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Finding Time: Functional Watches that Represent My Personality

What job does your watch do for you?

I have four watches and each one says something slightly different about me. At one time I had five. About a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post about the Apple Watch. I actually sold my Apple Watch to a family member a few months ago. I stand by all the benefits I laid out in my original post but I don’t think I really understood the downsides of a smartwatch at the time. The biggest issue is that the watch was on me at all times because I wanted to use it as a fitness tracker. This meant that I was tempted to use it for at least a few notifications. But even with the sound turned off (eventually vibration too) and notifications turned to a minimum few, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the watch was wearing me instead of the other way around. Sometimes this meant anticipating the hourly “stand up!” exhortations– other times it meant meaninglessly scrolling through watch apps or looking at the stock ticker on the face.

For my attention’s sake I got rid of it. Many of us are faced with this dilemma daily, especially those who do deep work (Cal Newport’s term for effortful, creative work that requires concentration).

But I didn’t get rid of my other watches. In fact, I found myself wearing them more often, after going for a few months with just my phone for telling time. That didn’t last long. The temptation when you pull out your phone to look at the time is to swipe and look at the other things going on in there. Not the kind of behavior I wanted to turn into a habit.

The watches that I do have are functional and I’ve had two of them for a long time. Many people associate the word functional with “utilitarian” or even “ugly.” That’s definitely not the case with these watches. Read on to find out more about the functional watches I have and my watch wearing philosophy.

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Guest Review: Tom’s Experience with the DJI Phantom 4, one of the best drones on the market

NOTE: this is a special guest post from friend of BwF Tom Hickey. Tom recently bought a DJI Phantom 4 and wanted to let everyone know about his experience with this really cool drone. If you’re interested in guest posting, shoot us an email @

My Journey to Getting a Phantom 4

By: Tom Hickey

My friend and avid outdoor adventurer Supriya told me I should get a drone. I told her it was ridiculously expensive. My wife told me that drones were exciting and that we should get one. I told her we didn’t need one- no one needs a drone. Apparently both these people know me better than I know myself because I ended up buying a Phantom 4 from DJI. How did my experience go? Read on to find out!

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Music and Alexa on the Go: An Amazon Tap Review

Reviewing the Amazon Tap: Another Piece of Amazon Hardware

Amazon continues to build out its surprisingly successful hardware line. From with the Amazon Echo, which we previously reviewed, to the very successful (to the point of selling out) Amazon Echo Dot (which I wasn’t able to get in time), Amazon recently produced their own UE Boom– inspired speaker, the Amazon Tap. Regular readers know I really like the convenience of having speakers in conveniently placed areas around the house. The Tap basically replicates the Echo’s abilities in a package that you can literally take with you. So I took the plunge for the speaker (it seemed a bit expensive at its regular price of $129) when the price dropped down to $69 ($50 Prime Day deal and $10 off any item you order off of Echo). All it took was saying to Alexa: “Alexa, order an Amazon Tap” and two days later it was in my hands! So how did my two month road test go? Was it worth it?

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Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker Review: Big Sound for a Small Price

Sound Envy

About a year ago I was on an overseas beach vacation with the other BuysWithFriends guys. One of the guys brought a bluetooth speaker system. It just so happened that it led me to the opportunity to listen to sweet, melodious tunes pumped out of a Bose SoundLink mini bluetooth speaker.  I was instantly impressed but knew that along with Bose’s impressive reputation for quality was also an impressive reputation for priciness. When I came home, I thought about beefing up our in-home sound capability. I was already benefiting from better sound on the road with an Anker portable speaker. This led me to do some more research and I ultimately settled on an Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker for our living room. How did it go?

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Fire TV Stick Box

Amazon Fire TV Stick: Better than Chromecast and Apple TV?

I went away to the Catskills with some friends this past weekend. While I was eager to explore the outdoors and enjoy a break from city living, I also knew that a new episode of Game of Thrones would air on Sunday night. I didn’t want to stream it on my iPhone or laptop. I wanted to enjoy it on a TV. I knew the AirBnB we were staying at would have a TV, but there was no mention of a streaming device with HBO Now.

While I own an older Apple TV and Google Chromecast, I decided to buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick. For $39.99 (for the standard non-voice remote), it seemed worthwhile not having to deal with unplugging them and untangling them from the mess of wires behind my TV. Also, I wasn’t sure Chromecast would reliably stream HBO Now. I was also interested in getting a device that would let me stream Amazon Video without using my laptop. So how did it go?

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Anker Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker: The Best Sound Bang for the Buck

The Sound Revolution

I never used to care about sound. Despite my musical upbringing and pop music obsession, for the last five years I’ve endured the tinny sound of my Macbook Air (and now Macbook Pro).For anyone that lives in a city and has to have Netflix compete with sirens, you know that good solid sound is prized. About eight months ago I decided that I’d give one of these fancy Bluetooth speakers a try. I didn’t want to lug something around that was too big and didn’t want to spend close to $200 for a system like Beats. So my criteria was set: something portable, with decent durability for travel circumstances, good battery life, and decent sound. After doing a ton of review of the reviews (there seem to be more bluetooth speakers out there than grains of sand on earth) I decided to get an Anker Portable Wireless Speaker for about $35. So what I do think of it after using it for the last half year plus? Read on to find out!

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Fitbit Charge HR: Your All In One Activity Tracker

It seems like everyone is trying to get in on the wearable tech band wagon. Brands like Garmin, Jawbone, and Fitbit occupy a crowded market and of course there is the Apple Watch. Others have also tried to push the fashion aspect, for example Withings Activite, which emphasizes its styling over functionality. After doing extensive research on a slew of these activity trackers I decided to pick up the Fitbit Charge HR. Has it been a game changer? Read More

Never run out of power again with a ChargeTech portable battery pack

How often do you find yourself looking for an outlet in a crowded airport? Or in an older classroom that has few accessible outlets? The latter situation is what I’ve routinely found myself in, while teaching and taking classes. I decided to fix the problem by carrying around my own power source. I went out and grabbed a ChargeTech portable battery pack (24000 mAh size) for $150 on Amazon. After a month with the battery pack, I’ve found myself asking, was it worth it?

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Great Sound at a Great Price: Amazing Budget Earphones

Sick of cheap earphones? Nowadays your newest smart phone most likely comes packaged with a pair. iPhones come with a pair of the ubiquitous white earphones. Windows phones come with a pair of black ones that actually fit quite snug compared to the iPhone ones and even come with a few choices of ear bud tips. However, don’t expect anything amazing with these free earphones; yes they get the job done but if you appreciate a better quality sound or fit, you’re going to have to fork over a few extra dollars for a decent pair.

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Three Best Gifts for Techies: Amazon Echo, Trunkster and iPad mini 2


Trying to find a gift for the techie in your life? Don’t want to spend thousands on a DJI drone or hundreds on a hoverboard? Then read on to find out our recommendations for what we think are less expensive (but not cheap) but still the best gifts for techies. We’ll also explain why we think these gifts will be well appreciated and oft-used by the recipient. We own two of these items and at least one of us is hoping for the third this holiday season.

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