Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Welcome back to another installment of Tech Spotlight! Each week, I’m talking about cool and useful tech you should know about. This week, I’m putting a lifestyle tracker, soundbar, and wireless charger in the spotlight. Check them out, then make your purchases on Amazon!

Moov Now

This device is a visually pleasing and useful fitness tracker you wear on your wrist or ankle. Moov Now can help keep up with running, cycling, gym workouts, boxing, swimming—any exercise you might do.

With Moov Now, you get audio coaching as you make your way through your workout. It provides motivation and tells you the progress you’re making in real-time. It monitors activity and sleep, and it keeps track of a variety of types of exercises. It can go everywhere with you—it’s light, waterproof, and can last 6 months on its battery.

Your workouts are broken down with different statistics and pieces of information. Runners, cyclists, and swimmers can check out analytics from their workouts and learn how to improve. When running and walking, you can learn about your pace, technique, and more. When swimming, you can find out more about your lap times and turns. You can also follow along with boxing and body weight training tutorials.

There are many different fitness trackers on the market, but Moov Now looks great (especially with its various different colors), does a wide variety of things, and is incredibly affordable (at a little more than $50). Check it out on Amazon and purchase it for your exercise needs!

Anker PowerPort Wireless 5 Pad

Anker’s PowerPort wireless charger is a great choice for charging your iPhone, Galaxy, or other smartphone without plugging it in with a cord. The PowerPort Wireless 5 Pad is designed to make charging easier while maintaining safety.

This wireless charger works on a variety of phones. It’s primarily targeted at newer iPhones—like the iPhone 8 and iPhone X—but it works on other devices, like newer Galaxy models, Google Nexus 6, and others. When compared with standard chargers, this wireless charger can make charging a little bit quicker. It doesn’t compromise its safety standards when charging, either. It’s designed to meet safety standards, and it has temperature control that keeps it from overheating.

Anker’s wireless charger is also particularly nice because you can charge your phone without taking your phone case off. Unless you use a very thick (or metal) case, the charger will work fine. With some wireless chargers, you have to go through the sometimes tedious task of removing your case every time you want to charge, so this feature can save some time and hassle.

Having to plug and unplug your phone from a charging cord can be annoying. With a wireless charger, it becomes completely unnecessary. Take a closer look at Anker’s wireless charger and add it to your cart!

Samsung HW-M360 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer

This soundbar from Samsung is a great way to improve your home audio experience without breaking the bank. With high ratings and a comparatively low price, the Samsung HW-M360 Soundbar is a budget entertainment option.

The HW-M360 offers Dolby Digital sound with 2.1 Channel surround sound audio. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer. Many systems use wired subwoofers—being wireless means you can experience great bass after placing the subwoofer wherever works best for your home.

This soundbar also can connect to your devices and allows for easy control. If you have a Samsung TV, this soundbar can connect to it easily. It has Bluetooth, which offers a couple nice features: you can turn the soundbar on from your smartphone (or other Bluetooth-capable device), and you can stream music from those devices straight to the soundbar. You can also use Samsung’s app to control the soundbar further from a device. You can use the app to turn up the volume, customize your sound settings, and more.

Whether you have a Samsung TV or not, Samsung’s HW-M360 is a reasonably priced and well-reviewed home theater choice. If you’re in the market to improve your audio experience, learn more about the soundbar on Amazon before making your purchase!

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

Android Oreo Update Paused

Android Oreo Update Paused

Android’s newest update, Android 8.0 (a.k.a. Oreo), has stopped after unexpected issues occurred with some users.

The highly anticipated update began rolling out to Samsung S8 devices last week, says The Verge, but it’s now been halted. The update was stopped as it was causing some users’ phones to reboot unexpectedly. Specifically, some S8 and S8 Plus owners were reporting that the update caused their phones to reboot at random.

Android 8.0—Oreo—is bringing many new features to Android users. Android’s website details some of the features to expect from the release that has been rolling out. It notes some phones will start two times faster, and they’ll use power better because 8.0 reduces background app usage. It’s also adding an autofill feature, offering picture-in-picture (so you can use more than one app at a time), changing some aspects of how apps work, releasing redesigned emojis (with more than 60 new ones), adding accessibility updates, and more.

