The New iOS 7 Plays Catch-Up, But Adds Enough To Stand Out

iOS7

Today is the day Apple fans have awaited since May, when the company announced the newest iteration of its iOS platform. The unifying theme of iOS 7 is simplicity, which is why Apple employe Jonny Ive, who designed the physical iPhone, to redesign iOS. And yes, it does look — different, at least. But let’s be real for a moment: design is about user experience, not aesthetics. A new-look iOS means nothing if the user doesn’t have an easier time with it.

From afar it can prove difficult to judge exactly how an OS will resonate with any particular user. We all have our individual preferences, after all. Yet those of us without direct access to the platform still need some kind of baseline for comparison. It’s not as though we’ll be able to walk into an Apple Store and get a really good feel for the OS during a test run.

Thankfully, many tech blogs have had iOS 7 in their hands for a few weeks (or more, depending on whether they beta tested it), some of them running it on a review unit of the iPhone 5S. We’re subjected to the bias of the individual reviewer, but many times that has to suffice. After reading through it a few times, it seems that Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch lays out a wonderful view of iOS 7, cutting most of the bull and sticking with the features the OS brings to the table.

My first impression: Android has been ahead of the pack for some time now.

Us vs. Them?

Unfortunately, any time you see a comparison between the two top smartphone platforms, you get an us vs. them situation. There are hardcore Android fans who mock the closed nature of the iPhone. The Apple faithful often thumb their noses at Android’s sometimes-crude design and “fragmentation,” even though that term hasn’t been relevant for at least two years. This dynamic makes it difficult to make any real comparisons between the two platforms.

It wasn’t until this past May, when Apple revealed iOS 7, that Android’s superiority became pretty clear. I remember thinking, at the time, that this was nothing that Android wasn’t doing. Yes, Apple is getting out ahead on the design aspect, as they always have. That’s their thing, and if people really do prefer aesthetics over experience they’d do well to wait on line to buy an iPhone 5S. But when it comes to the experience that these designs create, Android has been doing it for a while.

Control Center

There are some controls that you use so frequently, you want easy access to them. Previously on the iPhone you had to go into the Settings app to make changes to your WiFi options, airplane mode, Bluetooth, sound, brightness, and others. The new iOS adds the Control Center, which puts these things within easy reach.

Of course, Android has had this feature since at least 2.1 Eclair. (That was the first version of Android I used so maybe they even had it before.) Just drag down the top bar and you have all those functions just a touch away. The drag-down menu on Android is just super useful. Playing audio? Most apps show up in that menu, so you can pause, skip a track, or close the app. Again, these are features that have been present for years.

True, Apple does add AirDrop, a great feature that allows you to send files, via WiFi, to any other network-connected iPhone. While NFC is much more efficient, transferring files instantly, it also only works in a very short range and requires both parties to open a specific app. AirDrop is a bit more passive, more like a Skype file transfer. Google has acquired Bump, which will give Android the same functionality, but Apple did win on getting this feature first.

Voice commands

Here is another aspect where Apple wins outright. Siri has evolved into a truly useful function. (As opposed to when it was introduced; then it was mostly a novelty.) If you don’t mind looking like a crazy person by talking to your phone, it can become a valuable asset while you’re on the move. It’s great when driving, particularly.

The S-Voice feature on Samsung Android phones is just atrocious. The voice recognition is subpar, for starters. That’s really the crux of the entire feature, so without that it can’t really take off. The interface is also clunky, forcing you to wake up the feature before actually using it. There’s an opportunity here, but Apple just put plenty of distance between itself and the next closest competitor.

Multitasking

This is another area where we needn’t spend much time, because one platform has been doing this for years while one is just catching up. Android’s multitasking function is second to none. Remember when BlackBerry (yeah, I know) was touting its wonderful multitasking functionality that would allow it to stand out in a smartphone market dominated by two platers? Not only did they lift that multitasking feature right from WebOS, but Android had already lifted it by the time we got a look at BlackBerry 10.

Press and hold the button on an Android and you have a list of open applications, including a preview window. You can scroll through these and go to the one you intend. You can also close them all and start a new list of open applications, or go to the task manager so you can stop the processes. Apple’s multitasking feature looks similar, as it should, since it’s the most effective way to handle that task. But it doesn’t even bring as much to the table. No task manager or “close all” here.

Browser

The new Safari is admittedly great. I absolutely love some of the features in it, especially Read Later (even though I use Pocket as well). The new tabs page is well designed and easy to use. But does this really trump Chrome? I think not. If Safari synced with your home computer, perhaps it would come close. But Android does bring that one killer feature. Any tab you have open in your home browser, you can access on your Chrome for Android app.

