Tag Archives: Android

What Smartphone Apps Have Changed Your Life?

Has the way you live evovled by way of a smartphone app? What’s a non-standard add-on (besides maps, texting, etc.) that’s changed – hopefully for the better – the way you conduct daily life? Not necessarily saying they’re the very best, here are my immediate top three:

Instagram App1. Instagram

This app has literally changed the way I see the world and connected me with people from all over the globe through a very user-friendly interface, turning ordinary snapshots into art with the barest minimum of effort. I now see the world through “Instagram Eyes” and have gotten so much from what it offers Although the recent spam influx and terms of service update now have me exploring elsewhere, there’s no denying Instagram’s impact.

Dragon Dictation2. Dragon Dictation

This app listens to what you say and turns it into text. It’s like magic. It’s fast, intuitive, and lets you easily email, MMS, or copy and paste what you say. I’ve used it for years to handle texting and  composing blog posts, and it accurately gets the job done every single time. It’s been life-changing by by bringing my phone new functionality with incredible convenience and capability. Now that speech-to-text is built into the iPhone, I’ve been using Dragon less, but they were the ones to get it right first.

Pandora3. Pandora

This is the mobile version of the already robust website, but I mention it here because of how it’s impacted my enjoyment of music. Pandora is streaming radio where you create stations based on artists, songs or themes. It serves up related music, and gets better over time as you thumbs-up or thumbs-down what plays. I couldn’t begin tell you how much great music I’ve discovered this way. It’s a simple premise: “if you like this, then you might also like this” — and Pandora’s highly personalized  approach wins the day for me, even though I also enjoy similar services like 8Tracks. Even TheStreet.com says Pandora has “rendered terrestrial radio, on a grand scale, obsolete.” Consider how long radio has been in our lives as you consider that statement.

What do you think? What apps have made a difference in the way you do things? Let us hear from you in the comments.

8Tracks: Music Curated

8tracks - handcrafted internet radio

8tracks: handcrafted internet radio. Their apps are pretty cool, too.

I’ve become fascinated with the playlist curation site, 8tracks. It allows users to upload songs from their personal libraries as playlists with tags and cover art, then share, browse and comment on playlists of other members. All for free. Think of it as cloud-based mixtapes with social functionality included (comments, tags, profiles, etc.).

I’d been a casual listener of the site for a while (and similar sites like Pandora and Blip.fm), but only when hosting an ’80s-themed party recently did I fully get into the full 8tracks experience.

[8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/640055"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/109389"]

The two above were the perfect soundtracks. Turns out there are scores of ’80s playlists already hand-picked and battle-tested by folks who care enough to share them with the world. And now I’m making my own playlists – which embed beautifully here:

My 8tracks playlists: singles, covers, guitars…

[8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1131093"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1126173"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1127082"][8tracks width="245" height="245" playops="" url="http://8tracks.com/mixes/1130745"]

It’s been fun for me to see who likes these and then to check out their playlists myself. As a person who enjoys discovering new music perfectly suited to my tastes, this is rather exciting, as I now have several promising playlists to explore. Heck, TIME magazine even named 8tracks the best site of 2011. If you’re into discovering and sharing music, you should definitely give 8tracks a try.

What do you think? Have you ever used 8tracks? Is there a similar music discovery site that you recommend? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Postcards From the Social Media Edge: Postagram

Considering our ever-more-digital world, with the U.S. Post Office teetering on bankruptcy, the decline of print media, and increasing social-connectedness, it’s with pleasure that I’m writing about a recent discovery: Postagram.

Send postcards from you iPhone and Android devices with Postagram.

Send postcards from your iPhone and Android devices with Postagram.

Remember Getting Mail When You Were A Kid?

That was a big deal! Birthday card, handwritten letter, or even a postcard – that was something to get excited about. But since it’s so easy to email or post a photo online, why bother sending anything even resembling a postcard these days? That’s where Postagram comes in for iPhone and Android users.