Last year, CNET outlined some of the Android Oreo features they were most excited about. This included the new autofill feature and the picture in picture feature. They also pointed out how useful the app changes will be. They mentioned the new notification channels that will be available in apps that update for Oreo, as well as the notification dots that will appear on apps.

The Verge points out that the update wasn’t rolling out worldwide yet, so the sudden halt to Oreo’s release doesn’t impact as many people as it could. However, those who did already get the update before it was stopped are now using an OS that is not as ready for release as Samsung thought. The Verge’s article quotes Samsung as saying they’re working to get the improved version of Oreo out to users “as quickly as possible,” so hopefully users won’t have to wait too long.

For even more about Android Oreo, check out the Android website or read Android Authority’s review from last year.

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Welcome to this week’s Tech Spotlight! Each week, I’m sharing some fun and cool tech-related products you can find on Amazon. This week’s Spotlight features a wireless controller, a smartphone camera kit, and a photo printer. Take a look at what I’ve found this week, then go on over to Amazon to add some new tech to your cart!

Myo Gesture Control Armband

The Myo Gesture Control Armband is a wireless controller that makes it easy to control your tech. While wearing the armband, you can make gestures and motions to perform certain tasks with your devices. The armband works by reading muscle activity and through the use of downloadable apps in Myo’s store (the Myo Market).

Using this armband, you can control many different things. Its product description mentions its use for gaming, as well as for things like controlling presentation slides and even flying your drone. You can also use the Keyboard Mapper to connect the armband to your keyboard. There are more than a hundred apps in the Myo Market, so there’s quite a bit you can play around with.

The Myo armband is designed to be convenient. It won’t weigh your arm down—it’s light (the description says it’s lighter than most watches). The battery is rechargeable and works throughout the day. And it’s compatible with many devices, including those using Windows 7 and up, as well as many Android, Mac, and iOS devices.

The Myo Gesture Control Armband is a convenient way to control your devices from a distance with just the motion of your arm. Head over to Amazon to find out more about what it can do!

Telephoto lens kit, 4 in 1 Cell Phone Camera Lens

This camera photo kit from ARORY offers a way to take photos from your phone in a new, fun way. Though many phone cameras do offer a lot more customization and options on their own, this telephoto lens kit gives smartphone photographers more choices for their shots.

The telephoto lens kit comes with 10 items designed to make photographing with your smartphone easier and a little more engaging. It does, of course, come with several attachable camera lenses. There’s a telephoto lens that offers 12x optical magnification, meaning photos can be zoomed in 12x further without the photos suffering from a loss of quality. There’s also a macro lens for close-up shots, a wide-angle lens for larger shots, and a fisheye lens for curved shots.

These are not the only items that come with this kit. There’s also a mini tripod with an attachable phone holder, so you can place your phone in the holder and take photos without worrying about a shaky hand or take a photo of yourself that’s not a selfie. To make this even easier, there’s also a Bluetooth remote shutter. Using this small device, you can take photos from a distance without having to touch your phone. There are also clips to hold the different lenses in place, and there’s a cleaning cloth to help keep the lenses clear of any dust or specks.

Many current smartphone cameras offer reasonably high-quality images, and many people rely solely on their phones to take pictures. This kit can improve the smartphone photo-taking experience!

Prynt Pocket, Instant Photo Printer for iPhone

The Prynt Pocket is a small, portable photo printer for use with iPhone. While you’re on the go, you can print previously taken photos or take new ones to print right away. All you have to do is place your iPhone in the printer and you’re on your way to printing photos anywhere.

The Prynt Pocket works with many different iPhones, from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone X. It uses ZINK Sticker Paper, which is an ink-free paper with a sticker backing (so you can also stick your photos anywhere). The photos print within 30 seconds, so there’s not a long wait for your photos. Oh, and if you like your tech to be pretty, there are several colors to choose from—graphite and white both look fairly clean and standard, but there’s also lavender and mint green.

The Prynt app also allows you to do some fun things with your photos. For instance, after you take a photo with the Prynt app, you can also record a short video to go with it. Then when others point their Prynt app at the photo, they can watch the matching video! You can also use the app to tweak your photos with things like filters and text.

