iPad 2 review – first impressions from an Android user’s perspective

Neither of us could wait till Christmas to play with our Christmas present – an iPad 2. As Android phone users you would have expected us to have bought an Android tablet. But when hubby went to the shops to have a play he fell head over wallet with the fruity alternative.

This week I have been rather busy with our daughter’s seventh birthday so I haven’t had much time to play. But I want to share my first impressions.

I love it. I can’t tell you whether I would have loved the Samsung Galaxy tablet more, but despite my gripes I do love it and don’t have any regrets.

We are currently in setup mode. We need to find a good Twitter chat app and more importantly we need to resolve the shared device problems re account logins, email etc. But I am loving Flipboard – a magazine style presentation of your Twitter and FB feeds only available on the iPhone and iPad.

So what don’t I like?

There is is only one button and it takes you home. I am used to a back, menu and cursor control buttons on my Android phone. I don’t want to always goes back to the very beginning, I want to be able to change settings within the app and it’s incredibly fiddly to position the cursor exactly where you want it when typing – there is though a solution, you just have to long press and the near vicinity is magnified making it possible to move the cursor one letter at a time – but I don’t think it’s as easy as having a physical button.

The keyboard is also very annoying. Aside from missing long press to active shift, the apostrophe is on screen two – though it is accessible if you long press the exclamation key but this is a well kept secret as there is nothing on the key to tell you this. It also frustrates me that the keyboard doesn’t change when you change case. But I do like that the ‘return’ key is context sensitive, changing to display ‘go’ or ‘search’ and I like the keyboard hide button. So I’d really love to be able to change the keyboard but I’m pretty certain that’s an Android advantage feature – i.e. not possible.

And my final gripe is the browser. I don’t want the mobile web version I want the desktop version. I am very much hoping that this is something we can change.

Having originally posted a near identical post on G+, fellow similarly named Geek Mummy said that my review was a fair assessment. Most depressing was that there is no magic solution to the multi-user shared device problem. So I am very interested in hearing people’s work arounds.

A Geeky Guide To Buying A Mobile Phone

I am completely dependant on my mobile phone. It is for this reason that I can award it the grand title of ‘My Favourite Gadget‘. I text, email, tweet, Facebook, blog and shop on it, to the extent that I hardly ever use my computer. I can browse the web, but for specific tasks like my online shopping, news, social media I prefer to use apps, most of which are free.

I love my mobile because it is pretty, easy to use and allows me to do all of the above wherever I am. There would be big tears should it end up out of commission.

My mobile is a smartphone and if you haven’t got one yet I can tell you that when you do, you are in for a real treat. But choosing which phone to buy is no easy task with so many different choices. Friends will usually recommend their own phone but will it be right for you?

It is true I am a geek but that doesn’t make me an expert, I just get rather more excited by gadgety things than the average bod. But I do have some information that you may find useful.

Think of a Smartphone as a little mini computer. If you were buying a computer you have two main choices, will you buy a PC or a Mac? If you buy a PC you have a wide range of different manufacturers to choose from, but if you choose a Mac your only option is to buy an Apple machine.

Buying your mobile phone you will be faced will similar choices. First you have to choose between the type of phone. The main players are iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Symbian or Windows. The iPhone is a fairly straightforward choice as your options are to buy the earlier version, iPhone 3, or buy the newer iPhone 4 and then decide how much storage for all your photos, apps, messages etc. If you decide upon an Android phone you not only have a choice of manufacturers but also a choice of phone design – for example with or without a physical keyboard.

Now for the biased part. I have an Android HTC Desire. I bought this phone on contract, well actually it came free, and I can whole heartedly say I throughly recommend it. I didn’t buy an iPhone because they are far more expensive and the HTC Desire does the same thing. Some will argue it does more, others will argue it does less. I guess it depends on exactly what you are trying to do with your phone.

You are very unlikely to regret buying either. I believe some of the earlier Android phones aren’t as good as the HTC Desire, and since I bought my phone I know that newer models have been released. Also HTC are not the only manufacturer of Android phones.

I know that some people say that the iPhone is best as it’s really easy to use, and they are right, it is really easy to use, but so are Android phones.

So what about the other options, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows? They are the less popular choices, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be right for you. Blackberry has a messenger feature that is making it very popular with kids. My sister bought a HTC Windows phone as at the time it was the only phone that had a particular app that she wanted. Die-hard Nokia fans will no doubt swear by their Symbian phones, and let’s be honest, they really are great when it comes to sound quality.

So my geeky recommendation to you is that you do your research. If you are signing up to a contract you could be tied in for two years. That’s a long time with a phone you hate, find frustrating or doesn’t meet your needs.

