Best and worst gadgets for protecting your privacy

from the desk of Rich on Tech

Good Morning!

Can you believe we’re already at the end of 2020? What an oddly fast/slow year. I mean, it feels like yesterday that I was leaving the newsroom to “work from home” for just a few weeks in mid-March. I’ve been home ever since and life has never been the same.

It seems like there is hope for things to return to somewhat normal soon (I’m talking months, not days, but still) but I think many of us are going to miss certain aspects of our pandemic lockdown lifestyles. The pandemic has given us an introspect we might have missed. It makes us realize this big old world of ours isn’t so automatic after all.

The world needs each and every one of us to contribute something to the greater good - whether it’s our work, raising a family, helping others in tough times or just having the will to continue to move forward even in the most challenging of circumstances.

Personally, I’ve focused on a positive attitude and producing TV segments, social media content and podcasts that are useful, timely and somewhat of an escape.

Finally, a bit of personal news. CES 2021 recently announced their plans for a virtual show and revealed that I’ll be one of the “news desk” hosts for their virtual show coverage, along with some of my favorite folks in tech. I’m looking forward to that!

Let’s get started, shall we?

Secret discounts for teachers, students and more

Everyone loves a good discount and this story idea actually came to me through a viewer. Anna W. wrote to me and asked if I knew about a website called ID.me. She said she just saved $20 monthly on her Verizon bill thanks to a teacher discount she secured through the site.

I did some research and found that there are several sites that offer discounts to certain communities - including teachers, students, first responders, medical and more.

I found some excellent discounts through these sites including 10% off at Zappos, 10% off at Lowes, 20% off at Nike and more.

See the segment using the link below and let me know if you find a discount for you!

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/discounts-for-first-responders-teachers-students-military-websites-richontech/

Tech experts share their stocking stuffer gift ideas

We’re getting close to Amazon’s shipping deadline of December 23 for delivery by Christmas Day, so there might be some time to grab one of these techy gift ideas.

I wanted to do something different this year, so I polled some of my tech friends and asked them for their recommendations under $50.

They have some excellent suggestions, and this turned out to be one of the most popular segments of the year!

You can see their picks below:

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/tech-experts-recommend-their-favorite-stocking-stuffers-under-50/

Since we’re talking tech gifts, I’ve been keeping an ongoing list of my tech gadget picks here:

https://bit.ly/RichsFavThings

Best and worst gadgets for protecting your privacy

It started with a smartphone and now many of us have connected gadgets in our homes with things like cameras, microphones and even GPS built-in.

But not so fast says the Mozilla Foundation. They took a look at over 100+ popular gadgets to see which ones protect our privacy best and which are the worst.

Their report is called “Privacy Not Included” and it’s pretty eye-opening. Bottom line: buy stuff from the companies you trust and be careful with the companies that don’t respect your data.

See the full list of the best and worst gadgets here:

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/privacy-not-included-best-worst-gadgets-protecting-privacy-2020/

A new way to workout at home

If you’re trying to stay in shape at home, Apple has a new way for you to do it. It’s called Apple Fitness+ and it’s a new video workout program designed around the Apple Watch.

Yes, you do need an Apple Watch (series 3 or later) to unlock the feature, which costs $10 a month for the entire family. There are excellent classes in a variety of categories including HIIT, strength, core, yoga, cycling, rowing, treadmill and more.

I’ve been loving this - it’s all well done and there are always 3 instructors in every class so you can follow the one that matches your skill level. Everyone gets a free month free and recent Apple Watch buyers get three months free.

You can find Apple Fitness+ in the “Fitness” app, just be sure to update your iPhone and Apple Watch to the latest software to see it.

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/apple-fitness-plus-review-richontech/

Rich on Tech Podcast

In my podcast, I talk about the tech stuff I think you should know about and answer the questions you send me.

