Monday, December 23, 2013

Online digital literacy courses

Each year people get new gadgets for Christmas and are confronted with learning how to use them safely and effectively. While librarians frequently provide orientation to get people started, we generally don't have a lot of curriculum available for really making people digitally literate. Luckily, there are a lot of resources available online for people to work through.

  • Montana State Library Learning Portal Digital Literacy - Jennifer Birnel put together a lot of great digital literacy resources when she was our BTOP traininer. It's a great place to start looking for items that may be useful for your library's patron needs. It includes some video tutorials on mobile devices that may be a bit dated by now but can help you get oriented.
  • Microsoft Digital Literacy - includes basic courses on computers and Microsoft software as well Internet and computer security and privacy.
  • Google Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum - Google focuses on evaluating online content, avoiding scams and managing your digital footprint.
  • - PLA and IMLS funded site - includes basic computer training (including Mac OS) as well as job searches, email, Internet.
  • WebWise - BBC site so the examples tend to be British but has extensive online courses available including social media, cell phones as well as basic computer and Internet.
  • Northstar Digital Literacy Project - an online assessment tool developed in Minnesota.
Do you have any favorite websites you refer people to who are learning computer and Internet basics?

Friday, December 6, 2013

E-reader update 2013

I realized after I finished my gadget update post that I had neglected to say anything about e-readers. And that probably says more than I need to here. It's a category that's a lot less important than it was a few years ago. I think that tablets have really taken over the market. There's an appeal to a device that "does it all." Yet, I still find I have an affinity for the dedicated e-reader. They may be limited in function but they do make for an enjoyable reading experience. They're inexpensive, small and light weight, perfect for reading in bed. Nor do you have the distractions of Facebook, email, games, etc. that you have on a tablet.

I even bought a new e-reader this year, a new Kindle Paperwhite wifi with special offers for $119 from Amazon. I really like it. I liked the original but the screen had some odd discolorations so I opted for a new one that seems to have worked out those bugs. I sold the old one back to Amazon. I did learn an important lesson with the first gen Paperwhite and that was to forego the 3G in the future and save $70. I'd really found 3G useful in an earlier Kindle. I could get on and browse the web and check email in a pinch using their cellular data connection. But Amazon seems to have tightened down on 3G use on their Kindles so now I could really only use it to buy additional content and whispersync with other devices. I found it wasn't worth the extra cost and I got very little back for the extra expenditure upon resale. I think I only got about $5 more for the 3G version than they were offering for wifi only. So, unless you have no wifi in your home and/or you travel a LOT, I'd suggest going with wifi only. But check first to make sure they have coverage in your area. AT&T is the 3G provider and there are still a lot of blank spots in their coverage in Montana. As for the special offers, they seem to be limited to promoting books at this point in time and I don't find that off putting at all. Amazon is also still offering its basic Kindle @ $69 with special offers.

I don't think there's anything new in Barnes & Noble's line of Nook of e-readers. The Nook Simple Touch has been marked down for the holiday season to $59. Such a deal that it's temporarily sold out online as of this writing. I thought that was a really nice little e-reader. Also, a sell back as I just wasn't using it. But I could easily recommend it to someone who's just looking for a nice, basic, inexpensive e-reader. It's better hardware and software than the basic Kindle. The Nook answer to the Paperwhite is the Nook Glowlight @ $119. I've never actually used one of these but I'm sure it's very comparable to the Kindle in price and features. The main difference is that it's a Barnes & Noble product instead of Amazon so if you're into the B&N ecosystem, this is probably the one to choose. It also has the advantage of in store support if you happen to live in an area with a store. But, like Amazon, B&N seems to have shifted most of its attention to tablets.

Also, still in the running in the e-reader category, is the Kobo line. They seem to be a lot more prevalent in Canada and overseas so if you're shopping for a non-US reader, I'd definitely give Kobo a second look. Their smallest and most inexpensive model is the Kobo mini @ $59. I do have one of these and I think it has to be the cutest and most portable e-reader ever. They've upgraded their first gen Paperwhite and Glowlight competitor known as the Kobo Glo (still on the market @ $129.99) to the Kobo Aura @ $149.99 and Kobo AuraHD @ $169.99 (you can get $20 off with code on most Kobos during the Christmas season). The Aura is not a model I've had a chance to test so I can't tell you whether or not I think it's worth the extra cost. It's main selling point seems to be a larger size - 6.9" instead of 6" which seems to be the standard for e-readers. Kobo also has several tablets in their Arc line that come in different sizes and screen resolutions. Once again, probably comparable to Amazon and B&N's tablet line. All the Arcs are Android based with the unadulterated Android that uses the Google Play Store. So, there's another plus.

Sony has apparently abandoned the e-reader market in the US. That's okay with me because they made devices that I really wanted to like but just couldn't. Somehow, they just didn't perform as well as their competition. They always seemed a bit clunky, technologically behind and overpriced. I still have a lovely red PRS-T2 that I bought because I loved the idea of being able to access MontanaLibrary2Go directly from an e-reader without the aid of a computer and Adobe Digital Editions. Unfortunately, it is so difficult to navigate from the Reader and the constant slow screen refreshes blind me that I find it's virtually unusable. And none of the buy back companies want it. So, if you're coming to Offline and want a Sony Reader of your very own, let me know and it's yours. It needs a good home. Sony also makes tablets.

Basically, the hardware from all of these manufacturers is similar. The big difference is from whom you get your content. All will work with Overdrive and MontanaLibrary2Go for e-books. None of these e-readers plays downloadable audiobooks. I believe all Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony tablets will. Kindles use Amazon's proprietary format. Nooks and Kobos use EPUB. The EPUB readers generally require Adobe Digital Editions. I HATE Adobe Digital Editions. The nice thing about buying EPUB books is that you chan choose from a variety of online booksellers. So, you needn't spend a lot of time worrying about the future of Barnes & Noble or Kobo. But it will be easier to stick with the online bookstore on your device.

What I continue to like about Kobo is their partnership with independent booksellers. You can buy a Kobo from an indie bookstore and set up an account with them. Then a percentage of the money you spend on content from Kobo will go back to help support that bookstore. It's a great idea. Unfortunately, I don't often remember about it and have a tendency to go to Amazon first. It doesn't hurt that I often have a credit with them. But if you want an e-reader and want to support an indie bookstore, Kobo is definitely something to look into. You can even do a search and find out where there's an indie bookstore near you supporting Kobo ebooks - And I believe you don't have to use a Kobo e-reader to support an indie bookstore. You can buy content from Kobo and read it on a tablet using their reading app.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Out with the old, in with the new!

As some of you know, I tend to upgrade my gadgets on a fairly frequent basis. So, what do I do with the old ones? I recycle them, of course.

