Saturday, December 27, 2014

How Do You Become The Nation's Largest Retailer Walmart With Management That Is All But Clueless?

I hate shopping Walmart. There. I said it. I used to loathe K-Mart, well before they became Big K-Mart, and even more so after they merged with Sears. But how Walmart ever became the nation's largest retailer I'll never know. With so many employees that show they couldn't care less about the customer, much less their jobs, or are merely there in body but not mind, I shudder at the thought each time I need to enter a Walmart for any reason.  It's one thing when employees are clueless about simple company policies, but when even supposedly carefully trained retail managers at Walmart don't know their own company policies, you begin to wonder how they even stay in business.

I don't normally shop Walmart, I'm a Target kind of guy.  But I do have a Sam's Club business membership alongside my Costco Wholesale business membership. Sam's Club is owned by Walmart.  Sam's Club tries their hardest to compete with Costco on price, selection, and quality, and for the most part succeed,  but when it comes to competing on customer service, both Walmart and Sam's Clubs fail when compared to Target and Costco. I suspect it is the wage differential. Sam's and Walmart pay mostly minimum wage. Costco starting pay is around $12 an hour, more than $4 an hour than Sam's Club, something that attracts better candidates and ultimately, workers with better work ethics.

Yesterday I visited a local Walmart location to pick up a few Walmart gift cards. The cashier at the first location I visited was steadfast that no-you can't buy a Walmart gift card with your credit card. Huh? I've been buying Walmart gift cards for years on my Amex or Visa cards. In fact, I bought a few myself last month without a problem.  Since when can't I buy them on my credit card? She said, it's ALWAYS been that way. Uh, no-it hasn't!  I buy Walmart gift cards all the time to use at Sam's Club because they only accept Discover and Mastercard, and I sometimes prefer to pay with Amex or Visa to get bonus points or miles offered by those cards, so buying a Walmart gift card at Walmart with my Amex or Visa gets me the points, and allows me to pay for my Sam's Club purchases with the form of payment suitable to me, not what is suitable to Walmart.

After going back and forth with the cashier,  she rudely walks away, apparently to go speak to a customer service manager whom she insisted agreed that I can't use a credit card?  The manager also insisted "cash only for gift cards-even Walmart gift cards!" Oh my God I thought.  No!  I insisted, I've always bought them on my credit card for years without a problem. The manager wouldn't budge.

Not wanting to waste more time, I left that store and headed off to another Walmart I would pass on my way home anyway. They couldn't possibly be as clueless there right? WRONG!  Yet another clueless cashier was dumbfound that I was trying to use my Amex card to pay for my gift cards and also decided to seek a manager's opinion when I tried to charge them. Remarkably yet another Walmart manager gave me the same spiel--no credit cards can be used to buy Walmart gift cards. I told her that I understood I couldn't buy say a Prepaid Mastercard on my Amex, but Walmart gift cards I can buy all day long.   Her clueless response and analysis? "No you can't.  What if someone had stolen your credit card and came in to buy gift cards and ran it up to it's limit?"   Ummm well so what?  If you guys aren't smart enough to verify the buyer's ID, it might very well happen. But what difference does it make if they fraudulently used my credit card to buy gift cards or to buy a 60" HDTV? She replied, "most likely they'd buy gift cards on a stolen credit card, not a big TV--it's easier to get cash for gift cards later". This not only sounded ridiculous, but it was absurd to think a credit-card scammer would care what he was able to buy with the stolen card as long as he could walk out with something of value.

During our conversation, yet another manager came along and joined the discussion. She too concurred with the first manager--cash only for any gift cards, including Walmart gift cards, and that if I had a problem or complaint about the policy, I should call 1-800-Wal-Mart to inquire, this was Walmart's long standing policy on gift card sales.  I disagreed with both of them and said, no, this isn't Walmart's gift card purchase policy for buying Walmart gift cards.

I promptly pulled out my phone and called the number right from the store, and amazingly enough, I got someone on the line who was actually helpful and courteous. She listened to my complaint and then put me on hold a few minutes to research their policy on gift card sales. A few minutes later, she came back on the line and read me the gift card purchase policy. Indeed I could purchase Walmart gift cards up to $1,000 on each gift card on my credit card.  There was no limit on how many gift cards I bought as long as I could pay for them--cash or credit card. Certain gift cards were cash only like Amex, Visa, and Mastercard debit cards.

I asked her if she would kindly explain to the assistant store manager the policy she had just read me? She agreed to do so.  I told her because in fact there seems to be confusion amongst a number of managers and personnel at multiple stores since this is the second store that I'd been to and turned away. She remarked that apparently there is some confusion between buying debit Mastercard gift cards which requires cash, and buying other branded gift cards.  I walked over to the the manager and handed her my phone so she could be schooled on the correct gift card sale policy.  She was told that the Point Of Sale would reject any payment that isn't acceptable for each gift card type sold at Walmart (Mastercard, iTunes, Starbucks, Walmart, etc.) so there was no need to police this and her staff needn't be concerned what form of payment is used. If a form of payment unacceptable for a particular gift card, the system would reject or block it.

