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Want a starter phone for youngster? Check out the Gabb

by JOY SCHWABACH | December 12, 2020 at 1:53 a.m.

My neighbor's 10-year-old won't get her first smartphone until high school. Unless her parents change their minds when they see my Gabb Z2.

The Gabb, sent to me for review from GabbWireless.com, is designed with parents in mind. Its basic functions are text messaging and phone calls. Or kids can enjoy pictures, videos and music transferred from a computer, but there won't be any Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, web searching or games.

The Gabb Z2 is an $80 ZTE Android phone with a $20-a-month unlimited talk and text plan. It has a few basic apps, like FM radio, but there's no app store. A new "Find your phone" app for the parents' phone allows the Gabb to be traced.

The Gabb's battery is great. It stays charged for two weeks on standby, or youngsters can talk for 16 hours straight, the company says. In my tests, the call quality using the Verizon network was better than my four-times-as-expensive Google Pixel 3a. What's more, the photos have truer color than the 3a does. Of course the Gabb can't match the Pixel's many features, such as call screening and image stabilization. But the videos I've taken with it so far are good, not too shaky.

To transfer music to the phone, I opened File Explorer in Windows and dragged music into a folder on the phone. This works with pictures and videos too. There's also a File Manager app on the phone.

My computer didn't recognize the phone the first time. I had to unplug the cable going into the phone and replug it. The user manual is not much help, but you can find anything you want by Googling it. Overall, it's a nice phone, and it's about the size of a standard smartphone, without the habit-forming qualities.

HANDY STAND

One of my pet peeves is Zoom callers on an iPad who put the iPad flat on a table in front of them. From that angle, the rest of us are staring into a person's nostrils. What they need is a stand to raise it to eye level.

Unfortunately, most stands are designed for flat surfaces. They topple over if they're next to you on a couch or bed. A friend of mine loves her Spider Stand. It won't topple, and her fellow Zoom participants can see her from the waist up. I couldn't find it on Amazon, but there are loads of similar ones. The Tablift Tablet Stand for $40 also has adjustable spider legs. A strap holds your tablet in place. That way, even if you're lying down for your Zoom call with your head propped up, no one will know.

TECH GIFT FOR FASHIONISTAS

Snapstyle makes an $18 mask kit that lets you make four masks to match any fabric, to go with your outfits, just by snapping a picture. Alternatively, you can create your own design by using a photo from your camera roll. After using an app to design it, you can print out the mask on an inkjet printer. The masks are 100% cotton and come with ear loops and nose bands. They're approved by the World Health Organization.

INTERNUTS

"Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line." Google that phrase to find a New York Times vaccine calculator. You can designate whether you're a health care worker, essential worker, first responder, teacher or other. Being a teacher doesn't help much. I put in my nephew's information and it said there were 135.7 million people ahead of him. My spot in line is behind 268.7 million people. My sister, who works at a hospital, will be one of the first to get the vaccine.

TheStoryBehindpodcast.com explains the back story behind ordinary objects. For example, the founder of the Slinky toy eventually joined a cult in Bolivia, leaving behind his wife Betty, who came up with the toy's name, and six children. Betty also created the ads that made the toy a big success.

Marquee.tv films the performing arts, mostly dance performances such as "The Nutcracker," so you can watch them on the web. Besides filming shows all over the world, they also live-stream performances from London's Royal Opera House. There's a 14 day-free trial of their $9-a-month membership plan. I watched a free 4-minute ballet video. It was outstanding.

GOOGLE MAPS UPDATE

The free Google Maps app for Android and iPhone is adding crosswalk markings to streets and address numbers to buildings in certain cities. But the bigger news is that Maps is turning into a social network. The idea is to make it easier to find the 20 million reviews it gets every day. By using the app on my phone, I found a bird sanctuary I didn't know existed and some live-streamed jazz classics.

But Google Maps can be frustrating. I couldn't find the social networking feature at all on an older Android phone. Even on mine, I got lost in the various pages at first. What worked was to open the app and type in (or tap the microphone and speak aloud) the name of a U.S. city or destination. Instead of tapping anywhere else on the page that came up, I tapped the "Back" arrow next to the city's name in the search bar. All I had to do then was scroll down to see recommendations, local photos and people to follow. If you tap "Contribute" along the bottom of the same screen, you can add your own review. To get back to the Maps social network, tap "Explore" on the bottom left.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected]

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