Columnist Jennifer Jolly tests the best fixes for annoying tech problems, from slow Wi-Fi and phone charging to aging TVs and cars.
Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA TODAY
We all have someone in our lives who doesn’t keep up with technology.
Some people just don’t understand tech. But most of the time, it’s that someone just doesn’t have the time to search for solutions to those little, nagging, everyday problems. Maybe it’s a parent or an aunt, or hey, maybe it’s you.
Whatever the case, things get a whole lot easier once they (or you!) see how a few simple tech solutions can genuinely upgrade your day.
Just recently, some of my relatives were going to toss their big living room TV because the speakers were pooping-out (or their aging ears were). After sitting through family movie night with them with the volume cranked up to 100, I realized the TV was still just fine; they just need a soundbar.
For most people, soundbars are the best way to get better sound quality from a TV. They’re simple and inexpensive and great for getting fuller, richer, louder, and more immersive sound for most home theater needs.
After reviewing the top five on the market over the span of several months, I picked out the just-released Polk Audio’s new Command Bar. It goes on sale to the public on June 30, but I was able to test it out before it hit store shelves.
This model is a little larger than some of the other soundbars on the market, but it truly delivers superior features at a fraction of the cost of others. (My other favorites range from $600 to $1,000. This one is just under $300.)
It’s also among the first voice-controlled soundbars featuring Amazon Alexa built-in. My relatives yell at the TV anyway, now it’s helpful and satisfying: They can just ask the TV to do whatever they want it to, and it just works. The sound is room-filling thanks to multiple range drivers and a wireless subwoofer, along with Dolby and DTS.
True audiophiles will still want to spend more, but for most of us, this is a straightforward solution that’s super simple to set-up, and saves hundreds — if not thousands — versus the cost of a new TV.
Another big complaint people are coming to me for help with lately is the range of their Wi-Fi network. I totally get it! It’s super frustrating to get dumped off the Internet when just walking from one room of your house to another.
You don’t have to buy a new, high-powered router just to get the coverage you want, and you certainly don’t have to suffer from Wi-Fi that just won’t reach. Netgear’s $40 AC750 WiFi Range Extender takes the signal from the router you already have and pushes into areas of your house or yard where it just can’t reach on its own. It’s tiny, inexpensive, and sits just right in an open power outlet.
Faster, tangle-free charging
Wireless charging is the future, but not all Qi-enabled charging pads and docks are created equally. I’ve tried most of them, and few could charge my iPhone through its thick case and PopSocket. Then I tried the just-released $60 Belkin BoostUp Wireless Charging Pad. This wireless charger fuels your phone in no time flat and the sturdy charge pad lets you toss your phone down and forget it.
It charges with up to 10W of power. If you think your current charging pad is super slow, it’s probably a 5W charger, which just won’t cut it when the time is ticking. The PopSocket even charges through my sturdiest Otterbox case.
Need charging on the go that doesn’t involve juggling a bunch of cords in your car’s center console? Belkin makes also makes a universal car mount with a built-in wireless charger that fits phones big and small. Just stick your phone in the mount, and it takes care of the rest.
Don’t get me started on Post-It notes full of passwords. I know how hard it can be to remember all your different logins, especially if you’re a responsible Internet traveler and use a different password for every site. But you just can’t keep scrawling them down on sticky notes! Aside from being messy and annoying to search through a massive list of smudged scribbles, there are better ways to manage passwords, period.
LastPass is my go-to password manager because it’s super easy to use, stores and retrieves passwords automatically, and it’s totally free unless you want to upgrade for extra features. All you have to do is download the app on your smartphone and/or install the app extension on your web browser, sign up and create a master password. From there, you’ll automatically be prompted to save passwords when you log into your online accounts, and LastPass will ask you if you want to auto-fill them every time you return.
One more for the road
I drive a 2012 car that’s way, way, behind my 2017 smartphone in terms of personal tech. Since most of us update our phones more often than we update our cars, connecting our music to car stereos can be extremely difficult.
TaoTronics’ Bluetooth ($13) receiver is a quick, easy and inexpensive fix. While my husband spent more than $1,000 to get his 2007 car audio upgraded, I plugged the TaoTronic receiver right into my radio’s auxiliary jack and paired my phone in less than a minute. The plug-in lets you listen to your music, use your GPS, or answer calls without having to update your entire audio system.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2sC7OwX