Smartphone Apps to Simplify Your Life

While many smartphone users might be dazzled with the fact that there are more than 1 million apps on the market, you’re not necessarily one of them. After all, you’re nothing if not practical. Only if an app can truly make your information-loaded life and day-to-day doings easier are you apt to try it.

Here’s a small sampling of smartphone apps designed to do just that. All are free and iPhone and Android compatible.

Grocery iQ
You can shop smarter at the grocery store with the Grocery iQ app. Along with storing and organizing grocery lists, the app also tallies up your bill before you hit the checkout thanks to a built-in barcode scanner. Focused on saving you money, Grocery iQ is rife with coupon incentives, too.

Dropbox
You’ve got loads of important files…on everything from your work computer, to your home desktop and your personal laptop. Ever wish you could access them all in one place? Now you can. Dropbox lets you store your files in the cloud and access them from anywhere via the Internet.

Mint.com
If getting a better grip on your income, spending and investments is top of mind, you might well find the Mint.com app invaluable. Giving you the big picture, this app lets you see all of your financial accounts in one place. Focused on dollars and cents, too, Mint.com’s app tracks all of your spending (categorizing it for better budgeting), provides bill-payment alerts, suggest ways to save…and more.

Smartr Contacts
You know you have their contact information. You just can’t recall where it is off the top of your head. The Smartr Contacts app provides search functionality across your many address books – including your iPhone contacts, Twitter connections, Facebook friends, LinkedIn colleagues, Gmail contacts and more.

Key Ring or CardStar
With all the store loyalty cards you’ve collected through the years, that key ring of yours is getting awfully crowded, isn’t it? Say good-bye to carrying around loyalty cards and hello to apps including Key Ring and CardStar. They allow you to scan your loyalty card information into your phone and store store barcodes and account numbers in digital format. At checkout, store clerks simply scan the loyalty barcode on your phone.

EverNote
You never know when a great idea is going to strike. Thankfully, the EverNote app lets you take notes, snap photos, create to-do lists and record voice reminders to help you stay on track and improve productivity while you’re on the go. Making your notes completely searchable, EverNote syncs across all of your computers and devices and jibes with other apps including Facebook and Twitter.

A Mobile Website: Upward Mobility for Your Business

You’ve decided it’s high time for your very own business website. Good for you. But before you commit to a plan, make sure what you put out there is up to speed with today’s customers. If you really want to be timely, having a mobile version of your website is a definite move in the right direction.

Whether on the go or sitting around killing time, your customers likely have a smartphone or tablet at arm’s length. To be more precise, 85 percent of Americans are never more than three feet from their mobile phones; that’s according to the experts at Google. Add to that, it’s estimated that over 50 percent of mobile phone users in the U.S. now have a smartphone. Of those, 80 percent say they don’t leave home without it.

Just as the popularity of smartphones and tablets is only expected to rise, so too is the way in which consumers use their mobile devices…from getting their news feeds and perusing restaurant menus, to researching products and services and making purchases.

In a recent Google-sponsored smartphone usage study, the research group Our Mobile Planet found that:

  • 96% of smartphone users have researched a product or service on their device
  • 94% of smartphone users look for local information on their phone
  • 90% purchase, contact the business or take another action after local research
  • 66% access the Internet every day on their smartphone
  • 57% search on their smartphones every day
  • 37% have researched on their smartphone and then purchased on a computer
  • 35% have made a purchase on their phone
  • 32% have researched on their smartphone and then purchased the product offline

Without a mobile-friendly website, you could be potentially turning off consumers and turning away business. Think about those moments when you’ve been on the go, in your car, with your smartphone in hand. It’s great that with one click you can call a company or map their location. That’s because they’ve got a mobile website that simply works. And you could, too, by choosing an EarthLink Web Hosting plan.

In fact, most EarthLink Web Hosting plans and all of our ecommerce hosting plans include a mobile website with click-to-map and click-to-call functionality. These include:

EarthLink Web Hosting plans are designed to make it easy for your business to be more upwardly mobile.

Computer Care: Tips for Better PC Performance and Longer Laptop Life

Maybe you got a shiny new laptop under the Christmas tree this year. Or perhaps you’re simply looking to get as much mileage as possible out of your current machine. Why not? Money doesn’t grow on trees. Whatever the case, by following some basic computer care/computer maintenance tips, we can all benefit from better PC performance and longer laptop life.

Drink to Being More Careful.
When it comes to your pricey computer, you can cry over spilled milk. It’s not so bad if the big spill is on your desktop keyboard (which you can replace for less than $20), but if we’re talking about your laptop keyboard, you could easily short out your motherboard with one, unfortunate move.

Keep Your Keyboard Clean.
Step 1: After you shut down your computer, turn your laptop or keyboard upside down and gently tap on the back to kick out crumbs and debris. Step 2: Keeping the keyboard upside down, use a can of compressed air (sold for a few bucks at office supply stores) to blow out anything left stuck between/under the keys. Gently tap the keyboard a few more times. Step 3: If you have a raised-key keyboard, attack those germs by swiping a Q-tip dipped in isopropyl alcohol around the rims of each key.