Yet another example of employees and management making up the rules as they go along instead of doing their job. I bought my gift cards and walked out. Amazing what one has to go through to buy a simple gift card Kids! This shouldn't have be so difficult. No wonder I hate shopping Walmart.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Retail Store Price Matching At Best Buy Is Nothing But A Waste Of Time

Retail store managers just don't get it--most especially at Best Buy stores. And price matching policies are nothing but false come-ons that end up being a complete waste of time and are not worth pursuing. Most larger retailers have some kind of policy to match competitors sale prices to gain your business. But getting a retailer like Best Buy to honor competitors prices apparently requires an act of congress.
My latest escapade involves an overzealous Best Buy blue shirt employee who instead of trying harder to make sure you buy from the electronics giant, ends up working against the customer to make sure they don't. The whole purpose (and spirit) of price-match policies is so you do one-stop shopping and forego visiting, much less shop the competition. This concept is lost on most store personnel, sales associates, and store managers at most retail outlets. Even with the newly implemented policies matching online stores, there seems to be an inherent attitude that consumers are trying to "scam" lower prices via false or fabricated competitors ads. Sure it happened earlier this year at Walmart, but most simple price match policies would catch such slight and not honor those prices.  
So fully armed with a current Target advertisement, a printed email announcement, and displaying the online web discount percentage on my iPhone showing the EXACT SAME make and model iPad 2 Air Target was advertising for 15% off, the Best Buy associate almost immediately insisted that the discount was only good on WiFi iPad Air 2 models, not WiFi models equipped with 4G LTE. And despite there being a laundry list of models that were specifically excluded from the offer (iPad Mini, iPad Air 1, iPad 4, 3, 2 and 1), she insisted there was no PROOF that the 4G LTE models were included in the sale. So what part of where the ad that says "Get 15% off ANY iPad Air 2 16Gb, 64Gb, or 128Gb" are you having trouble understanding? Apparently the word ANY was the problem and excluded iPad Air 2 Wifi with a 4G LTE radio option in her opinion.
Not satisfied with her almost dismissive attitude, I thought calling what appeared to be a rookie manager would help, but it turned out to also be a waste of time as he added another 20 minutes to the 30 minutes I had already spent waiting while the sales associated (SA) conducted her so called price investigation. He too felt the need to waste more time on the computer trying to figure out if he should honor the discount. Throughout the whole time he was doing his so-called research, the SA kept repeating to him out loud that 4G LTE models were not listed as part of the sale. The manager finally gave up and told the employee to call the local Target store to verify they had stock of the same exact color, capacity, and capabilities and walked away with nary a comment to me. Seriously now? 30+ Target stores in Metro Detroit and you want to check stock on a high-end iPad Air 2 maybe 1 in 1,000 shoppers would be looking for? Sure enough! "They must have it in stock and readily available for purchase in order for us to match it" the SA insisted. Thats how our price match policy works.
Never mind that I had already told the SA that I just walked out of a local Target store having verified the same item being in stock and available for sale at the discounted price. I prefer to buy at Best Buy for my reward points and interest-free financing on my Best Buy Credit Card over the 5% discount I get on my Target Redcard.  The SA finally gets someone on the line at Target who verified the item in stock and on sale, but said he wouldn't/couldn't confirm the price over the phone. She hangs up and says to me in an what amounted to a happy voice, "Sorry, I can't match the price-they won't verify the price over the phone." she muttered. So let me get this straight: The online price wasn't good enough. The fact that the item is in stock wasn't good enough, now you found another reason to deny the price match? 
I was done. After an hour of time wasted, I told her she can keep it, I'm going back to Target to buy it. Her smug response? "Ok, have a nice day." Really? You should feel proud you cost your store an $800+ sale. Never mind the $300+ other items and high-margin accessories I intended to purchase along with this iPad. 
On my way out, I went back over to where the same clueless manager was standing, explained to him that his all but empty store on the last Saturday before Christmas just lost what amounts to over a $1,200 sale thanks to the rude and not so helpful SA, and how ridiculous it was that not only did I spend over an hour in-store to try and get a price match, but I had also spent over 25 minutes on hold with his Best Buy Store PRIOR to coming out there to verify stock and price (no one ever eventually answered) all the while,  listening to their repetitive recording telling me over and over again about how I can "BUY WITH CONFIDENCE" from Best Buy given the Best Buy low price guarantee and their price matching policies. Yet I come in the store and they do everything to make sure they don't match a local competitor's advertised price. Some guarantee. PATHETIC!
I promptly departed the store and the left the few other items I had gathered to buy and drove back to Target where I purchased the same exact item (iPad Air 2 4G LTE 128Gb Gold) at the price I was trying to get them to match it at $705.00 (15% off the regular price of $829.99. 

