Tuesday Tech Tip: The Real Price of an iPhone

I know that most of my readers already own iPhones (or another smartphone). This post is for you, but it is also for every person who has ever said, “iPhones are too expensive.” Really, it’s for anyone who carelessly throws around the word “expensive” without taking value-received into account.

Let’s talk about expensive for a minute. I’ve owned a couple of bad Android phones (there are good ones). I paid $80-$100. They lasted me maybe one year, although the screen cracked in my pocket on day two of owning the cheaper one. They were frustrating. I didn’t really enjoy using them so I tended to keep them in my pocket. The cost to me was more in the agony than in the price tag, but neither was pleasant.

I paid $400 for an iPhone that will last me more than two years (at this point, though, I’m definitely feeling the need to upgrade). For our purposes, we’ll ignore the resale value, which allows us to get a decent amount of money back, especially after a year (two is pushing it). I also understand that the iPhone per-month cost includes data and phone minutes which are not cheap. But I think the cost is negligible when we look at things this way…

Let’s look at just some of the things I use my iPhone for on a daily basis:

  • Sleepcycle: tracks my sleep and helps me wake up at the perfect time
  • Alarm Clock
  • Recipes (for breakfast)
  • Timer (for coffee)
  • Email
  • Scan and send documents
  • Check the Weather
  • GPS with traffic (for driving across town and dodging brutal traffic)
  • Portable Music Player (while walking the pugs)
  • Hi-Res Pocket Camera (for snapping a once-in-a-lifetime pic of Relvis avoiding a puddle, which I can then Tweet in realtime)
  • Location-based Reminders (I get reminded to send an email right when I need it: just as I walk up to my front door)
  • Motivation (see previous post all about the Lift app)
  • Watching movies on the go
  • Playing video games instead of being bored in the waiting room
  • Showing off pictures of the ocean to a friend at the bar
  • Meditation (I like the Simply Being app)
  • Yoga (there are so many apps)
  • Skyping with the nieces and nephews
  • Exercising at home (I like Workout Trainer)
  • Looking up random facts at a party to end a debate or maybe looking at pictures of cats (this is my way of covering the entirety of the internet)
  • Learning about the stars at night (using the amazing, but not free, Skyview app)
  • Calendar (My calendar is up-to-the-minute because I use Google Calendar.)
  • Oh, and occasionally I need to call someone and I use it as a phone.
What this list doesn’t address are the deeper benefits I receive. Benefits like better sleep and more exercise make me healthier. Sharing pics, Facebook and skyping with my nieces helps me stay connected to my family. These are meaningful things that technology makes even better.

This is not an exhaustive list, though it is exhausting. The simple point is that I use my iPhone from the second I wake up until my head hits the pillow. I also know when to turn it off and enjoy life gadget-free. But given that I’m getting priceless value (with almost no headache) using it at least two hours each day (that is beyond-conservative to the point of absurdity) I estimate the cost to be around 25 cents an hour (and more realistically, 5 cents or less an hour). An hour! Think how many things on that list you could knock off in an hour…

Don’t get me wrong, smartphones are a luxury. Is $400 a lot of money? Sure. But if we’re talking about the one device you use for absolutely everything every day, then, actually, hell-to-the-no. It’s a steal at twice the price.

The iPhone is easily the least expensive and best value of anything I’ve ever owned.

How is your service like the iPhone? Do you offer value that just gives and gives and gives? Is one of your benefits the fact that your service is hassle- and worry-free?

Tuesday Tech Tip: The (almost) Perfection of Wunderlist

wunderlist logoI’ve tried more to-do list apps than I care to admit. It’s kind of disgusting. Besides the fact that I love new technology and apps (to the point of absurdity), the main reason is that I’ve always become dissatisfied about some aspect of whichever app I’m using. Not to mention, (as the rest of you procrastinating productivity nuts know all-too-well) that it’s always better to try out a new to-do app than to actually do something on the list. Heaven forbid.

In the past, I’ve touted the awesome robustness that is Remember The Milk. It remains the ultimate to-do app. I found that it was simply overkill for me and I didn’t like that they charged forty-some-odd dollars just to use it on my iPhone. I don’t mind the price tag, I’ve paid it in the past, but the pay-for-mobile just rubs me the wrong way.

Anyway, today we’re talking about the super-simple, very-free alternative, Wunderlist. I follow a very loose version of GTD, and I find that Wunderlist adapts beautifully. It should also be said that what Wunderlist lacks in robust features and options, it makes up for in eye candy.

Here’s how I use it:

  • Any to-do that requires more than one step is a project (see GTD link above). In Wunderlist, I just add a new list, name it, and I’m on my merry way.
  • Getting Things Done is all about the Next Action. I use the “star” feature in Wunderlist to keep track of what’s next for each project.
  • For a weekly review, I update all of my projects and star the tasks I can take immediate action on.
  • During my work day, I just take a peek at Wunderlist online or on my mac, my iPad or iPhone (it’s free for all devices, ridiculous PC and Android users included. *friendly smirk*)
  • I immediately look at the “starred” tab and can see all Next Actions (And which list/project they belong to! Hallelujah.)
  • Then it’s just a matter of knocking out as many top priority to-dos as possible in the time I have.

