map so you can see where you went. And if you love taking millions of pictures of your pet (I know I do), you can use the built in camera. Also, you can track where and when your dog is relieving itself by adding the information in the app as you walk. This app is available for Android and iOS.

Instagram Is Working On How It Organizes Feeds

Instagram Is Working On How It Organizes Feeds

Instagram is now planning to make users’ feeds arrange a little differently than they have been. Instagram announced in a blog post that they’ll be changing a couple different aspects of peoples’ feeds.

The social media and photo app has made quite a few changes to their service over the past months. One major change that Instagram implemented back in December focused on what kinds of posts would be shown in feeds. As I wrote in my article, recommended posts were added to Instagram. These recommended posts are displayed in feeds based on whether a user’s friend has liked them. This was a pretty huge change for some people, since it allowed unfamiliar content to show up in feeds.

Now Instagram is working on changing feeds to improve them and address other user concerns. In their blog post, these upcoming changes are explained. One major change to Instagram feeds will be the emphasis on newer posts. Right now, posts are fairly mixed up. Older posts (from days ago) can be mixed in with posts from just minutes earlier. With Instagram’s planned change, though, newer posts would be more likely to show up at the top of someone’s feed. Though Instagram isn’t announcing a completely chronological feed, this change will be a welcome step to having posts feel more current.

They also note another change to feeds: no more forced automatic refreshing. Currently, users might open the app and have the page suddenly refresh without any way to stop it. So if you see a post you’re interested in, you might suddenly be taken away from it. Instagram is going to address this by adding a “New Posts” button. This will give users the option to refresh if they want to. If you use the button you’ll jump up to the top of your feed.

The “New Posts” button is testing now, according to Instagram, and they currently plan to continue to improve how feeds work.

Spring Cleaning? There Are Apps (& Sites) For That

Spring Cleaning? There Are Apps (& Sites) For That

It’s very nearly spring, and for some, the urge to start spring cleaning has already hit. (It definitely has for me—I went for “late winter cleaning” instead.) Spring arrives on the 20th of this month. So if you’re about ready to get started cleaning out your garage or your messy closet, you should know there are some great and super helpful apps out there.

Here are just some of the ways you can improve your spring cleaning with apps!

Get organized

  • Any.do (Android & iOS): Any.do is a to-do list, calendar, and more. You can get reminders and schedule times for you to accomplish whichever spring cleaning tasks you want. You can even share your to-do list and set up certain tasks for certain people, and there are many more helpful features.
  • BrightNest (Android & iOS): BrightNest lets you plan your cleaning schedule and get tips on how to accomplish tasks. You can get reminders, and you can look through their tips for cleaning and organizing, among other useful features.
  • OurHome (Android & iOS): If you’re spring cleaning with other people in your home, OurHome can help. You can assign different tasks to different people, set up rewards, get reminders, view progress, and more.
  • Sortly (Android & iOS): Sortly is a great way to set up an organized system as you finish spring cleaning a section of your home. With this app, you can take photos of your stuff and then tag them, add notes, put them in different folders, keep track of who you loaned items to, and more. Using this app throughout the year could make spring cleaning even easier next time around.
  • Spring Cleaning Checklist (Android): With this app, you can create a helpful checklist for getting all your tasks done. You can organize your checklists by different areas of the home. There are also videos that give tips for cleaning, and you can listen to a playlist while cleaning.
  • Wunderlist (Android & iOS): With Wunderlist, you can create different lists and keep up with your tasks. You can share lists, add photos, discuss tasks, set reminders, and more.

Make it fun

  • EpicWin (Android & iOS): EpicWin can make completing your tasks a little more fun. It’s a to-do list in the form of an RPG. Instead of just checking off tasks as you complete them, you have a character that can gain XP and develop. There are “animated battles” as you complete tasks, you can find loot, and more. There are also some typical features, like reminders.
  • Habitica (Android & iOS): With Habitica, you can treat your tasks like a game. Finishing tasks allows you to level up your avatar. You can go on quests, fight with your friends (helping you stay accountable and on track), and gain rewards as you progress.

Clean efficiently

There are plenty of websites that offer tips for effective and safe cleaning! Here are just a few sites you can check out.

Get rid of unwanted stuff

Once you’ve cleaned out your closets and under your bed, you’ll likely have some items you don’t need anymore.