The sad part about this whole story? Best Buy had offered the same exact iPad 2 Air 4G LTE model only a week earlier for almost the same price at $100 off $729.99--which only made this deal about $24 about cheaper than that price--so it wasn't like they were giving away the store had they honored the price. Plus with margins of 50% or more on accessories, they would have easily made up the difference. Instead they lost it all.

Bottom line, they lost an iPad Air 2 sale, PLUS, a number of other items totaling about $300. Their loss. Next time I won't even bother to ask for a price match, much less make it to their store.  I'll simply buy where it's cheaper and save myself the aggravation. Live and Learn Kids!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

T-Mobile Is Up To Some New "UnCarrier" Tricks Offering A 2-Line Unlimited Everything Plan for $100 or 3-Lines for $140

‪#‎TMobile‬ is upping the ante' in the wireless games as it will launch it's best Family plan ever Wednesday December 10, 2014.  2-Lines with Unlimited Talk, Unlimited Text and Unlimited 4G LTE Data. $100. 3-Lines $140. Additional lines 4-10 are just $40 Each. Five lines are $220. Wow!

Just in time for the holidays, and for as low as $44 per line when you activate Five lines, you get the nations fastest and most advanced 4G LTE network, nationwide unlimited talk, unlimited text, and unlimited 4G LTE Data including up to 5Gb of data tethering for your tablet or laptop every month on each line. Plus, you'll also get FREE unlimited WiFi calling, FREE unlimited Rhapsody UnRadio music streaming (a service similar to Pandora Premium). 

Want more? How about Free Data Roaming and texting in over 120+ countries, FREE Wifi calling from anywhere in the world to call back to the USA from any country in the world. FREE texting aboard any GoGo Inflight equipped flight, and FREE International texting from the USA? Not enough to convince you?
Did I mention there are NO CONTRACTS, NO OVERAGES,  and NO METERING? And They'll even pay your early termination fee (ETF) up to $350 per line for up to five lines from any carrier just to get you to switch. Need a new  smartphone? They'll even sell you one of the latest and greatest available today like the Apple iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, Google Nexus 6, or Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for ZERO down and give you 24 months to pay for it. They won't even charge you a DIME of interest. Already have a phone? No problem! They'll give you a sim card and off you go. Only catch? Leave before you payoff your phone and you have to payoff your EIP (finance) plan. Thats fair right?

Sound like a great offer? You betcha it is.  Already AT&T and Verizon are warning analysts about lower margins and higher churn this quarter. This thanks to healthy competition from the likes of Magenta. It's no wonder T-Mobile USA is poised to become the third largest carrier in the USA by years end, replacing Sprint--which continues to hemorrhage subscribers. T-Mobile CEO John Legere said it best: We're not gonna rest till the industry changes. You can bet they are paying close attention and losing sleep Kids!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gadget Lover on your Christmas Wish List? Get a Brookstone $50 Voucher for only $25 Via Groupon

#Groupon is offering a $50 #Brookstone in-store or online credit for only $25. Click the link & Search Brookstone. Everyone who has been to a mall has most likely stepped into a Brookstone to check out the plethora of innovative gadgets and gifts for the person who has most everything. Unique and helpful products that you don't normally find anywhere else.

This Groupon entitles you to $50 worth of Brookstone merchandise by spending only $25 today. In other words, up to 50% off your purchase if it costs $50.  You must spend at least $50 to use the voucher. Can be used online or in-store. FREE SHIPPING on orders over $99 using the code SHIP99 at checkout.

Limit one voucher per person, although you can buy one as a gift. But there are ways around those purchase limits by registering alternate Groupon accounts using different a different email address--just be sure to use an alternate credit card on additional orders. Limit one voucher on each order or item. Click this link and type "BROOKSTONE" in the search box to find this great offer Kids! The promotional value expires 12/31/14, but the amount you pay for the Groupon NEVER EXPIRES. In other words, if you don't use the voucher, your $25 remains in your Groupon account to use toward future Groupon offers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Get Ready for iOS8: What You Need To Do Before Apple Makes It Available Wednesday September 17th 2014

It has become an annual tradition around this time of year. Apple spends almost a year working its magic on it's mobile operating system dubbed iOS and provides users with a free update to the integrated software for it's "i" devices. Namely, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. This year is no different with iOS8 all be set to replace iOS7 that has been adapted by a record 90% of all eligible iOS devices. iOS7 was a major overhaul of not only the inner workings, but also the visual aspect. iOS8 won't be as radical in it's visual changes since most of the improvements will be under the hood. Some might claim that many features Apple added to iOS8 were stolen from Android. That very well may be true for some new features in iOS8 that have will become available in iOS8. Word suggestion keyboard is one of them.  Widgets is another one feature borrowed from Android.