If I have devices that I think are still good, I'll often sell or give them to friends and colleagues. I also sell them and ship them to various companies for credit. The shipping is free and many will send packing materials. Here are those I've used recently:

  • Amazon - Amazon generally offers the best prices on most items and they'll take just about anything as a trade - books, video games, movies & tv, electronics, music. If you're an Amazon Prime member, it's always useful to have a credit at Amazon. I just sold them a bunch of my old e-readers.
  • BestBuy - I recently sold them my Google Chromebook and iPad 3. No one else wanted the Chromebook so that was a factor. But the price they gave me for the iPad was competitive with Amazon.
  • Gazelle - Gazelle will buy a lot of used smart phones but mainly they seem to specialize in Apple products right now. So, if you've got a iPad or Mac, this might be a good place to go. Keep in mind that you'll get more if you opt for an Amazon gift card instead of cash. They sometimes have promotions and you can also get money for referrals. So, I'm using a referral link here. Full disclosure. Help me keep my gadgets current ;)
Some manufacturers offer their own recycling programs:
I'm sure there are others. But these are some of the biggies and ones that I have some experience with. Sometimes these are purely recycling programs. Others will offer a trade in, i.e., they will give you credit toward buying new equipment or accessories from them. But at the very least, the shipping is generally free.

One of the things I've discovered is that there is a booming market in used Apple devices. They tend to hold their value pretty well in the resale market. That's unusual for electronics. But you might find local charitable organizations that can use your old devices as well. In Billings we have an organization called Computers4Kids that refurbishes old computers and electronics to give to kids and/or resell. You can take a tax deduction for your donation. So look around and see who might need it in your community.

And, as a last result, you can look into electronics recycling programs in your community. That's really your only option for some old stuff like CRT monitors. No one is using them any more and you don't want them ending up in a landfill. If you're lucky, there are places that will take them for free or for a small donation. 

  • For Montana, DEQ offers electronics recycling information on their website: e-rase your e-waste. Unfortunately, it's not all up to date.
  • Nationally, Earth 911 has a lot of interesting tips and info about recycling on their website including a recycling search that shows you where take various types of items in your area. I hadn't realized that BestBuy will recycle a lot of items at their store. Guess who will be dropping by with a box load of cables and stuff?

Let me know if this was useful and/or if you have any other suggestions to add. New electronic gadgets are good but we want to be sure to dispose of the old in a responsible manner!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Gadgets Roundup 2013

Gaming Consoles

One of the big rollouts for Christmas 2013 is two new gaming systems - Xbox One from Microsoft @ $499.99 and Playstation 4 from Sony @ $399.99. As I'm not a serious gamer, neither of these is on my Christmas list. But I think it's worth mentioning that Microsoft is aiming for control of the living room with  Xbox One. Reports are that they're not quite there yet, but the idea of a set top box that will control television, games and Internet by voice is intriguing. Other than that, you should probably know that neither is backward compatible, meaning old Xbox and Playstation games won't play on the new consoles. You'll have to get all new games for either device. And I expect that die hard fans will want to stick with their brand, i.e., Xbox 360 users will opt for the One and Playstation 3 lovers will choose the 4.


This is a category that isn't really a factor for Christmas 2013 but might be by next year. But you may be hearing about some of these so it's worth a quick look at what's currently out there. If you have a spare $1500 and can get an invitation, you might be interested in Google Glass. By all accounts, it's still too expensive and not ready for prime time but it does give a good indication of where location based always on technology is headed.

We have seen a couple of smart watches come out this year. The Pebble Watch @ $150 was a Kickstarter project that actually released this year. It has a bunch of its own apps and pairs with many iPhones and Android phones to allow you to read texts and take calls and do other tasks from your wrist instead of your phone. Samsung introduced a smart watch - the Galaxy Gear @ $299.99. So far it only pairs with one of their smart phones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. So, if you're looking for both a new smart phone and a smart watch, it might be worth considering. Samsung seems to have a major case of ADD continually moving onto new things while leaving previous products in the dust, so I wouldn't get a Gear expecting that it will eventually pair with an older device. That said, the existing pair does offer a lot of interesting features and a glimpse into the possibilities of wearable tech.

Most tech enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the Apple iWatch which is so far only a product rumor. But the assumption is that it will be set the standard for style and functionality against which all other products are measured.

Also in the wearable tech realm and updated for this year are fitness bands: Nike+ Fuelband SE @ $149, Fitbit from $59.95 to $129.95, Jawbone Up and Up 24 @ $129.99 and $149.99. They all track activity. Some track sleep patterns and act as watches as well. Most sync with smart phones but be sure to note which ones. For example, Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up 24 only sync with iPhones. The Fitbit Force syncs with both Android and iOS but only a select few in the newer category of each.


Apple iPads

I think Apple is still the can't go wrong choice when you're looking at tablets. Top of the line hardware and design in their latest models combined with the best selection of tablet specific apps in the iTunes app store as well as a wide range of accessories make this a tablet that can almost replace a laptop. And that's good because they're priced similarly. There are choices this year. The iPad Air is the full size iPad slightly smaller and a lot lighter than previous models and starts @ $499.99 for 16 GB wifi. The iPad Mini Retina now has similar specs to its larger sibling and much improved screen resolution and starts @ $399.99 for 16 GB wifi. Apple has also chosen to keep earlier models around for those price conscious consumers. The iPad 2 is the full size earlier model chosen and starts @ $399.99 for 16 GB wifi. The iPad Mini first edition now starts @ $299.99 for 16 GB wifi. I think either of those might be okay for a younger person's first iPad. Neither has a retina display which is a real deal breaker for me especially on the larger screen. That's the only thing I hated on the early full size iPads. I found the screen tolerable on the 1st gen iPad mini. But if it's to be a device used for games and web surfing the screen resolution may not be that big a deal. I like to read on my tablets so I want a crisp clear screen. Another option for the full size is to look for used iPads from the 3rd and 4th generations. Both had retina screens and might be showing up in the marketplace as people are upgrading to the air. The 3rd gen iPad still had a 30 pin dock connector but was slightly under powered for the retina screen. Both 3 and 4 might be considerations depending on what accessories you have and how you're planning to use it.


