Metro PCS and the Samsung Galaxy Mega

Disclosure: I was provided with a phone and one-month of service in exchange for this review. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

Just before I went away on Girl’s Weekend, I got a gorgeous new tech gadget – the Samsung Galaxy Mega. It was perfect timing, because I had plenty of time to figure it out. Along with it came one month of service from Metro PCS, so you know I plugged that baby in and got ready to have some fun.

First, the basics about Metro PCS. Have you felt chained down by your phone contract? Many people have, and Metro PCS is an alternative to being locked in to a plan. They’ve got a $40 monthly plan that gives you unlimited data, talk and text – taxes included. (Are you swooning? Me too.) There are other plans if you want your data to be at 4G LTE speed, with the top tier being $60 per line. But wait, you can save $5 per line when you add your friends and family.

I live in a metropolitan area, so I had pretty good coverage. In my office, however, I had a hard time connecting to make calls. Also, during my drive to South Carolina, there were several times the data dropped off the network and the phone was useless (except for scrolling through silly photos from the trip). Bummer, but in the end, a blessing. You see, the data dropped while I was using it to navigate and it made us semi-back navigate to a safer portion of an icy mess of a road. Without this blip, I can truthfully say I am not sure if Missy and I would have made it to South Carolina that day. So, I can speak for coverage in Pittsburgh and Myrtle Beach – it’s covered and no issues. Outside the metro areas, coverage was limited but no worse than coverage was in those areas say even three years ago.

Other features of the service include:

  •          Keep your current number
  •          Phone refunds if you are not satisfied
  •          No annual contract
Samsung Galaxy Mega
Source: Metro PCS

As for the phone I was sent, the Samsung Galaxy Mega is a phone I am really sad to part with. When I opened the box, I about freaked out because this baby is HUGE. I quickly named it the “Phablet” (phone/tablet) and “Monster” – both loving names, I SWEAR. Greg has some decent back pockets, and at 6.3 inches, this phone was a pocket filler.

My kids with the Mega
My kids with the Mega

The upside of a huge phone? As it states on the Metro PCS website, “everything is bigger, brighter and more engaging”. It’s true. With the Galaxy features that so many people love plus a large, bright screen, there really is no match. My kids loved playing games on it. I loved reading blogs and pinning my dreams. Everything really came more to life in the palm of our hands.

Besides taking up a good amount of (flat) space in my purse, the only other downside of the Mega is the camera. It’s got an 8 MP camera whereas my S4 has a 13 MP. Picture quality is definitely something I am looking for in a multi-tasking world these days.

But it didn’t stop Missy and I from capturing some memories on our road trip!

collage

With phone and plan prices like this, I’d say Metro PCS is going to be a contender in the no-contract phone world. If you’re in a metro area and what to get out of your current contract, head on over to check out Metro PCS and give them a try.

Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital

Disclaimer:  I was provided with the app below in exchange for the post. All opinions are 100% my own.

As you know, 2014 has been the year of the sick for us. Luckily…so far…Greg’s been okay enough to not be in the hospital, but the kids just might be prepared because they’ve been playing with a new iPad app this week–Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital. 

This app is a story in the “Luca Lashes” eBook series and tells children when to expect when visiting someone in the hospital by telling the story of Luca visiting his mommy in the hospital. There are interactive pieces to the app that my kids love (especially the balloon and heart monitor), too.

When I had some struggles during my pregnancy with Evan, Arianna visited me in the hospital. I’m pretty sure it was a bit scary for her – I was hooked up to all kinds of monitors and confined to the bed. No fun for a two-year-old! This story helps kids learn that hospitals are for help.

I was also sent these tips, which if this year keeps up, I probably should keep on hand. Please use these should you ever find yourself taking your child(ren) on a hospital visit.

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Do you have a parent spending time at a hospital? Here are five suggestions to help a child through this.

