Customizing Your Android Smartphone Screens

Customizing Your Android Smartphone Screens

settingsAndroid smartphones are wonderful devices. The ways you can communicate with friends, family, co-workers and clients are almost limitless. Text messaging, instant message, social media, news sites, and yes, even phone calls are all just a finger press away. Add some calendar apps, weather widgets, productivity tools, media programs, a camera and news readers and you have a full-blown computer in your pocket or purse.

So why are you still using that default home screen background and ringtone? Your device has so many ways to customize the experience based on personal or business criteria, making the smartphone a much more powerful way to manage your life.

Below are some tips to make your phone, well, yours. Make it easier to get at apps, data, contacts and more with just a few minutes of customizing. Enjoy!

Launcher

The launcher is the look, feel and function of the whole operating system. It controls how many icons you can add to a page, how large the widgets can be, what shortcuts you have on the dock at the bottom of the screen and more. The default launcher installed by your mobile company is pretty good, but did you know that by adding free or really cheap launchers you can extend the capabilities and function of the launcher? My favorite launcher app is Nova Launcher. I use the $4.99 version to get a few extra features, but the free one works pretty well. This little program will allow changes to :

  • Number of vertical and horizonal apps allowed in the grid. Great for tablets that have WAY more real estate.
  • Icon and folder size and the label layout.
  • Whether or not the Google Search Bar is present and how it looks.
  • How the App Drawer (where all of your installed apps are located) looks including scrolling direction and type, color, , animation and much more
  • Custom gestures and other inputs.
  • The ability to back up your desktop layout and import it into a differernt phone/tablet. This is HUGE is you’re transferring to a new device.

Try out the Nova Launcher or one of the many other launcher programs at the Google Play Store.

Folders

One of the limitations of the iOS platform used on iPhones and iPads is the inability of having an icon located in more than one place. That is NOT an issue with Android, so if you want an application link in a “Tools” folder, and also in a “Financial” folder, you have this option. Creating folders on your home screen, or just about anywhere else, is very simple.

  1. Drag an applcation shortcut on top of another icon. The system will hesitate for a moment and then drop the icon into a newly created folder along with the original appllication.
  2. Repeat this process for all of your applications until the folder is filled with your desired apps.
  3. Click on the folder once to open, then click on “Unnamed Folder” at the bottom and give your folder a name that identifies the types of apps contained like “Contacts,”  “Tools,” or “Social.”

I create multiple folders on multiple pages so I can get at business or personal specific information quickly.

Widgets

Widgets are an awesome way to bring some additional functionality to the Android environment. They are essentially ways to display app data on a particular screen in a way that makes it available at a glance or directly get to the app data. Some examples of widgets are weather data, email accounts, news and tasks.

  1. Widgets can be added anywhere there’s room and is done simply by clicking and holding anywhere on an open area of screen, opening the widget option.
  2. Click “Widgets” and select the information you’d like to add to the page like your weather app, or email.
  3. Drag the widget to the location of the page and release. If it fits, you will usually see some options to configure the layout, color, update times, etc for the data.

And below are a few of my favorites:

  • MoreCast – Great weather app that has several widgets to display current weather data and forecasts.
  • TypeMail – I have four email accounts on my phone so having unread counts or easily viewable widgets makes it easy to get to each account without opening several apps.
  • GTasks – I use Google Tasks to manage my several businesses and personal tasks. GTasks keeps them separate, but combines if I need.
  • Month – Have multiple Google Calendars on your device? Month combilnes them into one easy-to-view calendar widget.

Pages

Still trying to cram all of your information or data on to one screen? Android will let you keep as many pages as you wish, move them around so you can access them on the left or right swipe of your thumb, and set your “home” page.