In general the apps function similarly, so when one has a killer feature like this, it’s a victory. But let’s be real here again: the mobile browser is going to undergo revolutionary changes in the next few years. While Android has the best iteration currently available, I’m certain that it will look primitive by this point in 2015. We use our mobile phone differently than we do our desktops and laptops, and the next few years will be defined by moves in that direction.

The others

Condensing these last few items is a decision made because 1) I’m already sick of comparing these two platforms, and 2) because there are clear cut winners here.

Camera: Give it to Apple, which knows that its users love to snap pictures. You can put megapixel power behind your camera, or you can design it to take better pictures. HTC tried this with the HTC One, but as with most HTC devices that one hasn’t spread to many users. The new iOS camera features allows your phone to take vibrant pictures in any setting. With panorama and other functions, it’s tough to see another player topping this any time soon.

There are plenty of neat features they added to the photo app as well, including putting the picture locations on a map. Why Google hasn’t beaten them to the punch I’ll have no idea. Doesn’t Google basically own the mobile maps space?

Radio: When Google introduced Play Music, it was a revolution. It was essentially Spotify (with admittedly fewer songs) combined with your own music library. The idea is that you upload 20,000 songs from your own library, and then supplement it with Play Music. That can make for some killer radio stations — which is the only real feature of iTunes Radio. It’s nice, of course, but pales in comparison to Google’s offering.

Notifications: Again we have an area where Google was way, way ahead of the curve. Apple didn’t even introduce the notification center until what, iOS 5? Apple does bring some neat changes to the notification center in iOS 7, but it’s still just catching up to Google, which has the best drag-down menu experience of any platform. Bar none.

Whenever Apple or Google does something on mobile, we’re going to see comparisons between the two. It’s the nature of the us vs. them beast. With iOS 7 Apple largely played catchup to Google, adding many features that have been staples in Android for years. In many other areas, though, they took leaps ahead, putting the pressure on Google to keep apace.

Here’s the twist: Google is defragging Android, which will allow it to push updates as they become available. You get an iOS update once a year, with various small improvements and bug fixes throughout. With its new delivery method. Google can update Android in perpetuity — the way software was meant to be updated in the internet age. A year from now we’ll certainly see new developments from both camps, but chances are we’ll see Apple playing a lot more catch-up.

Your New ID Card: Your Mobile Device?

Photo: PFW.com

Photo: PFW.com

Today’s guest post is brought to you by Monique Jones.

Do you remember those science fiction movies, where people don’t carry ID cards anymore, but are verified through other means? Well, our mobile world is bringing that world closer to reality.

There are two categories of identification right now that are leading how we protect ourselves. One is based on biometrics, which is about identifying unique biological aspects of your body, such as your fingerprint, retinal scans or even your voice. Others, however, are based on passwords and identification based on technology that is either with you, on you, or in you. Yep, that’s right; soon enough, you could become your ID. Here are just some of the identification systems that we’ll all soon be familiar with.

Your Mobile Device

Nearly everyone these days has at least one mobile device, and that fact has made it a good idea to use mobile devices in conjunction with biometric data to confirm our access. After all, you may be exactly who you say you are, but you may not exactly have access to where you want to go.

Your mobile device may be tagged with a unique serial number or passcode. Thus, if your mobile device is “swiped” near a reader, you’ll be allowed access. Another way is that you have entered a passcode into a specific app, and the app then is used to identify you. As mentioned before, this will probably be in conjunction with biometric security measures.

Access by Communication

It’s a bit old-school, but calling someone up through a mobile line or VoIP (read more about VoiP service) to ask for access still works, but with an added layer of security – again, your mobile device is identified, and don’t be surprised if your call will have video as well.

This has the distinct advantage of providing a visual and audio confirmation, combined with a mobile device confirmation as well. However, the idea of using a mobile device for identification and security does have problems as well.

Dangers

Even though mobile devices can act like key cards and as portable audio and video confirmation devices, there are still inherent problems.

The very fact that a mobile device is portable can lead to at least two problems. The first one is if the person accidentally forgets his or her mobile device. This would probably mean that the security measures should have alternatives – but then, doesn’t that complicate what should have been simplified?

Another problem is well, having your mobile device stolen. This is the reason why, when you do use your own mobile device for identification, you should make sure that your own mobile device has its own security system. The last thing you need is to be accused of being lax with security – why give you the opportunity to use a mobile device identification system, if you’re going to let it be stolen?

But is it feasible?

