There’s a better solution than rice if you drop your phone in water

When a phone accidentally falls in water, we normally run to get rice.

It’s common lore that if your phone doesn’t turn on after getting dunked in water, you put it in rice. The logic here is that the rice will soak up the water, and your phone will work again.

But rice can take up to three days to fully dry your phone, and even then it’s not guaranteed that it’ll work again.

A company called TekDry is setting up electronics-drying locations around the US, where customers with wet gadgets come to dry them for $70 in special machines that literally pull the water out of them in a vacuum chamber. But if your phone doesn’t work because the water damage went too far, you won’t be charged anything.

It’s a much better deal than buying a whole new phone.

So far, you’ll only find TekDry locations in Colorado, Michigan, and New Hampshire, but they’re adding 82 more locations in California, New York, Philadelphia, and the greater Boston area in mid-October. In New York, two locations will be in Brooklyn, two in Manhattan, and two in the Bronx.

It’s actually quite satisfying to watch water ooze out of the sim port and the cracks around this old iPhone:

TekDry’s machines can dry phones in 30 minutes with an 80% success rate if you bring it within 48 hours of getting your phone wet.

Recently, it was discovered that Apple’s latest iPhones are much more resistant to water than previous generations. It turns out that Apple added gaskets around the edges and seals around important components into the latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to keep water out.

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The new iPhones survived a test where they were dunked in a shallow bowl of water for an hour, with only the 6s suffering from a diagonal line across its screen. So you might not need to worry if you drop a new iPhone into, say, a toilet bowl.

However, another put the iPhone 6s under four feet of water for a couple minutes, which broke the iPhone from water damage. So if you jump into a pool with your iPhone, you still have a chance of saving it if you bring it to TekDry. (Still: Don’t do that.)

Other phones boast water resistance, like Sony’s flagship line of Xperia phones. But others are doing away with the feature. Samsung, for example, recently did away with the water resistance in its line of Galaxy smartphones.

TekDry also dries other devices, like tablets, laptops up to 13-inches, cameras, and basically any battery-powered portable device.

Business Insider

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Smart jewelry puts out the call for help when wearer is under attack

Pepper sprays and self-defense know-how are useful tools in protecting against violent attacks. But in the view of startup Roar, women shouldn’t be made to change their lifestyles in order to feel safe. It has developed a discreet device that can be worn as a piece of jewelry and alert loved ones to their whereabouts when trouble arises.

Athena is described as smart safety jewelry and is designed to worn around the neck, attached to the waist or carried inside a bag. The small circular magnetic clip is equipped with Bluetooth and an activation button, which when pressed sends a distress signal to selected emergency contacts through the user’s phone and notifies them of their location.

To help avoid false alarms, Athena’s button is recessed and must be held down for three seconds to activate the signal. While this will importantly allow the user’s contacts to take action it is invariably going to be some time before help arrives. So Athena is also fitted with an alarm mode, which produces an 85 decibel noise intended to immediately spook an attacker and prevent things going from bad to worse.

Conscious that this won’t be the best approach to every scenario, Roar is also building a silent mode into Athena, which allows for the the distress signal to be sent out without triggering the alarm. The company also says it is working on a function that makes an automated 911 call to notify emergency services once the button is pressed.

Athena joins a number of other devices intended to offer discreet calls for help when facing a violent attack. Last year we saw a successful crowdfunding campaign for a hair clip that senses impact to the head and notifies emergency contacts. Revolar, a small personal safety device that sends a distress signal when squeezed, also met its funding goal earlier this year.

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Like those mentioned above, Athen is the subject of a crowdfunding campaign and seems to be attracting a healthy amount of interest. At the time of writing, it has raised more than US$26,000 of its $40,000 goal on Indiegogo. Early pledges of $75 will have an Athena clip headed your way in May 2016 if everything goes to plan.

You can check out the pitch video below.

Source: Roar

Solar Paper turns the page on portable solar chargers

Solar

While there’s a healthy selection of compact solar panels to keep our mobile gadgets charged up – light permitting – the vast majority of these are either too small to be effective or too bulky for carting around. The creators of Solar Paper are looking to buck this trend with a portable solar charger that generates up to 10 W of power, yet is lighter than an iPhone 6 Plus and only slightly wider and longer.

