A CHEAP TRIP

A reader wondered how much data his smart phone would use, with GPS running the whole time, on a road trip to Florida.  First the good news: The GPS system doesn’t use data. Now the bad news: Downloading maps does. One way to avoid data charges is to get a free app called “CoPilot GPS,” which currently has over 14 million users.  (We wrote about it once before, but didn’t realize how crucial it was for saving data charges — since we’re on an unlimited data plan, but with very few talk-minutes.) After you install the app, download the region or country  you’re interested in. Now you’re ready to see maps and directions offline. You don’t need any cellular or […]

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APP HAPPY BIRDING

If you can’t tell the difference between a White-Breasted Nuthatch and a Blue jay, we’re ashamed of you. You probably could use the “Merlin Bird ID” app from the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. Non-smart phone owners can skip the app and get the information they want from AllAboutBirds.org.

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THREE GREAT APPS

“Zepp Tennis 2″ works with any Zepp sensor to show you what your tennis serve looks like in 3D. It works with iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets. Check out similar apps from Adidas (soccer) and Babolat (tennis). “Google Goggles” is a free app for Android/iPhone/iPad that identifies images for you. The other day, someone at the question and answer site, Quora.com, asked Joy to identify a picture of a fruit. If Bob had been there, he would have told her it was the Carambola, or so-called “star” fruit. Not having Bob there, Joy took a picture of it with her phone camera and the Goggles app showed her similar pictures, with links to identifying text. Ah ha! She even […]

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ARE FITNESS BANDS RELIABLE?

The information you get from “fitness” bands may be off by as much as 40 percent, according to Gregory Welk, an Iowa State University kinesiology professor, who tested seven of them. The top two bands were off just over 15 percent and the worst one was off 40 percent. There were $1.4 billion worth of these fitness trackers sold last year and the market continues to be hot. Professor Welk admits they’re still a valuable tool to achieve fitness.

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GETTING THERE

“Waze” is a free alternative to Google Maps (also free). It calls out turn-by-turn directions, just as Google Maps does. Just tap the microphone and speak your destination, or type it in. Then tap “navigate.”  For those who want more, Waze keeps you up to date on traffic conditions and can even tell you when your friends arrived at the destination. (If five minutes have gone by and they still haven’t got out of the car and wrung the bell, they’re probably arguing about whether to see you at all.)

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ONLINE DATING REVISITED

We’ve never tried “Hinge,” which is a fast-growing dating service. We didn’t try it because we’re married and happy about it. Now that a widowed friend has tried it, we’re adding a few words of caution. Hinge.co is a free app that finds matches for you from friends of your Facebook friends. By confining the field, they claim you’re more likely to find suitable matches. When our widowed friend started Hinge on her iPad, she was startled to see her adult son’s face beaming up at her; she was afraid it was about to match her with his friends, despite the huge age differences. No one had ever disconnected as fast as she did. She didn’t realize the app just […]

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LET’S DO LUNCH

If you’ve ever gone round and round trying to schedule a meeting, you know what a hassle it is. We suggest using Doodle.com, a free tool. Email the group once and it will come about.

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THE APPLE WATCH COMPETITION

Apple Watch reviews have been mixed. Some functions are unnecessary, and others take too long to learn. The $349 price isn’t too appealing either, and you have to have an iPhone to go with it.  We wondered what the alternatives were, so tried out three Android watches. You have to have an Android phone. Of the three, we liked the $179 “Motorola Moto 360” best. It’s half the price of the new “LG Watch Urbane” and $20 less than the new “Asus ZenWatch.” The round-faced Urbane  gets high marks for stylishness, though, with its metal rim and a handsome band. The rectangular ZenWatch is also attractive. But for Joy, our master tester, these two lost out to the less-expensive Moto […]

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NEW APPS FOR THE APPLE WATCH AND BEYOND

“Morningstar” is a free app for iPhone and Android, and now available on the Apple Watch as well. Morningstar is mainly a rating service for mutual funds but the app also provides info on current market action. “iGrill” or “Kitchen Thermometer” from iDevices. It tells you how hot your food is and lets you reset temperatures.

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USING YOUR CAMERA TO SCAN DOCUMENTS

“Turboscan” was suggested by a doctor who reads our column. He said it’s good for scanning a document with your camera phone and it worked well in our tests. It’s $3 for Android or iPhone. It lets you take multi-page scans. Crop the results and you can combine three similar shots to get better resolution. When satisfied, tap the app to email the document as a PDF.

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