No More Starbucks Lines?

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 8.13.41 PMI’ve had the Starbucks app on my iPhone for many months, now (maybe years? Time goes so fast!).

I don’t use Starbucks often, very seldom, really, but when I do, I use my Starbucks app to pay for my order. Before the app, I would have to hunt through my purse for a gift card which I usually had hanging about. But with the app, any received gift card just gets loaded into the app and gets used directly from my phone. (and I will admit that since I use Starbucks so rarely, I never remember exactly what to do. Kudos to the very harried but helpful baristas who always politely take my phone and hold it up to whatever machine works its magic and pays for my coffee.)

This week, Starbucks has updated their app. Apparently you can now ORDER and PAY IN ADVANCE directly from the app on your phone. This means that when you arrive at the store, your order should be waiting for you.


I may not be a Starbucks regular, but I love this idea. Each experience I have had at this store usually involved considerable time standing in Starbucks lines, and wouldn’t care to make that a regular occurrence.

So for city-dwellers or Starbucks regulars, this could be a real time saver. I’ll be interested to see how it works out in real life.

My understanding is that this is now available across the USA and also in many Starbucks stores in London.

Starbucks app is FREE in the iTunes store.

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Google Keep is now available for iPhones and iPads

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 7.44.21 PMI love my iPhone and iPad, but I’m not a person who is wed to Apple-only devices. I’m a Kindle person (never liked the whole i-Books thing). And I enjoy Google, too. I prefer Google maps to Apple maps, and I use a Google calendar to run my life. Fortunately, Apple, Google and Amazon seem to be playing together nicely because somehow it all just works.

And now … another treat from Google! They have recently made their Google Keep app available for our Apple devices. Yay! (It’s been around for a while on those (boo!) Android thingys :wink: )

Google Keep is a note-taking app that lets you keep everything in one place ….. and syncs flawlessly across your devices. (My Google Calendar has never let me down, and I’m expecting the same performance from Google Keep.)

I installed it on my iPhone, and added a few notes (both typed and verbal). Then I installed the app on my iPad. When I opened the app on my iPad, everything that I had done on the iPhone was there waiting for me. Synced. Flawlessly.

And it’s beautiful. I love the way the notes appear on the page (notes can be color-coded). You can also set reminders with this app by both time and/or location. You can make lists, add photos … it’s really all around goodness.

Please excuse my screenshot of this app’s screenshot, but I was so excited I have already filled my Google Keep app with far too many personal items to share the screenshots on this blog!

Google Keep is FREE in the iTunes store

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The Apps I found to be Most Helpful for Cross-Country Driving

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.15.22 PMLast July we took a month-long road trip. I live on the east coast and we drove all the way to the west coast, passing through 15 states. Being an east-coast person, where facilities exist at every highway exit, and internet access is everywhere, I anticipated fretted (just a bit) that there would be times on this drive where I would find myself in pockets of “no service.” Like many of you I have come to rely on my iPhone for directions, recommendations, reservations, information and reviews and so I did what I could to prepare for “life without” my smartphone. :shock:

To my surprise, I never found cell service to be a problem. I got the dreaded “no service” occasionally, but not nearly as often as I had expected. Even on remote route 2 in northernmost Montana, cell service was surprisingly available.

Before leaving, I loaded my iPhone with apps that I thought might be useful. I didn’t dig too deep, so most of the apps I used were pretty mainstream, and their usefulness varied according to where-in-the-world I was.

It goes without saying that the Camera and Photos were both used a LOT.

And Weather. I have several weather apps on my phone, although three of them are local. So I turned to the standby Weather Channel app to check forecasts for the places we were going.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.52.15 PMAnother weather app that I found to be most helpful was Radar US.

By keeping an eye on the radar, we were able to time some outdoor events in between approaching storms.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 6.40.15 PMI used Google Maps constantly. I used it for navigation and I used it to look ahead for traffic.
However, I soon learned that “traffic” was really not a problem in most of the areas we explored. (True story: The very WORST traffic of our entire adventure happened as we arrived back in our own area, about 20 minutes from home. 30 days of driving, and we got stuck during the last half hour.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.03.30 PM When you’re a stranger in a strange land, Yelp is a treasure. There was a time that Yelp was most helpful only in cities, but I am here to report that even in the smallest of towns I found that folks had reviewed the (very) few eating establishments thoroughly. We had several delicious meals in places that we would have missed without turning to Yelp for advice.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.29.18 PMiExit was wonderfully helpful. There is nothing better when riding down a highway than being able to look ahead to determine when and where you might stop for gas or food.

