Workhard Anywhere

Since we take our phones and tablets everywhere we go now, it would only make sense that we would use them for most of our day to day work. But how are we supposed to do said work without good WiFi, comfortable seating and plentiful outlets? If only there was an app that provided all this information…
Enter Workhard Anywhere. If you didn’t guess from the name, the app was created with the idea that it would give people a place to find all this information quickly. The founders, Benson and Cody, created the app while working on projects with each other. Because they didn’t live near each other, they had to meet in places like coffee shops and libraries. They created Workhard Anywhere as a way to keep track of which spots had the best WiFi, seating and outlet options. Today, over 900 people have helped grow the app into a collection of 2400+ workspaces in 50 countries. They believe “work may be hard, but finding a place to work shouldn’t be”.

The app itself is easy to use and understand, opening up by showing you a map of your surrounding location, and any possible workhard spots. Since it would be impossible for just 2 people like Benson and Cody to update every possible coffee shop and location, anyone who downloads the app is able to create new spots and update existing locations. Users can enter ratings of number of outlets and seats. They can also enter whether parking is readily available, whether on the street or in a lot. Once you say WiFi is available, the app will test the connection and show the speed.  And if you’re just looking for somewhere to write a quick blog post, you can pull up information on locations that have already been submitted by others. You’ll get a quick overview of all the information necessary to help you write that blog post about the latest app.

The beta testers have been hard at work making sure the app was absolutely perfect, so once it was officially released, everyone could be up and running, getting their work done in the most ideal locations. While this app was previously only available to those beta testing the app, as of today it’s available on the Apple App Store! Download it today, and add your input to the 2400 workhard locations around the globe!

Fitness Tracker for Lazy People

I am one of the least active people there is, so why would I need a fitness tracker? I don’t. 

Beautiful nails and a cool fitness tracker

I purchased the Fitbit Flex a few years ago, when it was new and there weren’t a ton of options on the market. It was a neat idea, but the app was very buggy on my BlackBerry. That meant I couldn’t check my steps until I got home and was able to connect the Fitbit to my laptop. But when Verizon sent me the Charge HR, I knew this time around would be much different. Not only is the Charge HR a million times better than the Flex, but the app is a super cool way to monitor a bunch of stats. My favorite thing about the Charge is that it’s also a watch, so you don’t need to wear both. When you turn your wrist up to look at the display, the clock automatically shows, which is the most useful feature on any gadget I’ve ever tested.

The app allows you to track not only your steps, but also calories burned, active minutes, flights climbed, water consumed and more. I drank a lot more water while using the Fitbit, because I really liked seeing the little human fill up with water every time I had a bottle. The Charge also automatically tracks your sleep, showing when you were restless, awake and fully asleep. Another handy feature is the Fitbit vibrates when you get an incoming call, and shows the caller ID on the display. My phone is always on silent, so if I ever get a call, I’m guaranteed to miss it. This helped me at least notice I had an incoming call, but whether or not I wanted to answer was up to me.

I definitely don’t need a fitness tracker. I barely take 7,000 steps a day, rarely have more than 5 “active minutes” and I don’t need to constantly know my heart rate. But I love the Charge HR! It’s fun to know these things, and the fact that it’s also a watch makes it that much better. I’m so glad Verizon let me test this out, because otherwise I never would have known how much I wanted one! Because if there was ever a fitness tracker for people who aren’t into fitness, this is it! And I’m sure it does a great job tracking people who actually exercise as well.

Droid Turbo & Moto 360

I got the Droid Turbo and Moto 360 around the time that the Apple watch was being announced and released, so I was looking forward to trying out the latest trend. The idea of having something strapped to your wrist that did less than what your phone could do was weird to me. Now that I’ve tried out a smart watch, it still is.  

 The exterior design of Android phones never fails to impress me, and the Turbo was no different! It had a red carbon fiber back that looked great. You know my feelings on the Android OS, so that’s really all I have to say about the phone. 