This week I talk about hosting CES 2021's virtual show; a review of Apple Fitnes+; Samsung promises better video and photo quality, more foldable phones in 2021; HBO Max comes to Roku; Apple TV+ comes to Chromecast with Google TV; Malicious Chrome extensions; Apple Privacy labels; Google Pay $21 signup bonus.

Listeners ask about a program to update their address book, a replacement for Google Play Music Manager, how much RAM to get on a new MacBook laptop, whether to buy an unlocked phone; canceling cable for YouTube TV and getting holiday backgrounds on Zoom on iPhone.

Listen to the episode below, and if you have a question for me to answer on the show, hit the “contact” link at the top or leave a voicemail using the mic button in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

https://www.podpage.com/richontech/ces-2021-virtual-show-announcement/

Tech Tidbits

You can put a Baby Yoda in your space thanks to Google augmented reality

You should really check out the Blob Opera

Recent media appearances

I recommended a great little travel projector for JohnnyJet’s blog

I went on Leo Laporte’s This Week In Tech show to talk about the week’s tech news

I went on Daily Mail TV to talk about taking a digital detox

I went on Daily Mail TV to talk about getting good lighting for your Zooms

Tweet of the week

Math seems to be hard for this website. Apple’s new headphones are expensive but not THAT expensive. The headline was soon changed after my Tweet.

That’s all folks!

This is the last newsletter of 2020. I just want to say a sincere thanks for being with me on this tech journey. I’m close to 100,000 followers on Instagram, a number I never imagined would grace my little profile. If you’re not following me there, please do so and tell a friend.

Have a fantastic holiday and a Happy New Year!

Rich

Should you take a walk on Amazon Sidewalk?

from the desk of Rich on Tech

Greetings!

Hope you’re having a great weekend and you didn’t mistakenly disconnect every component of your smart home from Google Assistant as I did… No idea what happened, but last night I was going through and doing some Google account housekeeping, and boom, next thing you know my smart home stuff is gone.

Now, I always tell people that they can’t really break anything when it comes to tech, but apparently you can. I’m still not sure what exactly I did, but I was going through the permissions on my Google account - the third-party services are linked to it - and clearly, I deleted a connection that needed to remain there. I’ll keep you posted on that…

But the other thing I’ve been doing is going through my Google storage with a fine-toothed comb. Now that Google will soon begin charging for anything over 15 gigabytes, I want to pair down my files, photos, and Gmail so I stay under the 2 terabyte limit I pay $10 a month for. Right now I’m at 1.7 out of 2, which is comfortable but I still think I can do better.

Going through, I found several huge files, including a few 7-gigabyte recordings my kids made on their iPads just fixed out the window for an hour at a time. Wonder who they were spying on? I also politely transferred many gigabytes of photos I’ve been storing for family members over the years to their rightful accounts.

If you’re curious, you can see the large files in your Google Drive using this link: https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/quota.

OK, enough about my tech issues, let’s get to the newsletter!

Amazon Sidewalk privacy concerns

Amazon is set to activate a new type of “neighborhood” wireless network called Sidewalk. It’s broadcast out of Echo and Ring devices (their spotlight and floodlight cameras, not doorbells) using a bit of users’ home internet connections.

The Sidewalk network will make it easier to set up new devices and keep devices connected even if your WiFi connection goes out (they would fall back on the Sidewalk network to continue to work or send you notifications to fix your internet!). Sidewalk would also work with tracking devices like Tile, greatly increasing the likelihood that you could locate them.

Whether you agree or disagree with Amazon’s plan, the part that has many people upset is the fact that Amazon is automatically turning on this feature on devices by default - you have to tell them you don’t want to be a part of it.

On my podcast, I share more of my thoughts about the network and the pros and cons of being a part of it. You can watch my TV segment, which gives a top-level explanation, using this link:

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/got-an-echo-or-ring-soon-amazon-will-use-them-to-share-your-internet-with-a-new-sidewalk-network-unless-you-opt-out/

Then, you can decide if you want to be a part of it. If not, you can opt-out using these directions:

Shopping tools to save this holiday shopping season

The holiday shopping season is in full effect and it’s hard to believe gift-giving days are just weeks away.

