12 Tips to Get Through the Blizzard of 2017 with Tech

The northeast is expected to see blizzard-like conditions in the coming days.  With heavy snow and high winds, there’s a chance of widespread power outages.  Here are some tips for keeping your gadgets charged and yourself entertained.

  1. Turn on Low Power Mode: Obviously, if you’re phone has a “battery saver” or “low power mode” setting, you’ll want to enable it first thing.
  2. Dim your screen. Go into your phone’s display settings and see if your phone is usable at the lowest setting, even if it means cupping your hand over the screen to see it.  The backlight can be one of the biggest drains on your battery.
  3. Try airplane mode. If you know you won’t need your phone for a couple hours, try enabling airplane mode.  This shuts off the cellular, bluetooth, and WiFi radios which greatly prolongs battery life, but at the same time, can prevent you from receiving important calls and texts.
  4. Grab some external batteries and chargers.  Many different power packs are available that allow you to connect virtually any device that can charge via USB.  Here are some examples:
    1. Anker PowerCore 20100 provides about 6-7 full phone recharges or up to 2 tablet recharges.
    2. Anker PowerCore Mini is a more portable solution and provides about 1 smartphone recharge.
    3. Kayo Maxtar Power Bank is ideal if you want to go all out (or have a large family to keep charged).  It can charge 4 USB devices at once, and can also charge many PC laptops.
    4. American Red Cross Radio and Phone Charger can be charged by hand-crank, solar panels, or can use AAA batteries.  It also serves as a AM, FM and weather radio
  5. Turn off GPS.  If you’re staying put until the storm lets up, it probably won’t hurt to disable the GPS (also referred to as “location services”) in your phone’s settings.  Many weather apps will let you enter your zip code in order to retrieve your forecast instead of requiring the use of the GPS.
  6. Reduce notifications.  During an emergency, you probably don’t care that it is your turn in Words With Friends, so disable unnecessary notifications to prevent your screen from lighting up every few seconds.  Many phones allow you to change the notifications to “sound only” which helps preserve battery power that would otherwise be used to light up your screen. iPhone users can enable Do Not Disturb to automatically stop all notifications at once.
  7. Keep it plugged in.  If you haven’t lost power yet, keep your phone plugged into the charger (connected to a surge protector, of course).  That way, if your power does go out, your battery will start out at 100%.
  8. Keep your other devices charged.  It seems that everything connects to the Internet, so take an inventory of your other devices that would let you check the news or perhaps make a quick phone call if necessary.  Your work Blackberry or Kindle Keyboard may include voice and data services over cellular that can come in handy if your main phone is dead.    Another little known fact: some laptops continue to power the USB ports while the laptop is “sleeping”.  Charge up your laptop’s battery, let is sleep, and use the laptop as a powerbank.
  9. Create your own entertainment hotspot: WiFi-only devices like tablets will be cut off from the outside world if your main internet connection goes out with the power.  However, if you can store some offline movies, games or e-books, your tablet can still entertain you without an internet connection.  The SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive creates a local WiFi hotspot that your smartphones and tablets can connect to stream videos and music.  Just be sure to load up the drive beforehand with your favorite movies and shows.
  10. Load up your tablet with Netflix Downloads: Before your lose power and internet, be sure to download your Netflix queue to your phone or tablet for offline viewing.  Open up the Netflix app and navigate to the shows you want to watch.  If they can be downloaded, you will see a small down arrow.  In most cases, you can select “Standard” quality which will take up less storage and allow you to store more shows on your device.
  11. Don’t sit in silence:  If you love music, be sure to pickup a Bluetooth speaker with long battery life, such as the Anker SoundCore Mini.  It can play up to 15 hours on a single charge and also features an FM tuner, so you don’t need to worry about going through your phone’s data plan.
  12. Don’t sit in the dark: As the sun goes down, you’ll want to light up your home if the power is out.  Make your power banks even more useful by adding a USB-powered light. These draw very little power and last a long time with a large power bank.  The Anker LC90 LED flashlight can also be recharged via Micro USB from a power bank.  And the MAXOAK Dimmable Desk Lamp can also be recharged from a power bank and provides a nice area light.  Or if you have an old smartphone sitting in a drawer, charge it up and use a flashlight app to find your way in the dark.  If it doesn’t have a built-in flash LED, simply open a web browser to a blank, white page and sit the phone face up on a table.  The light should reflect from the ceiling and provide a decent area light (just be sure to increase the screen timeout time in settings).

Photo by FHKE

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