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Category Archives: Consumer Electronics

Evernote Raises Prices and Removes Free Features

Evernote, the cloud note service that has been a mainstay on most peoples’ mobile devices for syncing lists, photos, and notes across all of their devices, has made some changes to its pricing structure. The Evernote team has minimized the usability of the free tier and raised the prices on both of its paid plans. Evernote Pricing
Since I learned about Evernote, around 2009, the free option was more than capable for my use. I would typically access notes from a phone, tablet, desktop and laptop. As I moved from student to professional, the amount of devices I found myself carrying only seemed to grow. Now I would need to buy the $35 annual plan which, while not objectively expensive, is a jarring change from functionality I used to get for free.

Having been a happy Evernote customer for a long time, this price change is making me take a look at what the Premium tier plan is really offering, and what kind of alternatives are out there. For both Android users, Google Keep offers almost all of the functionality of Premium Evernote for free, and it uses storage from your free Google Drive (15GB). Apple Notes paired with iCloud are built into pretty much every Apple device, and use iCloud storage to sync across devices. While some features of Evernote Premium aren’t built into either service, there are plenty of free apps on both platforms’ app stores that will match or exceed the functionality of the $70/year plan.

Any existing Evernote Plus and Premium members are being notified as their prices begin to change. Plus members will see a $10/year increase and Premium members will see a $20/year increase. If I were on either plan I would take that extra $20, throw it at more iCloud storage and say goodbye to Evernote. It will certainly be interesting to see the impact this move has on Evernote’s user data, as some free users simply won’t want to pay and won’t be able to use the free plan any longer.

I’m Obsessed with the New Instagram Update

Instagram has had a very similar UI since it was created. The tired old brown icon has occupied a space on the grid of my phone screen(s) for almost six years, but I’ve been using it less frequently over time. Simply put, I just got bored of it. The content became less interesting (blaming the friends I follow for that one) and the stagnant, dated UI didn’t compel me to check this drab feed of selfies and memes. Luckily, the update I got this morning for Instagram caught my attention immediately, and may have breathed new life into the application entirely.

Instagram ditched the brown and beige icon for a very eye catching gradient. The app itself has lost most of its color, opting for almost entirely black and white UI with a pink color for elements like notifications. It looks very “Apple”, and we’re expecting a similar look coming to Apple Music soon, which won’t matter to Android/Windows users, but there is definitely something that can be taken away from this update and the effect its having on users.

Instagram UI Update

Through exploring, I have found very few new features in the newest Instagram update, so it’s safe to say this is solely a UI update, and I’m so excited to use it again. As a developer or business owner, it would be worthwhile to take this into consideration for the systems your customers use. If adding new features or services isn’t having the effect you expected, or just isn’t something you’re doing right now, a new look can be enough to trigger more engagement.

Keeping your UI up to the current trends is critical to maintain and expand your user base. Unless you’re offering a highly specialized product, chances are there’s a competitor out there whose website or app has a cleaner, more user-friendly design. Users will gravitate towards interfaces that look simple, make it obvious where they should navigate to get their desired result. Using familiar elements to your design will make the user feel like they know what they’re doing, even if they’re seeing it for the first time.

The New Macbook: It’s Pink! … and That’s It.

The Original2016 Macbook

Apple’s 12” Macbook is a great travel laptop. It’s lighter than a Macbook Air and, unlike any iPad, can run full desktop versions of applications.

The complaints with the original Macbook were focused around the sometimes sluggish performance when working in processor-intensive apps. Its Intel Core M processor packs just enough punch to handle browsing, office document editing, and streaming, but is underpowered enough to leave a clear line for what makes a “Pro” user. The Macbook features a single USB-C port for data, power and video. While an awkward transition for people used to using several usb ports, dedicated power and multiple video ports like on the Macbook Pro, many users reported growing to appreciate the minimal approach to the laptop.

The Refresh

Here we are a year later and Apple has refreshed the Macbook with a new version of the same processor, yielding slightly better performance and battery life. Apple is also now offering the Macbook in rose gold, to match the new color of the iPhone 6s. Apple changed little else on the new version of the laptop, and made last year’s model available refurbished for about $200 less than retail.

The Verdict

If you already purchased a 2015 Macbook, the refresh doesn’t seem like a justifiable upgrade with only slightly improved performance. If you’re interested in picking up your first Macbook, unless you’re dead set on the rose gold one, maybe look at a refurbished model and save yourself a couple hundred dollars. It is likely that the Macbook will be replacing the Air entirely in Apple’s laptop lineup, so hopefully before that happens we will see a little more processing power from the machines in the coming years.