Android has pretty much two advantages over iOS that have caused it to overtake iPads in the consumer marketplace - low cost and high innovation. The two can coincide in a couple of cases but generally I'll look at them separately because I think they're largely appealing to different audiences. For the innovation crowd, the best Android tablets continue to be Google's own Nexus line. The Google Nexus 7 is a 7 inch tablet that starts @ $229.99 for 16 GB wifi. There is also a Nexus 10 as a 10 inch tablet that's much harder to get hold of. I don't even have a price for the 16 GB wifi model as it was sold out on the Google Play site and didn't come up on BestBuy. But the 32 GB wifi model sells for $499. The advantage to all Nexus products is that they get early and consistent Android updates. My Nexus 7 just updated to the latest Android 4.4 KitKat about a week ago. So, it's both relatively inexpensive and ahead of the curve innovation wise. But my iPad Air is still my preferred tablet. I find Android a bit frustrating because it doesn't always do what I want it to do, especially in comparison to iPad. Here's one example: I like to listen to Internet radio. I've tried a lot streaming apps and the one I've pretty much settled on for the moment is TuneIn. It has versions that run on all the major platforms. When I've run it on Android, it has tended to stop to buffer every few minutes. That's really annoying when you're trying to listen to a news story or music. It doesn't have that problem on iOS. In all fairness, the problem does seem to have been fixed with the new version of the app on KitKat. But as that's not the common configuration for most people, you might continue to have problems. Neither do I find the Nexus 7 to be as comfortable for reading as an iPad. Web pages don't scale as well. But I do like it for being able to stay on top of Android developments and as a very portable Internet device. I think if you're one of the Android faithful and/or you're looking for a good functional less expensive alternative, Nexus is what I'd recommend. The good news is that they're now available at BestBuy as well as online so you can try them out and compare the experience. One caution, if you're interested in the LTE version so you can use it on a cellular data plan, heed which carriers they say it works with and note that Verizon is currently not one of them.

There are countless other Android tablet options out there, far too many for me to go into each in any detail. The one that I'm frequently asked about is the Samsung Galaxy Tab probably because they're offered at Costco and other locales at good prices. I think Samsung makes great hardware so this is a reasonable choice but it's not one that I would make over the Nexus. Samsung has a tendency to burden their devices with a lot of their own apps and  custom interfaces. If that's what you like, go with it. But I tend not to use their apps, I prefer to stay with Google's and I don't want my device pre-loaded with stuff I'm not going to use and can't remove. This is especially important if I want an inexpensive low storage capacity device. There's nothing like having it half full when you get it. The other downside to this customization is that Samsung devices tend to lag way behind in Android updates. Does this make much difference to any but Android geeks? Probably not, but to me, it's really annoying to hear about great new innovations that I'm not going to get on my device.

Lenovo, Asus, Sony, etc. also make Android tablets. They're all great hardware manufacturers. In fact, Asus makes the Nexus 7. So any of them would be a good choice. It's just a matter of preference. I'd probably want to try them hands on. I think BestBuy carries most. See whether or not you like the feel and the interface and check to see how much customization they've done and whether or not it works for you. As more of an open source option, Android offers a lot of customization for manufacturers and consumers. It also tends to have a higher learning curve than Apple's iOS. But I think they're perfectly usable especially as content consumption devices but might not suffice as a laptop replacement for most people.

My one big caution is in regard to the cheapo Android tablets that you find in stores like Shopko. They're often no name brands with really early versions of Android say 3.1 or the like, before Android was any good on tablets. And the real kicker is that they sometimes don't even use the Google Play Store. I saw one that used GetJar for its apps. Now there's nothing wrong with getting the occasional app from other sources, if you're so inclined but you don't want to be limited to it. It may not run the apps that you really want and need. When you see a tablet like this for around $100, run screaming from the store. If someone gives one to you, drop it in the street and let a truck run over it. You'll thank me later.

Cheap but fundtional, the Nook HD line apparently has not been updated this year. The Nook HD 7" starts @ $129 for 8 GB and the HD+ 9" starts at $149 for 16 GB. One modification that Barnes & Noble has made to their Nook tablets is that they now have access to the Google Play Store so that you have access to just about all the Android apps out there. So, it really does make it more of a full featured Android tablet. But they are last year's hardware and the website says nothing about the OS so I wouldn't expect it to be as good as this year's Kindle Fire or Nexus models, not to mention iPad. But it's also a lot cheaper.


I find Windows tablets to have the most potential as pure laptop replacements. After all, you've got the premier business operating system and its office apps on a tablet. Combine this with the fact that Windows 8 is really optimized for touch and you should have the winning combination. I just haven't had the inclination or opportunity to really test it out. I do have a Windows phone and have been pleasantly surprised by how much I like it. The big downside is that it doesn't have a lot of the apps I'm used to on iOS and Android. But it's pretty and fast and fairly user friendly. If Windows tablets work the same way, I think they should get more attention than they have. The first thing you need to know about Windows tablets is that they come in two varieties - Windows RT and Windows 8. RT is a scaled down version of the Windows 8 operating system. It's found on the lower end tablets. Microsoft's versions: last year's Surface starts @ $349 for 32 GB and includes an RT version of Office. The Surface 2 starts @ $449 for 32 GB. It also has a USB port and a micro sd card reader so you can add more memory. Keyboard covers are extra. Most reviewers I've read prefer the Type cover @ $129.99. Since this is a relatively new operating system, there aren't a lot of apps for it. But if you primarily want to use Office, it might work for you.

The top of the line Windows tablets feature the full Windows 8 operating system. There has been a lot of debate about this on desktops and laptops but it's probably at its best in the tablet environment. Microsoft makes the Surface Pro. BestBuy is selling last year's 64 GB model for $699.99.  This year's Surface Pro 2 starts @ $899 for 64 GB. Keyboard cover and Office are sold separately. Since you're talking about fairly large software packages for office productivity, I think you'd want at least a 128 GB model. So by the time you add the extra storage, Office and a keyboard, you're up to $1,268. On their website, Microsoft compares the Surface Pro 2 to the Macbook Air. And that's really the category you're getting into here, ultralight laptops. Now, this is a full fledged Windows computer that can run any Windows 8 compatible software. But I think if it were me, I'd opt for a laptop with a touch screen instead.

There are other manufacturers of Windows tablets as well: Asus. Lenovo, Acer even Samsung. They're certainly worth considering as their prices are generally much lower than Microsoft Surface. I'd look for user and tech reviews. The new Windows RT tablet that's creating the most buzz currently is the brand new Nokia Lumia 2520. It's an LTE tablet that will run on cellular networks as well as wifi (with a cellular data plan) and sells for $499 for 32 GB. You can get it for $399.99 with a two year contract. Month to month is probably a better deal. Cellular data plans are notoriously hard to figure out.

Kindle Fire

While these are technically Android devices, I put them in a separate category because I continue to regard Kindle Fires as primarily content consumption devices. If you want an inexpensive yet quality piece of hardware to read, watch movies and do a little web surfing and emailing, they might be a great option. But I think you'll probably be disappointed if you're looking to one of these to replace a laptop for full productivity.