I found that this app was even useful in the sparsely populated areas, because I was able to see at a glance how many exits ahead had nothing …. making a stop “now” even more imperative. As someone who lives on the busy East Coast, I live in a world where EVERY exit of EVERY highway is populated with numerous motels, gas stations and eateries. It rapidly became clear that this is not the norm for most of the country, and while looking ahead down a highway on this app I was delighted when I was finally able to report an exit with facilities.

Entertainment: I had anticipated that there would be some long and rather dull stretches of road, so I loaded up some entertainment on my phone to keep us awake occupied as we drove.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.51.07 PMOf course I loaded my iPhone with many favorite Podcasts for listening as we drove. To my surprise, we didn’t listen nearly as much as I thought that we would. But they were available to fill some time if we needed them, and that was good.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.48.55 PMMy husband is a great fan of trivia, and so I selected a new trivia app for the drive, ExQuizit. We used it often, and found it delightful. There are many options available within the app. You can choose a single category, or two or several, and you can choose the number of questions you want, as well. You also have the opportunity to select from Normal, Hard, or Expert questions. The game has an option to play with friends, but we never used that. We played “solo” and just tried to conquer the questions together. I am not a trivia fan, but I actually found this an enjoyable way to pass some time.

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 7.59.33 PMNo drive across country can be accomplished without looking for a license plate from each state. And of course… there’s an app for that. Although pen and paper would do just fine, this was actually kind of fun and convenient. State Plate Hunt includes not only the 50 states of the USA, but also the states, provinces and territories of the USA, Canada and Mexico. When you see a plate, just tap the state and the app will mark it as “found.” (How did we do? 47 states. 47! grrrrr. We missed Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont. I understand Hawaii, but wasn’t anyone from Rhode Island or Vermont riding around this summer?)

Before leaving home, I would have guessed that Waze, AroundMe, and GasBuddy would all have been favorites, but I used those apps rarely. I’m sure there are some great road-trip apps that I missed, so if you have some you enjoy, please share!

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Here We Go Again! New Operating System Coming Soon. iOS9

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 7.14.47 PMFor the techy people of the world, a new operating system is probably a good thing. For me (and, I’m guessing, many of you…) a new operating system means that I get a little shaky in the knees as I worry about updating my devices and anticipate the glitches-that-will-most-likely-happen. :shock:

Yes, once again we are about to get an update for our iPhones and iPads. iOS9. September 16.

If you’re a long time follower of this blog, you know that I’ve always suggested waiting a while before updating. If there are bugs and glitches, I’d rather have someone else suffer through them as they are worked out. Hopefully the nasty bugs on release day should be few since iOS9 has been public-tested for a while. But I’m very conservative when it comes to “new” stuff, and so I’ll be taking my time as usual.

It always seems that just as I get used to the system I have …. they change it. So what’s new this time? I did some googling to find out what would be “new and improved” in version 9. Here is what I learned:

1. Battery Life. We all tweak our devices to help save battery power. Apparently iOS9 will help us do that. Today, when you set your phone face-down, and you get notifications, your phone lights up, using battery power. In iOS9, your iPhone will KNOW that it is face-down, and it won’t bother lighting up, conserving battery power. There are several other battery-saving additions as well, such as a low-power mode. Apple says that by using the low-power mode you will be able to boost your battery life by as much as 3 hours.

2. Siri improvements. I’ll admit I don’t use Siri very often. Mostly I use her in the car, when I want to call someone hands free (very convenient!), or when I ask her to read text messages to me (also in the car). Apparently Apple wants to make Siri smarter, and has strived to do that with this update. With iOS9, you should be able to ask Siri to show you all the photos you took at your nephew’s birthday party or on your last trip to Chicago. In other words, the search options are expected to be greatly improved.