Virtual Reality is Going to Change Retail Forever

Virtual Reality (VR) has been on its way, but not quite here, for whatVirtual Reality feels like an eternity. Similarly to how 3D TV’s were hyped up for months before they ever came to market, gamers, developers, and technology fans have been foaming at the mouth over VR since the Oculus Rift was announced. It seems like every phone manufacturer out there is trying their hand at a VR headset as well, with Samsung being the obvious frontrunner with their Gear VR.

None of this should be news to anyone who follows the pulse of technology, but there are plenty of people who simply don’t keep up with the latest tech trends. VR is a big one though, and for small business owners, Virtual Reality is about to be your biggest game-changer for the way customers experience your store.

When people think of retail, they think about getting to see, touch, and possibly even use the product. For some people this offers a resounding sense of confidence when making their purchase. For several years, however, these experiences have been passed up by the convenience of online shopping. For consumers, same day deliveries and the convenience of placing orders from your smartphone regardless of your location simply beat out the perks of retail shopping. If you’re a small business, chances are you’ve noticed this change and are looking for a way to make the experience of being in your store more appealing. That’s where Virtual Reality comes in, to put the power of a unique, immersive shopping experience in your retail store.

Let’s say you do flooring for houses, and offer consultations in an office where customers come to meet you. Instead of looking at 1”x1” slabs of materials on a posterboard, they put on a headset and see the entire floor covered in those same materials. Virtual Reality can demonstrate different lighting, furniture, spill and scratch tests in a way that retail stores never could before.

Remodeling companies, furniture stores, clothing companies, and more will be able to apply to their businesses this groundbreaking technology that maybe only originally appealed to gamers and geeks. Even if your experience isn’t as immersive as some of the work Oculus, Samsung, and Microsoft have been working on, having some sort of VR experience will get people talking about your store and make more people want to stop by.


Google to Discontinue Google Wallet Debit Cards.

Google Wallet CardGoogle Wallet is the longstanding mobile payment platform that brought NFC payments to the masses in 2011. Google has been heavily restructuring their payment applications recently, turning Google Wallet into a peer-to-peer payment service (a la Venmo, Paypal, SquareCash) and putting NFC payments into their new app Android Pay.

As of May 1st 2016, users will no longer be able to add money to their Google Wallet debit cards. On June 30 the cards will be fully cancelled by Google. The Wallet service will still work, and Android Pay is growing in support and adoption rapidly. Google has yet to say whether they will be creating an Android Pay card, or if they’re ditching the idea of replacing debit and credit cards altogether.

Because of the low adoption rate of NFC terminals, Google started offering a Google Wallet physical card that worked with ATM’s and traditional swiping terminals. The cards launched in 2013 and functioned by loading up your balance in the app, and spending with the card.

If you’re a Google Wallet card user looking for a convenient way to replace the plastic in your wallet, we have written about our pick for a replacement card previously. Of course there still isn’t anything wrong with actual bank cards, but many people out there are looking to simplify their wallets.

Advantages of Solid State Drives

Solid state technology isn’t new, but making the switch for dedicated and virtual servers ssd-drivehasn’t happened as rapidly as it has for desktop and personal computers. Newtek is making it easier than ever to host sites on solid state drive-based servers with the Linux SSD VPS. Starting at $5, they are a perfect alternative to shared hosting plans and will scale to meet your needs as your business grows. But why switch, and what makes solid state drives better than traditional spinning hard drives?

Nobody likes to wait. Whether you’re shopping online or just browsing the internet to kill time, studies have shown that if you have to wait more than a second for a webpage to load, you are far more likely to go back and look at a different site than to wait around much longer. Increasing speeds on your site means increasing your conversion rate for web visitors. Solid state drives perform at roughly 100 times faster than a hard drive when accessing data.The scalable resources on our SSD VPS’s can also increase RAM and CPU allocations on the fly, guaranteeing the best performance for your application, website, or stored data.

As the name implies, solid state drives have no moving parts. Compared to a hard drive’s spinning platters and magnetic arms, the solid state drive has a much less likely rate of failure. Hard drive failures also increase dramatically over time, so the older your drive is the more likely you become to have a critical failure, resulting in data loss, downtime, and the expense of a new drive. If you haven’t had any issues on your current hard drive, consider yourself lucky and make the switch to an SSD now to guarantee you don’t have to deal with a bad drive!

