6 surprising ways to get more bang for your tech buck
Smart technology doesn't mean you have to race out and buy new gadgets. Try these smart tips instead.
Here's a New Year's resolution that's actually achievable: get more value from the tech you already own.
Technology is all-pervasive in our lives, from the mobile phones that never leave our sides to the large-screen TVs that dominate our lounge rooms. But too often we pay big bucks for those devices and don't make the most of them.
So we've gathered together six easy ways to get more bang from your tech buck. Check them out and learn how you can be tech-smart without being wallet-poor.
Learn all the features on your phone camera
Smartphone cameras take amazing photos even if you just use the automatic settings. As a result, many of us never delve deeper into their other options, relying on software smarts instead. But learning what else your camera can actually do will make your photos even more stunning.
Set aside an hour to explore the options on your phone. What's available will depend on your exact phone, but even basic models often have hidden tricks. Some easy starters: Can it take panorama shots? What automatic enhancements does it offer? How does it convert videos into still shots? What's the best way to use it if you want to take a picture of a full moon?
Get around to updating your phone and PC software
When our phone pops up an "update" message, we'll often ignore it. That's bad for two reasons. Firstly, you're missing out on essential security fixes. Phones run complex software, and software isn't perfect. Staying up-to-date matters. Plus you'll find eventually that some apps won't work properly if you're not using a recent version of iOS or Android.
Secondly, upgrades can bring major enhancements to your phone, improving performance and added extra features. It's OK to dismiss that update notification if it comes up at work, but make a note in your calendar to install the upgrade on the weekend.
The same applies to your PC, although it can be sensible to hang out for a few days after a new release to see if there are any showstopper bugs.
Make sure your mobile plan is fit for purpose
Mobile plans change all the time. If you haven't reviewed your plan in the last year, it's definitely worth comparing. Chances are you're paying too much and could get more data for less money, while also eliminating services you're not using right now.
For example, Gomo has introductory offers for new customers, who can buy a Gomo SIM online before 10 January 2021 and pay just $10 for the first month of their subscription ($25 per month thereafter), plus a "buy 3 months and get 3 months free" offer for customers who activate their subscription by 28 February 2021 and pay for the first 3 consecutive months. That effectively means you can get 18GB a month for 6 months for a total cost of just $60.
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Download your favourite shows and movies for data-friendly viewing
Streaming is a great way to pass your time on your commute, or to catch up on your favourite shows when you're travelling. But you don't have to go through loads of your mobile data to do that.
Netflix, Disney+, Stan and most other streamers offer downloading, letting you store shows or movies on your phone or tablet to watch even when there's no Internet connection available. Grab your favourites on your phone at home while you're connected to Wi-Fi, then enjoy them when you're travelling to work or chilling on the plane when you start your holiday. Easy, efficient and a great way to get more value from your streaming.
Need some viewing ideas? Check out the most popular shows of 2020.
Don't waste money on "premium" HDMI cables
HDMI cables are ubiquitous – they're likely what connects your TV to any other playback device, whether that's a console, a Blu-ray player or your streaming box.
But HDMI is a digital standard. Unlike older audio cables, more expensive materials aren't going to make a difference. Either it meets the standard or it doesn't.
So don't be suckered into paying $50 or more for a "premium" cable. A bargain choice from eBay or Amazon will do exactly the same job for a quarter of the price, or less.
Bust your small tech annoyances
I don't like being flooded with notifications on my phone. So if I get one that's not useful, I immediately dive into my settings and make sure notifications for the offending app are switched off. That way, I don't have to put it up with repeated intrusions and I know the notifications I'm getting are actually helpful and relevant.
You might not care about notifications, but I bet there are things that annoy you about your phone or your computer. Make a quick list of the three issues that irritate you the most, then set aside a Sunday afternoon to Google those problems.
Chances are that there's a way to solve them or a setting you can change to make them less irritating. Apply a sensible degree of cynicism; if the first result you see suggests you need to buy fix-it software or similar, look further afield. But changing even one minor irritation can make your tech life feel much smoother.