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Reviews, Technology,

Why I switched from Apple for the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

I recently had the opportunity to test out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 for a month as part of an ongoing partnership with Verizon.

Before receiving the tablet, I would’ve never guessed that a piece of Android technology could have converted me from it’s Apple counterpart – but it did.

Let’s talk about why, from now on, I’ll be recommending the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 to everyone I know in search of a tablet.

Look and Feel

First and importantly, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 has a very similar look and feel to Apple’s iPad models. Sure, there are subtle differences, but the basic experience of holding the tablet in your hand and interacting with the applications installed on it are very familiar to someone who’s been using Apple products up until now. I’m sure that was a strategic move on Samsung’s part, and I appreciate it.

I also appreciate that it’s super thin and light – perfect for slipping into a purse without noticing any extra weight.

The reason I don’t like Android phones as much as my iPhone is because they lend easily to having a messy interface. There are almost too many customization options, and people get creative to the point of hideousness.

The iPhone offers far fewer customization options, and I like that about it. Just as in art, sometimes having a structure or limited options leads to far better results.


One way that the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 outperforms Apple iPads is in battery life. I was extremely impressed by how long the battery lasted without needing to be charged – especially when I was using it as a mobile hotspot, but also how long it lasted while resting.

Usually, this would mean a battery that dies in mere hours (or less), but the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 lasted me closer to 10 hours, even with heavy use.

The implication here is that this device is perfect for entertainment or business – you can easily bring it on a trip and have plenty to do without worrying that it’ll die on you. And it charges at a very reasonable speed so you don’t have to wait long for it to be ready for more!

The only caveat is if you’re charging the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 using the cord without the original plug (like plugging it directly into your computer to charge, or in a car charger). It charges as slow as death, so try to charge it completely before leaving home.

I also had some issues with the plug being loose when plugged in to the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 – if it didn’t sit right, it wouldn’t charge. That may have been a defect of the model I tested, but it’s worth noting regardless.

Another feature I liked about the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 was the ability to multitask. This is something that Apple has more recently integrated into the iPhone and iPad iOS. It’d be interesting to know which side of mobile technology integrated this feature first – let me know in the comments if you have any insight!


One of my favorite fun features of the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the ability to take 360 degree photos. You basically start recording and move your tablet around an object or area, and it spits out a photo you can manipulate on the tablet. I’m not sure how most people could get use out of this, but it’s fun nonetheless.


The Samsung Galaxy Tab isn’t cheap, but it’s also not as expensive as an Apple iPad when you add in the costs of getting anything over the base model. Verizon charges $24.99/mo for 24 months, but there’s also a nice deal on the Samsung website if you want to buy it outright instead of on a payment plan. Screen sizes are 9.7 and 8 inches.

When it was time to send this tablet back to Verizon, I was very sad to see it go. I’m probably not the type of person who needs a tablet in their life, but I got a LOT of use out of it: catching up on my favorite blogs on the go, completing an online video course I had recently purchased, and Netflixing in bed when I was feeling like lounging.

If I were to buy a tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is the one I’d get, without a doubt. I always had a great experience when using it for whatever I needed at the time.
Have you had a chance to play with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2? What do you think? Or is there another tablet you’re in love with? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Reviews, Technology,

Do you Need a Smartwatch?

For the past month or so, I’ve been playing around with the Samsung Galaxy 6 and their first-generation smartwatch, Samsung Gear, thanks to Verizon. Samsung has recently updated to a new version of their smartwatch, which quite frankly, looks badass and dates this review a little bit. However, the functionality is essentially the same. So keep that in mind.

There are quite a few smartwatches on the market right now besides the Samsung Gear. First, there’s the Apple Watch which has a lot of functionality as an extension of Apple and it’s other products. Then there’s the Moto Watch from Motorola that works with Android phones. I couldn’t tell you much about functionality, but I’ve got to say that I find the aesthetic the most pleasing of any current smartwatch offerings.