Solid state drives require less energy to power. In a desktop or laptop, this means you get lower electricity bills and better battery life. In a datacenter, lower energy consumption means better performance, the ability to provide larger capacity data storage, and reduced carbon footprint.


Solid state drives are beneficial both in the consumer world and the hosting world. SSD storage means better performance and longevity for your site or online business. If you’ve made the switch to solid-state storage in your own computer, it’s time to make that same switch for your hosted technology. If you haven’t switched on your own devices yet, let Newtek show you the difference they make with a $5 SSD VPS, available now.

LG G5: Android is Better with Friends

LG recently announced the next iteration of their flagship Android device, the G5. Taking cues from both the G4 and the V10, as well as some unreleased Android devices, LG takes one of the most impressive innovative leaps with this new phone.

Build2016-02-22 12_20_07-LG G5_ Release Dates, Specs & News _ LG USA

The chassis of the G5 first caught my eye, bearing a striking resemblance to the most recent Nexus devices (the 5x especially), the G5 is a cozy 5.3” screen on a metal unibody. It has a very unique slight curve towards the top of the screen, which sets off the very futuristic look of the device. Unlike any unibody phone ever, the G5 features a removable battery and microSD slot. Samsung has migrated away from these removable components, opting to leave them unremovable like an iPhone. This is to the dissatisfaction of many Samsung customers, who I feel will find a great new home in LG’s ecosystem with this new device.
The rear volume rocker, which has been a unique LG Gx series feature, has been moved to the side of the phone. The back of the phone now houses a fingerprint scanner and an impressive dual-lens camera (one 16Megapixel, one 8Megapixel Wide-Angle).


LG made some interesting decisions on the software side. As a long-time Android user, I’m used to every year meaning more features added to a phone. Most of the time they were a lot of impractical, useless features that I would wind up disabling anyway (ahem, Samsung’s gesture based navigation). With the G5 LG looked into the customer feedback and market research and decided to simplify the UI. LG removed many unnecessary/unused features, such as dual window and Q slide, and much of the bloatware that came with its predecessors. LG also ditched the app drawer and all apps will be on the homescreen of the device, similarly to how iPhones organize apps. This move comes from market research suggesting users would prefer to keep the apps on the homescreen, rather than isolated in their own drawer. The rest of the UI has been slimmed down to run faster, which should fly on the hardware packed into this device.


The phone is one of the first to come out with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 820. It comes with 4GB of RAM 32GB of on-board storage. As I mentioned before, the phone has a micro-SD slot for expandable storage and a replaceable battery, which you access by pulling the bottom of the device down. The battery and bottom lip slide out and so do all the replaceable components. This mechanism is what makes the device truly innovative, as the bottom lip can be replaced with different modules to enhance or add to the features of the phone.


Beating out the highly-anticipated Project Ara, LG introduces modular accessories to the G line with what it calls “Friends”. Currently LG has produced two Friends for the device, but they are allowing third party manufacturers to access the specifications to create many more unique tools for the phone. The two that LG have produced give a good idea of what kind of potential these modules have. The first is the LG Cam Plus, which looks like the shooting side of a standalone camera. This Friend adds additional hardware controls to the dual lens camera and even adds additional battery life, bumping the phone up to 4000 mAh. The second module is called the LG Hi-Fi Plus, which adds a 32bit amp to the phone to improve the quality of audio coming out of the 3.5mm jack on the phone.


While the Friends are the most exciting part of the phone, they are also the most risky move by LG so far. With every other change made to this device emphasizing simplicity, will the modules scare users off? I can think of at least a dozen people I know personally who wouldn’t want to deal with extra parts to keep track of, and would probably never even remove the stock Friend on the phone. Hopefully the move towards modules sticks, and other OEM’s will start implementing similar features to their flagships, but we will have to wait and see how the G5 sells to make any predictions for their competitors.

Outlook’s Impressive Update

2016-02-18 11_09_40-Outlook takes on Gmail with huge new update _ Webdesigner DepotOutlook’s webmail recently got a fresh visual update as well as some great new features to keep up with Google’s Gmail.
While the first updates you will notice are the design changes, which include themes and emoji support, there are much more practical features in the new interface including a one-click-away Skype powered chat, the ability to tag people in email bodies and integrated Yelp data to help with organize events.