So called because its panels are thing enough to slot between the pages of a notebook, and touted as the “world’s thinnest and lightest solar charger” by its creators, Yolk, Solar Paper measures 9 x 19 x 1.1 cm (3.5 x 7.5 x 0.4 in) and weighs 120 g (4.2 oz), while the actual solar panels are only 1.5 mm thick.

But Solar Paper has more going for it than just its form factor. Unlike most solar chargers on the market, it features modular panels that connect via embedded magnets. If you want more power, you can connect up to four panels together. Each individual panel generates a maximum of 2.5 W of power, so four will provide up to 10 W via USB. On a sunny day, that’s just as good as a 5V/2A wall charger.

Solar Paper also has some built-in smarts to help users get the most out of it. To avoid the hassle of manual restarting when the available light drops, as is the case with most competing solar chargers, Solar Paper has been programmed to automatically resume charging when it detects sufficient sunlight. So when that cloud passes overhead, you won’t have to intervene.

There’s also a built-in LCD screen that displays the current being delivered to a connected device. This is useful to understand how weather, angle of inclination, and orientation to the sun affect the charge rate, so you can easily set it up in the best position.

Add in water resistance and grommet holes for utility/attachment options, and it’s easy to understand why so many have pledged their support to the device’s Kickstarter campaign, with it shooting past its US$50,000 goal in just the first two days. If all goes as planned, the project creators anticipate the first batch will ship in September 2015, with the second batch following in either October or November. Pledges range from $69 for a 5 W Solar Paper, all the way to $450 for a set of four 10 W Solar Paper.

The team’s video pitch can be viewed below.

Source: Yolk

Pushing Pay by Phone: Apple, Google Add New Features

The tech industry has been saying for years that smartphones would make traditional wallets obsolete. But most people still use cash or plastic when they shop in stores.

That could change later this year when three leading tech companies are promising to give shoppers more reasons to use “digital wallets.”

Apple said last week that it’s adding store-issued credit cards and store rewards programs to Apple Pay (seen here), the mobile payments service it launched last fall. Google is readying a similar service for millions more smartphones to run on its Android software . And Samsung promises a service for its newest Galaxy smartphones will be accepted in more stores than both Apple Pay and Google’s Android Pay.

“Our ultimate goal is to replace the wallet,” Apple vice president Jennifer Bailey told software developers last week.

The new options come as numbers show mobile payments are still in their infancy: About 16 million U.S. shoppers used smartphones to pay for $3.5 billion in store purchases last year, according to the eMarketer research firm. That includes payments with Apple Pay, other services like PayPal and apps from merchants like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

While that’s a tiny slice of the $4.3 trillion spent in stores overall last year, eMarketer expects mobile payments will grow to $27.5 billion in 2016.

“We’re still in this very early stage of laying the groundwork to be able to make this happen,” said analyst Brian Yeager at eMarketer. “But there’s progress being made.”

The progress follows years in which the industry has struggled to get digital wallets off the ground as major players failed to agree on technical standards, security measures and financial terms. Some big merchants have balked at services developed by Apple or Google, saying they’d rather build and control their own system.

Still, Apple opened the door for widespread adoption of digital wallets last year when it launched Apple Pay with endorsements from major banks and retail chains. With Apple Pay, which only works on the latest models of iPhones and the Apple Watch, users link a credit card or bank account to their iPhone.

Once that’s done, a user only has to hold the phone next to a device at a store counter. The phone and the store device communicate wirelessly, prompting the user to authorize payment by pressing the phone’s fingerprint sensor instead of swiping a plastic card. Apple Pay uses encrypted codes to protect shoppers’ financial information.

Apple says shoppers and merchants have embraced Apple Pay, although it hasn’t released usage details.

One early fan is Allison Lucas, a 35-year-old tech worker who tapped her Apple Watch to pay for a box of breakfast cereal and other items at a Walgreens store in San Francisco’s Financial District last week.