This year, it’s all about shopping online, so I’m sharing some of the tools I’ve been using to find the best deals.

I wrote these articles for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, but all of the sites I mention are still great resources for finding deals every day.

Deal sites:

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/black-friday-deals-2020-best-websites-richontech/

How to price check deals:

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/price-check-cyber-monday-2020-deals-richontech/

Finding a PS5 or new Xbox

I can’t believe how popular these systems are this holiday season. The new gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft have been impossible to find. The best advice I can give is to be persistent.

You have to make it a daily routine to check stock and figure out a way to get your hands on one. That is if you actually need one of these systems the first month they’re launched.

You can easily wait a few months and they might be easier to get, have more games available and software bugs worked out. Just sayin.

Here are some of the sites I recommend that will help you check inventory and send alerts if and when the Xbox or PS5 is available.

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/where-to-find-playstation-5-xbox-series-x-in-stock/

Boba making robot

I’ve only had Boba tea twice in my life but I can tell you it is indeed delicious. So, when I heard about a Boba making robot, I jumped at the opportunity to see it in action.

A Santa Monica company called Bobacino is making an automated Boba kiosk. You make your order and it springs into action, creating your drink from start to finish autonomously.

It’s still pretty early, and they were literally still tweaking the programming as we were recording our TV segment, but it worked! The Boba was delicious.

You can watch my TV segment here:

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/bobacino-robot-boba-tea-bar-demo-richontech/

If you want to see the entire process from start to finish, you can watch my YouTube video on Bobacino.

Rich on Tech Podcast

In my podcast, I talk about the tech stuff I think you should know about and answer the questions you send me!

In this week’s show:

Amazon Sidewalk will turn on by default on Echo and Ring devices; Wyze $20 smartwatch; Warner Bros. streams same day as theater releases; Verizon offers unlimited cloud storage; Fire TV Cube gets video calling support; Google Play music goes away for reals.

Listeners ask about the Microsoft Edge web browser, how to get rid of the U2 album in Apple Music, stopping spam text messages, best tablet for a senior that's not Apple and Sonos versus HomePods.

Listen to the latest episode for free using this link and be sure to subscribe so you never miss a new show!

https://bit.ly/RichOnTechPodcast

Tech Tidbits

Google will soon delete your files if you’re inactive for two years.

Flipstik says it can stick your phone to most smooth surfaces.

Create a personalized Santa video thanks to this AI Santa.

Tweet of the week

That’s all, folks!

Thanks, as always, for reading! I do appreciate all of the comments and feedback you leave me in just about every way you can… from FB wall posts to comments to Instagram DMs to Twitter replies and even texts and not to mention the many, many emails. I do try to get to a majority of them but it’s not always possible… but I never take it for granted.

Have a fantastic weekend and don’t forget to hit that heart below on the way out so I know you enjoyed this. Also, follow me on Instagram!

Rich

Google Photos' free unlimited storage is going away

from the desk of Rich on Tech

Hello there!

Hope you’re having a fantastic day so far. I’m up early (as usual), have my coffee in hand and the house is already decorated for the holidays. So far, so good.

This has been an incredible past few months if you’re into technology. The gadgets just keep coming, which has meant no rest for me, but I also understand it’s a tricky time for spending and upgrades due to the pandemic.

So, I’m here trying to be mindful of the situation but also give you the info you need to navigate all of this new tech coming out for the holidays.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Apple, Apple, Apple!

Yes, you should definitely read the words above in the voice of Jan. Apple has just been absolutely full speed ahead with their release schedule. In the past few months, they’ve launched new Apple Watches, new iPads, four new iPhones, a subscription bundle, and new laptops with their own chips inside.

And, they’re not even finished! By the end of the year, we’re scheduled to see a new Fitness App from them as well. I’m tired just thinking of it all.