The Kindle Fire HD starts @ $139 for 8 GB wifi with special offers. This is the 7" model. There's also an 8.9" starting @ $269 for 16 GB wifi with special offers. In addition, there's the HDX line with improved processors and screen resolution. This is particularly important if you're getting a device to watch a lot of HD movies. The HDX also has the Mayday button where you can get "live on-device tech support from an Amazon expert." So, this might be a device to get grandma if you think she needs a tablet but you're not going to be there to answer her questions and provide tech support. The only real downside for Amazon Kindle Fires and this is a deal breaker for me is that they use their own customized Android overlay and only work with the Amazon Kindle app store. For some reason, Amazon has decided not to make any of the Google apps available and also restricts access to other competitors so that you're pretty much restricted to the Amazon world for content. But if that's what you're using, it is a great piece of hardware for a very reasonable price. That's because Amazon makes its money off content.

Let me know if there's any interest in other gadgets this holiday season. And I'd love to hear your comments and feedback on items that I've mentioned.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Smart Phones 101

I know a lot of us tend to feel not so smart when it comes to figuring out smart phones and cellular plans. I looked at cellular plans a few months ago in a post Lower cost cell phone options.

But I realize that the wide array of choices of smart phones can also be somewhat daunting. So, I'll attempt to give you an idea of just what your choices are at this moment in time.

See CNET Cell Phone Reviews for reviews of these handsets and more.

Apple iPhone

August is not a great time to consider buying an iPhone. It is expected that Apple will announce their new phones in September. So, even if you are interested in buying an iPhone 5 or older model and don't really care what the new one will offer, the prices of older models will go down considerably in a month. September will also be when the latest version of the Apple operating system iOS 7 is released. While many in the tech world are bemoaning Apple's lack of innovation in their mobile devices, I think that iPhones still have high customer satisfaction. I have several friends and family members with iPhone 4 whose contracts are up and they're not upgrading because they're happy with their 3 year old devices. I think it is worth looking at later models, however, because there have been major improvements - notably LTE in iPhone 5. The difference between 3G and LTE for data speeds is similar to the difference between dial up and broadband. iPhones are available on all the major carriers.

Apple store

Android phones


Android is Google's open source operating system that is available on numerous handsets. Samsung is the largest and best selling manufacturer of Android phones. Models vary widely in size, price and capabilities. Probably the most advertised and best known is the Galaxy series, including Galaxy Notes 1 & 2 (also known as phablets because they're so big they're part phone and part tablet) and the Galaxy S - most recent models 3 & 4. The S 3 was their biggest selling phone last year and the S 4 is the successor. I have a hard time recommending Samsung Galaxy phones at this time because of bloatware (software preloaded on the phone by the manufacturer and carriers) and sporadic operating system updates. But I know many people who are happy with their Samsung phones. They are widely available and often have attractive up front prices. Samsung phones are available on all the major carriers. 

There is also a Samsung Galaxy S 4 available as a Google edition phone meaning it comes in a more pure Android version without all the bloatware. It's also not subsidized by the carriers so you have to pay the full price up front. I believe it will only work on AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.


While Samsung continues to dominate the Android marketplace, HTC is also making some top of the line handsets. Many prefer the HTC One to the Samsung Galaxy S 4 for the premier Android phone. You really need to look into some of the special features of the high end phones to see which one is preferable for you. HTC One is not yet available on Verizon. 

There is also a Google edition of the HTC One with a more pure Android experience available from the Google Play store. Like the Google edition Galaxy S 4, it comes unlocked and unsubsidized meaning you pay full price but can use it on any supporting carrier without a contract. It will not work with Verizon at this time. Nor is there any word about when or if it will.


You may recall that Google bought Motorola about a year ago. Many of us were curious as to what this would mean for Android handsets. While Motorola dominated the Android marketplace early on, many of their phones have been disappointments. Motorola recently announced the Moto X. It has many of the latest Android innovations including voice activation. It will also be customizable and manufactured in the U.S. It's currently only available on AT&T but promises to roll out to the other major carriers by September. The only real criticism of the Moto X that I've heard is that its up front price is too high. Hardware wise it's classified as a mid level Android phone yet it's currently priced as a top tier phone like the Galaxy S 4 or HTC One. It will probably be a very good deal once it becomes widely available and its price is more realistic.


While LG is generally regarded as a second tier Android phone manufacturer, they did make the last Nexus phone, last year's Nexus 4. Nexus is the brand bestowed on the phone that Google uses to show off its software innovations each year. They have the pure Android experience largely uncluttered with manufacturer and service provider bloatware that can make other Android phones painful to use. Nexus phones also get all the Android updates as soon as they come out. It remains to be seen if the same will be true for this year's Google edition phones. If you're looking for a bargain Android phone, this is the one to get. It's currently priced at $299 from the Google Play store and that's unlocked and without a contract. It's also best on T-Mobile but will run on AT&T just not at LTE speeds.

LG's next big Android phone will be the G2.



Microsoft partnered with Nokia last year to create flagship Windows phones. Nokia has its strong points, among them are reportedly the best cameras available in smart phones today. The top of the line in that regard is the Nokia 1020. It boasts a 41 megapixel camera that allows you to zoom into a photo with incredible detail. Nokia also boasts some very good software of its own including Nokia maps. But theWindows phone app store does lack a lot of the apps that iPhone and Android users take for granted. Still, if you're new to smart phones and don't have a laundry list of apps you can't live without, Windows phones do have a lovely and distinctive interface and are reportedly more user friendly than Android phones. So, I think they're worth considering. The Lumia 1020 is currently only available on AT&T but it is expected soon on Verizon. There are other Nokia Lumia models available at very good up front prices. 

HTC and Samsung also make Windows phones with models that are available on all major carriers.


I know a lot of people who dearly love their Blackberries and are traumatized at the idea of having to give them up for another smart phone. While Blackberry is not entirely out of the picture (they did introduce two new handsets this year), they are way behind the curve. And most analysts don't hold out a lot of hope for their survival in the long term. Still, they do have nice hardware and software that's probably good enough that you can hold out for another couple of years anyway. The latest handsets are the Q10 for those who can't imagine living without a keyboard and Z10. They both got pretty decent reviews when they came out and are available on all the major carriers.


As for me, I've got an iPhone 5. The deciding factor was really the camera. iPhone cameras are better than other phone's except for Nokia. And there are a lot of great apps for photo editing.