As stated before, many people find the very nature of a portable or mobile device a big target for theft or forgetfulness. However, this sort of system should be seen as a way to shorten confirmation for security – and that the alternate measures are actually the “standard.” Still, the threat of not being with your mobile device will always be the question with these systems.

On the other hand, imagine if, instead of standing in line to get into your secure workspace, or waiting for someone in the IT department to give you access to secure files while you’re working from home, you can just call up, and have the proper security confirmations done, by the book? It would shorten what would be time-sucking security processes that can be very frustrating.

In the end, the use of mobile devices as identification and security systems are definitely on the way to reality, but will probably never be a stand-alone system.

Monique J is an Engineer. She also is a Freelance Writer who concentrates on making articles about social networking, technology, business and general topics. On her leisure time, you can find Monique at her fashion boutique. Learn more about Monique on Google+.

What Makes the Nokia Lumia 1020 so Great?

Nokia Lumia 1020. Photo by WPCentral.com.

Nokia Lumia 1020. Photo by WPCentral.com.

 

Over the past few years, we’ve heard about these great advancements in smartphone cameras, but have rarely been “wowed” by the resulting changes. While companies like Apple continue to provide users with a less than amazing camera, Nokia is out to change the game, and they’re swinging for the fences with the Lumia 1020 available for AT&T.

Now, before we get into the nitty gritty, you should know, I don’t have an affinity to any one cell phone manufacturer; I find flaws as well as great elements in each smartphone I get my hands on. I’ve owned Nokias, BlackBerries, Sanyos, Samsungs, Motorolas, well, you get the point. But when a company takes the initiative to come out with what is being heralded as the best smartphone camera ever, we have to take note.

Sure, you won’t give up your professional camera for the Lumia 1020, but the picture clarity of the Lumia 1020 is unparalleled. You’re bound to find some grainy elements to your photos when you do extreme zooming, but luckily, the 1020 excels with its zooming capabilities. With a 41-megapixel sensor that includes image stabilization, there is no other smartphone camera on the market that can compare. Nokia claims the 1020’s camera sensor format is five times larger than that in your average smartphone, but the megapixels aren’t the only thing to take note of.

The Nokia Lumia 1020 comes with its standard Carl Zeiss optics; however, this model contains six Zeiss lenses, Xenon flash, and another separate LED flash to provide you with clearer and brighter images, while also providing you the ability to record high-def 1080p video footage. The Lumia 1020’s camera also gives you plenty of manual settings and controls to mess around with, all with the ability to complement the phone’s ability to auto-focus. And if you still enjoy your front-facing camera, don’t worry, Nokia has your back with a 1.2-megapixel camera on the face of the phone. Nokia bundled all of this capability within a 5.6-ounce phone that is taller and nearly as thin as the iPhone 5, but where most phones have a flat back, the Lumia 1020 isn’t flat, thanks to the camera mounting to the back of the phone.

So, with all that said, what makes the camera so incredible? Well, it starts by putting your megapixels to good use. Whenever you capture a photo with the Lumia 1020, you’re actually shooting two photos simultaneously. One of which is in full-resolution (34-38 megapixels depending on your shooting format), while also providing you with a high-quality 5-megapixel image that is easy to share with your social networks. Through the Nokia Pro Camera application, you have the ability to make adjustments to the flash, focus, shutter speed, white balance, exposure and ISO, but best of all, you can see the difference each adjustment makes to your photo before you take it.

The benefit of working with a 41-megapixel camera is that Nokia’s Lumia 1020 allows you to zoom in on your photo to the right spot, and create a new image out of the zoomed image. However, just like all things in life, this smartphone is not without flaw. After you press the shutter button to take your picture, the phone takes a good three seconds or more to display your image. And while the phone comes stocked with 32GB of internal memory, you cannot add a memory card, meaning you’re stuck with your 32GB of memory. Now, if you use your camera like there’s no tomorrow, you may feel duped by Nokia, as the use of a 41-megapixel camera means your memory is limited due to the photo size for each captured image. All that said, the Lumia 1020 still sports the ability to take photos up to 38 megapixels in quality. What your decision will ultimately come down to is whether or not you can live with somewhat limited storage space. If you can, and you love your smartphone’s camera, you should definitely get your hands on the Nokia Lumia 1020 and see the difference in your photos.

