Quidco is great. Cashback is great. The concept is simple and if you’re not using it, you’re missing out on what is essentially ‘free’ money. Yes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch in this world, but if you’re spending money, why not make some money as well?
The concept of Quidco is simple enough, you sign-up, search for a retailer and click to ‘visit’ the site for cashback. I suppose the premise is you’ll use retailers you might never have done before (or competitors of ones you would use) simply because you’re going to make more money in cashback. Balance that with a bit of price comparison and you might not only save money but make some back too.
I only discovered the magic of cashback a year or so ago. I wish I’d discovered it sooner. It’s great for saving money for Christmas presents or treating yourself. Plus if you’re buying gifts for other people you still feel like you’re getting something out of it too.
Getting Even More Cashback
The one problem I have with Quidco is I often forget to check to see if a site has cashback, unless it’s somewhere I regularly shop (like My Protein). Then I discovered their Cashback Reminder Extension for Google Chrome.
The idea of this is just as simple as the premise of the cashback itself. When you’re browsing/shopping/surfing you’ll get a pop-up to let you know when the site has cashback available. This is great not only as a reminder, but also to discover sites you didn’t even know did cashback to rake those rewards in.
Pretty simple right? And yet another free way to support your cashback earnings.
But wait, there’s more…
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better there’s even more. The Quidco App includes some functionality to improve your cashback opportunities even further. You can get notified of local deals – but my favourite thing is the ability to ‘register’ your credit/debit cards to your account. That means that when you visit a traditional brick-and-mortar store and make a purchase you might well be earning more cashback (that of course does depend on whether they’re in the program, but you get the idea).
If that’s not enough…
If that’s not enough money for you, there’s also Quidco Opinions – free surveys you can participate in that give you extra cash in your account. They’re pretty straightforward and similar to the likes of Valued Opinions, but it’s worth spending the time on them.
On an unrelated note, if you’re looking to save money as well as earn cashback then install invisible hand. This is a browser extension/plugin which notifies of cheaper prices elsewhere. So if you’re shopping for a particular product then you’ll get a pop-up to tell you you could save £££ by shopping elsewhere.
Last year I realised I was fat. Shocking fat. I hadn’t noticed until I saw photos of me and my son on the beach. I was uncomfortable with how chubby I’d become, so I decided to do something about it. I cut out carbs and started working out 5 days a week with weights, kettlebells and other stuff. This was around the time I got my Moto 360. Reading up on cardio and weight loss I knew that I needed to get my heart rate up sufficiently. I didn’t want to wear my watch while I was working out, but I wanted to track how I was doing. At that time there weren’t any decent smart wearables around that tracked your heart rate but were also robust enough to handle being sweated on or potentially knocked with weights. I didn’t want to break it and honestly, the Moto 360 is great, but it’s not that great at tracking your heart rate.
The Best Smart Fitness Tracker Around?
Just recently I decided I wanted to look again. So I did my research and saw that the Fitbit Charge HR was topping a lot of reviews as the favourite choice for fitness trackers. Especially if you were looking for one that didn’t break the bank but was capable of tracking heart rate and doing it well. The specifications said it could track heart rate constantly – as in all day long and does so using a rather funky pair of flashing green lights on the back of the strap which when combined with a sensor detect your pulse by monitoring how the light comes back. Like a kind of sonar I guess.
This seemed like the ideal solution to my needs. I really only wanted something to track and monitor heart rate. I wasn’t interested in knowing how many steps I’d taken during the day or any of that other guff. Most of my exercise is static and involves standing still while throwing weights about, so knowing how far I’d walked was pretty pointless. I also wanted something with a small screen on it (if any at all). The Fitbit Charge HR fit that bill perfectly as the Surge (the posher version) has a bigger screen and thus would be more at risk from damage.
So how’s the heart rate monitoring? Pretty good.
Fitness Data & Health Tracking Information
The data you can get is pretty cool. It comes in the form of the Fitbit Dashboard which is available in a browser, but also within the official Fitbit App.
Seeing the calories ‘in’ and ‘out’ leads to some quite interesting (and perhaps inspiring reading).
The workout tracking also shows how successful your endeavors have been in terms of getting your heart rate up, burning calories and how your workout session compared with the day generally.