“You don’t realize how much freedom it gives you until you try it,” said Lucas, who used her watch to pay for lunch on another day when she accidentally left her wallet at home.

But not everyone is convinced they need Apple Pay.

“I might come around and try it at some point, but I haven’t really seen a reason,” said Amalia Bornstein, a 29-year-old data analyst. Though she carried her iPhone 6 in hand as she walked along a busy San Francisco sidewalk, Bornstein said she still uses cash or plastic for most purchases.

Apple says it’s offering more reasons this fall with its next software update, which will let shoppers charge store credit accounts and redeem loyalty points from major chains. Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said frequent shoppers see loyalty rewards as an important benefit, and they want an easy way to use them.

Walgreens expects more customers will pay with smartphones or watches when 80 million members of the chain’s Balance Rewards program will be able to use their loyalty points with Apple Pay, said Ben Weiss, Walgreens mobile products manager. J.C. Penney also is betting iPhone users will want to use their store-label credit cards. Spokeswoman Daphne Avila said the store’s own credit card is used on more J.C. Penney transactions than any other payment card, because customers earn points for every transaction.

Google, which had struggled to win support for its earlier Google Wallet service, says major banks and retail chains have signed on to its new Android Pay. The service will work similarly to Apple Pay when released later this year.

Google says it will incorporate store rewards, but won’t work with store credit cards to start. Android Pay will work on a variety of phones running the two latest versions of Android software — or about half of all Android phones in use.

Samsung, meanwhile, says it’s addressing another hurdle with a service called Samsung Pay, due for release this fall. Unlike rival services Apple Pay and Android Pay, Samsung says its technology will work with traditional store credit-card readers.

Apple Pay and Android Pay only work in stores with equipment capable of receiving data from smartphones via “near-field communication” or NFC radio. But new models of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones will transmit two kinds of signals — one for NFC readers and one that works with older equipment that merchants use to read the magnetic stripe on credit cards.

Many smaller stores don’t have NFC readers. But Visa and MasterCard are pushing retailers to meet an October deadline for installing new terminals that read cards with embedded microchips, which are more secure than magnetic stripes. While the technologies are separate, many chip-card readers will accept NFC signals too.

Some experts are hopeful the changes will draw more shoppers to use digital wallets. But there remain some big challenges. For instance, Wal-Mart has declined to accept Apple Pay and is part of a consortium working on its own mobile payment system.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem,” said Yeager, explaining that shoppers won’t embrace a service if stores won’t accept it, while many stores want to know consumers and banks are backing a system before they invest in new check-out terminals.

CIO Today

10 ways to get the most bang for your buck with an Android device

Whether you’re new to Android or just looking for ways to optimize convenience and performance, these tips will enhance your mobile experience.

Maybe you just purchased your first Android device–or perhaps you’ve had it for a while but you suspect you aren’t getting the most out of it. Either way, you’re in luck: There is so much available in the way of tweaks, apps, options, and configurations that can make your device more powerful and useful. Here are 10 of my favorite tips to help you get the maximum benefit from the Android platform.

1: Use Google

If there’s one thing you should know about Android, it’s that it’s tightly integrated with Google. If you don’t take advantage of that integration, you’ll be missing out. I’m not just talking about Google Drive, Calendar, Mail, Photos, etc. I also mean search. Google Now is one of the most tightly integrated tools you will find on Android. If you’re not using it to its fullest extent, you’re getting only a partial glimpse of what the platform can do. Set up the Google Now hotword (Can you say, “Okay Google”?) and learn the ins and outs of that powerful digital assistant.

2: Set up auto backup

Most likely, you’ve associated your Android device with your Google account. You’re getting your email and using Google Docs. But all that information on your device is just sitting there… waiting for the day when you lose the device or you drop it and a car zooms by and crushes it to a final, heart-wrenching death. Yes, the cost of replacing a device that doesn’t have insurance and is still in-contract can be a bit much. But what of the data? If you want to avoid such drama, be sure to visit the Backup & Reset section of your device and set it up. Android can back up app data, Wi-Fi passwords, other Google server settings, photos, contacts, and more.

