We haven’t seen all the features of Apple’s new iPhone, but even without seeing them we’re  impressed by the price. Apparently, a thousand dollars isn’t what it used to be. But what is? Apple has always had high prices but this may be getting ridiculous. So we bought an elderly friend a smartphone for $17. That would be a cost ratio of about sixty to one.

She impressed a fellow resident at her retirement home by whipping out her new phone to call an Uber cab. When she said it was a cheap phone, he figured she meant around  $200, a bargain these days. But the “Alcatel One Touch” cost us $17 from Walmart, and her monthly service cost is just $7 from TracFone. There’s just one problem:  It has very little storage space; add two or three apps and it’s full.

You see these phones in drugstores and supermarkets. There are racks of them. Prices range from the $17 we paid online from Walmart to around $35 at an actual drugstore. There’s nothing fixed about this; there are always sales and prices jump around. For the sake of having a reference point, we figure around $20 will do it.

Memory is insufficient. The iPhone will knock these cheap phones flat. What’s a mother to do? Well you can add a memory card and kick it up nicely.  We bought her a 32 gigabyte memory card from SanDisk, the people who invented them, and that set us back another $12.

So then, for $29 we were up to the level of many smartphones out there. But  there was a problem: It was easy to jump up the memory on this cheap smartphone, you can watch it done on videos on YouTube, but many of them are wrong. Some of these tell you how to “root” your phone, which can turn it into a “brick,” they warn, and expose you to hackers. Ignore all that. No need to root it these days. Just take off the back, remove  the battery, and  insert the card into the only slot available. The phone will immediately recognize the extra memory.  Boom, done.

With all this memory, she could get back her Scrabble game, her driving navigation,  and add all kinds of other apps as well. But loading the apps was kind of slow. Well, while you’re waiting, use the time to count up your thousand dollar savings.

If we had thought about the speed problem in advance, we would have bought SanDisk’s fastest card for $19. But we didn’t think of it. The “SanDisk Ultra” card, for around $12, claims speeds up to 80 gigabits per second. That’s extremely fast, but its average speed according to is only 25 megabits per second. The SanDisk “Extreme” (around $19 on Amazon for the 32 gigabyte version but selling for about $70 elsewhere) is far better; its real average speed is around 90 gigabits.

Though we didn’t get the fastest, the SanDisk Ultra worked fine in our friend’s phone. She was able to add Uber’s rival “Lyft,” for cab service, and many games. Be sure to look up the storage capacity of your phone before buying one. The Alcatel One Touch can only handle 32 gigabytes of storage space, but that’s more than enough for practically anyone.

Finally, there is a distinct difference in the quality of the Alcatel One Touch phone’s camera. The expensive phones take sharper pictures. They also have larger screens, higher-resolution video and a lot of other features you may or may not need. Our elderly friend (98 years-old) thought she had to buy an iPhone just for her favorite apps. Not so.

A Treasure Trove of Freebies

Search on the phrase “Chrome Web Store” to find games, word processors, productivity tools and more – all free for use with the Google Chrome web browser. Bob found one of his favorite programs there, called “Writer.” It gives you a black screen and green text, like the old days of using DOS and remote terminals; very easy on the eyes. The editing commands are the same as in Microsoft Word.

When you find an app (short for “application”) you like, launch it, and make it easy to find again by clicking the three dots in the upper right of your Chrome web browser. Choose “more tools” and then “save to desktop.” You’ll have an icon for the program right where you can find it easily. If you’re using a Chromebook, all apps are available from the start menu.

Restaurant Bill Blues

Once a month, Joy has lunch with five other ladies. Splitting up the bill seems to be beyond them and there’s always claims and counter claims. Just to get it over with, Joy ends up paying more than her fair share.

An alternative solution: there’s a free app for Android and iPhone called “Tip N Split.” Put in the number of people, the total, and the tip you want (15 percent, 20 percent, etc.). It tells you what each person owes — with one problem.

The problem, as you well know, is that people order different stuff. (We’ll never forget the time we dined with a couple who ordered over $100 worth of wine, appetizers and other courses and then split the bill down the middle, though Bob  ordered only soup.) To get around this, use the app to lump two or three together if their bills are similar. Handle the Big Spenders separately. In fact, you can handle them all separately. Go around the table and announce each person’s share of the bill after keying in the total amount they ordered, including their share of the tax and whatever tip they want to give. Since it’s done by a computer program, that shuts everybody up. Anyone who objects is thrown out of the group.





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