Best Tech Options for Seniors

Coolpix S30

Photo via CitiWideOnline.com

There is no age limit when it comes to technology. However, there are certain tech options better suited to the senior set. This doesn’t mean that tech options geared towards a more mature crowd can’t still be stylish – and even downright cool. Here are some tech options seniors are likely to find appealing.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD ($199)

“This is a good way to introduce seniors to the joys of electronic books,” explains Steven Miller, senior technology editor for eldercare locator site Assisted Living Today. “In addition to offering 600,000 book choices, the Kindle eliminates the need to lug around heavy books. The 7-inch is a good model for seniors on the go, while the larger 8.9-inch model tends to be a better choice for home use. This particular Kindle also allows access to Amazon’s app store, videos, and music. It’s basically like a starter tablet computer for seniors, but it works well if it’s only used for reading too.”

Click & Grow Smart Flowerpot ($39.99 and $59.99; refill cartridges $19.99)

For seniors who love to garden but can’t deal with the maintenance requirements of gardening as easily anymore, this self-watering “smart” flowerpot does all the work for you. The starter kit comes with a plant cartridge with seeds. All you have to do is add water to the reservoir, insert batteries in the compartment, and add the seeds. Options include basil, mini-tomatoes, thyme, marigolds, and a few other choices.

Bushnell BackTrack ($51.36 to $69.99)

This key chain device is an excellent way for seniors to easily find their cars. You simply set the start and end points and you are guided back to your vehicle. The device uses GPS, but doesn’t always work inside parking garages due to the weak signal in enclosed spaces. It does, however, come in handy for quickly finding a parked car in an outdoor parking lot or along a crowded street.

BookSwim ($24 per month for 3 books at a time)

This site – similar to Netflix – allows seniors not ready to e-readers to have traditional books sent directly to their home. A list of books can be created on the site and when the top three choices are returned, the next three selections are automatically sent. This eliminates repeated trips to the library but still allows seniors to enjoy the pleasure of books. As an added convenience, shipping is included in the subscription price.

Nikon Coolpix S30 ($79.95)

This is a perfect camera for seniors looking to enjoy the latest photo technology without trying to figure out tiny buttons and other features that can be difficult to spot. This point-and-shoot camera is easy to use with a large photo button. It is also water and dust resistant for seniors on the go. Even the menu options are larger and easy to figure out.

Striiv Activity Monitor ($99.95)

Active seniors will appreciate this key chain pedometer. Aside from tracking movements, it also offers incentives for staying active such as the ability to bring a virtual island to life. It can also allow a senior to make a donation once a specific goal is achieved.

Starbucks Verismo ($199 plus the cost of coffee pads and other accessories)

More than just a simple single-serve coffee maker, this coffee maker lets a senior enjoy the same blends found in the store without the hassle of standing in line. In addition to brewing coffee, it also makes vanilla lattes, espresso, and a handful of Starbucks’ original brews. It’s very easy to use and makes great coffee.

This is just a sample of many of the tech options that just happen to be appealing to seniors for one reason or another. The main ingredient in anything geared towards seniors is ease of use, but this is really a trait that appeals to anyone looking to take advantage of the latest tech options regardless of age.

8 Apps to Keep Kids Occupied on Long Car Rides

Phone Apps

Image via Flickr by Shardayyy

Without variation, kids will get bored on long car trips. When they do, they’re very distracting to everyone else in the car. These kid-friendly apps are great for keeping kids distracted while traveling those long distances.

Netflix

The Netflix app lets kids access movies and cartoons that they love. Pick the movies they can watch and store them under upir favorites. Stop and start movies for stops along the way. With a satellite internet connection, these apps will operate without a hitch, regardless of what highway or byway you and your family are traveling on.

Road Trip Scavenger Hunt

The Road Trip Scavenger Hunt is a game in which kids spot things on their journey. The game accommodates multiple players, so no one is left out. Objects are named, and then first one to spot the target object gets the points. Parents should probably keep score to prevent fighting on this one.

Ad Libs! It’s better than [noun]

This app has turned the classic Ad Libs into something that will keep kids entertained. The kids get to make up words and then a story is created. The app is constantly updated with new stories to keep children entertained for hours.

Road Trip Bingo

Based on the idea of spotting things outside the car, this app brings it to the game of BINGO. Once the items are spotted, the slot is marked until BINGO is achieved. This little app also provides a verbal description of items so little kids can also play.

123 Color: Talking Coloring Book

This app gives kids the opportunity to color without the mess. It contains educational elements that reinforce letter recognition, the sounds of letters, and recognizing colors. Also included is a program that keeps kids from coloring outside of the lines.

Dr. Suess’s ABC

This app lets kids explore the colorful world of Dr. Seuss. Words are highlighted as kids progress through the book. This helps kids develop their reading skills while still on the road. The color illustrations accompany the reading of this book. Older siblings can read this Dr. Seuss favorite to younger ones.