If you take many photos with your iPhone (and if you have an iPhone, I’m confident you do), the Prynt Pocket will make a nice new addition to your accessories!

Which Photo Editing App Should You Use?

Which Photo Editing App Should You Use?

Our cameras are a hugely important feature on our devices these days, but have you figured out which app can best help you edit the photos you take?

There are a lot of photo editing apps out there, and some social media platforms (like Facebook and, obviously, Instagram) have some editing features already built in. But these apps might not do everything you want. Since you’ve likely already seen what Facebook and Instagram have to offer, I’ll skip them for this article—but make sure to consider whether you’re getting all you need from those apps already.

If you’re looking for an app to make it easier to work with your photos, take a look at the following apps to see which is best for you!

Adobe Photoshop Express (Android or iOS)

Cost: Free
What it offers: Adobe’s mobile version of their staple program, Photoshop, can do a lot. It’s suggested that it’s mostly for professional use, as opposed to being just for casual, fun photo editing. You can use it to do things like create collages, make basic tweaks (crop, rotate, etc.), fix blemishes, add filters, make corrections, add a watermark, and much more. There’s a lot you can do with this app.

AirBrush (Android or iOS)

Cost: Free
What it offers: This app is intended to be used by those who enjoy taking selfies and pictures with their friends. It’s specifically designed to let users make cosmetic edits. You can do things like hide blemishes, whiten teeth, make skin glow, add filters, and more.

Photo Editor Pro (Android)

Cost: Free
What it offers: You can use this app to make a wide variety of fun edits. You can add things like stickers and text, make collages, add filters and frames, make basic edits (crop, rotate, etc.), and more. They also specify that it’s a useful app for making memes.

PhotoDirector Photo Editor App (Android or iOS)

Cost: Free
What it offers: This app claims you can use it to make your smartphone photos look as though they were taken “on a Canon or Nikon.” You can do things like make collages, remove unwanted objects in photos, add photo effects, make basic tweaks, and more. You can even use the in-app camera to add effects while you’re taking a photo.

PicsArt Photo Studio (Android and iOS)

Cost: Free
What it offers: Using PicsArt, you can make a wide variety of fun edits to your photos. You can make collages using free templates, make basic edits, add filters and frames, add stickers and clipart, make your own stickers, draw on your photos, take photos with the in-app camera, and more.

Pixlr (Android or iOS)

Cost: Free
What it offers: This app can help you make useful edits, and it can also let you make fun changes to your photos. You can create collages using customizable templates, combine photos, fix color and add filters, retouch photos, make basic edits, add cartoons and text, add borders, and much more.

Snapseed (Android or iOS)

Cost: Free
What it offers: Snapseed, Google’s mobile photo editor, lets you make “professional” edits to your photos. You can do things like add filters, retouch photos, adjust color, make basic edits, add text, add glow to portraits, change the photo’s style, add frames, and more.

Internet 101: Childproofing Your Devices

Internet 101: Childproofing Your Devices

The internet can be a wonderful place, but for people with children, it can also be a cause for concern. It’s pretty common these days for children to have regular access to the internet. Whether it’s a family computer, a parent’s tablet or smartphone, or even the child’s own device, many kids are able to get online every day.

For some, letting children use smartphones, tablets, or computers at all is troubling. At least one study has showed that children getting too much screen time can be bad for their mental health. And of course, some people believe that using the internet and playing video games just isn’t a worthwhile way for a child to spend their time. Some argue that there are better things kids could be doing in their off time.

While these ideas are obviously worth considering, many parents weigh the pros and cons and decide they want their children to have access to the internet through some kind of device. Depending on how old their children are, parents will likely find it extremely difficult to keep kids off the internet anyway. And though there are some serious downsides to consider, there are certainly positives when it comes to letting children have access to apps and certain websites. It’s hard to argue with the idea that there are a lot of different educational apps, games, and websites available for kids. Plus, it seems as though it’s most important to just limit screen time and keep watch on a child’s activity. A little screen time, then, can be fun.

When someone wants to let their child have access to a computer or smart device, there are a lot of things to consider. Specifically, how can adults keep their children as safe as possible, and how can they protect their devices, too? Childproofing can seem complicated, but depending on what you want to do, it might be easier than you think.