As stated before, I have four businesses on my phone that I keep track of. Each business has a “page” full of contacts, tasks, email and other widgets and shortcuts. This allows me to keep everything separate and if I need a client phone number I go to the business page, pull up the “Contact” folder and click on the contact to make the call, email or text. I also keep links to specific apps here, shortcuts to web pages, and even a quick way to get to my OneNote or Drive accounts so I can access files or take notes on a specific client.

Pages are also a great way to separate your media like music or podcasts, books, and games from work related or personal information, or just to create a news and social media page loaded with constantly changing info that doesn’t interfere with your main page functionality.

Ringtones

Early on the Android system provided a way to assign new ringtones, and eventually a way to assign ringtones to specific contacts.

This is incredibly handy if you want to keep business and personal contacts straight, or even to know when your daughter calls. Now, changing the default ringtone is pretty simple, but editing a contact with a specific ringtone can be a bit more difficult for inexperienced users, but essentially:

  1. Pull the contact up in “Contacts” and “Edit” the contact.
  2. Select “More” at the bottom of the contact and scroll down until you see “Ringtone”
  3. Select one of the pre-programmed ringtones, or “Add ringtone” at the bottom, which will allow you to search for songs or other ringtones and assign it to the contact.

As I said before, the Android operating system has a TON of ways to customize the experience exactly to your liking. Charge up that phone, create some pages, start adding shortcuts and widgets, and turn that computer in your hand into the device your friends and family will envy!

I have included some images below of my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge pages. Use them as inspiration if you need, or tell me how YOU customized your phone or tablet @BeBizzy on Twitter or in the comments below!

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received mobile devices with line of service from Verizon (#ad). No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own. By the way, we meet every Friday @ 2pm CT on Twitter to discuss mobile phones and how you can use them in your daily lives. Join us! 

#VZWBuzz

2016-03-30-20.01.57  2016-03-30-20.02.25  2016-03-30-20.02.18

 

 

Best Android Apps for the Upcoming Election

Best Android Apps for the Upcoming Election

vote-661888_640Like it or not, Republican, Democrat or none of the above, we’re inside of one year until another major election in the United States, and probably in your local area. Next November local results, state offices and national responsibilities will all be decided by civic-minded adults who wander to local polling locations and cast their ballot for any or all of the candidates that mean something to them.

But with all of the noise on the internet, television and other media formats, how do you get the information you need instead of what the candidates and PAC’s WANT you to hear?

Being a fairly open-minded, maybe even skeptical, voter (I’ve voted both parties in the last few elections), I’ve tried to assemble a list of apps that make a case for positions across the board. And if I have one message in this post it’s this… listen to all sides WITHOUT your bias. No one is completely right, or completely wrong and if you go into the argument already closed off to one side or the other, then why even listen to or read what’s being said?

US 270 
US 270 Free (270 is the number of electoral votes needed to win the US Presidential election) is an app to track electoral votes and news as it relates to the upcoming presidential election. Stay up to date on predicted outcomes, create your own maps and theories to share, and see strategies emerge as the 2016 election unfolds.

Poll Up
Poll Up is connected directly to the Huffington Posts polling system, which should shoot polling results directly to the app. As with all polls, use this with an “eyes wide open” thought process knowing that numbers can be made to tell just about any story.

Ad Hawk
Great app that listens to political TV ads and then pinpoints who is directly responsible to the ad. This is useful when you just want to know who is paying the money to run that crazy, or inspired advertisement that strikes a chord with you.

All Politics
All Politics is an app to get political news all in one place. The news is a gathering of aggregated and original news from Politico, Fox, MSNBC and other sources so it should provide many sides to any argument.

Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts is only one of several podcasting apps that can be used to listen to a wide variety of shows that run across the political spectrum. Nothing get the base fired up like an un-filtered, un-regulated broadcast where a host can say or do anything he/she wishes. Listen at your own risk. You can also use many other apps, such as:

And don’t forget, your local newspaper, radio channel or favorite television news probably has an app that can be arranged to display political news as a default. Make sure you are checking that out. There’s also the national news organizations listed below. Keep in mind that all of them have political leanings one way or another, but again, it is good to sometimes hear the other side and to have the open mind to possibly be persuaded.