3: Install Tasker

If there was ever an app that can transform your Android experience, it’s Tasker. This app will make your device about as automated as a mobile device can be. Set up automated tasks based on time, location, events, and more. It’s rare that I can say you won’t find a more powerful, usable tool for a mobile platform–yet, here it is. Tasker isn’t free, but the $2.99 price of entry is well worth what this app brings to your device. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the 26K+ 5-star reviews. Tasker is that good.

4: Install a third-party home screen launcher

Don’t get me wrong: The stock Android launcher is good. Problem is, few devices actually come with the stock Android home screen launcher. If you’re not fond of how you interact with your home screen, install my all time favorite, Nova Launcher. This launcher offers a perfect combination of look, feel, and function. With gesture support and a clean interface, Nova is the way to go. But if Nova doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of other home screen launchers to fit just about every taste.

5: Upgrade

If you’re running an outdated version of Android, make sure you regularly check for upgrades. Currently, the most up-to-date version of Android is 5.1. The difference between this and previous versions is nothing short of astounding. With each iteration, Android gets better and better. The only downfall is that not every device is capable of upgrading to the latest version. If you’re running an Android smartphone or tablet with an outdated release, and you’re near contract end, it’s time to upgrade your phone. If you want to get the most out of Android, you need to stay up to date.

6: Install a file manager

There will be a time when you need to locate a local file (such as a download). When this time comes, the best way to do this is to use a file manager. Some devices (such older Samsung devices) include an app called My Files. Although serviceable, it doesn’t offer nearly the power as, say, Astro File Manager. Most modern mobile file managers have plenty of bells and whistles (such as SMB or Bluetooth plug-ins), but most often you simply need to locate a file on your Android directory structure. When you do, you’ll be glad you’ve installed one.

7: Password protect your lockscreen

Although this won’t add a lot in the way of features or power, it will protect your data. Set up a password, PIN, or pattern to lock your lockscreen so that prying eyes can’t easily get into your data. Period. This should not be up for debate. Yes, it might make it inconvenient. Yes, you’re now one more step away from getting on Facebook or taking a selfie. But your data will thank you in the end. Again: Not up for debate. If, when at home or at work, having to enter your password constantly is an annoyance, you can (if your device is running Lollipop) set up trusted locations. Then you won’t have to enter your password/PIN/pattern when you are within 500 feet of a trusted location.

8: Set up two-step authentication

You might spy a theme here… security. But your mobile data is vulnerable. There’s no reason to hand over the keys to the kingdom in the event that your device is lost. Password protecting your home lockscreen will help prevent people from gaining access to your device. Take that one step further and keep them from gaining access to the account that helps power your platform: Google. If you set up two-step authentication, the only way to get into your Google account is with your account password and a four-digit code randomly generated by the Google Authenticator app. Do this. Now.

9: Make use of the new Gmail

If you’ve upgraded to Lollipop, you better get used to the Gmail app because Google has shelved the stock Email tool. That’s okay. Gmail has come a long way and can handle just about anything you throw at it (even Exchange). What’s best, Gmail doesn’t relegate your email to a universal inbox. Instead, you can now easily switch between accounts by swiping right (from the left edge of the screen) to reveal the sidebar. Tap on your account image at the top of the sidebar to switch between accounts.

10: Switch to Hangouts

You spend a lot of time messaging back and forth. On Android, messaging can be in the form of SMS, Google Hangouts, and more. Make your life easier and install the Hangouts app to combine all your SMS and Google Hangouts chats into one outstanding tool. Hangouts isn’t just a convenient way to receive two types of chats in one location–it’s actually superior to the default SMS app. Why Google hasn’t done away with the standard Messages apps, I’ll never understand.

TechRepublic

Better Re battery pack gives new life to old phone batteries

By Heidi Hoopes

If you’re like a lot of phone junkies and replace your phone as soon as the latest thing comes along, you’ll know that often the hardware in the old phone is perfectly fine, even the battery. But fancier new screens and more powerful processors mean that battery life usually remains a problem, making battery packs a popular accessory. Enlighten’s Better Re lets you get some more use out of your old phone’s battery, by allowing it to slot into an adjustable external battery charger for your new phone.