As of this week, the iPhone 12 Mini and Max are now available. That makes four new iPhone 12 models to choose from. The Mini is perfect if you just want a small and simple iPhone packed with the latest features. The iPhone 12 is the best overall phone for most people. It has the best combination of size and features. Go 12 Pro, which is the same size as the 12, if you want an upgraded camera experience with a zoom lens. Finally, go 12 Pro Max if you want the absolute biggest and best iPhone available today, with even more zoom capabilities and low light performance. Just be warned, it’s big.

Personally, I think I’m going with the iPhone 12 Pro this year. Last year I had the Max and I’m really enjoying being able to maneuver my phone with one hand and not having it weigh down my pocket.

Also this week, Apple unveiled new computers with their own chip inside, called the M1. This replaces the Intel processor that is usually inside. There are three new computers with the chips: a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and a Mac Mini. The laptops apparently have better speeds and battery life, plus they’re fanless so silence is golden!

I don’t necessarily think you need to run out and upgrade right now, but I wouldn’t be hesitant to buy these new models at all. Apple has proven it’s hardware and software synergies in the iPad and iPhone for years now. It’s likely going to be a winning combo in laptops, too.

The new laptops start at $899 with education pricing.

Finally, Apple’s HomePod Mini is going on sale Monday. After spending just about an hour with the speaker, I already decided it will be the top-selling gift of the holiday season. What’s not to love? It’s a tiny smart speaker with slick iPhone integration and the price is right at $99.

If people were going to the mall to shop these things would be stacked up in a pyramid outside the Apple store and people would be gobbling them up. The sound quality is quite remarkable considering the device is just about 3 inches tall. Plus, the audio fills the entire room, whether you’re playing content at low or high volumes.

I haven’t liked a speaker this much since I first got Sonos many years ago. But the HomePod Mini is much cheaper than those speakers and you can group them together for whole-house audio for a fraction of the price.


Curious about what else I recommend for the holidays? I’m keeping a list of my recommendations here.


Google Photos is losing it’s best feature

Unlimited free storage. Yep, the one thing that has set Google Photos apart from every other cloud photo provider out there is going away.

Google says it is nixing unlimited free storage as of June 1, 2021. Here’s the deal. Anything you upload until then in “high quality” will remain stored free of charge (presumably forever)

But after June 1, 2021, anything you upload, even in “high quality” will still count against a 15-gigabyte quota. Google says most people will still be able to upload pictures for free for about 3 years even after the changeover, but that all depends on your photo taking habits and especially how many videos you take, which will gobble up storage fast.

This changes everything. For years, I’ve recommended Google Photos because you can upload your photos for free and keep them there without thinking about storage. Soon, that will no longer be the case, which has me reconsidering alternatives like Apple’s iCloud, Amazon Photos, Microsoft OneDrive and more.

Two things to do right now:

First, check to see if you have any large videos in unsupported formats taking up your storage by visiting this page. You can delete these items, or download them and reupload in a new format that is supported by Google Photos and won’t count against your storage quota.

Second, check this page to see Google’s personalized estimate of how long you will be able to go before paying for storage.

Personally, I pay $10 a month for 2 terabytes of Google storage, so this won’t affect me as much but now I’m all about making that 2 terabytes last as long as possible.

Samsung S20 FE is a great Android smartphone

It took me a while to reach this conclusion, but I have decided the Samsung S20 FE is the best overall Android phone for most people this year. Yes, Note 20 Ultra is still my overall favorite, but that phone is big and expensive and has a lot of things not everyone needs.

The S20 FE is generally selling for about $599 and includes nearly all of the cutting edge features you need. It also comes in a bunch of fun colors and the camera is very capable. If you’re looking to upgrade your Android phone, this could be your next handset.

Mario Kart Live is a fun twist on the iconic game

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a fun new offering from Nintendo. It involves a real toy car plus race tracks that you build in your home. But the neat thing is, it all comes to life on the Switch screen using augmented reality.

My kids loved it. Good luck finding it in stock.

Seriously, since my goal is to help you out, check websites like NowInStock.net, BrickSeek, Popcart, BuyVia and zoolert.