The Oregon Trail

This app is directly from a classic game used to challenge kids. They must travel across the country in stagecoaches. There are lots of decisions and games to play as they travel along the Oregon Trail. The decisions they make affect the game’s direction.

Uno

The app of this classic game puts all of those colorful cards on the screen. The rules are customizable. Kids can play against online friends. There’s also a tournament mode for players looking to challenge themselves.

These apps will keep kids occupied while on the road during those very long car trips. Kids can spend time spotting things outside the window, watching movies, or engage in learning things. Make sure to download these before you hit the road, and you’ll avoid having a bored child on your next road trip.

Rob Weatherby is a freelance writer and digital designer. A recent graduate, with a communications degree from the University of Tampa, Rob has a passion for technology and writing. Besides writing and design, he is also an addict of all things fitness related and a pretty awesome cook. To get in touch with Rob, you can email him at mrweatherby86@gmail.com

Three Cool, New Smartphone Apps You Don’t Know About

Smartphone Apps

In today’s day and age, the smartphone has become as vital a part of daily life as the air we breathe and the water we drink. I don’t leave my home without my smartphone, and it is always within reach – even if I’m showering. One of the main reasons we love our smartphones as much as we do is due to the incredible list of applications we can download. From games to weather, we use apps every single day. But while anyone can talk about the same old apps, here at TechBreach, we’re all about bringing you the latest and greatest.

Be Heard: The App that Records you…5 minutes ago

Do you wish you could record something you just said, but didn’t have a microphone set to record? Well, there’s a new smartphone app that allows you to record anything that happened around you in the past five minutes.

The Heard app records everything going on around you and keeps it in a constant state of buffering. If you said something you wish you had recorded, whether a brilliant philosophical statement or a joke, all you have to do is go to Heard and tell it to record, and it will. However, if you don’t go to the app, your recordings will be deleted once five minutes have past, always providing you with the previous five minutes of recordings around you.

To make it even cooler, Heard allows you to sync the app to your social media feeds, making it easy to share your audio clips with your Facebook followers.  If you want to try it out, Heard will allow you to record 12-second clips for free, or for $1.99, you can buy the full app, allowing you to record the full five minutes of audio.

Find. Eat. Drink: It’s That Simple

We all know about the ever-popular restaurant application, Urbanspoon – the one where you shake your phone and the dials spin, landing on a random restaurant for you to check out in your area. Many users enjoy Urbanspoon, so why would they make the switch to Find. Eat. Drink.? Well, how about because it is curated by people who know what they’re talking about?

Find. Eat. Drink. is run and populated by chefs and bartenders, who have experience in the industry and know a thing or two about what makes a restaurant so great. With reviews, a breakdown of various restaurants, bars and cocktail lounges, along with chef interviews, this nifty restaurant app is in a league of its own.

Duolingo: The Ultimate Language App

A new, quick-paced language app for Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and English, Duolingo is a free application that uses an immersion system that focuses on images to teach you the languages you’ve been dying to learn. Whether you have a conference call scheduled with your clients in Spain, are planning a trip with your spouse to Italy, or need to brush up on your French, Duolingo has you covered. Unlike other language applications, Duolingo focuses on a game-type format that makes learning the new language fun. With no hidden fees and no distracting ads popping into the screen, you’ll be equipped to tackle the romance language of your choice in no time at all.

There are plenty of other cool apps that have recently been released, and more on the horizon. Check back in with us for future updates on what the latest and greatest technology has to offer.

5 Web Tools No Sales Team Should Go Without Testing

web-tools

Not all sales managers see online tools as a critical element of their marketing efforts. Not all entrepreneurs have experience in sales and we all know businesses without effective sales teams die out quickly. Fortunately, budding entrepreneurs and old guard sales teams can both leverage web-based tools to streamline productivity and increase revenue.

Increasing sales volume may sometimes seem straightforward, but every day, many businesses overlook important tools that can truly unleash the power of their sales team. You’ll find that one tactic of the famous strategist Sun Tzu that can be leveraged in selling strategies is “Feed success, and starve failure” and it applies to every aspect of your sales process, including the tools you choose to empower your sales team with.

1. Zoho CRM

This cloud-based CRM helps business owners manage relationships with their clients. Zoho CRM allows businesses to combine processes and technology to find, engage and retain customers. The tool provides an overall strategy for sales teams to garner valuable consumer feedback from in order to build lasting relationships.