Enlightened has already received awards for the design of its “upcycling power pack”, which it is now seeking to fund through Kickstarter. The idea is simple: create a case to house an old cellphone battery and create a sleek external charger. Go crazy and stack multiple expansion packs connected via magnet to provide even more charge capacity. The case adjusts to accommodate batteries of sizes up to 58.5 x 97.8 x 6.5 mm, which Enlighten says is the biggest battery currently on the market.

Enlighten argues that the average turnover of a cellphone is 1.3 years, while after two years of use, a battery is still around 80 percent efficient. Additionally, many mobile phone users who have a phone with a removable battery buy extra batteries to ensure they aren’t caught short. While reports from Recon Analytics in February 2015 suggest that mobile phone turnover rates are slowing, from 22.4 months in 2013 to an anticipated 28.4 months this year, there are still a lot of extra batteries out there.

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How much charge you could get off a Better Re will of course depend on the capacity and condition of your old battery (for example, a Galaxy Note battery is 2,500 mAH), as well as what rate your current phone can charge at.

With an output of 5 V and 2 A, the company says the Better Re should charge an iPhone 6, with its 1,810 mAh battery, in just under 55 minutes, while an iPad Air 2 and its 7,340 mAh battery will take just over 220 minutes. A Galaxy S6 (2,550 mAh) and Galaxy Note 4 (3,220 mAh) should take 76 and 96 minutes, respectively.

If you don’t use phones with removable batteries such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy models, an LG3, or a Note, Enlighten has a pledge package that includes a recycled phone battery. It also plans to produce batteries of its own.

The Kickstarter campaign offers the Better Re for a US$39 pledge, with an additional $20 for an expansion case. If everything goes to plan, delivery is estimated for November 2015.

Enlightened’s video pitch for the Better Re can be viewed below.

Source: Enlightened

QromaScan scans and tags photos with an iPhone and your voice

By Simon Crisp

QromaScan is a simple scanning setup which might mean you finally get around to digitizing and organizing those boxes of old photos you’ve got gathering dust in the attic. The system, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, combines the camera and voice recognition of an iPhone, with a green-screen lightbox to make it quick and easy to produce digital files of printed photos.

We’ve all done it – taken a digital photo of a printed one because we can’t be bothered to scan it in properly. However, the resulting file typically suffers glare, is skewed, and lacks the digital tags to enable you to find it easily again. QromaScan attempts to address these issues by controlling the photo-scanning environment, while being able to scan and tag images in two to three seconds.

Key to ensuring quality scans is the QromaScan Lightbox, a fold-away lightbox into which printed photos are placed, while an iPhone running the QromaScan app is positioned on top. Inside, 12 cool white LED lights provide illumination, while a chroma green material isolates the photo for automatic cropping. Because the distance from camera to photo is a constant, focus should always be spot-on, and voice control illuminates the risk of camera movement and makes scanning faster.

Voice recognition is also used to tag images with metadata as the photos are being scanned. Users say sentences like “Qroma, the date is August 1st, 1957, the place is Honolulu International Airport” while the camera is taking a photo, and the right date and location tags are automatically created in the EXIF data of the image. Names of people in the photos can also be logged as IPTC keywords, with the app able to recognize names in your contacts list, or manually-entered ones.

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The tags not only make finding images easy in the QromaScan app, but because the metadata is stored in standardized fields, they can be accessed in other programs like Lightroom and iPhoto. Basic editing is possible via Aviary photo editing tools, and a Back Scan function allows users to also record anything that’s been written on the rear of the image. While currently limited to iOS, an Android version of the QromaScan app is said to be in the works.

QromaScan is currently on Kickstarter and has until May 31st to hit its target of US$20,000. An early bird pledge of $35 is currently enough to secure you a QromaScan Lightbox, though the price will rise to $40 and then $45 if those are snapped up. Should funding be successful, kits should start shipping in July.

You can check out the Kickstarter video for QromaScan below.

Sources: Qroma, Kickstarter