Magician takes his show on the r̶o̶a̶d̶ Zoom

If you know anything about me, you know I absolutely LOVE magic. In fact, way before my RichOnTech days, I went by the name “The Amazing Rich-O” for a bit as a kid.

Anyway, that’s all to say I was super excited to meet up with magician Trigg Watson, who has made the best of the pandemic and lack of live shows. He converted his loft into a virtual magic studio and does fun, interactive shows on Zoom.

Rich on Tech Podcast

In my podcast, I talk about the tech stuff I think you should know about plus I answer the questions you send me! In this week’s show:

Hands-on with HomePod Mini, iPhone 12 Mini and Max; Apple's M1 chip; macOS Big Sur arrives; AirPlay 2 comes to Roku devices; Instagram's redesign; hands-on with PS5 and the new Xbox.

Listeners ask about the best mesh networking systems, what internet speed to get, whether to repair or replace an aging laptop, deleting a Facebook account and where to get pet insurance.

Listen here: https://bit.ly/RichOnTechPodcast

Tech Tidbits

Yep, Instagram has a major redesign. They’ve put a new “shopping” tab right where you used to check your likes and comments. So convenient for millions of guaranteed mis-taps.

If you still have a Slingbox, it will stop working on November 9, 2022.

Ring is recalling doorbells, but it’s only an issue if you put the wrong screw in the bottom of yours.

Tweet of the week

Gotta give the kid credit. I wouldn’t have thought of this.

That’s all, folks!

As always, please hit the heart on your way out so I know you enjoyed this newsletter. You can find it at the top or the bottom of the email.

Also, if you’re not following me on Instagram, now is a good time.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Rich

Spooky good tech info inside!

from the desk of Rich on Tech

Happy Halloween!

Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend so far. It’s one of those rare Saturday night Halloweens and many of us won’t even be taking advantage of it. That’s OK. We’re staying home with the kiddos and having a movie night in the backyard. I’ll be curious if anyone comes to the door.

The new tech has been arriving at lightning speeds: new phones, new hardware, new everything it seems. I’ve been trying to keep up with all of it.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

iPhone 12 review

I’ve been using the iPhone 12 for the past few weeks and while it’s great overall, it’s a bit tough to feel the newness on a daily basis. Sure, the camera is still solid and it takes slightly better low light pictures, but the speed seems on par with last year’s model, and 5G, while potentially amazing, hasn’t really changed my life just yet.

I did stumble upon the fastest 5G signal (called 5G UW, or ultra-wideband) in downtown Los Angeles a few days ago and that was pretty incredible. I’m talking speeds close to 1,000 Mbps. That’s what I have at home. Can you imagine having that at your fingertips everywhere? Now that would be game-changing.

I do love the new square design of the iPhone 12. I feel like it’s much easier to hold comfortably. I haven’t really used the MagSafe feature much, I’m still charging the old way.

Here’s my full review of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro.

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/iphone-12-and-12-pro-camera-and-speed-improvements-make-a-familiar-experience-even-better/

Here is a look at some low light pictures I took at CityWalk.

I always joke that Apple never does interviews on camera. So when they asked if I’d be interested in doing an on-camera interview with their iPhone executive, of course, I said yes. Here’s a look at our conversation!

Pixel 5

Not everyone wants an iPhone, and I totally understand that. I actually like some aspects of Android software better, like the ability to fully customize your phone experience.

Unfortunately, Google’s phones this year are a bit of a letdown for power users. The company decided NOT to go the flagship route and is instead offering more budget-friendly phones.

Pixel 5 and 4a 5G have excellent cameras, perfect Android software and the price is right. Personally, I recommend taking a good look at the 4a 5G if you want all of those things for a price tag of under $500. I expect the 4a 5G to dip even cheaper over the holiday shopping season.

