Q: Dear Deemable Tech. I have a question that I am pining for your expert opinion about. What is the best calendar app for a Pantech Renue? I tried Googling it, but nothing really comes up. I am app ignorant.
A: Don't worry. Finding any information on the web about the Pantech Renue is difficult. The Pantech Renue runs on Pantech’s proprietary operating system, which is based on an operating system called BREW. It should run most J2ME apps, which is Java Micro Edition. Java Micro Edition was designed so that developers could build programs for mobile phones. It was supposed to make it so that a developer could make one program that would work anywhere. Unfortunately, that is not how it actually worked, because usually you only able to buy apps through your carrier. Before the iPhone came out, everything in mobile was made for either J2ME or Palm OS. Once the iPhone hit the market, and the Android became a legitimate option, most developers stopped building apps for J2ME. Unfortunately, there aren’t many apps available for J2ME anymore.
As a result, the best calendar app is going to be anything you can find. You can try GCal which is a J2ME Google Calendar client. If that doesn’t work, you might be able to use GCalSync which will sync the built-in calendar with your Google Calendar, assuming you use Google Calendar. Both of these apps use data, so if you do not have a data plan, you may want to stay away from them.
Whatever you do, I wouldn’t pay for anything in their store. You won’t likely be able to use it ever again. I expect it won't be long until almost every phone out there, even the cheapest, bottom of the barrel phones are running some version of Android. There are very, very few developers that have even a mild interest in making apps for J2ME. Most of the apps still available are several years old. There are a few fun apps that you should be able to download for free though. Opera Web Browser most …
Q: I have a small, 16GB model iPhone 4S. I’m at the end of my contract, and I want to get one that can hold more music and apps. Should I buy a bigger iPhone 4S or spend the extra hundred or so and get a new, larger iPhone 5?
A: You should get the iPhone 5. Why? You don’t really have a choice. If you want a new iPhone with a more capacity, you have to buy the latest and greatest iPhone. Apple only sells the current generation, the iPhone 5, in 16, 32 and 64 GB models. Apple sells last year’s model, the iPhone 4S, in only the 16 GB size, and the model from two years ago, the iPhone 4, in the 8 GB size. They’ve followed this pattern for the last few years. You could pick up a larger used 4S online, but you’ll probably get a lot more life out of a new iPhone 5. Each time that iOS gets updated, (the operating system that iPhones run on) it usually only supports phones that are three generations old or less. So, the newer phone will most likely get the latest features and be able to run the latest apps longer.
Also, something to keep in mind is that Apple typically releases a new iPhone in the summer or in the fall. If you can be patient until then, you can save that upgrade for the iPhone 6, or iPhone 5S, or whatever they call the 2013 model of the iPhone. Since they have stuck to the same pricing plan that I described above, you will probably be able to get the latest technology for the same price as last years tech, if you just wait a few months.
If none of that matters to you, I would still recommend the iPhone 5. Because it has an aluminum back instead of a glass one and a saphire crystal lens on the camera, the iPhone 5's construction is much more durable than the iPhone 4S.
Q: Has BlackBerry version 10 been released yet? Is it a smart move for us to stick with Blackberry as our phone?
A: Yes, BlackBerry 10 has been released. It came out January 30, 2013. It doesn't matter though, because you're not getting it, unless you decide to buy a new phone. BlackBerry 10 only runs on the new BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 phones. The change from BlackBerry OS 7 to BlackBerry 10 was so drastic that none of the previous devices can support it. Also, none of the apps you have on your current phone are going to work on a new BlackBerry 10 device if you decide to get one. So, no matter what phone you buy, even if you buy a BlackBerry phone, you'll have to buy new apps.
Now, to tell you the truth, BlackBerry 10 looks pretty good. In fact, it looks a lot like webOS, the operating system that Palm created, HP bought, and LG recently bought from them. Palm was hurting really bad, they were losing money like crazy, their competitors were chewing up their market share, and their operating system looked old and decrepit. So, they rebuilt their operating system from the ground up and relaunched it, they took a really long time to bring it to market, and they completely abandoned all of their old customers. Then, they sold their business to HP, and abandoned their old customers again when they upgraded to version 2 of webOS. Then, HP abandoned their mobile business all together.