I love the idea of Android, I just think their implementation leaves a lot to be desired especially in the 2 year contract phone world that most of us live in. Sporadic updates and bloatware make most Android phones almost unusable before the 2 year contract is up. I would no longer even consider buying an Android phone that wasn't a Nexus or at least a Google experience phone. Since Verizon seems not to be terribly interested in either, I find I'm avoiding Android phones and getting my Android experience from Google Nexus 7 tablets. Even that I find frustrating at times when apps that work great on iOS freeze up and cause problems on Android. I think that Google Android is most interesting for their innovations. Therefore, it's really frustrating that those of us who are attracted to the innovations find them shut down shortly after purchase. I think Android is also great for those people who like to play around with and tweak and customize their phones. There are a lot of really creative ROMs you can run on Android. If you don't know what a ROM is, it's probably not something you need to worry about. Google focuses on innovation while Apple focuses on user experience. I heard the guys on Mac Break Weekly say that Samsung will roll out a lot of new features regardless of whether or not they work whereas Apple tends to only roll out features once they've been proven. Siri and maps are notable exceptions. So take your pick based on what's most important to you.

I continue to maintain that up front price should not be your primary deciding factor as you're going to end up paying around $500 for any phone in monthly surcharges over a two year contract. So, that free phone that you're going to end up hating in 6 six months is still going to cost you around $500. While you can probably be satisfied with an older iPhone if up front costs are really an issue for you, buying a cheap Android phone is never a good idea. Even the top of the line phones date quickly. The cheap ones are a problem pretty much out of the box.

Another thing to remember about contracts is that you continue paying the contract price even after your contract expires. So, if you paid $100 up front for your iPhone 4 and kept it for 2 years, it will cost you $580. If you keep it for an additional 6 months, it will cost you $700. Isn't it ironic that you end up paying more by being conservative and thrifty. The only way to be thrifty in the cell phone world is to buy your phones outright up front with no contract.

I'm getting a Windows phone - an HTC 8X on Verizon - for work so I'll soon have a chance to try it out and review it. While I caution others not to worry so much about up front costs, it does matter to the state of Montana so the free up front price was a deciding factor. Obviously I have enough faith in the platform to be able to trust it will work for me for 2 years. I'll let you all know what I think about the platform after I've had a chance to play with it a bit.

I expect for most people the deciding factor will be form and features. If you want a really large or really small phone, you'll probably end up going with Android. There are hundreds of models to choose from in all sizes, shapes and colors. The apps are now roughly on a par with Apple. Apple does have a corner on accessories, however. That's the positive side of only having a couple of different models. iPhones also tend to have higher resale value. And they're supported with updates for several years. This year's iOS 7 update will include iPhone 4 and 4s. So, that's going back 3 years. iPhone 3 and 3GS are no longer being supported but those are 5 and 4 years old respectively. On the other hand, Samsung has yet to roll out the Android 4.2 update to its Galaxy S 3 phones that are only a year old. And the update has been available for 9 months. Nexus devices are currently running 4.3.

Would love to hear why I'm wrong from the Android faithful. And what about you Windows and Blackberry users, what do you think about your devices? How about those who've left iPhone for Android? It's all opinion and personal preference after all.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Create better search results for your library

Have you noticed that when you do a search in a search engine for your library, you often get a little box with a map and directions? This is a business listing for your library. You can claim that listing and add additional information and photos.

You can add hours, email address, website URL, Facebook URL, Twitter, etc. You might also add any information that you think would be of interest to visitors or newcomers, e.g., free wifi, computer classes, story time hours, etc.

In Google, if your library hasn't been claimed (or even if it has by someone in past years but the information is outdated), you'll find a small link marked Feedback. Click on that and it gives you an opportunity to claim the library and update the information. You'll need to verify that you are a legitimate updater by getting and entering a verification code to one of the contact methods listed. So, make sure you're near the phone if that's what you choose. And hopefully, that phone number is correct. One of the challenges for many of our rural libraries is that your mail comes to a PO Box. The mailing verification option wants to use your street address. Oh well, it is the street address that you want to come up in the listing because that's how people will find you.

In Bing, you'll find an option under the search result to Report a Problem. Click on that and you'll see a box where you can Claim this listing. That will allow you to make changes in a similar fashion to Google.

I don't know of many people who use Yahoo! as their primary search engine but it also offers business listings that you can update. It may be worth looking into any other search engines that you're familiar with and seeing what they offer as well. But, remember, you're going to have to keep these up-to-date if they're to be useful so you'll probably want to just choose a couple that you think are most likely to be used by your current and potential customers.

I think this is a good option to supplement your website not replace it. You'll probably want to keep a website where you can offer links to services like your library catalog, Discover It!, current events, etc. But having an enhanced search listing can really be helpful for people locating your library on a mobile device. Besides, it's easy and free, if you can resist the offers to upgrade ;)

So, go to it and share your experiences in comments.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Lower cost cell phone options

I was asked by a colleague for advice on a new smart phone and cellular plan. So I started doing some research. She was considering AT&T's Go Phone plan. On the surface this looks like a pretty good deal, a prepaid plan for $65 would get you unlimited calls and data and 1 GB of data. The chief problem with this was that you apparently have to use their phones - no brand antiquated Android and Blackberry phones. The one that looked the most promising to me was the Avail which only came with 512K memory, Android 2.3 Gingerbread (they're at 4.2 in the real world) and EDGE data. Seemed guaranteed to frustrate any user into a full fledged AT&T contract. No thanks.

But I knew there were a number of other prepaid options out there. Here's a nice run down on some of them from PCMag: The 10 Best Cheap Prepaid Phone Plans You've Never Heard Of. For people in Montana, it's important to find a prepaid plan that uses either AT&T's or Verizon's networks. Sprint and T-Mobile don't offer service in Montana. The advantage to going with an AT&T network is that it uses GSM technology. It broadens your potential phone selection. More about that later.

A little bit about the traditional way of cell phone purchase and plans in the U.S. Most people looking for a smart phone, first select their carrier and then buy the phone they want at a highly discounted rate with a 2-year contract. Since the phone is subsidized, you'll be paying for that phone monthly over the course of the two years. It looks like you pay about $20/month for the phone. Whatever the up front cost, you're going to be paying an additional $480. The dirty little secret is that you will continue paying $20/month for that phone long after the two years is over. No wonder the rapid pace of obsolescence, you might as well get a new phone every two years, if you're paying for it anyway.

With prepaid plans (and month to month), you have to buy your phone outright. So, you're getting into some potentially frightening prices, e.g., $699.99 for an iPhone 5, $499.99 for a Samsung Galaxy SIII... You do probably come out ahead in the long run because the monthly rates are significantly cheaper, but the up front costs are higher. Most of the prepaid carriers offer a rather sad assortment of phones, but the good news is that most also allow you to bring your own phone. So, you can buy an unlocked phone from elsewhere, buy  a $10 SIM card from the carrier and run it on their network. If you prefer one stop shopping, it looks like Red Pocket Mobile offers the best selection of unlocked phones. The prices include their SIM card.