All interesting data, and yes, I ended up getting wrapped up in the other stuff too. The little things like pressing the button on the side of the Charge HR to track workout sessions. Other highlights for me have been:
- Tracking sleep patterns – it seems that sleep is monitored from when you stop moving and stay still for long periods. There’s then highlights on things like whether your sleep was disturbed in terms of restlessness or being awake. I’m a pretty good sleeper. I tend to fall asleep straight away and generally sleep through. At least that’s what I thought! The Fitbit has shown that my sleep patterns are far more disturbed than I thought – especially lately with my son waking up in the night. But I’m also getting an hour or so less sleep a night than I thought I was because of the disturbances. I do wonder how accurate it is (and you’ll see why in a second when I talk about step counting). It didn’t track when I fell asleep on the sofa one lazy Sunday afternoon. You’d think heart rate and movement would be combined to track sleep – after all your heart rate drops during rest. I’ve seen spikes in it when I was woken by my son screaming, so it must be straight-forward enough to tie these two things together?
- Tracking food intake – I’m lazy, I generally can’t be bothered with dieting. I realise this makes no sense after telling you that I’ve been exercising for over a year, but all that tracking your exact food intake stuff seemed like a bit too much effort. I loved my food, it was bad enough giving up carbs. But now I’ve got the ability to track when I’m eating (and what I’m burning) all in the same place I’ve started to do it and like it. It’s easy to do (on desktop and in the app) and the database seems to include anything and everything. I was really surprised to see various Aldi products in there (for example).
- Tracking water consumption – you can read online about how much water you should be taking in during the day. It’s a lot generally. Something like 8 pints. I knew I was drinking a lot at work but I didn’t realise how much. I started tracking by clicking the relevant buttons in the dashboard every time I drunk a pint and one day I’d drunk 4 litres. Suddenly I was overly conscious that I wasn’t drinking nearly enough water at the weekends. Upsides and downsides!
- The little things – for the most part, the other things I enjoy are the little things. Like the way it tells me it loves me whenever I’ve finished charging it. Or the information on my lowest and highest heart rates or my general resting heart rate. I can see the potential too – tracking your heart rate all day long means you could potentially use this sort of tech to monitor for health problems.
Having said all that, there are issues. Step counting is not accurate. It’s measured on wrist movement. So any aggressive wrist movement – shaking hands, tossing a ball in the air, throwing kettlebells around – will be seen as steps. I’ve watched it happen. I don’t really understand why on a device this clever such a thing is so basic. I mean the thing is attached to my phone via Bluetooth, surely it could use GPS location data to work out whether you’re actually moving and then negate step counting if you were sitting on the sofa waving your wrist around (as I was when I was testing it out).
There’s also a monitor for how many floors of stairs you’ve climbed. Pretty sure that’s wrong too. I’ve often apparently walked up several flights of stairs when I work on the ground floor and haven’t been upstairs at home much.
Last night I went to bed at 11pm and woke up at 6.30am, but according to Fitbit I only slept for 3 hours 45 mins. I’m pretty sure that’s not right. Mind you, that’s the first night it’s been massively out since I owned it.
Other things too. Like the fact it’s not waterproof – so you can’t wear it in the shower. It’s very comfortable and sometimes I forget I’m wearing it, it’s that light and well fitting. There’s a serious danger I’m going to ruin it one day when I plunge my hand into a washing up bowl.
A quick list of the good and bad points:
- Comfortable – fits nicely, doesn’t take up too much space on your wrist and doesn’t way much
- Constant heart rate tracking
- Doubles as a watch
- Great for extra things like tracking food/water intake, sleep patterns and more
- Reasonably priced
- Step tracking is not accurate
- It’s not waterproof
- Charge does not last 5 days as they claim (though it’s not far off)
- Charging cable is proprietary – it’s not micro USB and costs £16 to replace
- There’s no easy option for just having a widget on your phone and click to say ‘I’ve drunk a pint of water’ – you have to go right into the interface and carry out several clicks to achieve this
- It’s so comfortable I forget I’m wearing it, which means when I do take it off (for a shower or washing up) I often forget to put it back on, which annoys me when I’ve lost out on data
It might sound like I’m not happy with my purchase, but it’s excellent really. I find it motivating, curious and intriguing. I’m experimenting with other things too, wondering how I could use Tasker to log my water intake and there are several IFTTT Receipes you can use to do things like logging sleep patterns into Google Spreadsheets
I must admit I also enjoy the various emails from Fitbit. It emails you to tell you when the charge is low, which is a good pre-warning – it’s not like ‘warning, low battery!’ then it’s flat either. you’ll have a few hours. Then there’s the weekly summaries:
A nice email in your inbox to let you know how you’ve got on. Pretty cool. If you’re that way inclined (which I’m not) you could compare your success with friends or boast about your progress on social media. That’s not what I want mine for, but it shows how flexible the device is.