Zoho CRM ensures that a business’ sales and support efforts work in harmony for the success of the business. The CRM also supports integration with other third party web applications to streamline various processes including credit card processing, social media, and invoice tracking. The integration capabilities of the Zoho suite allows companies to efficiently collect customer requests, assign cases to relevant agents and help clients find solutions quickly.

2. TripIt

Many professionals find it inconvenient to plan their business trips. This can be challenging and stressful because of the constant struggle of finding the quickest fights, best deals and fewest layovers. TripIt can help travelers easily organize everything they need for their business trips into and organized itinerary.

3. Expensify

This online business tool imports expenses and receipts directly from credit cards and submits them by email. It can be integrated with other cloud-based applications such as QuickBooks, and Freshbooks, as well as popular online payment methods like PayPal.

In addition, Expensify can scan receipts and store details such as customer name, date and amount for data entry. Users can create filters to automate the data entry process. It also keeps track of time, mileage and cash expenses so that employees can be reimbursed through cash or direct deposits.

4. Camcard

This is a professional business card reader. Users can take a snapshot of a business card using their phones and open it in Camcard, which will recognize information on the business card and save it to your contacts. The card reader recognizes 12 languages including English, French and German among others.

All the information imported from the business cards can be stored in the cloud in a secure and confidential manner. Camcard also allows users to restore lost information in case of accidental deletion. The information obtained, can be managed and synchronized across multiple devices.

5. Slideshark

This is a leading app for managing PowerPoint presentations on handheld devices. Sales teams easily can use this application to engage with live audiences at seminars and trade shows. Slideshark provides team’s with multiple features that allow you to access and present current and approved presentations from tablets or other compatible devices. The presentations can even be posted on the web in real time for viewing from remote locations.

5 Reasons BlackBerry 10 Will Grow With Time

BlackBerryZ10Q10

 

After a long wait, BlackBerry finally delivered its new product earlier this year. The BlackBerry 10 operating system, unveiled in late January, signaled a new era for BlackBerry. The old isn’t exactly gone, though. In fact, the beauty of the new BlackBerry is how it combines its best legacy features with new features that consumers love.

Already we’re seeing results. Over a million customers have chosen to get the BlackBerry Z10, and many more million will follow them as it becomes more widely available (it has been released for less than a month in the US). Combine that with the release of another model, the full-QWERTY BlackBerry Q10, later this spring, and it could be a big comeback for the smartphone originator.

There are plenty of reasons to believe in BlackBerry right now. Here are five reasons that they will grow with time.

1. Superior navigation

For the past six years iPhone users have lived with the same navigation system. The smartphone has evolved significantly in that time, yet Apple has done little to improve the base navigation in iOS. Android, with its dynamic widgets, added some flavor to smartphone UIs, but at its core Android is about the same navigation as iOS.

In the past people have blasted BlackBerry for having the same UI and navigation for too long, and that it went stale. Can the iPhone really avoid such criticism, especially since we’ve seen no indication that they plan to upgrade the iOS navigation?

BlackBerry 10 features a navigation system that users will love, if they don’t love it already. The smartphone, at its core, is still a messaging device, and so the BlackBerry Hub, with the ability to view it from any screen, will prove a huge feature for consumers. There is also the live tile feature on the homepage which allows users to browse recently opened apps. The overall gesture navigation lets you work through what you’re doing, without distracting yourself with grids of apps.

2. Unparalleled messaging

Even as it faced intense competition from iOS and Android, BlackBerry retained its superiority in messaging. With a stripped down, yet intricate, email system, BlackBerry held onto many customers who might have otherwise switched. In fact, in the early days many BlackBerry users did switch to iPhone, only to switch back because BlackBerry messaging is superior.

BlackBerry Hub, a consolidated messaging feature in BlackBerry 10, takes messaging to a new level. It not only shows you all of your messages in one place, but it allows you to view them no matter what screen you currently have open. Just swipe from the left side and you’ll see all of your messages in one place.

In its transition to BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry also upgraded its popular BBM app, allowing for video and voice chats as well as screen sharing. BlackBerry balance provides users with a way of keeping their work lives and personal lives separate, without having to carry around two smartphones. All of this puts BlackBerry’s messaging services at the top of the field.

3. Variety of models

One reason Android won over such a huge segment of the market is that its’ not a single device. The iPhone is a single device created by a single company. Android spreads the field. Yet there are downsides to that. Since it’s open, any manufacturer can create an Android smartphone. This leads to many low-quality Androids on the market — even from well-reputed companies

BlackBerry keeps its production in-house, so you get a single operating system on multiple high-quality devices. The BlackBerry Z10 is the first on the market, and like most other smartphones it is a full-touchscreen device. But it won’t be the last. The Q10 will hit carriers later this spring, and it brings back BlackBerry’s signature QWERTY keyboard. It is conceivable that many users are waiting for the Q10, because they’ve come to know and enjoy a physical keyboard.