Then comes the Moto 360. I think this is by far the best looking smart watch. The circular face helps it blend in with a normal watch but still has plenty of screen space to show notifications. The leather band that mine came with was comfortable, although a little stiff. Using the 360 was very simple, but reading the emails that came in was something else entirely. The notifications for the email was clear and easy to read, but formatting causes the emails to show up in an almost alien language. I got the gist of my emails, but found myself taking out my phone to read them. This brings me to the most important fact about the smart watch…what’s the point?? My phone was always a few inches away in my pocket, the incoming messages were hard to read and the watch didn’t always sense when I turned it up to look at it. Personally, the only time I actually used it was when I was showing people how it worked. I rarely even used it as a normal watch, because I’m so used to pulling my phone out of my pocket to check the time. 

For me, the smart watch is more of a novelty than a device that’s actually useful. I’m sure I’ll come around eventually, but for now I’ll stick with my trusty Timex. 

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

If you ask Samsung, bigger is absolutely better. The Galaxy Note Edge is absolutely HUGE. But does screen size and one unique feature help it stand out in a sea of iPhones?

Well it's definitely unique! #Samsung #GalaxyNoteEdge #tech #VZWMidwest

A post shared by Lauren Kortbein (@laurenkortbein) on

Obviously screen size is a big source of debate. Some people like having smaller phones that they can easily use one-handed, while others like to have big screens that are easier to read. The more important (and unique) feature of the Note Edge is, well, the edge! The right hand side of the phone curves across, giving extra screen space. Samsung makes use of it by allowing users to customize the display when it’s in lock mode, and choosing what apps to display when the phone is on. I think this feature only works because it’s on a phone that runs on Android. On my iPhone, I have all my apps sorted neatly into folders. But whenever I use an Android, I don’t focus on icons as much as I do the widgets. Most of the apps I download on an Android are unorganized on whatever page they first showed up on. Because of this, I liked being able to quickly access my favorite apps with a swipe and click.

Other than the extra sliver of screen that the Note Edge provides, I wasn’t super impressed with the phone. The typical Android features are all there, along with the pen that comes with owning a phablet. Plus at $100 more than the normal Galaxy Note, this phone just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s a good idea in theory, but not quite edgy enough (sorry).

My Android of Choice: Moto X

I was very excited to try the Moto X, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! The first thing I noticed about it was the awesome bamboo back, which looks great with the white face!

The only thing that takes away from its beauty are all the grey and black circles scattered over the front of the phone. I didn’t fully understand the point of these until I turned it on. A majority of these random circles are infrared sensors, which sense when you wave your hand over it or bring your face close to it (and yes, I looked very stupid trying that). The size of the phone is very similar to that of the iPhone 6, although the screen size is a little bit bigger. I didn’t even notice that until I carefully compared the two. Because the Moto X has a curved back, it feels great to hold and isn’t awkward to reach any part of the screen.

I got the Lollipop update a few hours after first turning on the phone, so it was great to be able to compare the two OS’. None of the previous phones I’ve had have gotten the Lollipop update while I was using them, and I couldn’t stop hearing about all the great new features of this OS. Everything is fresh and new, and the update looks great on such a cool phone. I’m not sure if this was a Lollipop thing, or a Moto X thing, but one night as I was using it, a virtual bug crawled across the screen. Naturally I had to see what this was about, so I clicked on it and it brought me to an entire virtual, interactive story! As I turned my phone, the scene changed, and I could click on the bugs running across the screen, until they were eaten by a frog. (Spoiler alert: they all made it out in the end!) What a creative way to get people to spend even more time on their phones! My favorite feature however, was the fact that you didn’t have to light up the entire screen to see your notifications. All you had to do was wave your hand over the front and it would show you the time and whatever notifications you had, while leaving the rest of the screen unlit. This helped to save a lot of battery life, which was useful since the battery life wasn’t great.

The one thing I wasn’t super happy about was the quality of the pictures. When I was taking the picture, it looked perfectly clear and focused, but when looking at it in the gallery, a different story was told. The pictures were blurry and hadn’t focused on the right thing. I tried changing settings in the display and the camera, but nothing helped. I really am spoiled by my iPhone camera.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed using the Moto X. It’s a perfect size, looks awesome and has tons of neat features. My Android phone of choice!