Good news for anyone that’s bought a Chromecast recently, Google’s got a special offer on. Set up your Chromecast and visit chromecast.com/offers by 31 January 2015 and you can get £15 of Google Play credit! Not bad eh? If you were lucky enough to get a Chromecast in a recent Amazon sale you’ll have got it for £18, so essentially have paid £3 for it with free films/music! Nice.
If you weren’t that lucky, don’t worry, there’s still offers on. I checked my (older) Chromecast yesterday and had 3 months of free Now TV, 90 days of Google Play Music Unlimited and the original X-Men film to download and keep! Nice.
To check it out simply logon to your home PC or laptop in your wifi connection (the same one as the Chromecast), download the Chromecast extension and follow this link https://cast.google.com/chromecast/offers/
The Moto 360 is undeniably a lovely looking watch, but when it comes to watches I’m a big fan of metal straps. They just feel more substantial and a better quality. Alas, the Moto 360 didn’t offer a metal strap on release only the standard leather strap. Now that leather strap is nice enough, but it doesn’t meet my requirements.
Motorola is eventually planning on releasing a metal strap for the Moto 360 and they’re going to be charging around £50 for it. That’s a lot of money for a strap when you’ve already paid £200 for the watch in the first place in my humble opinion.
I Google’d my way around the web and found a suitable short-term solution. It turns out that the fitting on the back of the Moto 360 won’t fit with any old strap, it’s quite narrow but it will work with the metal strap from the Pebble Steel. I found and purchased one from Mobile Fun and it was quickly delivered.
Fitting is remarkably easy. Of course the packaging and manual is designed for and aimed at the Pebble Steel watch, but it does contain extra pins and a removal tool that works perfectly for our task.
You could take it to a jeweler or watch shop, but it’s pretty easy to change yourself.
The first step is to ease the old strap off. Easy enough, turn the watch over and tease at the very edge of it with the tool supplied in the Pebble Steel box. A small flat head screwdriver will do equally as well if needs be.
Tease the corner and ease one end of the pin out. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to do that, it’s pretty simple. Once that’s done it’ll pop out easily from the other side as well.
Now repeat the process on the other strap.
Then it’s basically repeating the process in the opposite fashion to install the new strap. Remember to check which way the clasp is going to face based on which you’d prefer (it’s a pinch clasp).
It’s a quick and easy job, just a little fiddly but well worth the effort.
The final result is a much better looking watch with a bit of style and class without a massive outlay.
You may well find that the Pebble Steel strap is a bit long for your use and it’s obviously not as easy to tighten as the leather strap. Not to worry, it’s easy enough to remove links and shorten the strap, you just need patience and a little sweat. This video explains how:
After cracking the screen of my MotoG, an awesome phone with few limitations, I was reluctant to pay to fix it as the cost would have been the same as paying off the handset portion of my contract. I therefore had a decision to make. I really wanted something likely to bring lollipop quickly and narrowed it down to the One, or the Nexus 6. Sadly, neither were readily available.
The OnePlus One is by no means a new phone anymore. Since the initial announcement back in January 2014, the actual release and subsequent availability has not been straight forward. The enthusiasm and desire that greeted the phone was surely unpredictable by anyone, and as a result the first official Cyanogenmod phone is still only available to purchase if you have an invitation (with the exception of occasional limited time windows). The specifications are good though, and having rooted all my previous phones I was well aware of Cyanogenmod and knew I liked the software running on the One. £269 for th 64GB option? It will take some beating.
Coming from the MotoG, I was coming from a phone very close to a pure Nexus experience and was equally confident I would like the software running on the Nexus 6. Packing top end specifications it is clearly designed as an example of a great android experience. £549 for the 64GB option is a lot of money, but is similarly priced to high end, branded android phones. Sadly it hadn’t been released.
My criteria for a new phone is fairly simple. I like the larger screen of my old note. I want a better camera than the motoG. I want android updates faster than Samsung can provide. Both these phones should fit the bill.
A quick look at the specs and there isn’t a great deal between them. The nexus has a larger and better resolution screen, but the slightly larger battery does not compensate and loses it some battery life over the One. The slightly higher spec on the processor, battery and screen size do not amount to £280 worth of added value.
As a result I decided to pursue the elusive OnePlus invitation. The difference in price can not be justified and even when in stock the Nexus would be hard to get. Harder even than a phone only available to those with an invitation it seems….
Decision made. Phone purchased and delivered. More to follow.
As a previous owner of the Sony SmartWatch 2 I had a list of apps that I used (and needed) to get the watch running the way I wanted and doing what I wanted. The difference with the Moto 360 is the Android Wear interface. That generally means that the Moto 360 does what you want (and need) it to without much extra effort. What does that mean? You get notifications, updates, turn-by-turn directions and much more out-of-the-box and on your wrist.