For those things that aren’t really worth anything and that you couldn’t sell, you should look into recycling. One app for this is iRecycle. This app is available for Android and iOS. Using this app, you can use your location to find recycling centers near you. After choosing which type of item you’re wanting to recycle, the correct recycling centers will be suggested for you.

If you have items someone might want to purchase, selling online is much simpler than it once was. You can sell through a site like eBay, an app like LetGo, or a service like Facebook’s Marketplace.

For help getting rid of your stuff, check out my article about selling online!

Apps & Smart Devices for Visual Impairment

Apps & Smart Devices for Visual Impairment

For many in the world of technology, improving lives has been a primary goal. As technology advances, there are more opportunities for people with disabilities to gain access to helpful devices, software, and services.

Recently, The Verge reported on the development of smart glasses that could help with visual impairment. With these smart glasses, someone could look at text and have that text read out loud to them. Smart glasses that could help with visual impairment have been discussed for some time, and these glasses could be another step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they’re not yet available. However, it goes to show that some tech companies are making a point to develop products for all.

Though these smart glasses aren’t really available yet, there are other ways to use current tech. One way people with visual impairment can make their lives a little easier is with the use of certain apps. More and more apps are being developed with the sole purpose of helping people who are blind or who have other difficulties with their vision.

Another area of tech that can be helpful for people with visual impairment is one that has been rapidly growing for years—smart devices, including smart speakers and devices that can be paired with them. With a smart speaker, a person who is blind can ask their smart assistant to read them the news, tell them the weather, get answers to questions, and more. They can also connect other devices, so they can ask the assistant to do things like adjust the thermostat or turn off a fan.

There are many different levels of visual impairment. Being visually impaired doesn’t necessarily mean someone is completely blind in the way you might think. There are varying degrees of visual impairment. Because of this, some people may want or need to use different tech than others. And there are so many different apps and products out there it might be difficult to even know what’s available.

What other technology is available?

This article is focusing specifically on apps and smart devices. However, there is plenty of tech that’s typically used by people with visual impairment. Here are just a few:

  • Screen readers (including touch screen readers)
  • Magnification software
  • Braille devices (like braille printers)
  • Text-to-speech software

Because there’s such a wide range of tech, this article will focus on some of the technology that is rapidly growing and offering many different options. New apps are being developed on a regular basis, and smart devices are getting better and better. So for this article, I’ll be skipping the other options listed above.

Apps

There are many different apps available to choose from. Some apps may be familiar, as they’re wildly popular and have become staples. However, some may be new or offer even better features than an app you already have. Here are some helpful apps!

  • Accessible Editor Talkback Pro (Android): This app works with Talkback, the service built into Android phones. It lets people read and edit documents, texts, Facebook content, and more.
  • Actiview Movie Access (iOS): This app helps people with visual impairment while they’re in the movie theater. While at the movies, you can choose which movie you’re watching and get audio description, louder audio, and much more.
  • Aipoly Vision (Android & iOS): This app is meant to help people identify what’s around them. Using your camera, it can be pointed at objects which it will identify out loud. It can work on objects, animals, colors, text, and more.
  • Arianna Navigation (iOS): Arianna is an app that works by interacting with your modified surroundings. After placing different-colored paths on your floors (with paint or tape), the app can use these paths to let people move around their home easily. It also works in other settings by using its navigation service.
  • Be My Eyes (Android & iOS): This app helps people with visual impairment identify objects and get help with their surroundings. People can use their camera to connect live with a volunteer. They can show the volunteer what they need help with (like identifying something) and the volunteer can give them the help they need.
  • Eyes-Free Fitness (iOS): With this app, people can maintain good health by keeping up with their exercise. Workouts are clearly described, making them easy to follow just by listening.
  • KNFB Reader (Android & iOS): This app lets people take photos of documents and have them read out loud. It can also connect with a braille display. There is a free trial, but after the trial ends, it will need to be purchased.
  • Nearby Explorer (iOS): This is a GPS app that more clearly describes surroundings. It has a map and can give directions, but it can also read out street signs and places that are nearby.
  • Seeing AI (iOS): Seeing AI is a Microsoft app that helps describe objects and surroundings. It can read text out loud, recognize peoples’ faces, describe scenes, recognize money, and describe photos, plus more.
  • TapTapSee (Android & iOS): This app is another intended to describe objects. After taking a photo, a description of what’s in the photo will be spoken out loud (using TalkBack or VoiceOver, depending on your device).
  • Voice Dream Reader (Android & iOS): This app is a customizable way to have documents, books, and other content read out loud. It can read from many different sources, including ebooks and PDFs, and people can choose from different voices, speeds, and more.