(By Nicole Fonovich, co-creator of Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital, from the “Luca Lashes” multilingual interactive App and eBook series.)

There are a few occasions in life where a child is going to have to visit a parent in the hospital. Accidents happen, surgeries become necessary…life happens. When these occasions require extended, or even just overnight stays in the hospital, children will want to visit their parents. Sometimes just to be reassured, other times to make the parent feel better. Here are some tips to help get you through this.

1. Get Crafty

Children can be very creative, especially when they make something for their parents. This can be a card, a trinket, or some other craft in which they can convey their feelings to their parent. With a little help, a child can make something that can make anyone smile! Add a picture to this and it makes a great memento!

2. Share a meal?

Parents who are in the hospital are eating hospital food, often by themselves. When getting a visit from their children, it might be nice to have a picnic together at the hospital to help make this day a little brighter. Even if all you can do is share the hospital food together, a shared meal is always a great chance to laugh and connect!

3. Use technology!

Visiting hours at hospitals and doctor schedules don’t often correlate to the best times to have children visiting parents in the hospital. With so much global wifi around us, it is possible to use video chat applications like Skype or Facetime to help children connect with and see their parents, and vice versa, when put into this situation.

4. Be calm when it happens

Both the parent bringing the child to the hospital and the parent in the hospital need to be as calm and natural as they can be. This is not a regular occurrence where someone needs to stay at a hospital for medical care, and children often do not understand what is going on.  Remember, model the behaviors you want your children to emulate. Stay comfortable and calm to set the example!

5. Use resources

A lot of hospitals now employ special counselors to help family members dealing with a loved one in the hospital. It is important to use all the resources at your disposal to make any experience easier and less of a challenge for your children, so make sure to inquire at the hospital! Why re-invent the wheel?

Visiting a spouse in the hospital is always a stressful situation.  Add bringing the kids along, and this job just got a whole lot tougher. After the visit is over, make sure to ask your children how the visit went, what they liked or thought about it. Dialogue is so important in making everyone more comfortable with new experiences.

Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital is available at www.LucaLashes.com and all major eBook and App marketplaces.

Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital
Source: iTunes.apple.com

Tech Tuesday: Mickey Mouse Mash-Up

Disclosure: I received the app below in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

The Mickey Mouse Mash-Up app has my ‘lil artists getting ready for family game nights by having them “follow along with Mickey Mouse in an adventure involving their own personally drawn character! Mickey and your creation will travel through cities, visit new places and experience incredible journeys, while encountering hi-jinx and hilarious events along the way.”

MickeyMouseMashUp

I was just wowed as Mickey asked Arianna to draw him “something real small that you’d find on the beach” and she drew…

A clam!

Seriously. I didn’t even know my five-year-old knew what a clam was. But she sure did draw it. I wish I could prove it, but it was in the story in a part where she had to move fast and hide Mickey. I couldn’t move fast enough! 

And then, Mickey put that clam in a story about “No Service” at a beach-shack diner. Arianna was totally captivated as the story went on, and didn’t even get upset when Mickey noted that “oops, we forgot to draw food!” and had to go back in and make an addition to the story. (Love that it’s teaching her mistakes are okay!)

Source: https://itunes.apple.com

There was one part of the story that she didn’t get, a timed activity to draw a box and a trash can to draw something to hide an unclothed Mickey (all part of the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” theme).

She did enjoy recording sounds to be included, too, and even critiqued her ability to make them just right by not hitting the check mark until they were perfect. (Oh my goodness.)

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Arianna signing her name to the short

I love that this app doesn’t seem like it will get old. Now to convince Evan that it’s not really in his age range so he doesn’t get mad when he doesn’t *get* all of Mickey’s instructions. (It’s rated 4+, I’d almost wonder though because the store I listened to with Arianna talked about “naked” a few times. All depends on how open you are with your kids – I’ll leave it up to you!)

Mickey Mouse Mash-Up is available on the iTunes Store for iPad and iPhone and retails for $3.99.