The best features of the Moto 360 are exactly that – notifications without having to take your phone out of your pocket and now the ability to reply using your voice with the same logic. I love being able to talk to my wrist. Especially when driving or needing to do something quickly where I don’t have to faff around typing and going into apps – ‘OK Google, remind me when I get to work to arrange that meeting’ or ‘OK Google remind me when I get home to put the bins out’ or ‘OK Google call my wife’.
But what makes the 360 even better? Well, a few things:
The Moto 360 has a number of watch faces as standard and Motorola has even allowed for customisation of those faces from the Motorola Connect app, but Facer goes that step further and allows you to gain access to a wealth of watch faces from the community. And there’s so many faces to browse and choose from, so there’s always some variety from day-to-day which is great. If you get bored you can always change your face quickly and easily from your phone. Much cheaper than buying a new watch.
2. Google Keep
It might sound daft, but Google Keep is probably my most favourite app. It’s replaced the shopping list app that I used to have for my SmartWatch 2 and allows for easy access to notes and lists when I’m out and about – without the need to get my phone out. This is ideal when you’re going grocery shopping and need a good shopping list so you don’t miss anything. Tick things off as you go and it’s easy shopping!
3. Wear Mini Launcher
Another great app – this one kind of an oddity for any Android Wear device as it brings the app buttons you’d expect to see on a mobile to your watch and that’s not something you’d necessarily think you’d need on your watch, but it’s great for launch things like Google Keep right on your wrist. Simply swipe it in from the side and scroll through your apps.
At the moment other apps are mostly gimmicks really – camera apps, calculators, calendars, etc. Really the default Android Wear interface is enough to do everything you need with controls for music apps (like Spotify and Google Play Music) as well as for Netflix. And you can do all the other good things like set timers, reminds and send text messages all with simple voice commands.
Let me know if you think I’ve missed any awesome ones.
After owning a Sony SmartWatch 2, I’d been lusting after a Moto 360 as soon as it made a hint of appearing on the market. I made some unsubtle hints to my wife and she kindly purchased one for my birthday (yes, she spoils me but it’s a too way street, don’t worry).
Anyway, I was happy with the watch (I’ll do a review at some point no doubt) but then a little after two weeks of ownership disaster struck. Stumbling around in the dark I managed to catch the watch (by the strap) on a door handle. There was a nasty tug at my wrist and an unnerving feeling of dismay that started in my wrist and ended in my gut. I turned the light on and there lay my Moto 360 on the floor, face down with both straps on one side of the watch.
The force of catching the Motorola 360 on the door handle had pulled hard on the back of the watch and torn the pin out of the hole. The pin had bent, but much worse than that part of the plastic backing had snapped off.
In this rather poor photo you can get an idea of the damage. I’ve highlighted the small triangle of plastic which snapped off the back on one side. The result is an unusable watch as the pin would no longer stay in place. A miserable sight indeed. I wondered how I’d fix it. Perhaps some Sugru, maybe try and glue the old bit back on?
Would it still be covered by warranty? Or would Motorola make me pay to get it fixed? Should I even bother trying?
I had seen a Kickstarter for SteelConnect – perhaps a possible solution, so I contacted them to see if they could help. Alas their only real solution was to use their hook adapter and wear it as a pocket watch – which defeats the point of a smartwatch really.
So we sent it to Motorola and what felt like a long while later they sent it back. In fact they’d sent a completely new watch, with strap, box and all. Not a single question or query about the issue. Which was nice.
So the end result of my experience? Not overly impressed with the build quality but thoroughly impressed with the customer support from Motorola.
So happy to have the 360 back on my wrist where it belongs.
Just recently, the wonder that is ‘If this, then that’ made its way to Android. It’s been around on the web for a while and had an iOS app too, but as usual, developers neglected the passionate audience that is Android users, until now.
For those that don’t know, IFTTT (as it’s more conveniently known) is basically a dumbed down (aka user-friendly) version of Tasker. Tasker being that wonderful app that you can setup to automate your life – setting up various ‘triggers’ to get your phone to carry out Tasks. Well, this app does that but in a really user-friendly way. There’s not as much possibility with it (to be honest) but it is still very flexible and has some rather nice possibilities.
Here’s a quick video I made for your viewing pleasure:
As you can see, there’s plenty of external app and website integration, actions built straight into Android (e.g. camera actions, SMS, wifi location etc) and thus there’s plenty of oppourtunity to do some really cool stuff.
Here’s some of my IFTTT Recipes that you might find useful:
Browse more, there’s loads of awesome ones out there – https://ifttt.com/recipes