This is the full list of new features, from Microsoft’s blog:

• Built-in Office document editing
• Dropbox and Box integration
• Add-ins from GIPHY, Yelp, Wunderlist, Uber, Paypal, Evernote and Boomerang
• @Mentions (tagging users)
• Skype chat integration
• Inline (quick) reply
• Emoji support
• Image editing
• Pins, Likes, other extended prioritization tools

Check out the video from Microsoft below and if you’re currently an Office365 or user, let us know what you think of the new update in the comments.

Apple: It Just (Doesn’t) Work [OPINION]

Apple has long been synonymous with user experience. One of the major appealing qualities of the OS X / iOS ecosystem is the synchronicity and simplicity of the native Apple Apps, powered by the iCloud service. Over the past several iterations of Apple’s operating systems, it seems like they have been losing sight of their original vision in regards to their software.

Many news sources and blogs have been criticizing Apple recently about this specific issue: their apps don’t work (or don’t work as well as they should). Users are installing third-party alternatives to applications and services that drew them to the iOS platform in the first place. Nate Ingraham, Senior Editor at Engadget epitomizes the experience of iPhone users struggling with Apple’s negligence:

“Raise your hand if you have a folder on your iPhone full of native Apple apps you never use … yup, that’s a lot of you. Now raise your hand if you use iCloud Mail, iCloud Drive or the default iOS Notes or Reminders apps instead of third-party options like Gmail, Dropbox, Wunderlist, Evernote and so on. Not nearly as many of you are raising your hand this time.”

So what is actually wrong with Apple’s apps? Each application truly has its own shortcomings. To truly understand what is wrong with the ecosystem as a whole you have to understand where and why each application is going wrong.



When I got my first iPod and installed iTunes for the first time, I was in complete awe. The act of importing CD’s and buying new music online was incredibly exciting, and I could plug in my iPod and take it all with me. That was it. That was iTunes. Now with the aggressive growth of streaming services taking a noticeable chunk out of Apple’s music sales, the media giant had to make a move into the streaming business. I will admit I love Apple Music. I ditched my concurrent Spotify and Tidal subscriptions for the individual Apple Music sub, and haven’t missed anything from my previous providers. This service works great on my iPhone, seamlessly integrating my (owned) music with the library I have collected through the streaming service. The desktop is a different story.

Whenever I accidentally click iTunes on my desktop, my heart skips a beat. The bulky music player/marketplace takes ages to load, then wants to analyze my entire computer for new music (as a musician who will have several versions of a song that I’m working on, this is a nightmare). Once iTunes decides it’s done with my hard drive it moves on to memory. I have relatively powerful Macs (Mid-Range desktop & laptop from 2015) and I still have trouble running iTunes smoothly with anything else open. Even if the application were running properly, the seamless combination of Apple Music and iTunes on my iPhone is nowhere to be found in desktop iTunes.

I don’t even listen to music on my computers anymore, because the experience of using iTunes is so awful.



The first thing I do when I upgrade my Mac or iPhone is install a new mail client. iCloud Mail (or Apple Mail) is slow, bulky, and if you’re using a custom mail server (anything not For example, my email that I host at Newtek) it is a major pain to set up. My third party client provides quick access to all five of my email accounts, with fast retrieval times (including my Gmail addresses, which any Apple user will tell you is atypical on Apple Mail), intelligent filtering and sorting, and a lightning fast search of indexed items..


The point of this post is not to sell anybody on third party software. One of Steve Jobs’ most recognizable quotes in reference to Apple products was “It just works”. Why doesn’t it just work anymore? Why do I have to download someone else’s email client, or stream music only on my cell phone, when Apple has the development power and certainly the ingenuity to develop their own powerful products? Perhaps they should focus less on cars and jewelry and spend some more of their resources improving the core product of their business. While it is great that a powerhouse like Apple wants to explore emerging technologies, if their core products don’t work the way they should, what is keeping any user from switching over to Android, and buying a Google self-driving car? I know I certainly trust Google Maps for navigation more than the native Apple Maps (which, to be fair, has seen improvement since 1.0).

I haven’t lost hope in Apple entirely. With almost every major consumer electronics news source calling Apple out for their recent shortcomings, and the Apple-to-Android conversion numbers sure to follow (especially with a new season of Android phones on the way), Apple will almost be forced to acknowledge and address the issues in their existing core applications. The only real question is: “Do I want to sit around and wait for them to fix it?”