On September 17th around 1pm EDT, Apple will finally release iOS8 to the masses. If you're rocking an iPhone as old as the iPhone 4s, an iPad2 or newer, or an iPod Touch fifth-generation or newer, your device can be upgraded to iOS8. Older devices simply don't have the memory or processing power needed to run iOS8 to warrant an acceptable user experience according to Apple. That doesn't mean they are obsolete by any stretch of the imagination. It simply means they will be stuck on iOS7, which is no slouch. But to update your device is a bit of pain for some, especially those who are not so tech savvy. I'll try to make this process simple and easy for just about anyone.

Apple will offer two methods of upgrading your device. The first is over the air (OTA). This means you do it without attaching your device to a computer running iTunes. This is the riskiest way to update your devices and increases your chances of data loss. For a major update like this, I strongly urge you to avoid this method--unless you're ok gambling away all your videos, photos, music, and other important files that could be wiped out should some glitch muck up the process. While using iCloud to backup your data should protect your contacts, calendar, email, and some photos, it doesn't hold your music, videos, or personal data. It's a stop-gap method for those who don't normally put music or videos on their devices. If you do, avoid OTA updates at all cost if you can and go for the iTunes update method outlined below.

To do an OTA update, simply go to SETTINGS-General-Software Update and allow your device to check to see if iOS8 has become available for your device. Apple should begin rolling out iOS8 around 1pm Wednesday September 19th. If you get the message that you have the latest update available for your device, (iOS 7.1.2), then your device has not been cue'd for update just yet. With millions waiting to download the update, Apple will roll the update out slowly over about 48 hours, so be patient. Try again later. Keep in mind that Apple servers will be slammed, and the download may take hours to come down to your device. Make sure you are on WiFi, and be sure to keep is powered through the whole process. Don't be surprised if the process gets interrupted and you have to start over. This is normal given the number of people anxious to get iOS8. To be safe, make sure you update your device while in the comfort of home with no immediate need to use your device for a few hours. This will insure that if something does go wrong, you won't be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no means of communication.

A better a more recommended way to update is to connect your device to a PC or Mac running the latest version of iTunes 11.4 which was recently updated to accommodate devices running iOS8. Once your device is connected and iTunes is launched, view the device summary and click the "Check For Updates" button to see if iOS8 has become available for your device.  iTunes will tell you that a new iOS is available and allow you to download the update in full after approving the license. It will also suggest a backup before the update, and be sure to say YES! It may ask if you'd like to backup items purchased on your device too, and be sure to approve that as well. It will take a few minutes to a few hours for the entire OS to download, and backup will take a good 15-20 mins depending on your data. So take a break and let iTunes work its magic to bring you a new iOS. You may have to check a few time so answer a question or two, but this is rare. You may also need to turn off the "Find My iPhone" feature during the restore process. Just make sure you turn it back on after the update is complete.

Once your update is complete, the restore process is necessary to bring your data back to your device. The update will ask if you want to set it up as a new device, or restore from a recent backup.  While starting fresh and re-adding your media can do wonders instead of restoring old configurations and data that may slow you down or increase battery depletion. Restore from your backup, answer all the questions, enter your iCloud password, and select your preferences. If all went well, your old device is new again, sporting the latest iOS8 that the new iPhone6 that launches Friday September 19th will also have pre-installed.

If you're plan is to migrate to iPhone6 as soon as Friday September 19th, then it's essential that you update your current iOS on your current iPhone in order to be able to restore your data to the new iPhone6. You cannot restore an iOS7 backup to an iOS8 device, or vice-versa.

In all, iOS is an easy update. It will bring your the new health-kit features, new options, some visual enhancements, bug fixes, more Touch-ID authentication for third party apps (think using your fingerprint to access your bank data instead of entering a password). Apple touts over 120 new improvements and enhancements that may or may not be obvious, but they are there. Overall, it's a great update to an already incredible mobile operating system. I strongly recommend the update Kids!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Asus RT-AC87R AC2400 802.11AC Wireless Router Has Incredible Range-But Fails To Deliver When Stressed