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/google-pixel-4a-5g-review-rich-on-tech/

Wyze Cam v3

The ever-popular Wyze cam has a new version, v3. The $20 camera now works indoors and outdoors, plus there are a bunch of little improvements, like better low light video, better baby camera functionality (no blaring red lights!) and there’s a siren on board.

The big difference between Wyze Cam v3 and the Wyze Cam Outdoor is that while v3 is outdoor-friendly, you still need to plug it in. However, it does not require the use of a separate wireless hub like the Wyze Cam Outdoor. Also, the Wyze Cam Outdoor is fully wireless and has a rechargeable battery inside.

I go through all of the features of the Wyze Cam v3 in the video below.

Looking for more of my recommendations? Check out Rich’s Favorite Things, an ongoing list of all of the stuff that I like in various categories.

Hummer EV

The Hummer is back and this time around it’s an all-electric vehicle! I got a look at the prototype, which is cool, but not very realistic for most people since the price tag starts at over $100,000. Still, it’s fun to check out.

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/hands-on-new-hummer-ev-electric-super-truck-2020/

Color changing kitty litter

Kitty litter might not seem too techy, but Pretty Litter is. It has little color-changing crystals inside that sort of act as a litmus test for your cat’s health. The litter looks great, has no smell, isn’t dusty and a small bag lasts an entire month. All you need to do is scoop out the solid waste.

I had my brother test it (he is a newly obsessed cat owner!) and he really liked it - the one downside is that he found the fine litter stuck to his cat’s fur and tracked around a bit. Pretty Litter says they make a larger crystal version and a mat under the box would help.

Watch the segment using the link below!

https://ktla.com/morning-news/technology/pretty-litter-review-high-tech-color-changing-litter-health-monitoring/

Rich on Tech Podcast

In my podcast, I talk about the tech stuff I think you should know about and answer the questions you send me!

In the latest episode:

Hands-on impressions of the iPhone 12, Pixel 5 and the Samsung S20 FE; Wyze Cam v3; Apple One subscription bundle plans launch; saving money by using the iHeartRadio Apple Watch app; iPhone 12 drop tests; Adobe Holiday Shopping predictions; an app to turn your iPhone into a webcam and the Hummer EV.

Listeners ask about Quibi shutting down, how to find learning tutorials online, the best ways to print pictures from a phone, websites that already have your credit card number, whether to get a new laptop or invest in Eero and if I'm still doing the newsletter.

Search “rich on tech” in your favorite audio app to listen and subscribe for free.

https://art19.com/shows/rich-on-tech/episodes/0ad719d1-a079-406a-ba47-8478ced53866

Tech Tidbits

I found a feature in the Verizon app that lets you “lock” your number so hackers can’t port it out to another device. Probably a good idea to turn it on and check to see if your carrier offers something similar.

Google has a way to add a ghost, pumpkins, black cat and more to your space with a cool augmented reality trick. I spent a bit playing with it and it’s fun. Be sure to show the kids.

A popular app to turn your iPhone into a webcam now has a new owner and they just relaunched the app with a slick makeover.

Halloween Fun

Jabberin Jack is an animated pumpkin I first spotted earlier this year at the Toy Fair. A tiny projector inside cycles through various spooky and fun faces. There’s also music and jokes, which you can turn off if you don’t want to hear them.

Tap the post below to get the full effect. You won’t get one in time for this Halloween, but something to keep in mind for next year. The technology reminds me of the Haunted Mansion.

A post shared by @richontech
October 29, 2020

That’s it for now!

Before I go, one movie recommendation: Knives Out. This was on my list for so long and for some reason I just kept avoiding it. I’m sorry I did because it was such a great movie! It’s a murder mystery filled with quirky characters, great set pieces, humor and lots of twists. Fantastic!

Have a great day and be sure to tap the heart below if you liked this issue of the newsletter.

Rich

P.S. If you’re not following me on Instagram, why not change that right now? ;)

Here's a look at all the iPhone 12 deals

from the desk of Rich on Tech

Hello!