Before we get started…

It’s important to note that if you’re looking into childproofing your devices, you should also talk to your kids about how to be safe on the internet. Communication is key when it comes to letting your children use computers and smart devices. If kids don’t know what to watch out for, they could still get themselves into bad situations. And if children know they can talk to an adult about what’s been going on in an app or on a website, it’ll be easier to stop negative experiences before they can escalate. Whatever action you take to childproof a device, make sure you first talk to your kid(s) about why it’s necessary in the first place. The Federal Trade Commission has a page dedicated to talking to your kids about online communication.

Childproofing your computer

There are a number of options for childproofing a computer. Here are a few options you can consider:

Use your computer’s settings

If you have a Windows computer, then there’s a pretty straightforward way to monitor and childproof your child’s time on the device. In your settings, there is an option to set up and customize a child’s account. You can find instructions online about how to set up a restricted account on different Windows versions. For Windows 10, you’ll need to open your settings, go to “Accounts,” select “Family & other users,” and choose “Add a child.” Then you’ll fill in the necessary information to complete a new account.

When you go to manage the child’s settings, you can choose from a number of different options. You can have the child’s activity tracked so it can be sent to you. You can block or allow specific websites, or you can click a button to block websites inappropriate for children, and you can also restrict apps. You can even set certain times that the child is allowed to use the computer. Microsoft’s childproofing option can be extremely helpful.

If you have a Mac, you have just as many options for childproofing. If you go to System Preferences and choose “Parental Controls,” you can create a new account and set it up for a child to use. With Mac’s childproofing, you can restrict or allow certain websites and apps, set up time limits for use, restrict other kinds of content, view a log of visited websites, and even make the desktop easier to use by enabling “Simple Finder.”

Manage your browser’s settings

You can also set up a browser to be more child-friendly. For instance, Google Chrome allows users to create a supervised profile that blocks websites, lets you see what’s been visited, block new installations, enable SafeSearch, and more. Also, Firefox offers some extensions for parental controls.

However, browser settings can only do so much if your computer isn’t safeguarded as well. Also, changing your browser settings or adding an extension won’t do much at all to stop an older child from figuring out how to sidestep the parental controls. Browser settings should really be considered an additional layer of safety, not the primary source.

Block content through your router

You can use a service to block certain content on any device connected to your internet. One popular service is OpenDNS. They have some free and some paid services. Their free Family Shield service allows you to block adult content on the devices using your internet. Circle is another service that pairs with a router and lets you customize what devices are allowed to access when connected to your internet.

Childproofing your tablet

Tablets are popular devices for children. Here are just some ways you can childproof a tablet:

Create a restricted profile

If you have an Android tablet, you can create a restricted profile specifically for your child to use. In your tablet’s settings, find something similar to “Users” or “Profiles.” Then choose a “Restricted profile” or “child profile.” From there you can create a new profile and manage its settings. For instance, on the Kindle Fire you can enable certain books to be available, let the child use certain apps, and enable a kid-friendly browser. As long as you have a lock set for your own profile (like a PIN), when switching back to your profile you’ll encounter a lock screen.

These settings can change from tablet to tablet, so take a look at your tablet and scroll through the options. Most devices do their best to make restricted profile settings as clear and straightforward as possible.

iPads also offer Restrictions for childproofing. In your iPad’s settings, you can create a passcode for your restricted settings and customize your settings. You can restrict certain apps, music, and websites, and you can disable Siri, location services, volume controls, and more.

Lock the app store

To stop children from downloading certain apps, you can lock up a device’s app store. If your device uses Google Play, you can enable parental controls. You can create a PIN and restrict app, TV, and movie downloads to a certain rating range, restrict “sexually explicit” books for download, and restrict explicit music.

As mentioned before, iPads can also be customized for children. You can restrict app downloads in your iPad’s restrictions.

Use screen pinning or guided access

If you have an Android tablet with a later version of Android installed, you can use screen pinning when you’re letting a child use a shared device. Some tablets won’t have this feature, but some do. To check it out, try going to your Settings and tapping on your Security settings. Look for some mention of screen pinning. Screen pinning will let you open a specific app and pin it to the screen so a child can’t navigate away from it. It can be extremely useful if you want to know exactly which app your child is using at the time.