I think it’s important to note that aesthetics are important. I wear a Fitbit on a daily basis, and it’s really ugly. But the thing is, there are options out there like fancy Tory Burch bracelet and pendants, and colorful band replacements.

With smartwatches, there are options to change bands and customize the watch face and background, but if you buy a smartwatch that’s bulky, there’s no way around that.

The first-generation Samsung Gear is a little bulky when compared to it’s competitors. But I think the creators must have understood that, which is why one of the new versions looks more like what you’d consider when hearing the word, “watch.” Check it out:

do you need a smartwatch

On the left is the Samsung Gear first generation, the right is Samsung Gear S2 (second generation).

Alright, so aesthetics aside, here’s what else you need to think about when trying to answer the question, “Do you need a smartwatch?”

Battery Life

If you’re wearing a smartwatch all day, everyday, you need to be charging it on the daily as well. The Samsung Gear I played with had decent battery life, but wouldn’t last over a day with all day use.


What I really liked about the Samsung Gear was the ability to see my day at a glance. It could replace my Fitbit, as it tracked my steps, gives me at-a-glance weather information, top headlines, and my hour-by-hour schedule by sinking with my Google account.

Not to mention, I can see if someone’s calling me without having my phone out. Isn’t it annoying when you’re expecting someone to call and want to put your phone away but don’t want to miss the call? You can avoid that entire jittery situation with a smartwatch. It also gives you quick access to your email in a similar situation where you’re just waiting for someone to email you back.


I didn’t mess around too much with apps, but there were plenty to choose from to get additional functionality out of the Samsung Gear, including some fun games. But a caveat… if you have big fingers, it’s probably just going to be super frustrating to use your smartwatch as an entertainment device!


All smartwatches start in excess of a couple hundred dollars. But the Samsung Gear is relatively inexpensive when compared to some of the other options currently available. This seems to be a trend with Samsung products. They provide a good quality without charging an exorbitant amount for it.

So here’s the big question…

Do you NEED a Smartwatch?

Short answer: no.

But here’s where I think a smartwatch would be incredibly useful: A person who rarely sits still or is constantly on the road for a job. An executive who’s day is full of meetings. Anyone who’s likely to forget about something unless it’s right in front of their face.

Smartwatches are definitely cool and fun, but work for some people more than others.

So what do you think? Do you need a smartwatch? Or maybe just want one? What are the most important features to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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Reviews, Technology,

Save or Splurge? Panasonic Solar Charger Review

We’re neck-deep in Chicago’s music festival season with plenty more to look forward to until the summer is officially over. Earlier this summer, I wrote about what you need to survive a Chicago summer festival in style. Among what I’d consider one of the most important things to consider was a portable battery charger for phones and other devices. You don’t want to be separated from friends or lost while trying to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with the city when the festival is over.

I recently had the opportunity to review the Panasonic Solar Charger, and put it to the test during my three day stint at Lollapalooza.

Let’s start with the good.

What I really like about the Panasonic Solar Charger is that it has a lot of very useful features that compliment each other. Obviously, one of the main features is that you can use the sun to charge your device when traditional outlets are unavailable or in short supply. Most music festivals have charging stations of some sort, but I’m hesitant to leave my phone out and vulnerable on a charger in a heavily-trafficked area, or even just having to force myself to stay in one spot when there’s so much else going on. And if there’s a line… all bets are off. Empower yourself to not have to deal with that.

The Panasonic Solar charger also has a USB outlet for charging. This is a great option for making sure that you go into a festival with juice… even if it starts raining. There’s also a flashlight function which produces a very bright LED light. Perfect for if you’re at a festival at night and are trying to navigate in the dark, or find something you dropped.

A recommended use scenario would include setting up a space where you can sit for awhile and lay out the charger in front of you in full view of the sun. Another idea would be to secure it to a backpack or purse on the outside with some zip ties.

Let’s talk about the not-so-good.

Although the battery life on the charger seems good (it basically has a never ending energy supply), it charges my battery slower than free portable battery chargers I’ve gotten at various events. The free chargers I’m referring to, you could get on Amazon for less than $10.

