Monday, January 31, 2011

Eight Ways One Boomer Uses Her iPad Daily

Recently, I had a fascinating conversation with my niece who won an iPad at a charity event. She said she only uses it to play Scrabble, but that her 11 year old daughter uses the iPad for numerous things like watching downloaded TV programs and playing games. In her house, an iPad has become an entertainment device for her child. That made me think of the many ways I use my iPad, and I know I am not making as much use of it as many people.  Here are eight  ways I use my iPad on a daily basis.

1.  Checking email. My iPad is upstairs where I don't have a "real" computer, and I don't carry my phone with me around the house. Therefore, I check my email on the iPad quite often.  I usually don't write lengthy replies on the device, but save that task for my computer that has a more comfortable keyboard option. Sorry, Steve Jobs, but I really don't want to type for any length of time on the iPad's keyboard.

2. Reading books. I always have a book going on the iPad, usually in the Kindle app. With the Kindle app, I can read my books on multiple devices, and they stay in sync, so when I start to read on one device, I pick up where I left off on another, a feature I really like. Right now I am reading  a book called Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst on three devices: my computer, my iPhone and my iPad.

3. Reading magazines and newspapers. I downloaded the New York Times app and the Washington Post app. I also have the USA Today app on my iPad.

I have a lot of magazines on there too, but find I spend less time reading them on the iPad than I expected. As I've said before in this blog, magazines aren't working out that well for me on the iPad. While their interactive features are interesting and engaging, I usually save magazine reading for airplane trips. Unfortunately, you can't keep the Wifi on in most airplanes, so you lose the interactivity of many of the newer apps.

3. Watching TV I missed. I have a DVR, but sometimes I miss recording a program. If it's on ABC, I watch it on the ABC app. Otherwise, I "stream" it from Netflix. The Netflix app is free, but you do have to pay Netflix's monthly subscription fee, which lets you watch practically anything the company offers on demand. One caveat, however: if you start something on one device, like your computer, and then try to watch it on Netflix on the iPad, Netflix doesn't always hold your place.

4. Finding out tomorrow's weather. OK, I'll confess. We don't watch local news at night, so I'm often clueless about the forecast. It's easy to keep up with any one of the app store's weather apps.  This is The Weather Channel app that I use:

5. Playing Scrabble. This simply is one of the most addictive and fun apps out there. I play the "Solo" game, locking wits with the computer sometimes. Luckily, you can set how hard you want the computer to challenge you! Also, my husband and I "Pass and Play" taking a few turns each night before we fall into bed.So far we are pretty evenly matched although there was that one time he beat me by 100 points!

6. Looking up odd facts on Google. Google is great, and if you ever want to know what a word means or who that actor is in the old movie you are watching, Google is the place to go. I use the iPad app for finding out things on Google often.

7. Looking at my old pictures. I think the iPad is unsurpassed as a way to look through your old digital photo albums. It's just so easy to flip between pictures and the pictures look gorgeous on the device.

8. Checking Facebook---I'm not a big Facebook user, but I admit I go there almost every day to check in on people's updates and figure out what's happening with my far flung family.  The Facebook/iPhone app is easy to use and also makes putting in a status update quite easy


What surprises me in all of this is the one thing I don't do much: surf the web. I like to use a bigger screen for that job, so when I'm looking at a lot of websites, I go to my computer. Also I don't create much using the iPad. I guess I never got past the rather hard-to-use keyboard.

Nevertheless, the iPad has eliminated the need for a laptop or netbook in our bedroom. I often ask myself if the iPad was worth the money, and my answer right now is "yes". Certainly it is a luxury gadget, but it's one that brings me pleasure and gets a lot of use.

If any of you have iPads, please let me know what you use yours for on a daily basis. It would be fun to compare notes.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Bet You'll Be Paying for Coffee From Your Phone, Boomers

Just a brief note to my loyal readers. I'm sorry I've not posted for a while. I'm getting back in the saddle now, and hope to keep this blog updated on a more regular basis. Thank you for your indulgence.

About a week ago,  I heard that Starbucks was going to release an app for the iPhone that will allow people to pay for their Skinny Caramel Macchiatos with their phones. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to tell you about it. Baby Boomers are big coffee drinkers and many of us need our fix every morning. Some of us absolutely pay top dollar for our designer coffee. I'm not the only Baby Boomer in line at my local Starbucks and my husband waits in line every day in NYC for his fix of java.

One question always has been: "How can Starbucks make that line move faster?" Well, I think Starbucks actually has hit on something that will make the line move faster! Also, I think what they are doing will make it more likely that our generation will trust paying for goods and services with our phone.

Now, I've heard about elaborate schemes that let people use their phones as credit cards before, but they all required either another piece of hardware hooked up to the phone or some other elaborate effort ---which I don't think people are going to actually do.  One "pilot program" I read about, is described in this Reuters article:
The program will allow select New York-area employees and customers to install small chips, supplied by Visa and its technology vendors, in their smartphones that emit radio signals over very short distances.

Customers would then "bump" their phones with point-of-sale devices in stores -- actually they need only wave the phones near the devices -- and their bank account data would be collected and their purchases completed.
Frankly, people in Japan have been using their phones for years as a mobile wallet, but in the case of Japan, I believe the phone company takes the charges and collects the money on the bill.  Here, credit card companies and banks want to be involved. But the Starbucks solution is perfect for small purchases. And people usually will use their credit cards to "buy" the gift card that is being used.

First, download the Starbucks Card Mobile App from the App Store, then buy a Starbucks gift card or "stored value" card from your local Starbucks. You can even buy one online and have it emailed to yourself, but to test this app out I bought a card for $25.00.

The app prompts you to enter the card number and a passcode, which is scratched off from the gift card. After you've entered those numbers, you've registered your card.

You don't have to do anything else to register your card, but if you wish to accumulate points and to qualify for a free birthday drink, you can register for the Starbuck's loyalty program as in the screen above. You can also reload your card online at Starbuck's website:

Today I took my phone out to my local Starbucks for a test run. After ordering my 140 calorie Skinny Caramel Macchiato, I touched the portion of the card below that says "Touch to Pay" then handed my phone to the cashier to scan the bar code that appeared. For obvious reasons, I've changed the bar code picture below.

After the cashier was finished I touched the button that said "Touch When Done", and my purchase registered on my phone. I liked using the app because there was no fumbling in my purse for my credit card or for cash, no change to worry about, no signing, no making sure that my credit card got back into my wallet.

Simply put it was quick and easy, and I think it will be the future --how all of us will pay for small items. I definitely think Starbucks will be the merchant to make mobile payments accessible even to those of us who reject such notions. And I think that this is one technology that baby boomers will readily adopt.