Hope you’re doing well. This week marks my seventh month of working from home. When I set up my home studio back in March, I literally did it in about an hour, thinking that this would last just a few weeks. Well, I was definitely wrong.

At any rate, the tech keeps coming, especially right now. At this point, we’ve now seen nearly all of the major gadget releases for the holiday season, except for the new Xbox and the new PS5. I’ve been playing with a lot of new phones and other gadgets, trying to figure out what’s good and bad about each of them.

Let’s start with the iPhone 12 since that’s going to command most of the attention this holiday season - and be sure to hit that heart above or below so I know that you enjoyed receiving this!

Apple reveals the iPhone 12

Overall, iPhone events are getting less and less exciting. While the prospect of an upgrade is still fun, the phone itself just continues to be refined. I mean, my iPhone 11 Pro Max is nearly a perfect device - even a year in it’s fast, the software is capable and the camera has been just about perfect.

There are two models of the iPhone 12, then two sizes of each of those models. I break it all down in the quick video below, but what you mainly need to know is that these phones have a new square design (reminiscent of the iPhone 5), faster processors, 5G wireless connections, and improved cameras, especially in low light.

The cameras on the Pro models are even better, and the cameras on the top of the line Pro Max is as good as it gets.

If you want to hear more of my thoughts on the iPhone 12, I highly recommend you download this episode of the Apple Bitz XL Podcast. I joined my old CNET colleague Brian Tong, who is now on his own, to discuss all the nuances of Apple’s presentation at length. We had a blast, and the info is good.

iPhone 12 Deals

There are going to be a lot of promotions surrounding the iPhone 12. Carriers are excited since they get more monthly payments out of you and in exchange, you get to use their speedy new 5G networks. Well, maybe speedy one day, but in my experience, these networks have a lot of growing up to do.

AT&T is offering new and existing customers the new iPhone for as low as “zero” dollars if you trade in a phone and sign up for an installment plan and an Unlimited plan.

T-Mobile has a deal that will give you two iPhone Pros with 2 new lines of service for $100 a month. Additionally, you can get an iPhone 12 for free or up to $850 off another model by trading in a recent cell phone and getting a new line of service. This is kind of cool - customers that have been with T-Mobile or Sprint for more than 5 years can get $200 off a new phone and combine that with a trade-in value of up to $500 on their current phone.

Verizon says new customers can get an iPhone 12 as low as “free” when you trade in a “select” smartphones and sign up for “select” Unlimited plans. Existing customers can get an iPhone 12 for as low as $15 a month when they trade in a select phone and choose a select unlimited plan. Existing iPhone 8 and 8+ customers can save $250 when they trade-in and sign up for an unlimited plan.

Walmart is offering up to $130 in savings for customers who activate an iPhone 12/Pro on an AT&T or Verizon installment plan through Walmart.com or in-store.

Keep in mind nearly all of these “deals” make you sign up for an installment plan on the equipment (the new contract!) and an unlimited plan for service. Also, when you see “as low as free” that generally means you need to trade in a super new phone to get that deal, like last year’s iPhone.

Google launches new phones, Chromecast TV and smart speaker

Not to be outdone, Google also launched some products of its own recently. Specifically, two 5G Pixel phones, an amazing Chromecast with Google TV, and a great-sounding smart speaker.

Personally, I’ve already switched out my Apple TV for the Chromecast with Google TV. The device is just $50 and comes with remote control for the first time.

Basically, Google is doing for streaming services what it did for internet search. Just say what you want to watch and it will surface stuff from all of your streaming subscriptions. I’ve never had an easier time finding things to watch.

I’ve got a full walkthrough in the video below.

As for Pixel 4a 5G and 5 5G, I can definitely recommend the 4a 5G if you just want a solid, somewhat inexpensive Android phone with an excellent camera. You’ll rarely get a bad shot with these devices. Just don’t expect them to be as high powered as the top of the line Samsungs or iPhone.

Finally, the Nest Audio smart speaker. It’s $99 and sounds amazing. It will be an excellent gift to give this holiday season. I’m predicting it will be on sale for cheaper than the list price, so keep an eye out for discounts.