So, to answer your question, maybe I'm jaded from getting burned by Palm and then HP, but I would say no, it's not a smart move to continue with BlackBerry. I expect that BlackBerry is going to take a path very similar to the one that Palm took. The Q10 and the Z10 are probably going to sell very poorly. BlackBerry will then probably attempt to put out another version of the Q10 and the Z10, but they will also sell fairly poorly. BlackBerry will attempt to get other manufacturers to use their operating system, but they won't be able to get anyone interested. Finally, they'll …
Q: My kid stepped on my Kindle, and now half of the screen is completely destroyed. Have I lost all of the books I bought? Is there any chance that Amazon will replace it?
A: Sorry about your Kindle! Right now might not be the best time to mention it, but you should really consider getting a hard cover for your Kindle. Fortunately, your books are safe. All of them are waiting for you to redownload once you get a new Kindle. In the interim, you can also read them on the Kindle app on any iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet, and you can even read them on the web at http://read.amazon.com.
The other good news is that Amazon provides a limited one-year warranty on all new Kindles. Depending on how long ago you bought your Kindle, Amazon might replace it for free. Go to http://amazon.com/kindlesupport and click “Contact Us” on the right-hand side. From there you’ll be given an option to contact Amazon by email, phone or chat. If you’re lucky, they might give you a free replacement Kindle. They've also been known to occasionally replace them for half-price if you’re out of warranty. Here's something for you to keep in mind, though. Technically, Amazon doesn't have to replace your Kindle because the warranty specifically excludes damage from accident, misuse and neglect, but Amazon's customer service is rivaled only by Apple's in the tech industry. They'll often replace it, even though they don't have to. It probably wouldn't hurt to be nice to them.
Q: Michelle writes, I was wondering about ways to lower my data usage on my iPhone. I always seem to go over my limit, and then I am slapped with another monthly charge. What things can I turn "off" or put away unless I need them, and how do I do it?
A: Thanks for your question, Michelle. iPhones and Android phones can eat up a data plan like a 5 year old with an unattended candy bowl. Unless you're on an unlimited data plan, you have to keep an eye on what your phone is downloading and sending, or it'll end up taking a bite out of your wallet.
Periodically check your cellular data usage on your iPhone by opening your Settings app, and tapping General, Usage and then Cellular Usage at the bottom. On that screen you can see how much data your phone has sent and received. Each month, at the end of your billing cycle, tap the Reset Statistics button to clear out the counters and start over.
Knowing how much data you're using in the first place will help to stay you on track. Now, here's a few tips to keep your cellular data usage low. First of all, don't download or stream any video or audio unless you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Those NPR, Netflix, Hulu and PBS Kids apps will devour your cellular data. I'm not saying don't use them! They're great apps. Just make sure to use them when you are connected to a Wi-Fi network if you're trying to save your cellular data.
And, if you have streaming video or music that you just have to watch or listen to over 3G or 4G, go for the Non-HD version or the lower quality version. That will save you a bunch of data, too. If you use Spotify, make your playlists Available Offline so that the next time you're away from home they'll play from your phone instead of over the Internet. The same thing is true for Amazon Cloud Player and the Podcast app; make sure to download your songs and new podcast episodes to your device before you leave the house. Also, and it's probably obvious, but make sure to only download new …
Q: Does it matter which order I unplug my computer? For instance, if I want to move my laptop from the living room to my bedroom, but I want to keep playing Minecraft, should I unplug it from the wall first, or should I unplug the cord from the laptop first? I think I saw a spark one time and it worried me that I could do some damage to my laptop if I'm not doing it right.
A: It used to matter a lot years ago because computers were very delicate. They weren't designed to stand up to any abuse, and they were really easy to break. It doesn't matter that much now, because most modern laptops have been designed to perform without problems regardless of how you plug them in or unplug them. However, when you are plugging in and unplugging your computer from the wall, there is a chance that you could have an arc of electricity that could cause damage to your computer. It's rare, but it could happen, and it sounds like it already has happened in your case. If you really want to be safe, when you unplug your computer, you should first remove the plug from the laptop, then remove the plug from the wall, and go in reverse order when you plug it in.