As for whether to buy a contract or pay as you go and choosing a network, you need to choose what works for you. But I can tell you that if you have chosen wisely, you will be tweeting and blogging from the supermarket queue and will end up paying through the nose if you don’t have unlimited web usage (or what is effectively unlimited, most have an upper limit but providing you use your Wireless connection when at home you would have to do some serious surfing to exceed it).

Is your mobile phone your favorite gadget? How did you choose which smartphone to buy? What do you think of your choice of phone? Would love to hear from you.

This blog post was written for Notes From Home’s Friday Club Geek Carnival: A Favourite Gadget.

Helen at Cheeky Wipes tells us about her favourite gadget in And the award for best gadget goes to…..

Cara at Freckles Family writes about a gadget she loves.

Bibsey writes about her favourite gadget, my ‘precious’.

Merry at Patch of Puddles tells us about her clay sculpture tool.

Jax at Live Otherwise gives us her favourite gadget and it’s not what you think.

Cass at The Diary of a Frugal Family posts Gadgets – I love you….. .

Clare at Seasider in the City gives us Tech her family can’t do without.

Jacq at Mymumdom tells us about her backing camera.

Katherine at Living and Learning tells us about the fizz in her favourite gadget.

Maggy at Red Ted Art posts about her digital camera.

Ella at Notes From Home tells us about her home media centre.

8 Best Must Have Mobile Phone Apps

After some fabulous tweeting with @kateab and @ebabeelikes re mobile phone apps I realised that now is the time to share my favourite phone apps.

Which Phone?

Before I do though, its impossible to write about phone apps without also at least skirting on the subject of which phone to buy. My advice (re both phone and apps) is very biased. I have researched, made my decision which I am very happy with and now share with you, but you are free to disagree.

My advice is buy the best Android phone your money can buy. Back in June 2010, that for me was the HTC Desire which I love dearly. Since then, the choice of Android phones is massive and HTC have bought out newer models, though the HTC Desire is still a very popular and great choice.

To those of you with your sights set on an iPhone, I strongly recommend you go and have a chat with your favourite phone provider and you will soon discover that an Android phone will burn a lot smaller hole in your pocket whilst simultaneously making you feel proud that you have had the insight to think for yourself and make an informed decision.

Regardless of which you chose, you will love your phone, even if it is an iPhone (yes, I have deliberately not mentioned other alternatives, as well, they really just don’t cut the mustard).

Anyway, without further digression, this is my top list of Android Apps (most are also available on the iPhone) in no particular order:

1. SpringPad

This is a mobile filofax. You can write notes, scan barcodes of books, toys, films etc and store it in mini notebooks. I have used it to organise Geeky Daughter’s birthday, keep track of library books and much more. Takes a bit of time to get it, but once you do, you won’t know how you survived without it.

2. Tweetdeck

I have tried a few, including paid apps, and Tweetdeck wins hands down for me, mostly for the integration with Facebook, but it also looks slick. The only gripe is that it doesn’t autocomplete usernames. I am actually a Hootsuite fan when on my computer, but use Tweetdeck on my phone.

3. BabyEsp

This is Android only but similar apps are available on the iPhone. It keeps track of baby feeds, sleeps, medicines etc. It is beautifully designed and highly customisable. OK, so it isn’t free, but its only a few quid and you can try before you buy. I still use it whenever I give medicines and I even use it for myself when ill.

4. WordPress Phone App

If you have a WordPress blog, the App is brill. I draft most blog posts on it, and the management of comments is really neat, easier than on the web. It is so good that if you aren’t using WordPress you should seriously consider switching over for the App alone.

5. Sky News

This is really nicely done and a must for anyone that likes to keep tabs on the latest news. Interestingly however there is no competition for the prize of best news app, BBC don’t even have their own app!!!

6. Ocado

Another example of where the App is actually much better than the web version. The other supermarkets are at long last producing apps, so if your allegiance lies elsewhere, it is worth checking out if they have an app. Great fun to shop by scanning bar codes.

7. Amazon Kindle

As a big reader the love for my Kindle can quite simply warrant a whole blog post. The really clever part is that if you download the free phone app, it synchronizes with your Kindle. So whilst I would never dream of reading an entire book on my phone, if I have left my Kindle at home and I’m stuck in a queue somewhere, I can read a few pages on my phone. Genius.

8. Angry Birds

Got to fit in some fun. Angry Birds sounds rubbish but is actually great fun and my 6 year old loves it too. Just download it, it’s free, and be prepared to be Angry Birds obsessed for at least a few weeks.

There are other apps I could have mentioned, but these are the ones I use all the time. If you have any apps that make it into your favourite must have apps, please leave a comment and let us all know.