3. In iOS9, Apple has gotten rid of Newsstand. (I never ever used this, did you?) They have replaced this with a news app that you can personalize to your interests. The app will also make recommendations for you, based on your preferences.

4. Multi-tasking on the iPad will make a debut. iOS9 will give users of the newer iPads the ability to use two apps at once or watch a video while using an app. This is an iPad only improvement. iPhone = nope.

5. Notes app. This app has been improved with some new tools.

6. Keyboard letters. With iOS9, when you are using lower case letters, the keyboard will show you lower case letters. Once you hit the shift key (to use caps), the keyboard will then show capital letters. (Now the keyboard always shows caps, regardless of whether you are using the shift key or not). Although this not-changing thing has never bothered me, it seems so obvious and simple, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been done long before now.

And so, although it looks as though the new iOS9 won’t be too dramatic, it will bring with it some sensible changes.

I’ll wait a little while as I usually do before I install this new operating system, but once I do I’ll be sure to go through each and every change, here on this blog, one at a time. S-l-o-w-l-y. :)

Test Driving Apple’s iOS9

iOS 9 will be available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch September 16th

iOS 9 will be released on September 16th

iOS 9: The new and notable features in the open beta (hands-on)

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How to View Movies on your iPad or iPhone OFFLINE, with Amazon Prime, for FREE

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 9.33.06 AMAnyone who travels has faced the situation. You want to load up your device with some content to watch while you are offline (not streaming). Anticipation of a long airplane ride will send most people to iTunes or Amazon with the intention of grabbing some movies or tv shows to help pass those long hours in flight.

Until now, your best option was to rent a movie (or tv show).

But recently Amazon has announced a new feature for its Amazon Prime members: Free offline watching of (some) videos. This is great news for travelers who subscribe to Amazon Prime. This feature had previously only been available for Amazon’s own Fire tablets, but now this is a new expansion to include iPhones and iPads. Yay!

Although Amazon has made it clear that this feature is not available for everything in their Prime library (I’m sure they have to pay for the right to do this) …… they claim that “thousands” of videos are available for off-line viewing.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 8.55.19 AMSo, I decided to give it a try, since “easy” is not always easy for us un-techy folks. (Remember, you must be a Prime member to take advantage of this feature.)

Your first step will be to download Amazon’s free video app to your iPhone or iPad.

What follows here are several screen shots from my iPad as I downloaded a video to watch off-line.

After downloading the app, I was greeted with this screen, informing me of this new off-line watching feature.


Opening the app, I tapped on several programs that were available free for Prime members. The first one I found that also offered the download option was “Curb your Enthusiasm”. Notice the download icon next to each episode.


I tapped the download icon and the program started downloading immediately.


After the file downloaded, I closed the app, and went off-line, putting my iPad into airport mode.

I went back to the app to see if I could watch the program. I wasn’t sure how to access it, but sometimes the ‘easiest’ way is the one that works. I simply went to the same screen where I did the downloading, and tapped on “play.”

Instantly, the show began, and played flawlessly, while my iPad was offline. Hurray!

Your movie or tv show will not stay on your device forever, it will “expire”. In this case, you can see that I was told that the program would be available offline for me for 48 hours.

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A Very Useful App… and it’s Free! Tymer

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 7.10.59 AMOne of the reasons I love my smartphone is that it makes my life easier.

And whenever I can add another helpful app, I just get happier.

Tymer is one of those apps, and (at this moment in time) it is FREE in the iTunes store.

This app is beautiful in its simplicity. It is a multiple – timer app, allowing you to set numerous timers at once. Obviously wonderful for cooking, but also good for all sorts of multi-tasking.

It is very easy to use, with a minimalist design. When you first open it, you will see …. nothing. Nothing but a black screen with the word “tymer” on the top left and a plus sign on the top right.

Tap the plus sign to add a timer. Swipe the timeline to set the time.

Tap the plus sign again to add another.

and again…. you get the idea.

To delete a timer, you just swipe to the left.

This app has earned a permanent place on my iPhone.

Tymer is FREE in the iTunes store. (this may change, so if you are interested…. hurry!)

a screenshot of their screenshot:

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