What about the future? There are plenty of options for BlackBerry to expand the reach of BlackBerry 10. Phablets — smartphones that are extra large and border on tablet size — have been quite the craze in the past year. BlackBerry could easily move in on that territory with BlackBerry 10. Even a 4.5-inch device will open it up to many more consumers. We will see variety, and that will expand BlackBerry 10′s reach.

4. The enterprise advantage

In the past few years many companies have switched to or adopted iPhone and Android models for their corporate cellular needs. Since those devices stood out at the top of the market, many enterprise customers wanted them. Yet the question persists: do they possess the proper security for enterprise? In some cases they do, but they simply do not match BlackBerry’s security capabilities

That’s what CEO Thorsten Heins meant when he talked about combining the best of the old BlackBerry system with the new QNX-based operating system. It’s also a reason that BlackBerry had to take its time with releasing its new operating system. Combining operating systems is an enormous task, but BlackBerry executed, providing a new interface and navigation along with its time-tested messaging and security systems. The combination makes BlackBerry perfect for enterprise.

5. Carriers’ choice

Believe it or not, cellular carriers love BlackBerry. That was the case in the mid-00s, when they were among the few phones that required a data plan. While carriers loved the iPhone for a while, thanks to its massive sales, their feelings were mixed. The typical iPhone user consumes a high level of data, which depletes a carrier’s resources. BlackBerry handles data efficiently, meaning its users consume less. Carriers have to love that.

In addition, carriers are always looking for more competition. Consumers might not be as apt to upgrade their phones, and therefore extend their contracts, if the only options are the same old iPhone and Android smartphones. With an additional competitor, carriers can convince more customers to upgrade and try something new. That is to say, BlackBerry 10 can certainly drive new smartphone sales.

For a while BlackBerry seems to be on its way down, releasing merely incremental upgrades on its old system. BlackBerry 10 is a revelation, bringing all new features to the table. Already they have sold millions of units, and with the Q10 coming soon, and with more consumers stating their love for BlackBerry 10, it should sell more units still. We could soon see a three-horse race in the smartphone field, rather than the same old two.

4 Brick and Mortar Stores with Awesome Mobile Apps

You may be used to navigating your favorite bookmarked online shopping apps—such as RedLaser and Amazon—to compare prices between popular retailers and even emerge with shipped deals at a fraction of the initial cost! But what about those of us who would prefer to shop and eat from brick and mortar retailers in our own city?

The good news is that there are some really good smart phone applications for brick and mortar retailers and restaurants that won’t have you hunched over a computer for hours on end and never venturing outside of the house. The following 4 brick and mortar apps put you in contact with great retail and fast food services right in your own neighborhood…

Brick and Mortar Apps

1. Old Navy (Free – for iPhone, iPad and Android)

Did you know that the Old Navy app is magic? It’s true; when you use the brick and mortar stores mobile application, just click on the Old Navy logo and you’ll unlock shopping convenience and deals galore! You also have a wealth of retail information right at your fingertips—including the nearest Old Navy location near you, links directly to Old Navy Pinterest pages, which will help you get inspired for the upcoming season with stylish, new pin-worthy duds that other Old Navy fans are raving about. Also, when you snap any Old Navy logo, either in a store location, on a shopping bag, online, or on television, you’ll instantly receive a deal, game, or shopping code to use at your neighborhood Old Navy store. (You can also find a list of Old Navy coupons on the site as well.)

2. Domino’s Pizza (Free – for iPhone and iPad)

You can now use your mobile phone to order a piping hot pizza pie. And trust me, on a Friday, after a busy day at work, everyone loves the fact that I can place a cheap and convenient Domino’s order using my smart phone and have it reach home just as I pull in the drive way (there is a status bar in the app that shows you exactly what is going on with your pizza – order received, pizza being made, pizza in the oven, pizza being inspected and pizza being delivered!). With the Domino’s app you can order from more than 5,000 locations across the U.S., read the national menu, clip virtual coupons, and even set your preferences so your personal information is saved and you next order is one-click to pizza pie!

3. Home Depot (Free – for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile)

How sexy can a home improvement store app be? The answer is very. Home Depot’s app offers a ton of features you’d likely never even thought to look for. You can buy on the app and pick up in store, get store maps and aisle finders and even do bar code scanning. They also offer tools to convert measurements and calculate needed materials. The shopping list feature allows you to decide what you need at home, add it to the mobile app and then use it to find everything you need in the store. Fixing your kitchen sink this weekend? Figure out what you need, head to their plumbing supplies section and tick off everything you need in the app!

