If You Still Text and Drive, You’re Now Out of Excuses: Vlingo to the Rescue

I’ve been the proud owner of an Android smartphone for about 7 months now, and in that time I’ve road-tested roughly 300 apps.  Of those, about 120 or so remain on my phone.  But if I had to pick just one app that stands head and shoulders above the rest, my vote would have to go to Vlingo hands down.  Or more specifically, Vlingo InCar (currently in beta), a feature within the Vlingo app itself.

 

I’ll admit, before Vlingo, I was as guilty as anyone when it came to occasionally shooting off a quick text while driving.  While I usually made it a point to use my phone’s native voice-to-text features – features I argued made it safe to text and drive – I still had to manipulate the phone’s touch screen, requiring me to take my eyes off the road every time.

But Vlingo InCar, put simply, is as-good-as-it-gets, 100% voice-command-on-steroids goodness and, in my opinion, puts and end, once and for all, to the need for you to so much as touch your phone while in the car.  Don’t get me wrong, you can still touch all you want.  The great part is, you don’t have to.

Whether texting, placing a call, updating your Facebook or Twitter status, searching for a local business or figuring out how many miles it is from the earth to the moon, Vlingo can find the answers simply by following your voice commands.  Heck, the female voice even greats you with the exact words you put in her mouth.  I’m currently addressed as “Grand Poo-bah.”  Check out this quick video to see what I mean.

Got a teenager whose promise not to text and drive is one you’re not confident she’ll keep?  Make sure she downloads Vlingo from the App Store or Android Market today.  Ever catch yourself originating texts or responding to incoming texts while on way into work?  Feeling guilty about it?  Ever slammed on your breaks to avoid the car in front of you after taking your eyes off the road for a split second too long?  Get Vlingo.

I not only feel better about being a more responsible driver, I’ve just plain had fun using the darn thing.  But what’s really exciting is what the folks at Vlingo have on the horizon for 2011.  The video below offers a conceptual look at some pretty exciting stuff.  According to the Vlingo blog:

Some of this Vlingo already does, some is coming really soon, while some will take a little longer, but it’s all coming.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. What functions in the video would you like to see next?  Have some ideas of your own?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

Encouraging Community with Strategic Engagement

Organize and Find Everything in One Place with Springpad and Evernote

If you’re like most people, between shopping, eating, surfing the net, conversations with friends and basically just living your day-to-day life, you constantly come across products, web pages and ideas you want to remember.  However, if you’re like me – and I hope for your sake you’re not – it can be a real challenge as to how to organize it all.

Chances are you’ve at least heard of Evernote.  With Evernote, you can save just about anything you want to remember in the cloud.  I’ve been using it extensively the last few months, mostly to organize others’ blog posts I want to refer back to, though there’s a lot more to it than that.

Unfortunately, for me at least, Evernote has slowly become yet another place to store my bookmarks, along with my Firefox browser and Delicious, giving me as many as three places they might be (to be fair, I’ve been using Evernote mostly on my desktop and long before I acquired my first smartphone a few weeks ago).

Recently, though, I came across a similar, free service called Springpad.  While Springpad mirrors Evernote in many ways – helping you save ideas, things you see, things you like, etc. – it does add a couple of new dimensions that I find intriguing.

First, the similarities:

  1. Both allow you to save just about anything you come across.  This could be a photo you’ve taken, a website or article you come across, an idea, any number of things.  Let’s say you’re planning a wedding and want to have one place to save dress photos, venue options, guest lists, whatever.  Instead of lugging around that three-ring binder, access everything you need right from your smartphone.
  2. You can save items independently or tag and categorize them in folders.  Either way, finding them later is as easy as entering a keyword or selecting the folder (say, “XYZ Project) that contains the items you’re looking for.
  3. Both offer their own smartphone app.  Likewise, I use an Evernote Firefox add-on and a Springpad (Spring It!) bookmarklet when surfing the web.
  4. Both are free.  Evernote does offer a paid version, but I’ve found the monthly 40MB offered with the free version  to be more than enough for me.  For $5 a month, you’ll get a total of 500MB of space that starts over every month.