It also takes up more space than the portable battery chargers I’ve just referenced, and many others I’ve seen friends carry. It’s skinny but long and wide.

My recommendation is that you should get this charger if you’re going to a camping festival, like Bonnaroo… You stand to benefit from the fact that there will be no outlets. The flashlight setting wouldn’t hurt, either. For all other situations… get yourself a cheap portable battery charger.

The Panasonic Solar Charger was provided to me by Verizon to use for free during a review period of one month.

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Reviews, Technology,

Save or Splurge? Fitbit Aria

When I was in college, I started my own personal blog to get in the habit of writing and to document my travels. I was asked to review products for Verizon due to my young, technologically-savvy readership. I had a blast testing out all sorts of tech toys.

Fast forward to today. I’ve started a new blog with a similar audience. I reached out to Verizon’s Chicago team and will continue my technology reviews with a different twist. I call it “Save or Splurge?” because technology is never (well… rarely) cheap, but can certainly be worth the cost. Although the products are provided to me on a free rental basis, I’m given no direction on how the review should be written. So rest assured, lovely readers. What you’re getting from me is 100% no-bullshit.

Fitbit Aria: A Review

So I decided to start my reviews with a product I’ve been lusting over – the Fitbit Aria Scale. I’m pretty obsessed with my Fitbit tracker (the Flex model). I’ve convinced many of my friends to get one so we can participate in weekly step challenges – I’m always first or second, and it gets super competitive 🙂 What initially drew me to the Aria scale was that it pairs with any Fitbit tracker. If you’re like me, you like things that connect seamlessly. This would explain my obsession with Apple technology – each device is a specific extension of the others. I use my Fitbit not only to track my steps, but also to use that data to sync with MyFitnessPal to get a more complete picture of my health. So why not add the extra step?

So let’s talk specifics. The Aria is not cheap, especially by my standards. At $129.99, it’s a product you have to justify before swiping your card. The Aria can support up to 8 different users’ data – perfect if you live with another person who owns a Fitbit tracker. If you don’t, you can still use the scale on Guest mode without a Fitbit. The scale uses wifi to sync with your Fitbit account and track your data – no manual input required! The Aria scale tracks body fat percentage and lean fat so that the other numbers it tracks (weight and BMI) give a more complete picture of your health. This calculator shows you if you’re within a healthy range of body fat based on the type of lifestyle you lead.

I had the Fitbit Aria for about a month and weighed myself at least once a day (sometimes more). The battery stayed strong throughout my time with it. From a health perspective, it was beneficial for me to see the day to day changes in my body (and what stayed the same). Since your weight can fluctuate a few pounds everyday, it can sometimes be frustrating to see a higher number on the scale than what you expected. Having additional data made these fluctuations more bearable. Having a Fitbit (pedometer) has already helped change some of my health habits for the better. I make more excuses to walk instead of taking public transportation or cabs. And as previously mentioned, it’s gamified fitness in challenges against my friends. Having the Fitbit Aria Scale has made me more aware of what I eat and my fitness routine – I can see the changes on the scale everyday.

It’s worth mentioning the Fitbit Aria’s competition: the Wi-Fi Body Scale by Withings. It uses Twitter to keep you honest by tweeting your results to your Twitter followers. Definitely a good feature for someone looking to make a change, but it’s also more expensive than the Fitbit Aria at $159.99.

So what should you do? Save or Splurge? I would say this is right in the grey area. If you’re not super into health and fitness, you’re wasting your money by purchasing a scale that gives you more than the basic data most people seek from a scale. If you’re into data as it applies to your own personal health trends, you probably already own a Fitbit, and additional accessories are within the realm of possibility. Plus, if you’re into fitness, you’re probably already getting these measurements done at the gym or with a personal trainer… it’s so much more empowering (and convenient) to do it yourself.

What fitness technology do you think is worth a splurge? Let us know in the comments!