Free monthly cell phone service

This now ranks as one of the most popular stories I’ve ever presented on TV. I met up with a company that offers lifeline wireless service, aka, free cell phone service for low-income individuals.

It’s nothing fancy, but if you qualify (those on SNAP, Medicaid and now unemployment, do) you can get a free phone line and a free basic Android cell phone.

Test driving Wireless CarPlay

Recently I headed to Montecito, California and the AMAZINGLY luxurious Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel to check out Wireless CarPlay on the all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue.

It’s tough to explain just how useful Wireless CarPlay is, but once you try it it will be tough to go back to plugging in your phone.

The feature made its debut back in 2017 in a high-end BMW, but it’s finally making its way to more car models.

Prime Day

Did you shop on Amazon Prime Day? I did, but pretty much everything we bought wasn’t on sale. Sad. I did take advantage of the buy a gift card for $40, get a $10 credit.

Otherwise, top-selling items according to Amazon included the iRobot Roomba Robot Vacuum, MyQ Wireless & WiFi Enabled Smart Garage Door Opener, LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Goli Apple Cider Vinegar Vitamins, and Kids Against Maturity: Card Game for Kids and Families. The Echo Dot was the overall top seller.

I made a list of the items I like for Prime Day, but I think I’ll just keep it updated from now on with my ongoing gadget recommendations.

BTW, now Amazon is promoting something new called the “Holiday Dash Event” which is like Prime day but runs through the entire holiday shopping season.

Popcart Shopping Tool

Speaking of shopping, I found a shopping tool from the website Popcart to be super useful. It’s a helper app you add to your web browser, sort of like Honey or Wikibuy, but it pops up while you’re shopping and not just at checkout.

It compares prices of the item you’re looking at against other major retailers including Best Buy, Walmart, Target and many more. It’s clean, efficient and I like how it clearly labels a good deal, or if there’s a better deal out there. It also says how long it will take to get your items from the retailer, which is handy since Amazon is so fast at delivery.

I’m keeping it installed on Chrome, I’ll let you know if that changes.

Cool Math App

I’ve rediscovered a really neat app called Photomath. You can take a picture of a math problem and the app will solve it in seconds. Not only that, but the app will show you how it arrived at the answer.

This is handy for parents who are now helping kids with their math homework and might need a “refresher” on how to do things. It’s also good for kids who want to check their work. I know, I know, yes, it can be used to cheat, but I have more faith in people than that.

The app is totally free on iOS and Android, but to get the most out of it, a Premium subscription gets you animated solutions which are pretty amazing. I’m falling in love with math all over again because of this app.

Rich on Tech Podcast

In my podcast, I talk about the tech stuff I think you should know about and it’s where I answer the questions you send me.

In this week’s show:

Apple takes the wraps off iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max; HomePod Mini is now competing with Alexa and Google; iPhone carrier deals; Photomath homework app solves math problems by taking a picture of them; search for a song by humming into Google.

Listeners ask about paying to get a suspended Twitter account reinstated, where to get credit reports for free, best smart speaker for an elderly parent, whether to turn off a computer when not in use and if the Ring alarm system is worth it.

Listen here for free or search “rich on tech” in your favorite audio app

https://bit.ly/RichOnTechPodcast

Tweet of the week

The one thing Apple didn’t mention: the cable they’re now providing with the iPhone 12 has a new, smaller connector at one end that won’t plug into many of its previous power adapters (unless you had an iPhone 11 Pro Max). So you might still need to buy a new power adapter. Otherwise, you can use your old cable and adapter, it might not charge your phone as fast.

That’s all for now!

Have a fantastic weekend. Reminder: next weekend I’ll be presenting a virtual seminar on Innovative Ways to Stay Connected. There’s still time to sign up and attend for free!

See you then.

Rich

P.S. If you’re not following me on Instagram or Facebook, now is an excellent time.

Loading more posts…