On an iPad, guided access can do the same thing. In your iPad’s settings, go to “General,” then “Accessibility” and find “Guided Access.” You can turn Guided Access off or on, set up a PIN, and learn how to restrict the device to show a certain app on the screen so a child can’t switch to a different app.

Download additional apps

You can also download some other apps to help you childproof your device. You can download an app like AppLock to restrict access to certain things. You can do the same with McAfee’s Safe Family. You can also download some child-specific versions of popular apps. Specifically, YouTube Kids lets you give a child access to some YouTube content without having to worry about the child wandering off into inappropriate content.

Childproofing your smartphone

Childproofing a smartphone is extremely similar to the techniques listed for tablets. In fact, all of the above is applicable to smartphones except for one key difference: restricted profiles do not seem to be available yet for Android phones.

Other than this, you can follow the same steps for smartphones as you would for tablets. iPads and iPhones have the same parental control features that let you restrict content or use guided access, and Android phones (as long they have a later version of Android installed) can enable screen pinning.

Amazon App Includes AR for Some iPhones

Amazon App Includes AR for Some iPhones

The Amazon app is getting way better for certain Apple users with its new augmented reality shopping tool. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide which items you want to buy on Amazon, especially when it comes to items for the home. With the Amazon app, some shoppers can now actually see what the product will look like in their house.

In an announcement about their upcoming holiday plans, Amazon also explained their new AR view. This cool new AR feature is available for shoppers using the Amazon app on an iPhone 6S or later that has iOS 11 on it. The app uses Apple’s ARKit to let people place certain items on their screen and view it in whatever area the phone is pointed at. Shoppers simply click the camera button and select the AR view to try it out. Amazon’s announcement mentions that there are “thousands” of products to choose from in AR view and that you can check out the items in a 360° view with the new feature.

As The Verge mentions, other apps, like IKEA and Target, have previously begun to offer their own augmented reality shopping experiences. Also, as Tech Crunch points out, Amazon dabbled a bit in AR shopping with their (pretty unsuccessful) AR stickers. But Amazon’s new offering is exciting for a number of reasons. For one thing, there are a lot of different items to choose from—it’s not horribly limited. Also, the products look pretty real, as you can see in Amazon’s YouTube video. The video shows items being moved and rotated using one or two fingers, respectively, so it also seems easy to use. There are different categories to scroll through and choose from, as shown in the video, so again, there’s a wide array of choices.

And of course, it’s Amazon. Amazon is a giant in the world of shopping, as we all know, so having this cool new tech just makes them even more enticing. If you’ve got an iPhone 6S or later and have iOS 11 installed, see if AR view in the Amazon app has rolled out to you now.

Making It Easier to Shut Off Your Phone

Making It Easier to Shut Off Your Phone

I know, I love tech and the internet, but let’s be honest—sometimes it’s smart to take a break every now and again. Smartphones are fun and useful, but it can be a good idea to set them down and take care of other things. Many people can find themselves using their phones much more than they actually want to, feeling obligated to check apps that people expect them to be on all day, every day, which can be very stressful. Also, too much screen usage might just be damaging your eyes, according to BBC Newsbeat. Of course, I’m in no way suggesting you stop altogether or cut back more than necessary, but why not take some small breaks? It can make being connected even more fun when you’re not bogged down by how much you need to use your phone every day. I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes feel like I’m tied to my phone, and I just don’t enjoy it as much then. What’s really great is that you can even take advantage of fun or pretty tech while you’re doing it. Some apps make turning off your phone much less painful than you’d expect. Here are just a few ways to encourage yourself to turn off the screen for a little bit!

Forest

Forest is an app that’s available on iOS and through Google Play. Forest makes turning your phone off enjoyable by letting you grow trees and feel like you’re being rewarded for lessening your screen time. With Forest, you plant trees in the app, and when your phone is off, your trees begin to grow. If you close the app to do other things, your tree dies. Each tree you plant has a countdown timer, and you have to leave the app open until the countdown ends to let your tree finish growing. Eventually you’ll have a whole forest of trees, which gives you a lovely visual representation of how much time you’ve been able to take away from phone usage. Also, you can earn coins while using Forest, and you can then spend those coins so that Forest makes a donation to Trees for the Future, an organization that plants trees. Forest is a great way to make turning off your phone feel really productive. Check out their website for more information!