Smart devices

Smart devices are a great way for people with visual impairment to perform daily tasks more easily. Smart speakers have many helpful features built right in, and there are even more skills (or services) that can be added. And other smart devices, like smart bulbs and smart thermostats, can also be controlled easily. Here’s a rundown of some of the options in the world of smart devices!

Smart speakers

There are many different smart speakers on the market today. The options just keep growing. Smart speakers are convenient for anyone with an internet connection, but they can be especially helpful for someone with visual impairment. Four of the most popular choices are as follows:

  • Amazon Echo (and Echo Dot)—Amazon’s smart speakers are wildly popular. They use the voice assistant Alexa. They can perform all of the basic functions you would expect, like get the weather, find answers to your questions, and read you the news.
    You can also enable many other skills, as the skills store is fairly expansive. You can customize your news (your daily briefing) by enabling skills from other news sources. You can also find skills for many smart device companies, like WeMo and Nest. And there are plenty of other useful skills, as well as skills for entertainment and fun.
    The original Echo is a larger (and more expensive) device. The Echo Dot is a smaller, more inexpensive option. The only real difference of note is that the Echo Dot’s speaker is not as nice as the original Echo. If you want better sound quality (for music purposes), the Echo performs better than the Dot. Otherwise, though, the Dot is a great choice for a smart speaker, and it can even be connected to a different speaker if you really want better sound quality.
  • Google Home (and Home Mini)—Google’s smart speakers are also strong contenders. These devices use Google Assistant, which can also be found on many phones. It can do everything you’d expect, like provide the news, weather, and answers to whatever questions you have.
    There are also many third-party services that come with the Home or Home Mini. There are services for smart device companies, like Nest and Philips Hue. You can also hail a ride with Uber and order a pizza from Domino’s. There are also plenty of games and other entertainment options.
    Like the Echo and Echo Dot, the Home and Home Mini differ in size and shape. The Home is larger than the Home Mini, and it’s closer to a tube-shape, while the Mini is a small, slightly flat circle. Also like the Echo devices, the larger and more expensive device has better sound quality than the smaller cheaper option. You can connect the Home Mini with Chromecast, so if you want better sound quality for music, that’s a possibility. One thing both speakers do have in common is the ability to recognize different voices and perform tasks based on who’s requesting them. This is a very helpful feature if multiple people will regularly use the device.

These four smart speakers are definitely not the only ones out there. For a much more comprehensive look at available smart speakers, take a look at my article from February!

Household smart devices

There are many smart devices out there that can make daily tasks easier. Here are just a few things you can buy that will allow you to control them with an app or with your voice:

  • Door locks
  • Fridges
  • Lights
  • Security systems
  • Thermostats
  • TVs
  • Wall plugs
  • Washers and dryers

Using any of these devices, someone with visual impairment can likely use their smart speaker to control the device with their voice. If they can’t pair the device with their smart speaker, they can at least control the device with just their phone. This can make things incredibly convenient. Instead of getting up and going to the thermostat, someone can change the temperature with just their voice. For some product suggestions, see my article on the Internet of Things!

As a whole, smart devices can make life much easier for people with visual impairment. There are more new products coming out on a regular basis, and they keep getting better. With a smart speaker, someone can have books read out loud or get the bus schedule. With other smart devices, someone can control their home with their voice or an app. This tech is great for people with visual impairment.

Switch Things Up with a Keyboard App

Switch Things Up with a Keyboard App

If you’re using a smartphone, chances are you’re using the keyboard that came pre-installed. And depending on the phone, you might like it just fine.

But if you don’t like your keyboard, or if you think it could be better, you have options. Here are just some of the most popular and well-received keyboard apps you can try!

ai.type Keyboard

This keyboard is designed to offer lots of fun functions. You can change the layout of the keyboard, as well as its color, font, and more. It offers hundreds of emojis. It also has things like swipe capability, text prediction, autocorrect, voice narration, and even autosuggested emojis.
Cost: Free (with ads)
Available for: Android & iOS

Chrooma

This keyboard is meant to be smart and quick instead of bogging down your phone. You can change the color and personalize it in other ways, as well. It has predictive text, swipe capabilities, one hand mode, night mode, and more. It also has fun features, like a GIF search and emoji suggestion.
Cost: Free (with ads)
Available for: Android

