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Maximize Your Battery Life

Our world is increasingly mobile, it seems, and that means that battery life is a far greater concern than it used to be. As of May 2013, only 9% of Americans don’t have a cell phone of some sort and about 56% of the population has a battery-drinking smartphone. We’ve all had fears about low batteries, losing connectivity and our only real line of communication. Those fears are well-founded, especially considering that average battery life in a smartphone is around a day if you’re babying it. However, there are some things you can do to make sure your mobile link to your data and business stays running throughout the day.

iPhone charging screen

Battery Misconceptions

First and foremost, you need to know a few things about the battery itself. All cellular devices sold in the US right now use Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries, and these batteries are the most advanced battery tech we have available to us. These are not like the old rechargables we were using when cell phones first came to market.

For instance, Li-ion does not suffer from “memory effect”, and therefore does not need to be drained empty and fully refilled each time for the safety of the battery. To maintain Li-ion’s ability to hold a charge, best practice is to charge it when you can, and don’t let it discharge completely very often. Keep a charger with you and let it sip when you can. This will not harm your battery; in fact, it’s the way the battery works the best.

When you’re losing charge in your smartphone’s battery, it’s either because the battery’s charge gauge is a little off or because the battery is getting old. Be sure to do a calibration (discharge to 0 percent and recharge) as often as the manufacturer recommends. For instance, Apple recommends doing this to your iPhone once a month. This does nothing to the battery itself, it just resets the gauge.

The biggest way to damage a smartphone battery is by exposing it to excessive heat. Don’t leave the phone in a hot car or in direct sunlight; the higher the temperature, the faster the battery will degrade.

And, so you know: modern smartphone batteries are rated to last 3-5 years, which is most often longer than you’ll own the device itself, so don’t worry too much about battery health. Be responsible and you’ll be fine on this part.

Battery Usage Best Practices

Most battery drain problems are more usage related than battery health related. How you use your phone has as much (if not more) effect on how your daily charge holds up. Certain apps (like the Facebook app) are known battery drains, while your brightness settings and cellular settings can affect your charge.

By and large, the biggest culprit of battery drain is when your phone is searching for cellular signal. iPhones, which have great battery life in optimal conditions, can have abysmal battery life if they’re constantly searching for signal. One of our employees here lives in a signal dead zone and sees his battery drop from 100% to 40% in a matter of a few hours when at home, but walks out of the office every night with over 90%—he has good signal there. If you’re consistently in a low signal zone and don’t need your phone or text messages, consider turning on Airplane Mode and WiFi. Those two steps will skyrocket your battery life.

Also, hunt for apps that continually refresh in the background, such as email, Facebook, and other social and communications apps. While they’re handy, they’re also battery drains. It comes down to how necessary they are. The same employee from our previous anecdote uninstalled the Facebook app and has seen an improvement in battery life.

The simple way to put it is this: if you need your battery to last all day (and even into the next day), evaluate your apps and keep only what you need on your phone. Otherwise, be sure to carry a charger—it’s the ultimate solution to poor battery life. This should help keep your business moving!


Beware That Free WiFi

We’re sure that you’re all familiar with data caps as members of the RE industry. After all, with cell phones becoming increasingly common (91% of adults have one), usage is at an all time high—which might explain why companies such as AT&T and Verizon put data caps in place, to make more money and to reduce network congestion. And you, as professionals, use apps like Maps and services like Evernote to keep everything up to date with your services. When your data cap is looming large over you, free WiFi might seem like a godsend. Use your services without adding to your data cap—the perfect combination!

But, before you connect to just any network, we have a warning for you: while WiFi from businesses and private providers like Brighthouse or AT&T is everywhere, it’s also dangerous.

Unsecured Networks

Free WiFi feels great, but certain providers of free WiFi prefer to use managed systems rather than password-secured hotspots like businesses use—usually to ensure that the public can connect and increase their awareness. But the problem here is that on an unsecured network like this—even if there’s a login screen for your personal credentials—none of your data is properly encrypted, meaning that anyone can get on the network and, with a little bit of knowledge and work, can get your personal information from what you’re broadcasting over the air.

While some apps and websites do use encrpytion to connect (such as Facebook and most banks), care should be taken because other sites and apps have not adopted the standard. Responsible use of WiFi can and will make your life better but it only takes one irresponsible person to ruin your accounts or your work. Be safe when connecting!