Coming from the amazing and highly rated Asus RT-A66U wireless router, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the new Asus RT-AC87R AC2400. But it wasn't to be for me--at least not for now.  I installed this router and began adding my switch controlled nodes that were connected via cat 5e ethernet. I have three main gigabit switches that distribute wired ethernet connections to different areas of my house. Most of my nodes are simple video or audio clients like Apple TV, Roku, Tivo, Blu-Ray players, etc.   I connected my first Dell high quality 16 port Gigabit switch that had about 12 clients connected  to the first gigabit port on the RT-AC87--no problems. Next I added my root node ethernet connected Sonos Play 5. All 16 Sonos zones showed up without a hitch (wired and wireless). Next I added my second gigabit switch which has 8 ethernet connected clients (Tivo's, Apple TV, Blu-Ray Players, etc.) and again, no hiccups. Sonos zones still streamed and switched fine which meant DHCP was working great.  Finally I added my second 16 port ethernet switch which has only about 12 clients. This is where things go wrong. As soon as I connect this switch, the router craps out--literally. Internet disappears, Sonos stops streaming--then disappears, and the router can barely be accessed from my Mac for configuration.  I try to then remove the last switch I added from the router by unplugging the ethernet cable, and presto, everything starts working great as before. I try to re-add the last switch again--same problem and no joy. I figure maybe it's the ethernet cable to that third switch so I swap it out with a brand new one. Still the same problem. I trade out the switch for a new one and try again--this time with only ONE of the clients attached, still no joy. At this point  I reconnected my old router--and voila, everything including all of my clients, Sonos system, and switched worked just fine for all my connected devices with zero issues. Before I connected my last switch, the status page on the Asus router showed about 60 active clients, all seemed to work just fine. As soon as I added more, (the last switch or even a single client, this router refused to function, so I've disconnected the ASUS RT-AC87R till I have a chance to research, update or exchange it. I had such high hopes for this beast as the wireless 801.11 AC range when it worked was incredible. The other complaint I had is about the antennas. They look amazing, but they tend loosen easily when you adjust them, making them fall flat. Trying to tighten them works, but overall it's not a good design.  I do think Asus has a winner in the RT-AC87R--but only when all the bugs have been worked out. I'll update when I get this working.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

LG Launches its 5.5" QHD Screen Android Phablet Smartphone To Beat Samsung & HTC To Market

The just announced LG G3 Phablet next to the HTC One M8
Following more leaks than an aging faucet, Korea's LG launched its flagship Android phone-tablet (Phablet) today announcing the LG G3 in a special media event to introduce the behemoth of a smartphone. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Note3, the G3  does not sport a stylus, but it does feature the first ever QHD (Quad High Definition) 1400x2560 screen. In addition to the gorgeous screen, LG packed some remarkable components to make this one of the stand-outs in the smartphone phablet arena. Both Samsung and HTC have QHD screened phones reportedly in the works, but no dates have been set for their release. The G3 has a 13 Megapixel camera with a first ever laser-focus lens. The G3 also matches its direct competitors with a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor running at 2.5Ghz, up to 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and slot for a microSD card. The laser focus camera snaps and focuses simultaneously to capture an image. While HTC moves away from the plastic body, Samsung and LG seem to have a hard time doing the same and accepting that metal body phones garner a much warmer reception from users the way iPhone and HTC One users embrace them. Although this is a polycarbonate-body phone, the rear is coated with a thin layer of brushed aluminum to enhance it's looks and increase the resistance to scratches. The G3 will come in Metallic Black, Silk White, Shine Gold, Moon Violet, and Burgundy Red varieties of the LG G3 will be available globally via more than 170 carriers. The home market of South Korea gets LG's new flagship phone right away, launching on May 28th, with the rest of the world to follow in June. No pricing or carrier information has been provided as of this writing.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Amazon AppStore Offers Alternative to Google Play For Apps-Plus FREE Paid App Every Day

Android smartphone owners-you have a choice. Downloading apps directly on your phone is always fun, and getting free apps is always nice. But paid apps? Not so much. While the #GooglePlay store has thousands of paid apps, most users opt for the free apps instead. But GooglePlay isn't the only store on Android. In fact, #Amazon has it's very own  Android AppStore that allows you to download Apps to your #Android smartphone too. And every day, Amazon takes a normally paid app, and offers it to Android users FOR FREE! It's called Amazon App of the day, and all you need is an Amazon account, and to download the Amazon App Store application from the GooglePlay store. Once you've done that, you can now download apps from the Amazon AppStore just like you do when you launch GooglePlay. Most of the same rules of GooglePlay apply, meaning once you buy an app, it's available to all your Android devices, as long as you download the Amazon AppStore App to each device. It's very simple and sometimes Amazon has the same apps as GooglePlay has, but for less money. And many Amazon Apps will work on the new Amazon Fire TV as well.
Competition is good Kids!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Save A Little Money Or Maybe Save Your Life: A Comparison Of Two iPad Power Adapters

The old cliche' "You get what you pay for" is one that I've always lived by. Sure there are a few exceptions, but when it comes to comparing two iPad power adapters, it doesn't pay to mess with cheap knockoffs or imitations. Apple's iPad power adapter costs roughly $19. The cheap knockoffs can be as low as $3.  That is quite an attractive price difference. That's not to say that the Apple designed and manufactured adapter isn't a bit over priced at $19, but you know that Apple isn't gonna gamble with your life and use sub-par parts or cut corners when it comes to one of the most important accessories bundled with the coveted and award-winning iPad.  A Chinese woman actually was killed when she used a cheap knockoff iPhone power adapter to charge her Apple iPhone.  After she plugged her phone in, she received an electrical shock that proved to be fatal.  Take a close look at the two power adapters in the pictures.  They appear almost identical.  That is, until you look closely at the components inside. The genuine Apple adapter on the left is clearly built with quality parts and workmanship, whereas the Chinese knock-off looks like a cheap imitation. Sure most of Apple's manufacturing is done in China, but the difference is that Apple has strict quality control and standards it's manufacturing facilities must adhere to when they agree to build products for the tech giant.  And when you're dealing with a $300-$900 iPad, combined with a device that handles 110-220 volts, it's never a good idea to be penny wise and pound foolish. Your life and your device are worth allot more than the savings Kids! Remember, the allure of a good price quickly fades once the sub-par quality of the product rears it's ugly head.  If you'd like to see an in-depth report, Tech Writer Ken Shirriff has done an extensive teardown and analysis of these two power adapters.