But with a prepaid carrier running on AT&T (or T-Mobile if you're in their area), you can use any unlocked GSM phone. Do keep in mind that AT&T (and T-Mobile) run on a different network and require different phones than Verizon (and Sprint). You can't buy an unlocked AT&T phone and expect to run it on a Verizon or Sprint network and vice versa. One additional note, AT&T's GSM standard is global while Verizon's CDMA is largely U.S. So you can expect to find a much greater selection of unlocked and/or used GSM phones. Also, keep in mind that even Verizon and Sprint CDMA phones are not interchangeable. If you want a phone for a prepaid carrier using Verizon networks, be sure to get a Verizon phone. I know, it's both confusing and and annoying, but that's the world we live in.

There is one phone out there that is sold unlocked that I would definitely consider buying if I were looking at either a no contract or prepaid GSM plan - the LG Nexus 4 from Google. Android geeks know that the Nexus line is the purest form of Android without all the carrier and cell phone manufacturer junk. And Nexus phones and tablets always get the updates first. This phone is also relatively cheap for a non-subsidized smart phone, starting at $299 for the 8 GB model. I'd probably go with the 16 GB at $349. It will run on either AT&T or T-Mobile networks in the U.S. with the proper SIM card. That means it will also run on prepaid services using either of those networks. Reportedly, it's a bit slower on AT&T, but, as far as I know, AT&T is not yet offering 4G LTE service in Montana so I doubt the reduction in performance  would be anything to worry about. I found this article which looks at LG Nexus 4 performance on various networks via GottaBeMobile: LG Nexus 4 Carrier Comparison.

If you prefer Verizon's network, and arguably, it is better in Montana both for coverage and speed, your prepaid options are more limited. Verizon offers its own prepaid plan. The prices are higher than most of their competition - $70/month for unlimited talk and text and 2 GB data. The offered phones are pretty dismal but they do offer the option to bring on your own. So, that's something. Page Plus and Net10 are the only other two Verizon networks I've run across. And Net10 is fairly secretive about whether they're using AT&T or Verizon. I finally figured they were on Verizon in Montana when none of the phones I looked at were available in my area. I believe they're affiliated with Tracfone which definitely uses Verizon networks in Montana. I know because I used a Tracfone for a couple of years. It worked okay as a basic phone but the customer service was less than stellar. I spent hours on the phone with one of their technicians only to be told eventually that the phone was dead. But I guess, you have to expect that from a budget service.

There are a couple of other services that aren't prepaid that I'd like to point out even though they run on Sprint's network and thus are  not available in Montana:
  • Ting has taken a new approach to cellular service and only bills you for what you actually use. I love the concept and wish they were an option here.
  • Credo - For those who want a mobile carrier with a social conscience.
I'd love to hear comments about your carriers, especially prepaid plans. What do you like or dislike about your service?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Apps for Young People

Heather Johnstone - Rosebud County Library

All the apps I'm suggesting are for the iPad and many of them I discovered while working in Special Education.  I have very strong opinions about the potential of special needs kids when they have an iPad in their hands! has autism apps, which also work well for kids with other disabilities.

We have an iPad 4 geared toward tweens/teens at Rosebud County Library.  Some of my favorite apps follow...
  • Flow Free-matching, problem solving, variety of skill levels
  • King of Math-educational, teacher recommended
  • Words with Friends-interactive, improves spelling, thought provoking
  • Where's My Water?-autistic kids LOVE it, interactive, fun, great for occupational therapy
  • Racing Penguin-challenging, holds your attention, hand-eye coordination
  • Minecraft PE-very popular with tweens/younger teens, creative outlet
  • Talking Tom-great for those with communication challenges (he repeats everything you say)
  • Magic Piano-listening skills, fun, fast-paced, good for those who enjoy music
Here's the link for a 13 minute video on how autistic people use iPads

Rebekah Kamp - Belgrade Community Library

As one of the authors, I have to mention the YALSA blog. Each week we review apps that are great for teens and teen librarians.
  • YALSA's Teen Book Finder - Teen books organized by awards, book lists, etc.
  • Netflix - Movies and TV on the go :-)
  • Shazam - Press the button on Shazam, and the app will listen for a few seconds, matching tunes with a database. The screen pops up with the album cover, the artist’s name, and a list of other ways to interact with the song. Share it with a friend via Facebook or Twitter, read lyrics in time with the song, check reviews, browse related You Tube videos, and buy tracks from iTunes.
  • Songkick Concerts - Many people enjoy listening to music on their mobile devices, but this app brings the listener to the music. Songkick Concerts helps users keep track of upcoming concerts by location and artist, organizing shows on a concert calendar for easy reference.
  • Flashcardlet - There are several flashcard apps out there, but students that need more than text to study will appreciate Flashcardlet’s features. A step beyond the traditional pen and paper flashcard, this app allows you to view images. Create your own deck or download one from to study SAT vocabulary, science and math diagrams, art history, or any other subject imaginable. If you find or make a study deck that will be useful for a friend, share it by using Dropbox or email.
  • Goodreads - Not necessarily just for teens, but this app is a great way to keep track of what you have read. You can create shelves, join clubs, review books, and share on Facebook. Adding a new book is as easy as scanning the barcode.
Susan Matter - Elementary Librarian, American School of Warsaw

Scribble Press
Scribble Press ($3.99) for iPad makes it easy to create a book on the iPad – either write your own story or use one of over 50 story templates. You can make a book about any topic and instantly publish to the gallery or share with friends anywhere in the world.

Here is how the Scribble Press books look on the web:

Puppet Pals
With this app, children can create and save their own shows.  We like this app because it’s easy to use and allows students to be creative.  To start you need to pick out actors.  You can choose from actors that are included in the program or you can upload your own photos from the camera roll so that children and family members can be the actors. Then you choose backgrounds, drag them on to the stage, and tap record.   Up to three children can maneuver and speak for characters at a time.  Overall, this is a great app for storytelling.  While there is a free version of this app, you might want to purchase the Director's Pass version for $2.99 since it provides a wide range of characters and scenes to choose from.  This is a favorite for both teachers and students in our school.  For example a second grade teacher here had her students create videos that explained the plant cycle.

Aurasma is a free app that allows students to create augmented reality.  This means that students can view real-world objects with a computer-generated overlay such as a video, cartoon animation or audio recording. For example, students can film themselves talking about a book, map, poster, or poem and then attach that video to a picture of the object.  Then when someone views the object using the Aurasma app, he or she will see the video or other animation that was attached. In one class, students made posters of landforms and then attached a video of themselves explaining that feature.  In the library, I videoed students doing book reviews and then then attached them to the book.  I keep the iPad handy for students who want to use it to view books where classmates have made book review videos.