FocusNow

FocusNow is similar to Forest in many ways. Specifically, you grow trees while you’re not using your phone, which is the core of Forest. FocusNow is available on iOS and lets you connect with other FocusNow players by sharing your habits and encouraging each other. Growing your trees (by using a countdown timer and keeping the app open) leads to what FocusNow calls a “farm castle,” a lovely area full of plant life and pretty castles. You can add your “good habits” to a list in the app and receive reminders to keep up with these habits. If Forest isn’t for you, or if you like the idea of maintaining good habits through the app, check out FocusNow for iOS!

Unplug

Unplug is an iOS app that adds a little bit of personal goal-setting to shutting off your screen. You can set limits for how much time you spend on your phone, and the app helps you keep track of just how much you’ve used your phone. It also shows how many times you’ve unlocked your phone each day. It can display your stats in different ways that might suit you. What makes it rewarding is that you can build up a collection of trophies, collect points, and go on “streaks” of good phone use behavior. There may not be any growing plants, but gathering trophies can feel fun and helpful for people who have trouble limiting their phone time. If you like the idea of point-building and trophy-collecting, check out Unplug for iOS!

Pocket Points

Pocket Points is an interesting app that rewards users in a different kind of way. Pocket Points is intended to encourage students to turn off their phones during class. While students are on campus, they can open the app, turn their phone off, and build up points while their screens are off. These points can then be exchanged for stuff at places near you. The Pocket Points website lists some of their available businesses, like Insomnia Cookies, Wendy’s, Pita Pit, and Papa John’s, among other places. You can get discounts and other cool promos, as well as just totally free stuff. If you’re a student who wants discounts and free things and is willing to shut off their phone while they’re on campus, you can get Pocket Points for iOS and in the Google Play store. Check out the Pocket Points website for more information!

Face Filters Are Everywhere

Face Filters Are Everywhere

These days more and more platforms are giving its users fun effects for their photos. At this point, three particularly popular social media apps allow us to overlay our faces with silly filters, maybe letting us turn ourselves into cats or football players or doe-eyed woodland creatures. Snapchat is the obvious app of the three, but Instagram and Facebook are in the face filter arena, as well. Each app has its own special face filters, so let’s look at what these three apps have to offer.

Snapchat

Snapchat, the popular photo-based app, is likely the first app you think of when you see a picture of someone with dog ears or a brightly glowing flower crown. Snapchat centers on being able to send your pictures to your friends, add them to a group message, save them to your photo story, and more, all without any real permanence. Photos on Snapchat, unless you remember to save them to your private memories, only last for a brief amount of time before they are gone forever. Here’s what you need to know about their face filters:

  • Snapchat adds and removes face filters regularly
  • Filters are often chosen based on current events and seasons
  • Some face filters can be placed on multiple people within a photo
  • Some filters have sound or music
  • Filters often include full-body animations that place your face in the appropriate location, usually incorporating music
  • Snapchat filters can be recorded as video, and they often have voice changers attached
  • Like other photos you take on Snapchat, you can save them to your Memories and you device

Instagram

Instagram is best known for letting users apply toned and/or textured filters to photos that have already been captured. But earlier this year, Instagram added special features to its in-app camera, allowing us to take pics with silly or cute face filters. Here’s what you can expect from Instagram’ face filters:

  • Instagram adds new face filters often, though not as often as Snapchat
  • Many of Instagram’s face filters are styled like doodles
  • Some filters can be placed on multiple people within a photo
  • Instagram’s face filters can be used while also using their other features, like Boomerang (a looping video) and Rewind (a video played in reverse)
  • After adding a face filtered photo (or any other photo) to your story, you can add linkable hashtags on top

Facebook

Facebook joined in on the face filter fun, as well. After I found out Facebook added face filters, I realized Facebook might just take over my life, considering they seem to be integrating a little bit of everything into their app. Facebook’s in-app camera has several special features, but personally, I find their face filters to be the best reason to open their camera and snap a photo. Here’s what to look for when you’re checking out Facebook’s face filters:

  • Facebook already has a large number of face filters available
  • Many (though not all) of Facebook’s face filters are bulkier than Instagram or Snapchat filters, covering much of the face instead of adding small details
  • Facebook features several pop culture filters (like the current Game of Thrones and Justice League filters)
  • Some of Facebook’s face filters include sound
  • Some filters include a voice changer
  • Video can be recorded while using Facebook’s face filters

The Verdict

All three apps are pretty similar. They all allow video recording while using face filters, they all have quite a few face filter options, they all offer some sounds, and even some of their filters look alike. But each app has its own feel and special features. Snapchat offers new filters so regularly that it would be difficult to become bored with their offerings. Instagram has options like Boomerang available. And Facebook has cool branded filters (one of which can make you look like a white walker). Try them all out and see what you think—then you might decide which you like best, or you might do what I’ve done and just use all three.

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

If you have an Echo, Echo Dot, Kindle, Echo Show, or any other Alexa-capable device, you probably already know that there are a lot of different ways you can take advantage of Alexa’s capabilities. With products like the Echo Dot making Alexa more and more easily available, and with the recent rumors about the upcoming Fire TV devices, it’s a good time to look into some of the fun, interesting, and downright useful skills that can be enabled on your Alexa devices. Alexa can answer some basic questions and say (or sing) a lot of funny things, but these skills will make you even more happy to have Alexa as your friend.

Bird Song

Bird Song lets you ask to hear certain birds, ask for a random bird, and ask to play a game to identify bird songs. Bird Song currently has 4.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Curiosity

Curiosity offers interesting pieces of information on many different subjects. Asking Alexa to “open Curiosity” prompts the skill to offer two random categories you can choose from. After you answer, Curiosity will tell you something interesting about that subject. Curiosity currently has 4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Ingredient Sub

Ingredient Sub helps people in the kitchen by providing helpful tips for ingredient replacements. If you get halfway through a recipe and suddenly realize you’re out of eggs, you can ask Ingredient Sub, “What can I substitute for eggs?” Ingredient Sub will list options you can choose from. Ingredient Sub currently has 3.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! is just what one might expect, and it’s a lot of fun. Every weekday, the Jeopardy! skill provides an extra clue from each of the day’s different categories. The skill is complete with the sounds you know from watching the show. The skill lets you know how you did that day, and it also tells you how you’ve fared over the week. Jeopardy! currently has 3.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Meditation Timer

Meditation Timer offers three different soothing sounds that are helpful for meditation. After you open the skill, you can tell Meditation Timer how long you would like to meditate. A gong will sound, and one of the three sounds will begin to play. If you want to switch to a different sound, you can say, “Play next.” The three available sounds are forest, rain, and surf. Meditation Timer currently has 4.1 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

NASA Mars

NASA Mars gives you a chance to find out what’s going on with Mars and listen to rover updates. You can ask general questions about Mars, and you can ask what the rover is currently up to. NASA Mars currently has 4.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Radio Mystery Theater

Radio Mystery Theater is one of many skills created by Appbly.com. This particular skill lets you listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theater dramas from back in the day. There are many episodes to choose from, so you’ll have plenty of entertainment. (You might also check out other similar skills like Radio Dimension X and Radio Suspense.) Radio Mystery Theater currently has 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Weather Sky

Weather Sky is a great way to get more out of your weather reports. Weather Sky can give you a very detailed report for your current location or any other location in the US. You can also ask for past and future weather information, and a fun little addition is the ability to “change the weather” by asking for weather like rain or wind (unfortunately, it does not yet have the capability to actually change the weather, just play some sounds, but I can only assume the technology will get there someday). Weather Sky currently has 3.8 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Yes Sire

Yes Sire is an intriguing and fun adventure game you can play just by enabling the skill. You play as a medieval lord who is given a series of questions that determine your success throughout the game. You have to think carefully about your choices when presented with different scenarios. If you are careful in your strategy, you will do well, but if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you won’t last long in the game. Yes Sire currently has 4.9 out of 5 stars in the Alexa App.

…and much more

There are also plenty of specific skills run by different companies that let you do things like check your credit card balance (skills like Amex and Capital One, among others), call a ride (Lyft and Uber), and order food (like Domino’s or Starbucks Reorder). You can also often find your own local news station available to add to your news briefing. Whatever your interests, there’s a growing number of skills available.