Do you use a to-do list app, prefer pen and paper or just guess all day? How could Wunderlist simplify and organize your life?

Tuesday Tech Tip: Turn it Off

if you can read this somebody stole my iphoneDo you have a hard time disconnecting from technology? Do you find yourself getting distracted by incoming emails, texts and calls? Most of us do.

Technology isn’t bad. The internet isn’t the devil. Like every human invention, it serves a purpose and it can be used for good or evil (and usually both). When people say that TV is all bad or complain about teenagers glued to their cell phones, I gently remind them that technology doesn’t have to own us. We can control it. But we have to choose to.

Technology is overrunning our lives and, for the most part, we have no idea what to do. Don’t just lay there. It’s time to fight back.

Here are three simple ways to take back your life from the grips of technology overload:

  1. Turn off your phone. No one needs to have their cell phone on 24/7. Except maybe doctors (and none read this blog). If you own a wedding business, turn off the damn phone, at least when you sleep.
  2. Put it on airplane mode. In an era of constant distractions, we must create our own sanctuaries if we are to have any hope of being productive. If you need to be creative for an hour, put your phone on airplane mode (if you can’t turn it off) and set an alarm to remind you to turn it back on to check messages.
  3. Turn off notifications. On my iphone, the only notifications I want are text messages and voicemail. If I don’t want those, I put the thing on airplane mode. You do NOT need to know every time an email comes in (read why in this post).

These three minor adjustments can mean the difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you are in control. Build a little peace into your life and it will spread. Which one of these is hardest for YOU to do? How could you benefit from doing it anyway?

Tuesday Tech Tip: Awesomify Your Calls with Google Voice in 2013

Instant Gratification: Google Voice allows you to make free phone calls and text messages, forward calls to your cell, screen calls from your mom, read your voice mails, block your ex-girlfriend, and sync your contacts.

Go directly to Google Voice.

It used to be that anyone who had your number could ring your phone. And that was really cool. Until you had an ex-boyfriend. Until you appreciated your sleep at 3am. Until you started getting spammy sales calls from the same number twelve times a day. Then there was Grand Central. And it was awesome. So Google bought it and called it Google Voice.

While it’s not feasible or smart for everyone to switch over to Google Voice, I want to tell you why I use it (exclusively) to run my business. And you can still find some cool uses for it.

Here are my favorite uses for Google Voice:

Free phone calls, forwarding and texting. Google Voice gives you a free number (if you live in the US) with your choice of area code and it even lets you make free calls and texts from your computer. Since I live in Gmail, I love that I can make calls right from my inbox. Living temporarily in Canada, I use the free Talkatone iPhone app so I can even make and take calls on my out-of-country phone. They have an Android app, too. Free texting from the computer is awesome- I get text messages in my email inbox and I can reply just like a normal email. Call forwarding allows me to forward calls to my cell phone or another number forever, or just while I’m at the cabin for the weekend. Continue reading

Tuesday Tech Tip: 3 Evernote Tips for Business

Instant Gratification: By using the slick Evernote iPhone app and unobtrusive browser plug in, you can capture images, audio and text on any device and easily find things later. Evernote even searches the text inside of pictures so it’s perfect for scanning notes or business cards.

Full Article

20130126-140545.jpgFor the uninitiated, Evernote is a simple way to keep track of your digital life. You can store notes, pictures, ideas and just about anything else. It’s absolutely free and available on any device. However, if you upload a TON of stuff, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version for around $45 a year. I want to tell you about my three biggest uses for Evernote.

1. Store Business Cards
I’m not a fan of collecting business cards. But, because you’re a wedding entrepreneur, you’ll inevitably end up with a drawer full of business cards from photographers, DJs, planners and limo drivers. Instead of digging through the drawer when you want to find that florist you met last year, scan the cards with the Evernote iPhone app. Since Evernote has an ever-improving OCR (reading text from pictures) technology, you can search your entire collection and Evernote can find what you’re looking for, just from the words in the picture. It can even read (legible) handwritten notes. How badass is that?

2. Research
Whether I’m doing research for a blog post or trying to find someplace to live, Evernote is awesome for keeping all of the pieces organized. I can create a “notebook” to store everything for my project, which we’ll call “Jeff’s awesome new house.” As I’m walking down the street, I’ll remember that my new house simply must have space for a fireplace. I can use the iPhone app once more, but this time to record a quick audio note saying, “deal breaker: house has to have a fireplace.” *Note: I don’t think Evernote can search (the content of) audio files yet, but I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll roll this out soon. After all, the technology to transcribe voicemails has been around (even if it’s terrible) for years. All you need to do is create a title for your file and slap on a tag like “deal breakers.”