Screenchomp is a free app for creating and sharing short tutorials or lessons on your iPad. Students can use it to create and share demonstrations of their understanding of a topic or concept.   Screenchomp acts as a whiteboard in which you insert a photo or a screen so you can record your voice as you demonstrate things by using the drawing tools.   Students here used it to show how to use an index in a print book.  I used it to show cross country runners how to use machines in the weight room.  The nice thing about Screenchomp is that you can upload the file to YouTube, get the embed code and then use it on your website.

Suzanne Reymer - MSL

These are all iPad apps but some or all may be available for Android as well. Certainly worth checking the Google Play Store and/or Amazon App Store.

Interactive Books

  • Ultimate Dinopedia: Complete Dinosaur Reference - National Geographic Kids
    I've read complaints in the reviews about errors in some of the data but I thought this was a nice comprehensive e-book with lots of dinosaurs, stats and pictures. And who doesn't love dinosaurs?
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore - this continues to be my favorite example of the potential of interactive e-books. Great story that you can choose to have read to you or read yourself with lots of interactive bits including a song to play on a piano. Great fun and there's also a short film that won an Oscar last year.
  • iPoe: The Interactive and Illustrated Edgar Allen Poe Collection vols. 1 & 2
    Probably more for tweens and teens than the previous two as Edgar Allen Poe is rather macabre but these collections have incredible illustrations and interactive components for some of Poe's best known and best loved stories and poems. 
  • Reading Rainbow - the books in this are not interactive. The app is free but access to all the books and activities require a subscription. It's based on the Reading Rainbow program with LeVar Burton narrating many of the books and activities. There are games, videos and rewards for reading as well as quite a few books  available as part of the subscription. 
Educational Apps and Games
  • TouchWorld - a geography game. I spent hours identifying every country in the world. If your child is not as obsessive as I am and goes slower, you can learn facts about each country as you identify it. 
  • WWF Together - a free app from World Wildlife Federation - learn facts about endangered animals.
  • NASA App - free app with information about planets and the space program. Beautiful photos and videos.
Update 2/8/13

I ran across this (LONG) List of Recommended Apps from School Library Journal 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Must Have Apps

I put a request out about a week ago for favorite apps. I thought it might be a good resource for people with new tablets and/or smartphones this season. Interestingly, my best response by far was from wired-mt. So much for crowd sourcing in social media.

Hannah Nash - Miles City Public Library

For Apple, Droid, PC:
Dropbox (free cloud storage, cross compatible with multiple devices)
EverNote (free cloud note-taking, cross compatible with multiple devices)
Instapaper (Apple $4.99, but works on other devices, saves online documents for viewing offline at a later date)
Google Drive (free access to all of your Google Docs, cross compatible with multiple devices)

Apple Office Stuff:
Am extremely pleased with the Pages, Numbers, Keynote suites ($9.99 each). Have found their integration with Microsoft and Open Office almost seamless.

Our iPad class's favorite Photo/Video Apps:
iPhoto for iPad: Apple photo editing product; best of the best for photo editing ($4.99)
Color Magician:  Allows selective coloring of photos (all black and white with colored flowers, for example). Very easy to use at ($0.99). Another good option is Photo Splash at ($0.99).
FX Photo Studio HD: Highly rated general photo editing App. Varies in price, currently on sale for ($1.99).
PicShop Lite- Photo Editor: FREE, lite version of PicShop Full version ($4.99). Lots of good options.
Sketch Me: Makes photos look like pencil sketches ($0.99).
Photo Collage:  FREE for a limited time. Allows you to create a photo collages and save them as single photos; lots of combination options.
Instagram: FREE, but has a huge social networking component.
Vintique ($0.99) has wonderful filters and options for frames.  Snapseed ($4.99) has tilt, edit, fade, blur, options.

iMovie: Apple software for editing and creating movies, best of the best (4.99).
VideoPix: ($0.99) Easy to use App allows you to capture stills from videos shot on your Apple devices.
Cartoonatic: FREE, shoot videos that look like cartoons.
8mm Vintage Camera: ($1.99) Shoot vintage looking films using a variety of lenses.
Stop Motion Recorder: ($0.99) App that helps you make stop-motion animated films.

Apple Shopping:
Our iPad class did a lot of their holiday shopping on their iPads/iPhones using the Amazon, Etsy, Walmart, and eBay Apps. I prefer shopping on my tablet vs the PC anymore (less ads, better interface).

Social Butterflies (Apple, Droid, etc):
Pinterest, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Google+

Productivity (Apple):
Been playing with "Weave" recently; a good project App. Also use: Adobe Ideas, iBrainstorm, Free Thinking, Mental Note.

Jack Albrecht - Madison County Thompson-Hickman Library

One of my favorite iPhone apps is Poynt.  Basically, it's a free interactive
directory that provides listings of movies, restaurants, and services, often
with web links directly to the resource in question.  I haven't put it on my
iPad, since I don't usually carry it with me, but it would probably prove
useful for those who carry their tablets with them, too!


Suzanne Schwichtenberg - Lewis & Clark Library

Device: Samsung Galaxy s3:

  • Amazon Kindle to read with
  • UK & World News for international news
  • NPR News (plays audio stories too)
  • KXLH for local news
  • Twitter
  • Our Groceries for lists; can text to others
  • Words with Friends free to play scrabble-like game
  • Facebook because I drank the kool aid
  • IMDB for movie references
  • Email (Gmail, Yahoo)
  • Pandora for free music
  • Songza for free music
  • Weatherbug for weather
  • Youtube for videos
Ginny Waples - Billings Public Schools

I expect which apps are "must haves" really vary by the person's interests and how she/he uses the device,
but here are my favorites on my iPad:

Apple's "Cards" app.  
  I have made several personalized cards for friends & family, using photos I have taken that are meaningful to them.
  What's so great about this app is that Apple does such a good job with photo products, and I can easily send a card overseas, as well as via the U.S. mail.
  The cards are inexpensive.  A single card, sent within the U.S., is only $3.00, including postage.

Peterson Birds of North America
  Easy to use.  Includes the bird calls, of course.
  A really fun feature is that if you have taken a photo of a bird, you can upload it into the guide so that is displays along with the guidebook's images of the bird.

Poetry from the Poetry Foundation
  Includes lots of poems! With both a fun, random way of finding a poem to read ("Spin"), subject searching, and author searching.