So when you're plugging something in, first plug the cable into the wall, then plug the cable into the laptop. When you're unplugging it, unplug the cable from the laptop first, then unplug it from the wall. So the rule of thumb is: start at the wall when you're plugging something in, and start away from the wall when you are unplugging something.
Ideally, you should always use a surge protector for your computer. Surge protectors prevent your device from being damaged by lightening or regular electrical surges that can damage your computer while it is plugged in. Some laptop power bricks have surge protectors built into them, but it's still a good idea to plug a surge protector into the wall, and then plug your computer into the surge protector. Make sure that the surge protector you are using has a high enough joules …
Q: What’s the big deal about T-Mobile not having contracts any more? From what I’ve read, you still have to pay for the phones over the course of two years or you get hit with a steep penalty? What’s the difference?
A: At most major carriers in the US, you can buy a phone at full price, or you can buy the same phone at a steeply discounted price and sign a two year contract with the phone company. The only difference is that if you pay full price, you’ll probably be able to get the phone “unlocked.” Since you’ll pay the same for your phone service either way, there’s no financial incentive to do anything else, and most folks just sign a two year contract. What T-Mobile did gives people a choice. You can get a new phone for cheap upfront and pay a little every month, or you keep using your old phone and save money. So, should everyone run out, and switch to T-Mobile? No, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Depending on how much data you need, T-Mobile might not be the best choice for you. Unfortunately, you have to look at all of your options at all four carriers to see what your specific situation looks like. However, if you want unlimited data, T-Mobile is the cheapest by far. However, if you are a heavy data user, you might not find T-Mobile to be adequate for you. T-Mobile's data coverage area is much less built out than the other carriers. Also, something to keep in mind is that if you're not paying the full price for the phone, instead of signing a two year contract, you're signing a two year, interest free loan. If you don't pass the credit check, you're not getting that shiny new smart phone.
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Q: I just bought an app, and it doesn't work. Is there any way for me to get a refund?
A: It depends on where and when you bought the app. Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft each have different return policies and practices. The Google Play store has the most lenient refund policy. You may get a refund automatically if you ask for it within the first fifteen minutes after you purchased the app. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have very simple official policies: no refunds; all sales are final.
However, off the record, from my personal experience and from the testimonies I’ve read and heard personally, most folks are able to get a refund from Apple and Amazon if they legitimately purchased the app accidently or if the app really doesn’t work. Microsoft, on the other hand, is a tougher nut to crack. Unless you were unable to download the app, they tend to stick to their policy.
To get a refund for an app from the Google Play Store, simply reopen the Google Play app and go to the app's page. If you haven't bought anything else, it will most likely open right to it. You should see a refund button if you go back to the page within the first fifteen minutes after you purchased the app. Click it quickly! If there's no refund button, you're too late. But there's still hope. You can contact the developer of the app and they might refund your money. Scroll down to the developer section where you'll find their contact information.
Getting a refund from Apple is a little trickier. As I said above, their policy is strict. They do not refund app purchases. However, their practices are a bit more loose. To request a refund from Apple, open iTunes on your desktop or laptop. Then, open the iTunes store, and click your email address in the top right corner. Click Purchase History, and then click See All. Scroll down to the button that says Report a Problem and click it. Then click the Report a Problem link that appears next to the app that you want …
Q: My son wants to make computer games for iPhones and Android phones. He’s only 15, so college is still a few years off. Should he wait until college to get started? What could he do to start learning now?
A: If he’s interested now, there's no need to wait. Kids are learning how to “code” or write computer programs or mobile phone apps as young as five and six, but really twelve is about the perfect age to start coding. He should probably start with basic web programming, for a good foundation, but he doesn’t have to. There are tons of free resources online that will teach him how to code.
Khan Academy teaches the basic concepts of computer programming, but you won't find much material that actually teaches actual coding. Code Racer is a free, fun, interactive game where you race against others to figure out the right code to build a website. It only teaches HTML and CSS, the absolute fundamentals, but its a lot of fun to play. Code Racer's parent site, Treehouse, also has great training videos and exercises to learn all of the same languages as Codecademy above plus iOS and Android. However, the …