Q. There are three different routes that I can take to get to work. My luck, I always seem to pick the one with an accident. Is there an app for that?
A. You need the app Waze (Android, Apple; Free). Aside from the great navigation features it shares with Google Maps, Waze uses reports from other users to alert you to traffic jams, accidents, road debris, hidden and visible police, and much more, all in real time. It will automatically calculate a better route around the trouble. When you can’t avoid the jams, the Traffic Bar tells you how long you’ll be stuck. Now, go play the lottery!
Q. So much is in the news lately about people being robbed and killed using Craigslist. I want to buy a used bike. I see a few bikes listed but I am afraid to even contact the sellers.
A. There are three basic Craigslist safety rules. Be sure to hide your contact information. Deal only with cash. Most important, handle your transactions at safe places, such as a police station. Learn more about these three rules at my site here. OfferUp is an online classified site like Craigslist, but sellers scan in an ID so the site can verify a person’s identity. It also has a rating system to help you find reputable sellers. If OfferUp doesn’t have what you’re looking for, click here for two more online classified sites better than Craigslist.
Q. My mother and my girlfriend both have the same name. Today, Mom got a text I meant to send my girlfriend. Mom’s in shock and I’m so embarrassed. Help!
A. You can teach Siri your relationships. For example, you can activate Siri and say, “Jane Doe is my girlfriend,” or “Jane Deer is my mom.” Then you can tell Siri, “send a message to my girlfriend,” and you know it’s going to the right place. Of course, with certain messages, you should probably take a second to check that it really is going to the right person. Want more handy Siri tricks? Click here to stop Siri from mispronouncing names, and four other tricks you need to try.
Q. I went with a smaller data plan on my smartphone to save money. To avoid going over my data plan limit, I stop using my phone at the end of the month. Should I just give up and upgrade to the next data plan level?
A. The trick is to use Wi-Fi whenever possible. With Wi-Fi, you can use the Web, stream music, watch videos, video chat or do whatever else you want and not use a scrap of your data plan. An app like Wi-Fi Finder can help you find free or low-cost Wi-Fi hotspots anywhere you go. Wi-Fi is also the best way to avoid huge roaming fees when you’re overseas. Of course, you can’t be on Wi-Fi all the time. Click here for four more ways to dramatically reduce your smartphone data use.
Q. I was measuring a room in our house to make sure a couch would fit. As I was wrestling with the tape measure, I thought that there has to be a better way, maybe using a smartphone. Have you heard about anything like that?
A. Both Android and Apple have an app called Easy Measure that lets you measure objects and distances using your smartphone or tablet camera. There is a little work involved on your part to get the numbers right, but you won’t have to maneuver a tape measure over distances, so that’s a definite plus. Now, if you like this novel idea for your smartphone, here are four more amazing apps for Android and Apple that will make you saw, “Wow!”
Q. I have a nice smartphone and a laptop. Do I really need a tablet, too?
A. Some users who are perfectly happy with their phone and computer also enjoy the portability of a tablet. They find it more convenient for reading eBooks or watching movies by the pool or airline flights. If you’re thinking of replacing your laptop, and you only use it for basic Web browsing, watching videos, casual gaming, email and updating Facebook, consider getting a tablet. It’s cheaper than a computer and more portable. Of course, a tablet can also make a good addition to your existing gadget lineup if you want to think a bit outside the box. Click here to learn how to make a tablet into a Kindle-less eReader, remote mouse, second computer monitor, health tracker and more.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.