Elections have a way of dominating our thoughts, discussions and media for many months as they get closer. Social media has magnified this by allowing users to voice their political leanings by easily sharing online media or just a passing thought on events like the Presidential debates or the recent Paris terrorist attacks. Create lists on Twitter (I have a list of local Bismarck, North Dakota and National news organizations), follow on Facebook, or even stay connected by watching Periscope or Meerkat videos.

But being uneducated at the polls is not an excuse anymore. You have all of the resources available on the web or your favorite mobile device. Use them to gather or, if so desired, distribute knowledge on topics that are near and dear to your heart. But remember, there are those who stand to gain if they can somehow motivate you to think one way or another. There has never been a time more lending towards knowing all sides of an argument and cutting through the media leanings. Take some time to learn about the issues that matter most to you, and vote accordingly.

Do you have an app that you use all of the time to track or stay informed about an issue? Add them to the comment section below, or send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter.

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received a mobile phone and with line of service from Verizon. No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own.

 

Best Android Apps for Your Ghost Hunting Adventure

Best Android Apps for Your Ghost Hunting Adventure

halloweenIf there’s something strange in your neighborhood. What’cha gonna install?

SOME ANDROID APPS!

It’s that time of year, kids. All the spooks and goblins will the roaming the streets and decorating our homes and places of business. And “adults” will be able to attend ghost crawls where local celebrities guide you around the most haunted places in town. So what better time to pull out your cell phones and use some apps to get a jump on those spirits before they jump out at you!

I’ve compiled a list of Android paranormal apps on which you can use your skeletal little hands to find other spooky creatures that go bump in the night. Use them well… IF YOU DARE!

Find Local Haunted Houses

Not sure where to go to find those spirits or other haunts? Check out this list of maps and information that will take you to locations that have been reported to be home to your spooky neighbors. What are you going to do if YOUR house is listed?

>>Download the Find Local Haunted Houses app from the Play Store

Paranormal Field Guide

Before you head out, or even while you’re wandering the halls of the abandoned insane asylum, this online guide will tell you what your sight, touch and other senses are detecting and why.

>>Download the Paranormal Field Guide from the Play Store

Ghost Radar : Classic

It doesn’t get more “classic” than this. Turn on the app and watch the screen for blips that indicate “abnormal” readings. It will even tell you why the reading is abnormal.

>>Download Ghost Radar : Class from the Play Store

Ultimate EMF Detector

If you’ve ever watched a ghost hunting show you will know one of the most basic tools used by the “professional” is an EMF detector. Carry one with you on your phone with this cool app and help find that ghost that’s hidden in the shadows.

>>Download the Ultimate EMF Detector from the Play Store

EVP Recorder with Detector

Nothing is creepier than when you hear that detached voice whispering something that was undetected by anyone in the room. Turn on your EVP recorder while out and about and listen to it later… in a dark room… alone.

>>Download the EVP Recorder with Detector from the Play Store

Well, good luck, ghost hunter. Gather up your cross, wooden stake, garlic cloves and your smartphone loaded with these great apps and have a SPOOKTACULAR Halloween!

Surely I’ve missed some of your favorite apps in this list. Send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter and I’ll add them to the post!

And just because I love the 80’s, we’re going to end with Michael Jackson’s, “Thriller” video, because it’s the internet, and we can.

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I received a mobile phone and with line of service from Verizon. No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Logitech k480 Bluetooth Keyboard

Logitech k480 Bluetooth Keyboard

2015-03-18 10.56.10Yesterday I was on the fence on whether I should buy a Chromebook or not. For those of you not familiar with Chromebooks, they are cheap, laptop-like devices running Google’s Chrome OS. They have very little onboard memory, HD screens, similar ports to commercial laptops, and depend greatly on internet cloud services for hosting files and work. Some even come with LTE connectivity.