The following don't need much explanation:
Wi-Fi Finder
NPR for iPad

Apps that turned out to be disappointing:

iPhoto for iPad
   It will probably turn out to be useful to me in some ways, but I was disappointed to find out that it lacks one of my favorite features from the full iPhoto for Macs.

Leafsnap for iPad
  From Columbia University, etc.   You are supposed to be able to take a photo of a leaf and then the app helps you identify the tree by showing possible matches.
The database was developed in the east and I suspect it doesn't have enough Montana trees.  But I have only been able to try it in the winter, and maybe the leaves I tried were simply too dead.  In either case, it has not been able to make any reasonable suggestions for tree identification.

Sarah Elkins - MSL BTOP 

I love Yelp! on my husband's smart phone - and I'll make sure one of the boys has it on his Nook for our next trip.  We've used Yelp! to find fantastic restaurants while we travel.  We used it in San Diego to find off-the-beaten-path ethnic & seafood restaurants, Oregon to find a fish market, and on the road in the middle of nowhere to find a place to stop for dinner that wasn't horrible.  We also used it to find a mechanic in Denver with a good reputation that happened to be located within walking distance of my brother's place.  Yelp! is also available as a regular website, but the app makes it really easy to access reviews of a variety of services.  You can search by so many specs, including location, type of food, price, reviews, etc.

So that's it - I love the Yelp! app.

Ling H Jeng - Texas Woman's University

For utility (beyond the usual suspects): 
  • Evernote (which replaces my Outlook notes)
  • Google Maps (for best voice navigation)
  • Google Translate (for voice input)
  • RedLaser (for shopping and store reward cards)
  • OurGroceries (for shopping lists)
  • Weather Underground (much more accurate than
  • Triposo (country and city travel books)
Kim Crowley - Flathead County Library System
  • I love OntheFly for looking at airline ticket availability.  It's easy to plug in lots of options (dates, airports, etc) and you don't have to wade through as much as on Kayak.
  • My new favorite is Mint to keep track of bank accounts and credit card accounts all in one place.  Some folks might feel shy about accessing banks this way--I love it!
  • Overdrive
  • Zite--tell it your interests and you have a daily news "magazine"
Kathy Robins - Parmly Billings Library
  • Overdrive Media Console app for Nook Color, Nook HD or Nook Tablet - This app makes the MT Library 2 Go download experience bearable for Nook users.  You must have wifi, but not Adobe Digital Editions
  • Evernote - I use an Android smartphone (or other smartphones, too) - You can create notes on your smartphone and they sync to the Evernote application on your computer - and vice versa.  I thought this was gimmicky at first, but I love it!  Sometimes I put travel information on the notes, links to websites and photos.  Everything syncs up and I can get the information if I'm at home or away.  
Jason Greenwald - Bozeman Public Library

I love your idea for a “must have” app list. Here is a list of my “must have” apps:
  • Evernote - FREE from Google Play and iTunes. For organizing ideas and information. You can clip content from the web and save it right into Evernote. It’s backed up (to “the cloud”) and can be accessed through the web. There is also a free desktop version. 
  • Overdrive - FREE from Google Play and iTunes. Connects directly to MTLibrary2Go for access to electronic and audio books. 
  • Dropbox - FREE from Google Play and iTunes. Allows you to easily share files among multiple devices and computers.
  • Camera+ - $0.99 from iTunes (Apple iOS Only) A great camera app that improves on the default camera device. It allows you to adjust exposure, take photos using a timer, zoom, and it includes editing tools. 
  • AppsGoneFree - FREE from iTunes (Apple iOS Only) Sooner or later, many apps are temporarily made free or reduced in price in order to generate interest. AppsGoneFree provides a daily list and descriptions of these apps.
  • FiLMiC Pro - $4.99 from iTunes (Apple iOS Only) If you record video with your device, just like Camera+, this app increases functionality and control to produce much better results.
  • Pocketbooth - $0.99 from iTunes / $1.99 from Google Play. My absolute favorite app! Everyone loves a photo booth. It is easy to use and provides many finishing options for your photos.
  • Team Stream - FREE from Google Play and iTunes. Great sports coverage tailored to your favorite sports and teams. Personally, I have found the content to be much more interesting than standard sports reporting.
Suzanne Reymer - MSL

Finally, I'll add some of my own. These are the ones I use all the time on iPad and iPhone.  These are all also available for Android.
  • The Weather Channel (FREE) - Those of us who are into weather apps have our favorites. This is mine. I like the look, the variety - hourly to 10 day forecasts and the fact I can have several cities to keep track of.
  • Gmail (FREE) - I particularly like it now that you can switch back and forth between multiple accounts. I can have my work and personal easily accessible.
  • Chrome (FREE) - my favorite browser now on iOS.
  • Facebook (FREE) - I spent a lot of time using Facebook in a browser on iPad because I hated the app. It's gotten a lot better and it's now what I use most.
  • Roku (FREE) - I have a Roku box and love everything about it except for the remote. So I use the remote on my iPad/iPhone/Nexus 7. Works great and gives you a channel listing, remote and keyboard.  The Android version also includes voice search for channels. But I've only used it a couple of times and it didn't seem to know all of my channels.
  • ESPN ScoreCenter (FREE) - This where I go for those quick sports score lookups. You can enter your favorite teams and get notifications as well.
  • At Bat (Paid) - This one does cost but I'm not sure how much because we're out of baseball season. But you can follow along live and get radio as part of the regular subscription. Worth it if you're a baseball fan.
  • AroundMe (FREE) - Several others mentioned Yelp! I like that one too and use it to find restaurants and hotels. AroundMe tells you other useful information like nearby coffee shops, gas stations, pharmacies, etc. Very handy when you're in a strange city.
  • Epicurious (FREE - paid upgrade available) - One of the best things about mobile devices IMO are cooking apps. I've got a bunch of them but Epicurious is the one I use most often. I can search for a recipe on my iPad, have the shopping list show up on my iPhone and then follow the recipe on my iPad again. I've also gotten a lot of good suggestions from the reviews.
  • IMDb (FREE) - This one was already mentioned by someone else for movie reference. But I also use it to see what's playing at local theaters and get showtimes.
  • Breaking News from NBC News Digital (FREE) - This isn't one that I open up a lot but it does provide timely notification of as the name implies breaking news. You can also set up stories you want to follow.
  • Flipboard (FREE) - You can use it as a or Twitter/Facebook feed reader as well as following other feeds. Beautifully designed news aggregator.
And a couple of good sources for learning about more interesting new apps are some podcasts from the TWiT network:
Even if you don't have time to listen to the podcast, you'll often find interesting links in the show notes.

Happy app shopping and feel free to add more of your favorites in Comments. We can always do updated lists.