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro

This may sound strange, but I love when my opinion on tech is proven wrong by the product. I often form opinions on tech before I’ve even tried it, so I love when I test the product and realize it’s better than I thought. Before I tried out the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro, I really disliked Samsung. I thought their products were ugly and didn’t like how they functioned. Yay for being wrong! The Note Pro is a seriously good tablet. Like, as close to laptop replacing as a tablet will ever get. The screen size is insane, only a few inches smaller than my laptop.IMG_1778

Because the screen size is so large, you can multitask and have two different apps open in the same window. So cool!

Screenshot_2015-03-09-11-07-06

The pen that comes with the Pro is so handy. It’s very useful when trying to click small links or navigating a complicated website. It’s also fun to use the pen in the S Note app to draw and doodle! (I drew the “What’s In My Bag” picture on the Pro, above left)

There are a few drawbacks to using a tablet versus a laptop, however. A majority of my classes are online this semester, and they all use different sites for homework. Some of these sites used flash, which didn’t work on the Pro. I also missed having a real keyboard sometimes, especially when writing blog posts or papers for class. This could easily be fixed by purchasing a bluetooth keyboard, however.

I would recommend this tablet for people who have a desktop computer, but want something that’s more portable without buying a laptop. The Galaxy Note Pro can do very close to everything you would need in a laptop, and it has a great looking screen, a beautiful display and is very light. I’m not convinced tablets are laptop killers yet, but we’re getting close! The Galaxy Note Pro was an awesome tablet to use, but to be honest, I still think Samsung devices aren’t all that good looking.

HTC One M8 & RE Camera

For the last two months, I’ve had the chance to test out the HTC One M8 and the RE camera. These are both great devices, and I was excited to try something from HTC, which is a company that I believe makes truly great technology. My sister has had the HTC One M7 for a year and a half, and has loved using it. She bought it after I forced her off her Droid 4 and onto a Z10, which wasn’t as appealing to her. I’ve been looking forward to testing out the One M8, since everyone has been talking so highly of it. 

Fun new technology to play with! #HTCOneM8 #REcamera #VZWMidwest

A post shared by Lauren Kortbein (@laurenkortbein) on

Then there’s the HTC RE camera. It’s an interesting little device, and the shape reminds me of a submarine’s scope. The idea of the camera is that you can take it anywhere, including underwater! After having it for almost two months, I still don’t fully understand the point of it. Obviously I have my phone with me everywhere I go, and there has never been a situation where I wanted to take a picture but didn’t want to use my phone. But I really wanted to understand this little gizmo, so I took it to Florida with me, hoping I would get a perfect opportunity to use it. I brought it with when we spent New Years Eve in downtown Orlando, figuring it was better to have that knocked out of my hand than my phone. I took numerous pictures, often of the same thing, since there isn’t a way to see how the picture looks. It’s like film cameras all over again! When I got back to the hotel and had a chance to look at the pictures, I was disappointed. Most of them were either blurry or I had cut out half of the subject. This is the whole point of a viewfinder. After this, I didn’t use the RE camera very much, and instead used either my iPhone or HTC One.

Now comes the phone. The HTC One M8 is absolutely gorgeous. The black screen with the dark grey metal surrounding it makes it seem as if it’s constantly in stealth mode. Which it probably is. This is easily the best looking phone on the market right now.

I would love to say that the phone operates as flawlessly as it looks, but unfortunately that’s not the case. I used the HTC as a GPS many times, especially since it came with unlimited data. But doing this would more often than not cause the phone to crash, even if there were no other background apps running. It seemed like the phone was easily overwhelmed, and I couldn’t figure out how to calm it down. One of the features I really enjoyed, though, was that you could wake the phone up the same way you would wake up a BlackBerry 10 device, by swiping up. This feature went further; if you swiped left it brought you to BlinkFeed, and right brought you to Google. There’s a phone for everyone, and as much as I loved looking at the One M8, I preferred using an iPhone. But that’s why there are so many options out there!

The RE camera is a strange idea. Maybe better for someone who is more active? I still haven’t figured out its purpose. The HTC One M8 is a gorgeous phone that works well, but doesn’t live up to my expectations. Maybe because I still can’t “like” Android. There are so many great features of it, but it seems like they’re all mashed together in an unorganized fashion. Lollipop could change my mind, and I’m looking forward to using it, but for now I’ll stick with my 6.