Friday, January 3, 2014

The Best of the New

Oh what a difference a year makes! The best choices for seniors have all radically changed with the new technology of the past year.

The biggest changes have been to make things easier and cheaper and to avoid the many problems of past computers. We are in the post-PC age now.

Here are my recommendations for seniors at Willow Valley.

Use the Willow Valley internet service in the public areas and kiosks for much of your work, especially what requires a big display and Windows connected to internet. That way you avoid all expense and tie into a Windows system which is not Windows 8 with its complexities, and you also have highly reliable Internet connection completely maintained by somebody else than yourself.   The many Willow Valley Kiosks are state-of-art now.

Then supplement the system with a smartphone like the Moto G at $175 or Nexus 5. I know this runs counter to my past recommendations but these are new animals with new economies and new capabilities.If you use a newer telecoil hearing aid, choose the Nexus 5, or even better the Moto X.

The Moto G has all the capabilities of a tablet at even a lower cost. As long as your vision is good and you have somewhere to go to do your Windows work, this small device will handle everything else.  The convenience of this device more than offset its small size.

It is a browser, an emailer, a radio, a video and TV Player, music player, shopper, and speech-to-text document creator.

It can be a financial and health manager. It is your newspaper and your book. 
(Use common sense with finances, possibly even a VPN app. Don't rely on AV programs.)

You can newly buy it outright without phone service costs or with a non-contract prepaid cell phone plan. Or you can simply use it with Willow Valley internet service in the public areas at no cost.   T-Mobile phone, text, and data services start at $30 a month.

Now, if you are comfortable with Windows and need a laptop, there is a great new choice which avoids the complexity of Windows 8 and the expiration of XP support. This is the Chromebook. Scarcely heard of a year ago, the Chromebook is now taking 20% of laptop sales away from Microsoft. that works very much like Windows. Chromebook laptops cost about $250. No need to spend more for a laptop.

There was a disadvantage last year that internet was required to operate this particular laptop category, but that has changed. There are now a whole world of apps which can be operated away from internet.

These laptops have no fragile spinning hard drive. They start instantly. Applications are free. They are lightweight. No viruses. Businesses are moving to them. More significant, schools are going to them.

If you need help in learning to use a new computer, you may do better with the new Apple iPad Air to get support from Apple. Otherwise there are better choices at less cost.    While new users are drawn to a large tablet, experienced users prefer a smaller, portable tablet like the Nexus 7.

The next step up from the Moto GP is the Nexus 7, smaller then the IPad Air but more affordable at $230. It has GPS. It is much more easily organized. Nothing matches its screen and processor speed other than the Moto G.

As you use tablets, and you do more and more from an easy chair, or on the run, you will become more comfortable using the smaller portable devices such as the iPad Mini or the Nexus 7 as opposed to a bigger tablet.

I use the tiny iPad Touch, which is a small version of the iPad. I like it to listen to music on the go with Pandora. It also works well with video phone under FaceTime. It can send media of all kinds to your TV if equipped with Apple TV, $100.

Now if you need internet in your apartment, the better choice may be Windstream. which provides full support. With Senior Internet you are on your own when something goes wrong.  Comcast also provides full support but is costly. Freedompop cell phone based service provides Internet locally very inexpensively from cell towers.

That brings to mind again that if you need a cell phone the Moto G is again the choice on two counts:

1. Whereas I formerly recommended a simple cell phone for seniors, the newest smart phones) are now easier to use than the old so called "simple phones", even just for phoning.

2. These can now be bought without a contract under reasonably priced plans from T-Mobile. The Moto G is available directly from Motorola. Further, there are reasonably priced data plans for them which can actually be accessed through the phone from, say, a laptop. (The phone works as a wireless access point.) I get 4.5 gigabytes for $15 a month. That clinches the choice.This last internet service is available for any of my devices anywhere in the Lancaster area.

So, in summary, much better choices in technology are newly available at much lower cost.  Away with the old!

Dictated voice-to-text on my Nexus 7.