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

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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.

Best Android Fishing Apps

Best Android Fishing Apps

fishing-454367_640The ice has finally melted off the lakes and rivers of the north, and while a good many of you are waiting for fishing season to open, we’re already heading out on the water up here in North Dakota!

Since I’m part of the Verizon #VZWBUZZ Lifestyle team and being addicted to mobile technology it only seemed logical to grab my trusty Motorola Droid Turbo, jump online and find some apps to enhance the fishing experience.  So below are the eight best Android apps I could find to help you catch fish, enjoy the day, and be as safe as possible on the water.

  • Knots Lite – Many a fish tale has been spun over that trophy that got off right at the boat due to a poorly tied knot. Well “knot” anymore (see what I did there? I crack myself up sometimes)! Knots Lite shows you how to tie dozens of great knots to ensure that lure stays on the light when hooked up in that big walleye or bass. Knots Lite is FREE on Google Play.
  • My Fishing Advisor – Knowledge is power, and knowing when the fish are going to be biting can mean the difference between that fishing trip being a lot of fun catching fish and a lot of fun drinking beer. Somehow those two scenarios don’t seem so bad, do they? Anyways, My Fishing Advisor uses the SoLunar tables to determine when the best feeding and activity times for fish are based on your location, the moon phases, weather conditions and more. The solunar tables used to be the first thing I would read in Field & Stream. My Fishing Advisor does cost $4.99, but well worth it if you want to see what time you should be heading out on the water.  And don’t forget the beer.
  • Fishing Mobile – want to track what you caught, when, how and with what? Fishing Mobile will do that and more. Now you can instantly record the conditions, gear, speed and everything else in one place so the next time you’re wondering what to use that info is at your fingertips. Another free app available at the app store.
  • Rain Alarm – Who doesn’t like to be on a boat when it’s sunny, 75-80°, no wind? But throw some clouds and rain into that and most of us are heading for the dock. Know it’s coming before the other guys with the Rain Alarm. It will alert you when rain is in the area, how severe and what percentage of the area will be hit. Great for picnics, baseball games, motorcycling and tons of other outdoor activities.
  • American Red Cross First Aid – Sharp hooks, knives, sharp sticks, boat seats, open water… fishing has a lot of easy ways to get hurt. Be prepared (I was a Boy Scout once) with the American Red Cross First Aid app and fix those little boo boos so you can get back to staring at your fishing rod all day.
  • Fish Recipes – You caught it, now it’s time to enjoy the rewards with a new recipe. Fish Recipes contains hundreds of new ways to cook and enjoy your catch.
  • Google Maps – You can’t fish if you can’t find the fishing hole. Use Google Maps to look up, pinpoint and navigate to your favorite or new fishing site.

There are so many more, but I hope this list wets your appetite and gets you navigated towards fishing success. And don’t forget to share those photos and stories on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and everywhere else! I’m sure I missed some of your favorites, so leave them in the comments below, or better yet, shout at me @BeBizzy on Twitter!

Stay safe on the water, get licensed up, and take a kid fishing!

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.

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!

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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.

Five Ways to Protect Yourself Online

Five Ways to Protect Yourself Online

11407095883_c29ebc0949_zThis week’s #VZWBUZZ Twitter chat will be focusing on how to keep your online profile safe, as well as protecting yourself from scams and other harmful activity. With all the various security breaches at large companies and government organizations it’s important to do all you can to maintain the security of your identity. Below are five easy tips to protect yourself out on the web.

(Note : for more info on joining the chat and how to register for prizes, see the bottom of this post)

  1. Change Passwords Frequently – If there’s one thing you should do to keep yourself relatively safe, it’s changing passwords frequently. This ensures that even if you’re information is compromised, you can limit the frequency of the invasion when the password is changed. When you are changing the passwords, make sure you are using a unique, secure password that contains a variety of characters, does NOT contain common (to you) words like kids, pets, birth dates, etc. There are tools that will do this for you, such as LastPass and 1Password by generating and storing secure passwords automatically.The single most important password to maintain is your primary email address. Why? Most of your important applications like your bank, financial institutions and other accounts will notify you at this address when other changes are made or reports are issued. If someone gets access to your email, they can intercept any transmissions or even change the email password, locking you out for good. Change this password often, and to something secure immediately!
  2. Claim Your Name on Social Media Platforms – This one seems odd, but it makes sense to claim your name on as many social media platforms as possible. This will keep impostors from posing, and posting, as you and social engineering their way through friends and family into your identity. You don’t have to be active on these platforms, but securing your name’s domain, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages will make sure YOU, not someone else, owns them. Most of these sites rise to the top of search results, keeping unwanted information down on deeper search pages (see #3 below).
  3. Search Yourself Often – Got a few seconds while screwing around on your break? Google your name and see what shows up. With luck, it’s your Facebook page, some news articles about your achievements and your wedding announcement. If you’re unlucky, it could be any sort of negative info like bad reviews of your business, slanderous posts on websites, or even incorrect or private photos leaked online. Google provides a great tool to do this automatically called Google Alerts if you just want an email sent to your inbox.
  4. Assume “PRIVATE” Doesn’t Mean Private – 2014 proved that nothing is private posted online even if trusted to large companies like Apple. When you do post something to a site, phone app or other platform be prepared when, not if, that information becomes public. Some sites, like Carbonite and others do a decent job of encrypting this data, but still, use some caution when posting anything, anywhere.
  5. Assume Everything’s a Scam – Last week I received a call from a nice young man (initially) claiming to work for Microsoft and that my PC was crashing the Microsoft “server” because I had a virus. The only way to fix it, was to have his Senior Technicians log into my machine and clean the virus out. This was an obvious scam to me, and experienced computer user/technician, but to a general user this could have been catastrophic when this “senior technician” put some software on the machine that tracked every keystroke, took every document from “My Documents,” and even took down the machine. Microsoft will never call you asking for money to fix a problem. Your bank will never email you asking for to verify your account number, social security number, or anything else. And Bill Gates will not send you $5000 for clicking this link and forwarding the email. Assume everything too good, or bad, to be true is a scam. Ask questions, get contact information if possible, then check online or with experts and law enforcement to see if this is valid.

No one is going to help you stay safe online. Unscrupulous marketers, thieves and pranksters are always looking for a way to harvest your information to be used in a negative way. Take some steps to keep your data safe.

Then, join the #VZWBUZZ discussion on Friday, January 23 at 2pm Central to learn some other ways to keep yourself, your data and maybe even your family safe online and off.

If you want to be in the running for prizes, RSVP with The Online Mom. Stay safe, and I’ll see you on Twitter on Friday! And don’t forget to follow @Bebizzy on Twitter for more great tips!

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.

Ten Reasons You Should Finally Upgrade to a Smartphone

Ten Reasons You Should Finally Upgrade to a Smartphone

Image from Bright+3

Image from Bright+3

Ok show of hands.

Who here is still using a flip phone?

Well, it’s time to treat yourself to a shiny new smartphone this holiday season and get in on the revolution that is changing the way most of us consume data, media and communication.  Smartphones are everywhere and consumer are upgrading like mad, as it’s never been a better time to get in on the smartphone movement.

Here’s ten reasons you don’t have to stay behind and carry that flip phone, and a GPS, and a camera, and an ipod anymore.  Step into the next big thing with a new smartphone. (more…)