4. Target (Free – for iPhone, iPad, and Android)

With Target text alerts, you’ll never miss an exclusive in-store deal or coupon for your favorite Target store location. Plus, you can find the nearest store to your current location, check the availability of in store items, refill prescriptions, and much more—all from your mobile device. Also, be sure to check out this handy guide to deciphering Target deals – it’s a must read!

6 Free Apps Every Smart Phone User should Take Advantage of

My life is a mess! Organizationally not emotionally!

However, the point is that I can hardly remember all of the various tasks and commitments I’ve made for the week. The fact is that I, like most of you, have way too much on my plate. But that doesn’t excuse missing a dental appointment (and still having to pay a fee), standing my girlfriend up for a coffee date, or pathetically losing my car in a parking lot and looking around for it for an hour.

I told you my life was a mess. The good news is that since the embarrassing lost car episode, I decided that it was prime time to implement some organizational tools into my haphazard life. Luckily this has helped me regain order. Now I’m no longer the friend who stands you up or loses her car, I’m the friend that remains on schedule, makes her dental appointments, and remembers to pick up her kids after school.

Here are the six life-saving and totally free apps that help keep my life on organizational track…

Useful mobile apps

1. Dragon Dictation (Free – for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry)

If you’re driving around town, but get a text, the Dragon Dictation app lets you multitask safely. Simply launch this brilliant speech-to-text app and create a quick email or text by speaking directly into your smart phone. The app will translate the audio to text and you can even verbally select a contact and send the message off.

I also use Dragon Dictation for capturing to-dos and appointments on the fly, and even for jotting down those “eureka” moments in life so I can remember them or share them later via Facebook or Twitter.

2. Evernote (Free- for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, WebOS, and BlackBerry)

Evernote is the app I most rely on for keeping my life organized. I can use it to capture all of my essential to-do, reminders, appointments, social commitments, and even dreaded workouts, and the app alerts me via a text reminder.

What’s so great about Evernote is that it allows me to take notes at the touch of a button on any device, and it saves everything on the cloud—so I can create notes on the subway with my smart phone and edit them later via my laptop. That’s right, this app securely stores and synchs all to-dos in one central location so you’ll never forget an important commitment as long as you’re using it!

3. Dropbox (Free – for Mac, Windows, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry)

Another fabulous and free cloud-based application, the Dropbox storage app ensures you’re productive—regardless of where you are and what device you’re using. For instance, if I’m staring a rough draft for an article on the subway on my tablet, I can save the file in Dropbox and access it later with another device—i.e., my desktop, laptop, or smart phone.

Dropbox is also a lifesaver for client meetings because I can instantly access a project with ease and even grant them permission to review, edit, and save changes (at my discretion) via any one of their devices.

4. Remember the Milk (Free – for, Android or iOS)

If you’re like me, you’ve purchased 3 jars of honey in the last week even though you have 2 at home in the cupboard. Luckily, since I downloaded the Remember the Milk task management app, I’m able to consult the stores that I already have at home so I don’t waste time and money. This app synchs your ongoing grocery list for you, so you can access and scratch items off from any device.

Plus, it keeps track of your existing food stores so you don’t buy duplicates. And if you share your list with a spouse or roommate, Remember the Milk will ensure that if one person buys toilet paper on the way home from work—the list is updated so the other person knows about the purchase.

5. Mint.com (Free – for Mac, Windows, Android or iOS)

Did you know that I was wasting a lot of money eating out? I knew this because Mint.com told me so. This free budgeting application gave me a “big picture” of my weekly, monthly, and yearly spending so I could see where I was wasting money. The app organized and categorized my spending so I could track every dime I was spending on frivolous things like eating out, movies out, and clothing.

Not only did it help me banish bad spending habits; it showed me how much I could save if I skipped that new pair of shoes and put that money down on my mortgage.

6. Find My Car (Free – for iPhone & Android)

I’ve already disclosed the day in which I lost my car and searched for it in the lot for over an hour. What I didn’t tell you was that I was late picking up my daughter at school. Yes, I get the award for “worst mom of the year”. However, since I got a hold of the Find My Car app, this has never happened again.

This app installs on your smart phone and uses GPS location services to help you locate your parked car quickly in a pinch. The app leads you to your car via an interactive map of the parking lot so you can locate it quickly (and without any yelling and stamping your feet) from your current location.