Fake Hotspots

We’ve also been receiving reports of thieves using fake hotspots to lure you into trusting them. They follow the same system as phishing attempts through your email: recreating websites to look official to get you to give up your credentials. It’s worse when you realize that most cell phones (regardless of operating system) are set up to automatically connect to their provider’s hotspots automatically—but they put no controls in place to prevent fakes from replacing them.

Here’s a scenario: let’s say your WiFi is toggled on your iPhone and you’re walking to a showing. If someone in the area has named their WiFi “attwifi,” the normal name for AT&T’s hotspots, you’ll automatically connect whether the hotspot’s legitimate or not. Then the thief can go to work sniffing out your data. If you’re not expecting a free WiFi hotspot, you might not notice and then you’ll be compromised.

Securing Your Data

There are steps you can take to help prevent this problem. For one thing, every modern smartphone has an indicator showing that a website is secured and encrypted (meaning it’s far harder to read what you’re sending). On iPhone, there will be a grey lock next to the name of the site you’re on. This means that the connection is secured and the identity of the site is verified by a third party. On Android, it depends on browser, but the Chrome browser displays a green lock. Look for these symbols when doing any transaction with your data! Without them, you are at risk.

iPhone Safari Secured Website
What a secured website looks like on Safari

 

Mobile Chrome Secured Website
What a secured website looks like on Chrome

Secondly, you should turn off auto-login to any and all WiFi hotspots that they’re currently enabled for. While it’s a bit more work to do, it’s not all that difficult to do. On iPhone, it’s in Settings > WiFi > (Network Name — click the circled “i” symbol) > Auto-Join.

These tips will make your life more secure and protect your contacts, leads, and business from being spied upon—or worse!


Troubleshooting Tips For Your Computer

Troubleshooting: Everyone’s had a bad experience with a computer at some point: either a program crashing, a slowdown, a virus, or even just computer age. Well, while manufacturers would like you to upgrade often, there’s a better way to keep your computer running for a while longer—especially if you don’t want to move to new equipment or if you’re waiting on a certain feature to come to market. We’ve got the tips you need to do some troubleshooting to your computer!

troubleshooting diagram snippet

Troubleshooting Tips

Every computer system has its fair share of problems but there are always ways to fix those or improve how they work—and slowdowns are no different. Here are a few things we think are useful to help you keep your system running the way it should:

  • Reboot!
    • Rebooting is the number 1 biggest fix to a lot of problems you might have. Rebooting resets a lot of systems and frees up your system memory to be completely reallocated. While it might sound trite, your first troubleshooting task should always be to reboot.
  • Keep your machine free of applications you don’t use
    • The problem with applications is that they bog down your hard drive and can make things run slower than they need to—especially if your hard drive is short on space. Keep it simple: delete and uninstall programs you don’t need so your computer has less to look through.
  • Don’t install programs you’re not entirely sure of
    • This is basic virus safety but it applies to other applications, too. Windows apps have historically been feature-rich but this can lead to bloated programs that do 5,000 things when you only need 3 of those features. Install the right programs—and don’t let your PC bloat.
  • Defragment your disks regularly
    • All systems are subject to fragmentation and fragmentation means that your computer is struggling to find all the data it needs to start a program or open a file. You should be running regular defragmentation on your PC to ensure that it can find those files easier.
  • Clean out the insides of your computer
    • Heat and dust are big issues for computers. Besides the obvious issue of cleanliness, dust, debris, and other obstructions can hold moisture and even bugs that can short out a circuit. Even if those aren’t a problem, dust can make your system run extra hot and that heat can cause slowdowns and cause components of your computer to fail. Keep the inside of your computer clean!

Viruses

While we’re sure you’ve heard more than your fair share about viruses, it bears repeating: viruses are dangerous to your security and can cause your system to run slow, incorrectly, or even destructively. Somewhere around 32% of computers have some sort of infection on them. Keep your virus scanners up to date and keep malware and adware protection on your computer. That will help solve most of the problems resulting from viruses.

Troubleshooting First, Replacement Later

Don’t buy into the idea that you need a whole new system if you’re experiencing slowdowns. The above tips can help you avoid replacement, but there’s something else you should consider: if your PC is more than 5 years old, slowdowns are not only common, they’re inevitable. The rate that hardware is improving means that 5 years is the difference between bleeding-edge and dinosaur. This doesn’t mean your PC is useless, just that it might take a little longer to run the new versions of software or to boot up. This is normal and expected, and shouldn’t cut into your workflow too much.

