While tech developers keep pushing us to find more ways to interact with our smartphones and devices, I've been surprised lately by the ones that stick with me after the initial fun of using them wears off, as well as the ones that sound great but quickly fall out of use.
So today I'll offer some techie odds and ends that surprised me in both directions — a trip to the grocery store, a connected smart watch and a set of portable speakers. Also, I'd love to hear about your own experiences of what devices and apps you have unexpectedly liked or didn't.
Scanning and bagging
First, a Walmart greeter explaining a new smartphone application/checkout system piqued my curiosity on Saturday as I walked into the Edmond store for groceries. I took his challenge to use the Walmart app on my smartphone to scan in my grocery items as I shopped and then bag them in my cart after each scan.
The app kept a running tally of the total cost, and I could delete items if I put them back. But when I got to the end of shopping, my groceries were already tallied and bagged. All that I had to do was pay and walk out. I went to the self-checkout area, tapped a few buttons to transfer purchases from my phone to the self-pay stand and swiped a credit card. I may not have saved a lot of actual time by stopping to scan in every item, but I was happy avoiding the irritating checkout lines at the end. Walmart even has developed a system for shoppers to weigh their own fruits and vegetables ahead of time to get a scanable bar code, so those were already calculated in the cost, too. The process of using the app drains the battery on your phone quickly, so start with a full charge.
In doing my shopping this way, I liked knowing how much I was spending along the way. However, I was leery of the tracking data of purchases that Walmart now has connected to both my credit card and an email address, as many companies are trying to do these days.
I also was curious about the security measures Walmart is taking to prevent shoplifting.
The greeter stayed mum when I asked him about it, indicating the information is proprietary.
Another cashier mumbled something about a lot of cameras hidden everywhere.
Conclusion: This high-tech shopping method will probably stick with me — I'll do it again and hope that I get faster at the scanning and bagging part.
The tech item I don't feel the need to keep around was a connected smart watch, the COOKOO (http://cookoowatch.com/). I was glad that AT&T loaned me the watch to try out for a few days because I've been intrigued by the idea of a smart watch ever since I heard about the popular release of another one, the Pebble (http://getpebble.com).
The COOKOO costs $129 from the website and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, allowing you to send alerts, check in on Facebook, play music and receive notifications on the watch about text messages and emails sent to your phone. The company is encouraging developers to write apps to use it, but at this point, I don't see much advantage of having a watch tell you information that's already easily available with your phone. Working the buttons was a little bit clunky as well.
Conclusion: Others might find the concept of a smart watch helpful but it didn't help me simplify my tech life enough to want one.
Finally, the tech item that has become one of my family's favorites of late is a portable speaker by manufacturer Divoom, which sent me one to try out for this column. Called Bluetune-Pop, the speaker looks like a round button about four inches in diameter and comes in red, black, purple and white.
It's small enough to fit in your pocket when collapsed, but it pops out to expand for extra bass.
It connects wirelessly to your device through the Bluetooth feature you turn on in your settings, and it recharges through your computer.
My children and I found ourselves carrying the speaker from room to room to have music wherever we were. For $39, the sound was good and strong, especially when the bass was popped out. More information is available at http://www.divoomusa.com.
Conclusion: The Bluetune-Pop speaker is simple to use and a good way to amplify the music from your smartphone.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your own unexpected tech device likes and dislikes, and I may use them in a future column. Go online to blog.NewsOK.com/get-appy for more apps.