EasyTags Name Labelling Gadget Review

If you are like me, the idea of sewing or ironing on name labels just seems like way too much effort. Last year I wrote Geeky Daughter’s name on in pen on the labels of everything, which to be honest, seemed to be almost as much effort, and come the end of the school year, I had had to re-write it at least once on most things.

What particularly attracted me was the ability to remove the tags. I have used iron on labels but was then left with the problem of how to remove the labels once the item of clothing was ready to be passed on to someone else. I didn’t want to leave her name in the clothes, but there was no way those name labels were coming off. Yes you don’t have that problem with sew-ons, but life is really just too short.

So there was absolutely no way I could resist trying out Easy2Name’s EasyTag. It definitely falls into the category of gadget as, let’s be honest, it is more expensive than just buying sew-ons or even buying a permanent marker pen. I love my gadgets so I simply had to have one.

What is an EasyTag?

The best way to describe it is as a stapler where the staples are actually buttons with your child’s name on it. The video below produced by Easy2Name shows you how it works.

There are 3 key parts to EasyTags. The applicator, which is your stapler, the name tags which are reusable and the backs (think of the tags as a nut and the backs as the bolt) that you can only use once.

Incredibly whilst their website stated it could take up to 14 days, I received mine in just 5 days – however do not rely on this, I probably just got lucky.

Initial Impression of EasyTags?

Opening the envelope I was pleased to see that there was no packaging. That’s right, no blister packs, cardboard or even a plastic bag (well the tags and backs were in tiny little bags otherwise it would have been annoying). The packaging would have just gone straight in the bin and would have raised the price, so already a good start.

The name tags are all connected, so you have to pop them out – Geeky Daughter was quick to request that job, and fortunately they came off really easy – so no problem there.

EasyTags in Action

Now to test drive. The instruction leaflet was to be honest a poor photocopy – nowhere near as easy to read to as the one shown in the video, but readable enough that I wasn’t having a flat pack style breakdown.

The applicator has been well designed in that the backs which have a right way round, will only fit one way, so it is very obvious whether or not you have got it right.

Getting the name tag to slot into the applicator, I did however, find a bit tricky. The first time I tried I struggled to get the tag to fit in properly and it did keep popping out, so I used the applicator upside down and it still worked. You just need to press it in, hard – I must have been too gentle – neither tag nor back should fall out of the applicator if you have put them in properly.

I also spent some time trying to figure out which way up to put it in, after all I didn’t want her to have to read her name upside down  – I now know that it doesn’t matter, because to ‘staple’ your tag, you have to turn the blue lever which spins the tag round and round and once done, you can twist it whichever way up you want.

You then just find where you want the tag to go (personally I think wash labels are the best place), press down, turn the blue handle and hey presto.

The instructions say to turn the blue handle until it goes click. However, maybe because I have been adding tags to the wash labels, I get a click when I press the handle, so I am never quite sure when it is done – I just do a few turns for good measure, presume it is done and no problems so far.

They are supposed to be washable and can go in the tumble drier – haven’t tested that one yet.

I also haven’t tried removing the tags yet as replacement backs cost around 17p and you know the saying, look after the pennies………..

Detailed Financials – Are EasyTags Cost Effective?

So talking about cost, it is a gadget and yes it is your most expensive option (compared to sew-ons or iron-ons). The cheapest option is to buy what is essentially a starter kit for £25 which includes your applicator and 30 tags and backs. Replacement backs cost £5.

So I look at it as £20 investment in the gadget and then £5 for 30 uses which equates to roughly 17p a tag. Iron on labels cost 1p each less i.e. £8 for 50.

I think 30 are enough for one child. So my cost per school year moving forwards is only going to be £5. I know mums that pay to have someone else do their sewing for them and I am sure there is a cost associated with using an iron for the electricity used.

The cost of the applicator can also be halved because I have two children and an additional set of 30 tags and backs costs £15, which works out that the cost of the reusable tags are around 33p each.

EasyTags Review Conclusion

Geeky Mummy loves gadgets and thinks these costs are pretty reasonable all things considered.

It would be nice if the tags could come in different colours, maybe that will come in the future.

It is way more fun than sewing, ironing or writing names on wash labels and Geeky daughter seems to like them too which is an important consideration.

Geeky Mummy EasyTags Review Verdict

EasyTags get a big Geeky Gadget Thumbs Up!

Final Geeky Thought

Should you decide to buy EasyTags or anything from Easy2Name don’t forget to select your school or nursery when ordering so that they can earn commission, and if they haven’t signed up, get the PTA to do so – it’s money for nothing.