MOST RECENT: New Facebook iOS App Banishes "Sort Feed" to Back Door-Here's How to Sort Now

Facebook yesterday" launched the latest version of Facebook for iOS with many new features and improvements like letting your stop notifications from certain posts you've commented on, and the ability to preview your post before it goes live. One thing they changed for the worse already has many iOS users up in arms--it's the sort order of the feed. Most users like it to be most recent stories, but Facebook likes to change that to something it's advertisers prefer-Top Stories. And now to change it to recent stories isn't as simple as it used to--it now takes three steps to change it instead of one. And finding out how to change the sort order is a mystery in itself--one that Facebook undoubtedly did on purpose. iHass to the rescue! Here's how to sort your feed on your FB app on your iOS device with version 10:

1)Launch Facebook for iPhone or iPad
2)Tap the More tab at the bottom right
3)Scroll down to the Feeds section (which includes Close Friends tab)
4)Tap the > to the right off Feeds to expand the section
5)Tap on Most Recent

Remember that once you set sort to recent, it won't stay that way permanently. There is no way to set the sort permanently. You'll have to repeat this procedure each time you find it has reverted to top stories. When will Facebook realize that the user experience affects viewership?

Monday, May 12, 2014

iStick Is A Great Solution for iOS Users Who Never Have Enough Storage On The Go

How many times have you wished that your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) had just a little more memory or storage for that last video or picture you wanted to take? Only to do so, you had to delete some of your older precious pics or videos to save something new. 16Gb of storage will only take you so far and runs out fast. As for myself, 64Gb on my Apple iPhone 5S and 128Gb on my iPad Air or iPad Mini never seems to be enough. Enter the iStick. A new  Kickstarter project that changes all that.  The iStick is a revolutionary twist on a common product we all use and love--the USB flash drive. So whats the twist you ask? What makes this a unique product is that this is a dual function device that lets you plug it into your PC, Mac or iOS device using the USB interface. Moving the slider, you choose either a lightning interface that plugs into your iOS device or a USB plug that works with most any PC, Mac, or laptop. You can download music, pictures, or videos from your PC or Mac and later watch or listen to them on your iOS device. You don't even have to offload them, just stream directly from the device as it is plugged in your iOS device.  Or vice versa, you offload your pictures or videos from your iOS device for backup or to save to your PC later. You can pledge various amounts on Kickstarter for an iStick of 8GB capacity for only $65, or go all the way up to a 128Gb for $199. The project is already fully funded so it's definitely a go. The team that came up with the iStick concept has been working on this for over three years so they are just about good to go once the funding campaign concludes mid June. Head over to the Kickstarter page to see how you can be the first to get one Kids!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

J. D. Powers: Consumer Satisfaction is Highest with Apple's iPhones on All Four Major US Carriers

The latest smartphone consumer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power ranks the Apple iPhone highest with the best marks on all four major U.S. carriers. The survey, which asks thousands of customers on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon about their satisfaction with their current smartphone, was conducted between September 2013 and February 2014. Across all four carriers, Apple's devices came out on top with high scores — 850, 857, 853 and 849 on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, respectively, on a 1000-point scale.

Samsung devices came a close second behind Apple on all four carriers, but still fell somewhere between 1 and 5 points behind the iPhone. Both Apple and Samsung beat the average satisfaction of phone customers on each carrier by a solid margin, with Apple as high as 20 points over the average in the case of customers on Verizon. The survey notes that an increasing number of people still place "price" as a driving factor in their smartphone purchase, making the overall preference of iPhones even more impressive.

It's no surprise or coincidence that consumers like the iPhone so much as Apple puts much thought and research into creating products that average users can navigate and use without much thought. Intuitive software with cutting edge designs. That has been Apple's philosophy and approach. While iOS is only second to Android in terms of marketshare, more Android users are more likely to switch to iOS than are iOS users likely to switch to Android once they've become savvy iOS users. Price is the reason that more consumers don't adapt iOS since iPhones are more expensive and rarely discounted vs. Samsung, HTC, Windows phones, and Blackberry smartphones.