Getting Mail is Fun

Made by Sincerely, Inc. Postagram brings back the old fun of getting mail to the new fun of being digitally connected – AND mobile photography (you can imagine the geek-thrill this brings me). Using photos already on your mobile device, you upload a picture via the Postagram app, type out a quick message, and Postagram sends a physical postcard in the mail to your recipient with your image. Your recipient is stored in your address book on the site, along with your billing information for easy sending in the future. It’s a whopping $.99 to send a card.

I may never buy another physical postcard again

I did this a couple of weeks ago for Valentine’s day, sending my awesome wife a card in remembrance our prior Valentine’s experience at this restaurant where, for dessert, they have a special all-gelato spaghetti & meatballs. It’s awesome:

Trevi Italian Restaurant - Gelato Master Hank Sbraccia’s Spaghetti Ice serves up plenty of double takes—it’s a brimming pasta bowl of fresh homemade vanilla gelato strands acting as the spaghetti, chocolate gelato scoops as the meatballs, strawberry sauce as the mariana and shaved white chocolate as the Parmesan. “When I make gelato, you’re going to remember it,” Sbraccia says.

Of course, I took a picture of this after our romantic dinner 12 months ago and kept it in my phone.

Trevi Gelato Spaghetti Caesars Palace

It's all gelato except for the freshly ground white chocolate on top. This photo does not do it justice. Trevi, Caesars Palace.

Now this year, having discovered Postagram, I had a cool pic ready to try out the product with. I sent this to her office address for a twist on having flowers sent to work (in addition to handling the flowers on my own, duh).

Unfortunately, here’s where things take a turn, because although I did this a week ahead of time, my Postagram got lost in the mail. No biggie; we had a fine day nevertheless. I did contact customer service the next day, who within minutes apologized, explaining that they’d been having issues over the holiday, and immediately righted the situation with a replacement. Even though the moment had passed, I appreciate a good customer service experience, and this was one.

Keep The Fun Going: Social Media

The real bonus of all this is one thing I discovered in my research: your Postagram remains online, with social media sharing built-in. I had no idea about this, since I handled the entire process weeks earlier quickly on my phone, then archived the receipt email. But in looking up the order number, I noticed the link. So while I was waiting for the replacement card to be sent, I was able to send my wife a link to the original card with the photo and my text online. I emailed this to her and also posted it on Twitter. We’re both social media geeks that way.

Postagram by rsmithing

My awesome Postagram card, created on my phone, sent through the mail. You can also select an image for the "from" portion, and the main image pops out of the card as a standalone keepsake.

Returning the Favor with PR

Since my customer service experience was so positive, and since they mentioned they’d been having issues I thought I’d return the favor for Postagram by offering some sample tweets in our final email exchange they could send that might head off issues similar to the one I’d had:

  • Sorry about missing orders – but you can still send some Twitter love. Check your order email for the link!
  • Did you know you can Tweet a Postagram? See your confirmation email & click “Tweet”
  • Digital and traditional messages meet via tweet: Postagram postcards are Tweeetable!
  • Postagram not arrive? Do it digitally right now – here’s how [link to full blog post on how-to]
  • Relive the magic – follow up your Postagram with a Tweet [blog link]
They didn’t take me up on my tweet consulting, but they did express their appreciation, and did in fact send the replacement card as promised, which my awesome wife loved, even a few days after Valentine’s. So we’re keeping the fun going here even a week later.
From table to phone to postcard: Postagram.

From table to phone to postcard to my wife's desk: Postagram.

I’ll very likely use Postagram in the future, not only because of the good customer service, but also as a unique and easy way to keep in touch with my non-socially connected friends and relatives (and my social-networking-connected friends, just to freak them out with actual mail). They even recently integrated with one of my favorite photo-editing apps, PhotoForge2, with the functionality of sending cards right from within the app. Now I can send my creepy bug photos through the mail – excellent!

What do you think? Have you ever sent or received a card via Postagram or a similar service? When was the last time you sent a physical postcard? Will you be inclined to try something like Postagram next time you want to send a postcard? Let us hear from you in the comments!