I have a laptop and also a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but the laptop, while powerful and work-friendly, is large and battery life is “ok.” The Note 10.1 is an awesome tool for email, following social media and viewing the web, digital books, entertainment and file viewing.

The Chromebook was to fill the void between the two because of these features:

  • Smaller than the laptop but larger than the tablet.
  • Full keyboard to make typing easier.
  • Wonderful battery life.
  • Great connectivity to cloud-based file storage like Google Drive, Dropbox and others.

So as I’m researching the Chromebooks from Asus, HP, Toshiba and Samsung, I stumbled upon another solution. What if I found a keyboard that was easy to use, full-featured, and could work on multiple devices when I inevitably upgrade from the Note 10.1?

About an hour later after a trip to Best Buy I had my solution in-hand, the Logitech k480 Bluetooth Keyboard.

The k480 has a ton of features that make this perfect.

  • Order your Logitech k480 today!Full featured keyboard including a selector to choose between a PC/Android layout and iOS.
  • Can connect to up to three difference devices using the numbered dial.
  • Rubberized cradle to securely holding your tablet or phone (or both in portrait mode!)

Now, I can use my tablet as my laptop/Chromebook clone. Android now has a full Microsoft Office version to create and edit documents and presentations. The 10″ screen is more than enough to work on WordPress in my browser, making blogging easy. I was worried about the charging port being on the bottom, but with a screen rotator app I can flip it 180 degrees and plug in on the “top” of the tablet. The channel even allows headphones to be plugged in with the device upside down.

Want to hear the best part? This keyboard is only around $50! Order one up on Amazon right now and turn that Android, Windows or iOS tablet into an even more powerful work device.

What are your thoughts on Chromebooks or the Logitech k480 keyboard? Let me know in the comments below, or just give a shout out on Twitter @BeBizzy!

2015-03-18 10.58.18  2015-03-18 10.56.23  2015-03-18 10.56.42

 

Disclosure: As member of a pretty cool team of influencers, I receive devices with line of service from Verizon. No additional compensation was provided nor did I promise a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Android or iOS? Utility vs. Luxury.

Android or iOS? Utility vs. Luxury.

IMAG0058Fall is my favorite time of year.  The weather is a bit cooler.  The leaves and surrounding farmlands take on rich, earthy colors.  And it’s a time for many of us here in North Dakota to drive out into rural North Dakota (yes, we have cities here) in pursuit of hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.

As you might imagine, many of the roads away from the pavement are in less than perfect condition, often requiring 4WD vehicles, or at least a brave soul strong enough to dig other vehicles out when they get stuck.

These drivers of 4WD vehicles come in many shapes and sizes.  Some choose luxury vehicles like Cadillac Escalades and Lincoln Navigators.  These guys usually stay on fairly well-groomed roads and drive right up to their hunting area with much exploring.  Then there’s the rest of us.  We drive old Ford pickups, beat up Jeeps, and in my case, a 1994 Chevy Suburban, and we occasionally take the road less traveled (that’s me, stuck in the picture). (more…)

Get Office Mobile To Work On Your Android Tablet

Get Office Mobile To Work On Your Android Tablet

officemobileThere’s a lot of buzz today around the new iPhone, and rightfully so.  I hope to have one of these beautiful machines in my hands in the coming weeks just like millions of other tech-heads.

But today I was reminded why I am an Android fan.

Many of you have installed Microsoft Office Mobile on your android phones, iOS devices and, of course, Windows tablets.  Unfortunately the android tablets have been left out of the fun.  But with android, there’s always a way and at 6:30am I was able to install Office Mobile on my Samsung 10.1 tablet from my HTC OneM8 with an easy process of copying the .apk file from my phone, installing in on my tablet, and installing another app that allowed me to use Office in landscape mode.

Here’s what you will need: (more…)