The satisfaction trend should continue once the next iteration of iPhone is launched this fall. With a larger 4.7" HD retina screen expected to grace Cupertino's next generation (iPhone 6) amongst other new features. A slimmer and lighter design is also expected, as is a new form factor that is sleeker and sexier than the current popular 4" screen iPhone 5S. While the lower cost iPhone 5c hasn't been as popular as Apple would like it to be, it has filled a small gap for Apple in the lower cost category. However it's presence in the lineup next Fall is questionable as the iPhone 6 launches. Analysts expect Apple to drop the plastic body iPhone and replace it with an updated version of the 5S once the larger iPhone 6 launches. There is much talk about a 5.5" iPhone Phablet (Phone-Tablet) being in the works, but I'm the first to say no way Apple will move into this territory as the Samsung Note Phablet hasn't commanded any real discernible market share.

Enjoy your Summer Kids, the Fall will bring some interesting new and exciting products from Apple, including a wearable device (think iWatch) that should create some buzz once it finally launches.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Amazon Throwing It's Hat Into The Smartphone Ring-Thinks It Can Do it Better

The smartphone landscape will soon change once again (if ever so slightly if rivals have any say) when online retail giant Amazon throws it's hat into the ring with it's own offering of a smartphone to challenge rivals Apple, Google, and Microsoft in whats now a crowded arena of mobile devices. Amazon has made it clear that it won't stand by as rivals introduced tablets like the iPad and the Nexus by launching the successful low cost Kindle Fire line of tablets that focus on Amazon products and services as well as the standard tablet functions. Amazon has long thought to be planning to offer a smartphone so not to cede the market to rivals as mobile becomes the holy grail of internet connectivity. The image shown here is said to be an authentic depiction of the upcoming Amazon smartphone as presented by website BGR. The 4.7" smartphone is said to have a quad-core processor, 2Gb of Ram, 720p resolution screen, an unprecedented six individual camera modules (for 3D features), and and highly customized version of Android. Amazon is expected to announce the their offering sometime next month and to launch sometime in the third quarter of the year. Samsung last month launched it's latest flagship Galaxy S5 to a lukewarm reception given it's lack of change in design and features. Apple on the other hand is preparing to introduce the iPhone6 sometime this September, with analysts expecting a major form-factor change that includes a larger 4.7" screen, thinner bezel and lighter weight. HTC also upped the ante in the smartphone competition by updating it's flagship all metal body HTC One in April and it too has raised the bar for rivals including market leader Samsung. Is there room for another smartphone given the slowing of smartphone sales as markets mature and become saturated? Time will tell. Some are expecting Amazon to offer a service called "Prime Data" with their smartphone. It is unknown what this service will provide, but no doubt it has something to do with it's popular Prime shipping and video subscription service. We shall know all next month Kids!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Time To Stop Using Internet Explorer

URGENT! If you're still living in the 90's and your primary browser remains Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) LISTEN UP: STOP USING IT IMMEDIATELY!!!! IE creator Microsoft (MS) yesterday revealed that a serious security bug with IE versions 6 through 11 that allows hackers to take complete control of you PC or Laptop when using what is now considered the worst internet browser available. And if you're still stuck on Windows XP, this bug is infinitely worse since MS abandoned support for the decade old Operating System last month. Using IE to access banking and or financial sites right now could have serious consequences for you if you visit and log into those sites using IE. Your best bet is to download and install Google's superior browser Chrome, Apple's Safari, or Mozilla's Firefox browser and use them instead IMMEDIATELY. You should be using one of these browsers anyway. PLEASE SHARE THIS post as this is as serious as any bug to come along until MS patches this serious security bug that has dire consequences for users who only know IE.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 Releases Friday April 11-Fails to Amaze The Press Corp

Samsung announced it's next iteration of the Galaxy S line in the form of the S5 way back in February at a press event in Barcelona, Spain during the Mobil World Congress convention. Even then, the still plastic body smartphone failed to wow the media present who collectively saw this as the Galaxy S4+ instead of an S5 since the changes from the current S4 were incremental. The changes were very incremental, slightly larger 5.1" screen, (S4 has a 5" Screen) 16Mp rear camera, a fingerprint reader swipe (nothing like the iPhone 5S's fingerprint reader), and a handful of minor updates, including a water-resistant body and hideous band-aid pattern like rear cover that screams tacky. Nothing in the S5, including it's slightly modified form factor wowed the press, and the ever-criticized toy-like plastic-body is still the biggest complaint most have about the flagship Samsung phone. For the past couple weeks most of the tech heavy-weights have been evaluating the final product almost two months after it was announced, and most walk away unimpressed with what is supposed to be Samsung's star smartphone. The Oracle of Tech Walt Mossberg of RE/Code (formerly of weighs in after two weeks using the S5 to say that S4 users needn't upgrade given the incremental changes. He was most impressed with the water resistance (submerged in liquid for about 15-30 mins) and it came out working just fine. He Achieved 24 hours of battery time in moderate use which is pretty good for a large smartphone. Mossberg was disappointed with new swipe fingerprint reader which he said failed to unlock the phone even once on the first swipe, or even at all after multiple swipes. He also walked away underwhelmed with the heart rate monitor feature which was very fussy and asked you to adjust your finger on a sensor below the rear camera with a screen warning telling you that you're doing it wrong--enough to elevate your heart rate. It failed more than half the time he tried it.  All in all, Mossberg's comments about the new S5 are pretty much echoed in other online reviews out today. Friday the S5 is unleashed and goes on sale to the public, and Verizon Wireless has a BOGO offer, Buy One-Get One FREE after two $50 rebates with two year agreements on both handsets, something that will attract many buyers. The S5 comes with 16Gb standard memory for Apps, music, videos, pictures, documents, etc., but user storage available on Samsung devices tends to be under 10Gb after all the factory installed software is considered-- unlike the recently launched HTC One M8 which comes with 32Gb standard at the same price.  Both come with SD card expansion, but internal memory tends to be faster and more practical.  Whether or not the S5 will be enough to jump-start Galaxy S sales remains to be seen Kids!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sprint Duplicates T-Mobile's ETF Offer-Get up to $650 to switch!