3. Stay Productive and Never Forget
Have you ever found a super interesting article online and didn’t want to lose it so you just read it, even though you meant to be working on something else? Who am I kidding, you probably did that today. In fact, you might be doing right now. Never fear. You can use the Evernote WebClipper browser extension to easily clip things from the web that you want to find later. I have a “movies to watch” tag as well as a “fun for later” tag. Anytime I need a movie to watch, I just search Evernote for anything tagged “movies to watch” and I’ve got a good list of things I want to see. I use my “fun for later” tag to store articles, websites, concepts and TED videos I want to watch later. The power in this is less in being able to find good stuff later (which is completely awesome) and more in my newfound ability to save something for later so I can stay focused on whatever I’m currently working on.

Everyone has a different use for evernote. You can store meeting notes, recipes, ideas, plans and just about anything else your little heart desires. One alternative I’ve been pretty impressed with is GetPocket, but I haven’t used it enough to recommend. I’d love to hear what others are using and why they like it better than Evernote.

I’m dying to know. How are you going to use Evernote?

*I only endorse products I use and love. I don’t get paid for it. I’ll let you know if that changes. -Jeff*

Tuesday Tech Tip: Use GetHuman to Talk to a Person

Wedding entrepreneurs simply do not have time to waste being on hold with corporations. If you’ve never used gethuman.com, you’re going to love it. I’ve known about the service for years, but for reasons I don’t understand, I keep forgetting to use it. So if you know about Get Human but you haven’t been using it consistently, this is your friendly nudge.

I’m temporarily living in Canada and my Verizon contract is on hold. They only let you suspend your account for three months at a time (but they’ll set it up to automatically go on hold again if you beg them) and there was a glitch so I got a bill. I don’t like getting bills for service I’m not getting. I wanted this resolved asap and while it wasn’t a huge deal, it was definitely a nuisance.
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Tuesday Tech Tip: Develop Better Habits

Develop better habits with "Lift"It’s time for me to share yet another secret weapon with you. I’ve been using the iPhone app Lift for three months now and it’s definitely a keeper. Lift is a clean and simple habit-tracking app with a social element. In the book “Willpower” the authors explain that people with more willpower actually use willpower less. By using their willpower to develop better habits on the front end (like flossing), they don’t have to expend the energy each day to floss, they just do it without thinking. This is a huge concept. It means you don’t need more willpower. You need better habits. Unfortunately, you’re going to need to use some of that willpower to get the ball rolling.

I’m a big fan of measuring everything (see the Quantified Self). Why the excitement around keeping track? For me, it’s motivating to look back at the last week or month and see how I’m doing. Just checking in every day reminds me of my goals and the habits I’m trying to develop.

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Tuesday Tech Tip: Google Maps Returns to iPhone

Google Maps ScreenshotHere’s a quick run-down on Forbes.com of the new Google Maps app. I was one of the many early-adopters who jumped on the new iPhone update only to realize that Apple had swapped the near-perfect Google Maps app for Apple’s own (infamously disappointing) take on maps. Having the iPhone 4 (and not the 4S) means that I still didn’t get turn-by-turn navigation.

If you’ve been missing a decent navigation app, Google has finally delivered for the iPhone. It’s not perfect, but at the perfect price of free, this app should replace Apple Maps in your iPhone dock ASAP.

Download the new Google Maps app.

3 Steps to Crush Information Overload

I love information. The internets have opened up the entire world to us. I’ll start out on Facebook, read some blogs and follow the links until I’m lost in the great interweb vortex. It’s more like drowning than surfing. As much as I love being connected, sometimes it’s too much. When I start to feel like a zombie, I know I’ve got to switch it up before I lose my mind completely.


Here’s how I beat information overload:

1. Shut it down, ladies. I literally turn off the computer, iPhone, whatever. When I’m totally maxed out, I’ve got to completely disconnect.

2. Get the heck out (or in). Continue reading

Guest Post: How I Created a Viral Blog in 4 Months

CT Designs Inc logoI am so grateful to Jeff for asking me to share the story of how I was able to dramatically increase my blog traffic… Our numbers are still climbing and I couldn’t be happier.

My blogging history was sporadic at best. I would post maybe once or twice a week if I found the time. I wanted more traffic, but always thought I was just too busy to be a consistent blogger. I read somewhere that Google search engines are friendlier to blogs who’s content is refreshed 3-4 times per week.

Well starting in September 2011, I did just that and my blog traffic went through the roof. The following are some steps I took and hopefully they can help you as well:

  • I began to produce more content for my blog. Sounds elementary right? Honestly though, while it may seem daunting, as long as you can block out some time to store up multiple blogs, you won’t fall behind.
  • I made sure that my blog titles were more search engine friendly than they were “pithy”. It is always tempting to title your blog in a witty fashion, but its not always best if you’d like for your blog to pop up during searches. Continue reading