Keep the Screen Clean.
Spots and smudges on the computer screen are distracting, no doubt. To clean your laptop screen or computer monitor, first power off your laptop/monitor. Grab a dry, microfiber cloth (paper towels are too abrasive). Spritz some screen cleaner (sold at office supply stores) onto the cloth (not the screen) and wipe in a gentle, circular motion. Penny pinchers: You can make your own cleaning solution by pouring equal parts distilled water and white vinegar into a spray bottle.

To Dust Is a Must.
Dust build-up is problematic for laptops, given their compact design and small components. If your computer fan is running constantly, or your laptop feels hotter than it should, that might be a sign of dust build-up. What to do: First make sure your laptop is completely turned off. Turn your laptop over and remove the battery pack. Examine the bottom of the laptop for vents, grills or fans. You can use a can of compressed air to blow out dust in these areas. Better yet, say the PC repair guys, use a Shop-Vac set in reserve (with an attachment to concentrate air flow). Blow out these areas, including the battery compartment, to remove dusk particles. Even a small amount of dusk is a big deal for laptops.

Dump the Junk.
For optimal performance it’s just as important to keep the computer clean on the inside. An overload of files and outdated software can waste valuable hard drive space and slow your speed.

Windows users can get rid of old software as follows:

Click the Start button > then Control Panel > then choose Programs > followed by Programs and Features, where you’ll see a complete list of your software programs. Select what want to delete and click uninstall.

You can also shed unnecessary files on your hard disk and free up disk space by using Disk Cleanup on a regular basis. It removes temporary files, empties the Recycle Bin, and clears a variety of system files you no longer need. If you’re a Windows user:

Click the Start button. In the search box, type Disk Cleanup.
In the results list, click Disk Cleanup.
In the drives list, select the hard disk drive you want to clean up, and then click OK.
In the disk cleanup dialog box, select the check boxes for the file types you want to delete, and then click OK.
In the confirmation message that appears, click delete files.

Play it Safe with Antivirus Protection.
To keep your PC in tip-top shape, having a quality antivirus software installed is absolutely essential. Among the choices that consistently rank at the top: AVG Antivirus. Blocking viruses, spyware and other malware, AVG Antivirus can be downloaded free. For more extensive protection (including firewall and encryption protection), purchasing the full version of the software affords you greater peace of mind.

Tapping into the Tablet Versus Laptop Debate

Tablets are taking the market by storm. And according to industry forecasters including Canalys, “tablet domination is set to continue,” adding that global tablet shipments could surpass laptop and desktop shipments sometime in 2014.

Given all the momentum and the sex appeal tablets provide in terms of sleek design and grab-and-go convenience, perhaps you're among the throngs of consumers faced with the debate: which one is better, a laptop or tablet?

Where Laptops Run Laps Around Tablets:

Power. No question. Laptops dominate tablets in terms of power. Designed as mobile personal computers, laptops allow users to perform the same tasks of desktops but with lightweight, mobile portability.

Performance. With more potent processing hardware, laptops not only provide for a wider range of uses, but they also deliver faster performance and work well for multitasking.

Tablets are up to the task of Web browsing and media streaming, but for more complex assignments, laptops are where it's at. With low-powered processors, most tablets just can't keep pace with the computing abilities of laptops.

Storage. As you'd expect, laptops provide far more file storage capacity than tablets. To keep their size and costs down, tablets rely on new solid state storage. While that equates to fast access and low power usage, it also means a lot less capacity for file storage.

Most tablets offer between 16 GB to 64 GB of storage. By comparison, laptops might offer 10 times that. Laptops make it easy to add needed storage, too, whereas with tablets what you get it is what you get.

Compatibility. Laptops can also display/play just about any file, whereas tablets, including iPads, are more restrictive and may well require conversion prior to play.

How Tablets Make for a Top Choice:

Price. A standard laptop can easily run you $500. Though not always the case, tablets generally come with a smaller price tag.

Weight. Anyone who's had to lug around a laptop for an extended period of time can appreciate the portability of a tablet. Apple iPad Air, for example, weighs a mere one pound!

Coolness. Thanks to different processors and lower power requirements, tablets don't throw off the heat that laptops do…so cool, they don't require a fan, as do laptops. Not to mention they just look cool.

Battery Life. The relatively short battery life of laptops has always been a drain for those on the go. In contrast, you can get more than 10 hours of battery life on a tablet.

Apps Aplenty. While laptops revolve around software, tablets are all about apps. There are over 500,000 apps customized for tablets. Apps are also generally less expensive than PC software. And you'll find a lot of apps are free.

Now the big question? Who comes out the winner in the great laptop vs. tablet debate?

If you're among the many looking to downsize and lighten your load, you might hope that a tablet over a laptop would be the answer. In reality, laptops and tablets are better thought of as companions rather than dueling devices. As impressive as tablets are, and even with accessories such as tablet keyboards that deliver the laptop feel folks have been missing, they're not a straight replacement for laptops.

While good at many things, including Internet browsing, serving as e-readers and streaming entertainment off Netflix and other sources, the abilities of tablets are a simply a sampling of what laptops can do.