Well well well.  What do we have here? A Sprint copycat promotion? It would appear to be just that. It's looks like Sprint isn't liking that T-Mobile is taking it's customers so it wants to return the favor and offer new and former customers the opportunity to come back--and they are willing to pay you up to $650 to do so. Much like Magenta's "Uncarrier 4.0" program, they will give you up to $300 for your smartphone trade-in from ANY other national US carrier (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, or T-Mobile), plus up to $350 in the form of a prepaid Mastercard to cover your early termination fee (ETF). Don't have an ETF? No problem! They'll give you up to $350 towards your EIP (financed device balance). Starting today and only through May 8th, Sprint wants you back in the worst way, and are willing to duplicate a now famous T-Mobile promotion to do it. Of course, you'll have to purchase a new Sprint phone and sign a two-year agreement, port in your number, and probably have to put up with crappy service in the process. But you're getting away from your old carrier scott-free right? Whoever said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery wasn't kidding. Better read the fine print to get all the details Kids!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

T-Mobile & Blackberry Call it Quits--Well Sort Of

Blackberry has had it's fair share of woes over the past few years as it saw it's once dominant marketshare dwindle to practically less than 1% in the last survey of the likes of Apple, Android, Windows mobile OS's. Adding insult to injury is how T-Mobile recently offered those who carried Blackberry smartphones a $200 minimum trade in on their trusty Blackberry towards any iPhone, Android device, or Windows smartphone. The "UnCarrier" decided that most of its subscribers really don't care if Blackberry rides off into the sunset, they just want to keep those customers on some other platform. While Blackberry has itself to blame for not jumping on the touch-screen revolution, they are down, but not out. Blackberry's instant messenger BBM recently launched on Android and iOS and was number one on their respective App stores for days--giving Blackberry a comeback of sorts. But consumers are trading in their once coveted Crackberry devices in droves in favor of Android and iOS. Following T-Mobile's recent taunt of Blackberry, the uncarrier was all but excommunicated from Blackberry's list of carriers who could sell Blackberry devices effective April 25. This means if you want to buy a Blackberry, you'll have to go to Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T for one after that date. But is this a wise decision for Blackberry at a time where it needs carrier support more than ever, especially now that they are not the only game available to Federal workers and Department of Defense applications now that iOS and Android devices are approved for use on those networks? Probably not. But T-Mobile's CEO John Legere is claiming that Blackberry is and always will be welcome on T-Mobile, and says this was a Blackberry decision. Will something change before the deadline? No one knows, but if Blackberry wants to be relevant again, it can't thumb it's nose at any carrier, be it the number one or number 4 carrier. Time to mend fences kids for everyone's sake.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Amazon Throws It's Hat Into the Set Top Box Arena

Check Out the New Amazon FireTV Here
Amazon as expected today announced it's own set-top streaming box called Amazon #FireTV which is similar to other streaming boxes available on the market today such as the Apple TV or ROKU streaming boxes. Amazon FireTV is available today for $99, and allows consumers the ability to stream movies, music, videos, pictures, and has enough power to allow the playing of games (2Gb RAM, Quad Core Processor). This is the most power in a set-top box ever to come to market. Amazon will offer Amazon Prime Video streaming, On Demand movies, and HULU Plus at launch, but plans to offer other services like HBO Go, Showtime on Demand, ESPN, Netflix, and many other streaming services found on competing boxes. This FireTV is available now from Amazon for $99 shipped FREE. Amazon will roll out services and games throughout the year for purchase. The box comes with a standard remote, but a $40 Gaming controller will also be available that doubles as a remote. Nothing earth-shattering here, but Amazon has long been expected to throw it's hat in the set-top box arena to take it's place in the digital living room. Choice is good Kids. Apple is expected to update it's aging Apple TV unit and ROKU yesterday introduced it's Roku Streaming HDMI Stick for $50, an offering similar to Google's Chromecast.  Let the games begin!