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We Recommend Phones, Off The Grid Options, And Thermostats

Samsung Galaxy S5

Harry in Port Heron, Michigan listens on AM800 CKLW and asked:

I want to get a cell phone. I have a flip phone but it doesn’t have 4G. I need one with 4G. Also, I need to be able to use my voice to send a text message. And the phone needs to have text to speech on it, because I can’t see. Looking for a phone with a real keyboard on it and it needs to have Wi-Fi. Right now I’m using a Samsung Gusto 3, which is a flip phone.


A phone with 4G, speech recognition, text to speech, and WiFi is easy, basically any smartphone will do, now a smartphone with a physical keyboard is a different story though… those are hard to find these days.

You could try getting a Samsung smartphone paired with Samsung’s snap-on $60 physical keyboard, or an iPhone with something like a Typo keyboard, but Samsung’s keyboard will hide half of the screen, and a Typo will make an iPhone huge.

You can still look into a Blackberry phone, but you probably don’t want a pure Blackberry, since even the company has given up on them, the solution might be the Blackberry Priv instead.

The Priv runs Android and it has a physical keyboard. Since it runs Android you shouldn’t have any issues with text to speech or speech to text, however we should mention two things: 1) It costs $700 and 2) We haven’t tried it ourselves, but it is by all accounts a bad phone. Reviewers have been generally underwhelmed by it.

Unfortunately, physical keyboards have fallen out of favor and are pretty much extinct right now, so you don’t have too many options.

Unfortunately, physical keyboards have fallen out of favor and are pretty much extinct right now

We should note about that Samsung clip on keyboard that the half screen it covers will be the software keyboard that still displays. The Samsung keyboard cover is a capacitive device, meaning that it presses on the screen and makes contact as it if were your finger.

So you won’t actually be covering up any screen real estate displaying content, when using your keyboard cover. It is only available for late model Samsungs. The Note 5 and Galaxy S6, and S7 series, specifically.

You could also check the used market for 4G LTE phones featuring physical keyboards. They’re out there, still, but they will not have, and likely never will have, the current version of Android.

What we’re really saying is, it might be a pain in the thumbs, but you should learn to cope without a physical keyboard

Carolyn in the US Virgin Islands asked:

During power outages what is the best compact solar system I could buy that could charge my technology which includes cell phones, tablets, mosquito bats and assorted battery sizes?


Carolyn, you’re gonna have a hard time charging everything you want to charge on solar only. There are devices that can technically handle fairly high capacity batteries, but they take a very, very long time to charge under the sun.

For example, the PowerAdd Apollo Pro has a built in 23,000 mAh battery with a DC output capable for charging a laptop, however, a Samsung Note 6 has a 4,000 mAh battery, an iPad Air 2 has a 7,800 mAh battery, that already puts you at the 12,000 mAh, which means most of your charge is gone, and you haven’t plugged in a second phone, or second tablet, that mosquito bat or any of the other batteries.

Now to reach the full 23,000 mAh charge, they claim that “it will never take less than 38 hours to get a full charge.” Which means that you will have to keep this thing charging 24/7 to ensure that when you do need the power, it will be available.

Since that’s the case, you may benefit from looking at a regular battery that doesn’t use the sun to charge, but that may be able to charge more of your devices, for example, you could buy a 42,500 mAh battery from BixPower that takes 4 to 6 hours to charge. That would give you considerably more power if you want to charge all of those electronics.

However, how long are these blackouts?

However, how long are these blackouts? because if they’re long enough for you to have to worry about charging so many different devices, maybe you’d benefit from looking at a generator instead. A basic one may actually cost you less than a high capacity battery (obviously, that’s not true for the more powerful ones), and you’d get power when you need it without having to worry about the current charge of the battery.

Karl in South Dakota asked:

Looking for a programmable thermostat I can control from afar using my smartphone. And no, I don’t want to spend $200 for a machine that thinks it can predict my activities and do the programming.


You don’t need to get a learning thermostat, but don’t think you’re going to save a lot of money by getting a regular WiFi-only thermostat.

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi thermostats don’t usually go for much less than $100, and many of them go for more than that. In my home, I use — and really like — the Honeywell Talking WiFi Thermostat, though it does wake-up sometimes by just hearing the TV. Otherwise, it works well and I’m always logging-in to it to make adjustments, even when I am home.

If you want to stay on the cheaper side of things, you can look at a Honeywell programmable thermostat, they make 7-day and single program versions, and they both cost between $90 and $100.  You can also try the Emerson Sensi WiFi Thermostat, it can be controlled remotely and it will display outside weather information that it can get using your internet connection, and it will cost you around $130.

There are other non-learning options, but then you will be approaching the $200 mark again, for example, the Radio Thermostat CT80 is a WiFi thermostat, but it will cost you $200, the LockState 60i is also a non-smart WiFi thermostat, but it costs $170… at that point you’re better off looking for a smart version with more features.

Since you’re close to the price of learning thermostats anyway, we should mention that you can also buy a smart thermostat like a Nest and just turn off the smart features.

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Written by Dave Graveline

Dave Graveline is the founder, Host & Executive Producer of "Into Tomorrow" in addition to being President of the Advanced Media Network".

Dave is also a trusted and familiar voice on many national commercials & narrations in addition to being an authority in consumer tech since 1994. He is also a former Police Officer and an FBI Certified Instructor.

Dave thrives on audience participation!

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