Fleksy

This keyboard is a fun and colorful option. It proclaims itself the “fastest keyboard in the world.” It offers a customizable keyboard, easy gesture control, text prediction, and more. It lets you add extensions, like the GIF, Number Row, and Stickers extensions, and there are three keyboard sizes to choose from.
Cost: Free (premium features at a cost)
Available for: Android & iOS

Gboard

This keyboard from Google is a clean and fast keyboard choice. You can text using your voice, swipe (using their “glide typing”), share content from Google searches, translate, and use gestures. It also lets you search and use emojis and GIFs.
Cost: Free
Available for: Android & iOS

Minuum

This keyboard calls itself “the little keyboard for big fingers.” It’s designed to be a small keyboard that takes up less space without being difficult to use. It offers what it refers to as “sloppy typing,” meaning you can type quickly while it figures out what you’re trying to write. You can change the keyboard layout, get word predictions, search for definitions, gesture, get suggested emojis, use voice typing, and more.
Cost: $3.99 (free version offers limited features)
Available for: Android & iOS

SwiftKey

This keyboard focuses on its ability to learn your patterns and give better suggestions the longer you use it. It has autocorrect, predicted words, themes and customizable keyboards, swipe capabilities, an emoji keyboard, suggested emojis, and more. It can even learn your style better by accessing your previous texts and accounts.
Cost: Free
Available for: Android & iOS 

Swype

This keyboard is one of the most popular swipe-based keyboards. Swype gets better at understanding how you communicate the more you use it, and using your account, you don’t have to start over again if you switch to a new device. You can customize the keyboard, including its layout and design. The keyboard also offers swipe capabilities, predictive text, voice to text, gestures, and more.
Cost: $.99
Available for: Android & iOS

Typany

This keyboard is your brightly colored and fun keyboard alternative. You can create your own themes, make your own emojis, share drawings, use themes, and more. It has features like autocorrect and keyboard personalization, as well as voice to text. They also have what they call “text bang,” which lets you easily edit what you’ve typed. There’s even an emoji keyboard, including text-based emoticons.
Cost: Free (with ads)
Available for: Android & iOS

Instagram Updates—GIFs, Stories, and Activity Status

Instagram Updates—GIFs, Stories, and Activity Status

Instagram was in the news quite a bit this week. Here’s a roundup of some updates you may have missed!

GIFs are coming to Stories

Some users are now able to add GIFs to their Stories on Instagram. TechCrunch reports that some people have access to a GIF search engine that allows them to add some of Giphy’s animations that can be put on top of pictures and videos. The GIFs are placed with transparent backgrounds so they don’t look cluttered on top of the images or videos. There are all sorts of GIF stickers in the library. Screenshots show things like hand gestures, hearts, and stylized text phrases.

Right now, this appears to have been rolled out in the Philippines and Brazil. TechCrunch notes that Instagram and Giphy are staying pretty quiet and avoiding any concrete details at the moment.

Text-only Stories are being tested

“Type,” a new text-only option, is coming to Instagram. The Verge reports that the feature is currently being tested. Instagram, of course, is built around sharing photos and videos. With “Type,” though, users would be able to share text-only posts to their Stories. You can pick a font and a background to personalize your post.

Facebook users may find this idea familiar. On Facebook, text posts that are short enough can use a background design. Of course, it sounds like Instagram users will be able to change their font, and there may be many different background options. The Verge says “Type” has only been spotted in Europe and Japan so far. Here’s hoping it rolls out to the US soon.

An activity status feature has been added

Now you can let people see when you were last active—if you’re interested in that kind of thing. The Verge is reporting that Instagram has added an activity status within direct messages.

People you follow or have sent DMs to will now be able to see when you were last active. If you’re on Instagram at the time, it will show you as “active now.” It’s important to note people can’t automatically see your activity just because they follow you—you have to be following them. You can also disable the activity status in your settings (it’s on by default).

Many sites are reporting on this update, and many people are talking about it on platforms like Twitter. What most people are focusing on is how to turn the feature off. It doesn’t currently appear to be a feature that too many people actually want. Headlines are focusing on how to disable the feature, and Twitter users are expressing their disinterest (or dislike) for an activity status. It’s unclear if everyone has the feature at this moment, but if you’d rather keep your activity status private, head over to the app to see if it’s available for you.