Bonus? At the end of the short, your child can even draw Mickey! Here’s Arianna’s:

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Tech Tuesday: Doc McStuffins: Moving with Doc

Disclosure: I received the app below in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

Get healthy isn’t just something I’ve been working on. The kids (and Greg) are in it with me, too. When I was asked to have the kids give the Disney/iTunes App Doc McStuffins: Moving with Doc a try, I knew it was something they’d love.

docmcstuffins

Arianna played it for a solid day without sound. I didn’t take the time to go into the app and see what was up because she wouldn’t give up the iPad. When I finally got to look at it, I tried a few things I thought I knew would work. When they didn’t, I found the app on iTunes and went to the support link. It was very helpful:

Source: Disney FAQ http://disneystorytime.com/customer-service/
Source: Disney FAQ http://disneystorytime.com/customer-service/

Oops! Even tech-moms can learn a few new tricks every now and again. (This boggled me because other apps were playing sounds!)

She showed me the “Compete” game where she had to have the Hallie run and jump to pop bubbles (she could have picked Lambie or Stuffie, too).

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Next up was “Train” where she was able to stretch with Doc (but I got in the way with the kid restrictions and had the camera turned off). It was okay by her, and she even came up with a way to hold the iPad in a kitchen chair and her to do her thing. By stretching, she’s earning stickers in a health chart!

There’s even a game area to grab good for you foods. When Evan tried to grab a chocolate bar, Arianna screamed, “SUGAR ISN’T GOOD FOR YOU IF YOU ARE TRAINING, BUB!”

Source: iTunes

Here’s some more info about this app:

In Moving with Doc, kids can practice healthy habits and explore the importance of exercise through engaging activities featuring Doc McStuffins and her friends. Discover the basics of eating right in exciting games and activities, and even compete in the Backyard Games! Additional features include:

  • Use the in-app camera to stretch with Doc

  • Keep track of healthy habits with the Healthy Me Chart

  • Discover new ways to be healthy and fit with fun activities

  • Offline tips, recipes, and more help grown-ups reinforce healthy habits

Doc McStuffins: Moving With Doc is available on iTunes for $4.99.

Tech Tuesday: Jawbone JAMBOX

Disclaimer: I received a Jawbone JAMBOX as a prize from Best Buy during BlogHer ’13. I was not obligated to write a review of the item; however, I decided you just might want to hear my review. All opinions are 100% my own.

If this summer had been more of a summer, my JAMBOX would have been the perfect addition to our pool fun. We love having tunes out by the pool, but we haven’t found a speaker that works just right. Next summer better be hot–we’ve got our solution this time around!

Jawbone JAMBOX Wireless Speaker
Source: Jawbone.com

The JAMBOX from Jawbone is a wireless speaker that packs a punch. (Literally, you can feel the “thump” to the beat of your music or the sound as it turns on thanks to the amazing bass.)  It connects to your phone via bluetooth, so you just have to set up your tunes, pair, and enjoy your music.

No batteries either, it charges via USB/plug and lasts about 10 hours. Once you’re charged and paired, you slip the JAMBOX in the sleeve and off you go. It’s a little heavier than I’d like to have in my purse day to day, but when I put it in my backpack, I couldn’t feel the weight.

We have enjoyed the JAMBOX on the back porch of my parents’ house, in our living room, and even in the car when we were driving through an area with no radio reception (yes, that’s still a thing, and no, our Durango doesn’t have an audio “in” adaptor, darn!). The kids could hear it in the backseat, and it sat still between us on the console. That’s because the audio is hi-fi and crystal clear, made possible by combining the tweeter and woofer all in one small box. It may sound hard to believe, but this thing has powerful sound!

Have it paired and want to use it as a speakerphone? No problem, it works for that, too! Use voice commands on your phone? These pair up, too.