Beyond that, there are several key differences:

  1. When it comes to how you save what you find, Evernote adds the option of saving audio notes on your app-enabled smartphone.  This feature, on the surface at least, seems to be one of the few advantages Evernote has over Springpad.
  2. Conversely, Springpad enables you to barcode searches.  You can even “search nearby.”  This might come in handy when, say, you see a restaurant or store you want to remember to visit later.  Save it and Springpad automatically pulls in the phone number and address of the business, even a Yelp review if applicable.
  3. Snap a photo that includes handwritten or printed text and Evernote makes it searchable.  Very cool.
  4. One key difference is Springpad adds social sharing to the equation.  You can choose what items, or categories of items, you’d like to make public. Others can follow what you’re sharing and, likewise, you can follow others.  Want to know about great wines Gary Vaynerchuk is discovering?  Just follow his Springpad feed.
  5. The web interface also allows you to add apps to your Springpad experience.  For example, my Springpad includes a blog post and date night planner among others.  Last week when I had an idea for a new blog post I wanted to remember, I noted it in Springpad and was able to even set a reminder e-mail for the day I wanted to work on it.  One drawback though is interfacing with these apps does not appear to be an option within the Springpad smartphone app.
  6. Lastly, when you save something, Springpad automatically curates relevant links, notes and other media (as in #2 above).  Spring a movie you want to check out and Springpad will include a link to Fandango so you can buy tickets whenever you’re ready, or maybe even the latest Trailer, reviews, or a link to purchase the DVD at Amazon.

I’ve only being using Springpad for a short while.  I can say for sure that the lack of a desktop app (versus Evernote which offers both a web and desktop version) is a big deal for me.  I use the Evernote desktop app virtually everyday.  However, I really like the additional features, like social sharing, that Springpad offers.

For more on both services, check out the respective videos below.  And let me know in the comments section which one you use, how you use it, and what you do and/or don’t like about it.  Do you use both?  Which do you prefer?

Have I missed any features?  Differences?  Similarities?

Photo credit, Franck-Boston on iStockphoto.com

How I Got Two HTC Incredibles for Less Than $30 (and you can too)!

Today was the day.  The Verizon Droid Incredible made its debut on Verizon.  I went back and forth on whether or not I’d pull the proverbial trigger on this model, wait for the iPhone to make its way to the big V (after all, I’d already given up on the Google Nexus One), or jump ship to Sprint in June just in time for the HTC Evo 4G.

Last Friday, after a ton of research spread out over several months, I ordered two Incredibles from the Verizon website.  They arrived much to my glee and excitement – and that of my wife, it turns out – yesterday.  I won’t bore you here with unboxing videos and reviews.  You can get that info from a thousand other places.  However, I do want to pass along some tips that will help you save some dough, especially if you’re itching for a new smartphone.

First off, you surely know that if you’re at the end, or near the end of your contract with your carrier, you hold all the marbles.  The leverage is yours to do with what you will.  In our case that meant that, for several months now, we’ve qualified for the Verizon “new-every-two” discount ($100) as our contract expired earlier this year.

If you remain patient to make sure you get just the phone you want (re: hem and haw for weeks driving your spouse crazy as you struggle with what to do), you may even get a mailer from your carrier offering you $80 off your next bill, as we did (in our case, the equivalent of one month of voice service on our, then current, main phone).

Additionally, because we ordered our two Incredibles online, the rebates with Verizon were instant.  No paying full price up front, filling out long forms, mailing them in and waiting the customary 6 to 8 weeks to get your money back.  After this experience, I may never enter another Verizon store again (though I do need some cool accessories to trick out my phone).

Here’s the kicker: The same day I ordered our phones, I saw the Verizon TV ad offering one free 3G smartphone with the purchase of another.  So, yesterday, when my phones arrived, I gave the friendly folks at Verizon a call.  Five minutes later, my purchase looked something like this:

Incredible #1 – $299

Incredible #2 – $299

Total – $598

Minus Instant Rebates of $100 = $398 ($100/phone)

Minus new-every-two discount of $100 applied to Incredible #1 = Incredible #1 drops to $99 while Incredible #2 remains $199  for a total of $298.

Minus One Free 3G Phone (Incredible #2) previously valued at $199 = $99 total for the two phones (Note that the free phone is the more expensive one as my new-every-two discount applies to the phone I’m actually buying).

Minus One Bill Credit of $80 = $19

With tax, my wife and I are out less than $30.  Two Incredible phones (my wife and I are loving them in the first 24 hours), and one truly incredible price, wouldn’t you agree?

This isn’t hard at all, really.  The trick is bringing all these separate deals together into one.  None of the phone carriers present them that way, but they’re all out there, ready for the taking.

Remember, do the math then make your purchase.  Too often, we do it the other way around.  I think that’s what’s commonly referred to as “buyer’s remorse.”  I can assure you there’s none of that here.

Finally, I shot a quick video with the phone’s camera yesterday.  I think it looks pretty good.  How about you?

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