Category Archives: Mobiles

Create memories from your holidays

OK, a bit of a rant. I’ve just come back from a great time away and I’ve got lots of memories – in my head. What I noticed is that so many other people only saw what I saw through a phone screen. They didn’t actually see anything at all.

Screens aren’t the same as your eyes: they don’t show the depth of the scene or the grandeur (even if you do have a 6.9 inch screen!). That’s why looking at other peoples’ holiday snaps is rubbish – it’s not like being there.

My epiphany came at an event about ten years ago when I photographed everything all day (on a real camera, even) and realised that I hadn’t really been at the event. The viewfinder and screen created a barrier to being part of it – I had seen nothing at all for real.

So, yes, take pictures but then put the technology away and look at it for real. Savour it; appreciate it.

I can see the images in my mind of all the amazing things and places that I saw: the depth, the colours, the magnificence. So much better than a flat image. And I still came back with 2,500 photos!

Mobile roaming in Europe

When we left the EU, most mobile providers said that they would retain free roaming in Europe. Now many are backtracking on this.

So before you go to Europe, check whether you do have free roaming. In many cases it depends on when you took your contract out: before a certain date there is free roaming, after that there’s not. If you have to pay, there may well be a better-priced add-on that you can buy before you go to keep the cost down. So check on your situation before you go

If you don’t want to pay anything, divert all calls to voicemail before you go and record a suitable message. If you don’t divert all calls whilst in the UK and you connect to the local provider, then – even if you turn the phone off – all calls that go to voicemail will be charged as international calls. So put your devices in flight mode and use wifi – Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp will still work for keeping in touch.

Control Android phones from Windows

Although mobile phones are getting bigger they can be a bit fiddly to type on. Windows 10 and later comes with a useful little program originally called ‘your phone’ where you can see and create text messages, manage photos – and if your computer has Bluetooth make and receive calls using your computer like a giant headset.

The program is now called ‘Phone Link’ but one or the other will be installed on your computer. Unless you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, you’ll need to pop to the Google Play Store to get ‘link to windows’ and put it on your Android phone.

To set it up, open the app on your phone and click ‘Link your phone and PC’. On the PC start Phone Link, press ‘get started’ and it will take you through it.

Take note of your meetings

I’m involved in a few meetings and I’ve been experimenting with transcribing them using Otter on my Android phone (Sorry Apple users).

Just start the App, and it transcribes what it hears through the microphone, and turns it into text on your Android device. The free version allows for up to 40 minutes a recording. Quite clever as it pauses when you are on a phone call and so on.

I also tried it on a radio programme, which worked well. So it looks like you can use Otter on other recordings that you have, such as dictation recorded by someone else.

It does use quite a bit of data, but you can set it to do live transcription over wifi only.

Otter does offer to connect to your calendar and your Google account, but I decided to not let it have access to all about me.

Transcription quality so far is both good and fast so I’ll keep using it and finding out more.

Use your phone to stay safe

With all the concerns about women being safe whilst out, I’d like to mention HollieGuard, named after Hollie Gizzard who was murdered one night.

Hollieguard is an app for Android and iPhone that uses the features of your phone to help people out and about.

Capabilities in brief include monitoring your progress along a route, sending emergency messages and location to preset numbers, as well as transmitting audio and video.

User reviews vary widely in their opinions but the app developers do respond.

Do have a look

Roaming charges may be back

I wrote recently about roaming in the EU still being free. Well that was bad luck!

It seems that EE and O2 are bringing some back for new or renewed contracts. O2 isn’t so bad. They will charge £3.50 per gb for data after you have used 25gb. I don’t think that will affect many – I struggle to use 2gb a month!

EE is a bit stricter. From the start of 2022, it will cost £2 a day to use your allowances in 47 countries – that calls, texts or data. However, a#Roam Abroad’ pass will cost £10 for 30 days.

Not great news, but still cheaper than hotel or ship wifi.

We’ll have to see what the other operators do.

Mobile charges after Brexit

We are able to start thinking about holidays at last and for many that means heading for sunspots abroad.

One benefit of being in the EU was being able to use mobiles across the EU at no extra charge. So we could tweet from the beach for free. Now we are not part of the EU what has changed?

The networks don’t have to give you ‘free’ roaming any more but a check of the major mobile providers (EE, Vodafone, O2 and 3) suggests nothing has changed. If it does, the UK Government has said it will cap charges at £49 a month unless you agree to more. Of course how much £49 would get you is anyone’s guess!

So before venturing away pop to your phone providers site and:

  1. check the country you are going to is actually in the EU. Norway isn’t and the Canary Islands are sort of, while Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean are French overseas departments and therefore part of the EU! Luckily my provider EE gives me free roaming in all of these.
  2. look for any lower call or data allowances whilst abroad. It’s usually called ‘fair use’.
  3. lastly, as things might change, check out the roaming charges.

Internet on the hop

If you are the sort of person who misses out on a fast internet connection because you move around a lot, or can’t get fibre broadband, you do still have some choices to network your location.

The simplest is mobile broadband from your phone provider (although some have better coverage than others) which is a matchbox-sized device that uses 4G signals to give wifi connections to devices. Great for the car but usually limit the amount you can download.

If you tend to move your location a lot (say a contractor or you have a caravan) then there are two choices. One is a router that has a SIM card slot so it acts like a bigger version of the device above. This lets you create a network between devices (eg your laptop and a printer) which is great, but most are designed to use the SIM card as a backup rather than a primary connection so will still be limited to capacity by your contract.

As the second and final option, Vodafone and BT offer dedicated 4G hubs, called Gigacube and 4G homehub respectively. These are purpose-built units that give all the capabilities of a standard wifi network together with a much greater download allowance (up to unlimited).

As 5G rolls out all these options will benefit from the faster connection speeds if you want them. However, do be aware that 5G – and 4G – don’t have great (or any signal) everywhere so it might be worth checking the mobile provider’s coverage map.

The best thing about all these options are that you set up and configure the network once, then plonk it down wherever you are and it just works!