We’re enjoying jamming to our favorite tunes on the JAMBOX by Jawbone and feel pretty lucky to have received this prize. You can grab your own for $179.95 and even customize the colors you’d like. Find out more on the Jawbone or Best Buy website.

Tech Tuesday: BlackBerry z10

Disclaimer: While I was at Blogher ’13, I attended a #VZWTechTalk with Verizon Wireless and BlackBerry. I got to see the BlackBerry z10 in action and then entered a Twitter contest to win one. As a winner, I was not obligated to post about my experience with the device; however, I decided to share a review with you. All opinions are 100% my own.

It’s hard to believe, but I am a proud owner of a BlackBerry Z10. Since getting the device at BlogHer, I’ll admit that I complained a few times (I’ll get to that), but at the same time, I’ve gone off the beaten path (of Droid or iPhone) and am loving it. Truly.

Source: BlackBerry

First, the things that BLEW ME AWAY about the z10 at the Tech Talk:

  • Time Shift Technology on the Camera: The camera has a mode that is perfect for moms with ‘lil kids–Time Shift mode. I’m able to take one photo of my kids and pick the best faces and background. With my kids not being able to look at the camera at the same time, this is HUGE. (Check out the video in the link because I am sure it will blow you away, too.)
  • Story Maker: If you are at an event, say a baby shower, you can snap several photos, put them in Story Maker with some music, and share the “show” with the soon-to-be Mama as a parting gift. I’ve yet to make an official, pretty one, but I did throw my three first pictures in one to demonstrate to my husband and he also agreed it is a great feature.
  • Sleek screen: The screen is bright, smooth, and clear. Maybe it’s the glass, maybe it’s the way you swipe from the Hub to the apps to the home screens, but whatever it is, the display and movement is a big win. (BBM folks know this as “Flow”.)
  • Keyboard: The main reason I always HATED (yes, HATED) BlackBerry was the keyboard. I simply couldn’t use it. Fat thumbs? I don’t know, I just didn’t like it. With the z10 keyboard built into the touch screen, all that has gone away. Honestly, as a blogger and share-a-holic, this is what made the phone for me. It has learned my typing style. It suggests words based on the sentences I am typing and people I talk to. I am in loooooooove. (Check out this demo video to see what I am talking about.)

That was a lot of information to get in the 10 minutes of the Tech Talk, so in the time since getting the phone activated and running, I’ve learned quite a bit, too. Tom, from BlackBerry, suggested the following:

  • Remember: This app syncs with my Outlook (on my work PC) and my Evernote (my personal organization tool of choice) and puts all of my notes, pictures, and more in the appropriate folders (based on what I tell it). Most recently, I used the app to refer to notes I put together for my status meeting with my boss. I’d already moved from a notebook, but had been carrying my laptop to his office for these meetings. Now, I just use my phone, update, and have nothing to lug around that I don’t normally have with me.
  • Waze: Social GPS! I love using this to see if an accident, police, or debris on the road is what is holding up my day.
  • BlackBerry Travel: I am looking forward to using this for upcoming work trips because it arranges your travel information all in one place.
  • HDR mode on the camera: In natural light situations, I can take non-flash photos in HD with this feature.

I’ll admit, the z10 has grown on me. Sure, I still don’t have all of the apps I had on my Droid (Nike+ and Feedly, do you hear me?), but I am working through this. I’ve found a new running app I am okay with, and I am able to read through Feedly on other devices. For the past few weeks, I’ve carried my old phone in my bag (because it can be used on WiFi if I have issues); however, I haven’t used it but one time.

At this point, I’ve been blown away by the features and ease of using the BlackBerry. As a working mom, the ability to smoothly transition my work and home life together has been the biggest wow of the BlackBerry.

If you’re interested in learning more about the z10 (or what info on the Q10, which has the physical keyboard), you can check out BlackBerry.com. If you’re on BBM, let me know so we can connect–I need to learn more about this part of the phone!

Thank you to Verizon and BlackBerry for this prize.