Either way, using these tips, you should be able to milk a little more life out of your computer, regardless of operating system. Troubleshooting can save you a lot of time and money, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.


The Social Media Cheat Sheet

All of the social media outlets are recommended for your business. They’ve become a force that’s not just for sharing your personal life with your friends but for sharing your professional life with your clients.

Facebook on computer screen
This is how our Facebook looks.

Images, too, have become key to interacting on the social web. As our devices have grown more powerful and visually stunning, the use of images has risen too—to the point of being a necessity.

We don’t need to convince you that you need images, we’re sure—the numbers bear that out. Engagement on photo posts is far, far higher than on text posts. The Internet is a visual medium. But how do you use the images in a way that promotes your business and shows that you know your tools?

Part of it is knowing the image size you’ll need. Below we have a list of image sizes (in pixels) that show the optimal size for images to be seen, clicked, and responded to. All dimensions are listed Width X Height. 

The Big List For Social Media Image Sizes

  • Facebook
    • Cover Photo: 851×315
    • Profile Photo: 180×180
    • Link Image: 1200×627
    • Regular Image: 1200×1200
    • Milestone Image: 1200×717
  • Twitter
    • Header Image (new profile): 1500×1500
    • Profile Photo: 400×400
    • Image for Tweets (recommended size): 880×440
  • Google+
    • Profile Photo: 250×250
    • Cover Photo: 2120×1192
    • Shared Photos: 800×600
  • LinkedIn
    • Profile Photo: 200×200
    • Cover Photo: 646×220
  • Instagram
    • Profile Photo: 161×161
    • Image (Desktop Lightbox): 612×612
    • Feed Photo: 510×510
  • Pinterest
    • Profile Photo: 600×600
    • Pins: 600xinfinite (photos can be as long as you like, but width is fixed at 600px)
    • Pinboard Thumbnail: 220×150
  • YouTube
    • Profile Photo: 800×800
    • Channel Art: 2560×1224
    • Video Thumbnail: 1280×720 (720p resolution if using a screenshot from your video)

Using these guidelines can and will help you to promote your business because you’ll quickly improve your social media prowess and make your business look more beautiful and appealing to the average social user.

Feel free to bookmark this guide to the social media recommended image sizes in case you need the numbers again. Happy marketing!


#TechTipTuesday: Are Your Listings “Smart” Enough For Your Buyers?

smart home banner

One thing that we’ve noticed recently is that the whole world is getting interconnected. First it was our computers, then our phones, and now home gadgets are getting in on the action. And it’s not just the gadgets you’d think should be hooked up, either. Here’s a list that we found scouring the internet:

  • Coffee machines
  • Washers
  • Dryers
  • Thermostats
  • Refrigerators
  • Cooking devices
  • Water purification systems
  • Light switches
  • Light bulbs
  • Home security systems
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Garage door openers

And that’s just a small portion of the information we found. While some of them might seem silly (the light bulb one comes to mind), it’s also something to notice: more and more appliances are converting, and if your listings have them, they can become selling points just like features on a vehicle.

Convenience

These devices make life even more convenient than they were before. Instead of garage door openers that were unreliable or home alarm systems with codes, now we have Wi-Fi enabled devices that don’t miss an infrared beam or a security system that doesn’t need a complex code but a simple authentication on your phone. And the lighting and coffee? Well, imagine not needing to get out of bed to start your coffee in the morning. Convenience started this industry, and it’s not going away any time soon. Home listings can benefit because being ready for this kind of automation is a great selling point.

Security

But it’s not just convenience that keeps this trend going. It’s also a matter of security. Our mobile devices contain a lot of information about us and, because of this, we keep them closer to us than our keys. Using a mobile device to unlock doors or turn off security alarms, then, is a matter of security because we can choose when and where to unlock doors and systems—or call the police and emergency services clandestinely. There’s even a Wi-Fi enabled fire alarm that you can set up your emergency plan and it’ll notify you if you ever need to put that plan into action. It’s a safety feature that your buyers will want in your listings—and will pay more for if it’s installed.

Demand

The demand for these devices is going up. The term “internet of things” is starting to trend because the devices we all know and love are starting to network together for everyone’s benefit—including your buyers and your listings. Because of this interesting trend, we’re starting to see the potential of a smart listing making more money. People have been buzzing about it for years but the practical, affordable application of this idea is finally starting to come to fruition. Now that it is, you might consider advising your buyers to add some of these simple gadgets—if practical—or at least ensuring that they can be hooked up. Being prepared means better opportunities for both you and your listings.