What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 7 )

It’s now a year since I wrote Part 6 and my wife and I have lived in Ecuador for 4.5 years.  This post is largely subjective based on my usage and mistakes in Cuenca. The commentary is also geared to people moving to Ecuador for the first time.

This advice is meant for those on a limited budget and not bringing a container to Ecuador. I am going to start with the most important device and work by way down to the small items that you can’t find or that are expensive in Ecuador.

Computer: When we first moved here I rented space in another person’s container and brought down a desktop computer with a 24″ monitor and and oversized keyboard. I sold that computer in less than a year and that is why I am recommending a laptop or notebook computer.

  • I have a Macbook Air – Moderately price and extremely simple to use
  • Chrome book -Inexpensive and uses mostly cloud storage
  • Microsoft Surface Pro – combines a tablet and computer and an affordable price

Tablet: When we first moved I owned an iPad 2. I have since sold that I my tablet of choice is an iPad Mini 2 with a portable bluetooth keyboard. Other viable choices are:

  • Kindle Fire Tablet 7 – Extremely affordable at $50
  • Nexus 9 Table – A contender to the iPad that uses the Android OS
  • Samsung and Asus also have affordable and powerful Tablets

Smartphone: Personally, this is my most used piece of electronics. I now own the Google Nexus 6. I have a $32 a month data plan that gives me the convenience of being connected all day but also the ability to connect via magic jack to my business contacts and family back in The States. I also use my Smartphone for:

  • Maps and Navigation
  • Free Worldwide texting via What’s Ap
  • Photos- I sold my DSLR and now use my Smartphone as my only camera
  • 4K Video
  • Podcasts – PBS, NPR and tech shows
  • HBO, Netflix
  • Social Media
  • Audio Recording
  • Skyping and Magic Jack
  • Remote Controls For TV

I highly recommend the Google Nexus but would also highly recommend the iPhone

Streaming Boxes: These hockey puck  devices will be your night time companions if you enjoy watching movies and TV series. You can’t go wrong with the ones below:

  • Apple TV Version 3 – $150
  • Roku 4 – $130
  • Amazon Fire TV $100;

Basically you can watch TV series and movies with these devices connected to your TV. They also have the added advantage of wirelessly connecting some of your devices ( computer, iphone tablet ) wirellessly to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a VPN (virtual private network) Router. I use the Sabai Cisco router because of the excellent technical support. I go to great lengths to describe the challenges of watching TV/Movies in Ecuador. I recommend using the search facility on this blog and typing in “VPN” and you will see several posts with recommendations.

All three device have voice search and the Roku and Amazon devices have lower priced stick versions that have less power but basically give you the same services.

Printer: This is the first year I am not recommending a printer. Unless you are using the printer for business then it’s easier and cheaper to put your document on a thumb drive and bring it to and easily available copy shop.

Camera: This is the first year I am recommending using a Smartphone instead of a point and shoot camera.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.35 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage)
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bringing data to be printed
  • VPN subscription  – I use Strong VPN and it’s about $8 a month
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.
  • Router: I use a Sabai VPN Cisco router $130. A much needed device in Ecuador if you’re going to watch movies and tv programs outside of Ecuador.

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My New Smartphone

Pop Quiz CTL Subscribers- What Smartphone has a 6 inch Amoled Quad HD display , 3 gb of Ram, 4K video, 13 mp camera and is less than $300. If you said a Nexus 6 then go to the head of the class.

Google will be announcing their new phones on Sept. 29th and I took advantage of a great sales on Amazon. I paid a little more for the 64 gb version but you can buy the 32 gb ver. on Ebay for $299.

It’s no secret that I believe smartphones will replace computers shortly and right now my Nexus 6 does obvious tasks that my Macbook can’t do when I am mobile. I am slowly getting used to the bigger size but it is great on the eyes and lightning fast. Below are some shots I took this weekend.

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2015 Amazon Fire Tablet – $50

Competition is good for the consumer. Amazon just made it super affordable to buy a powerful tablet. Last year I purchased a 16 Gb iPad Mini with retina screen for $300.

If you’re already an Amazon Prime Member ($99 per year) with these benefits then purchasing this tablet for portability or backup in case your other device breaks is a no brainer.

  • Unlimited Photo/Video Storage
  • Extensive Streaming Movie & TV selection
  • Amazon Music
  • Kindle Lending Library

The tablet is available for immediate ordering on Amazon and is shipping Oct 1st.

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Watching TV In Cuenca 2015

Last year I posted my 2014 TV watching experiences. This year I have added the Amazon TV Fire Streaming Box to the Roku 3 (1st ed.) and the Apple TV (720p). Below are some of the additional benefits from last year

  • Amazon Fire TV has a dynamic voice search and phone app to search and control your TV
  • Amazon Prime continues to add original production (Transparent) and added HBO series
  • Netflix also produces original productions (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black)
  • HBO NOW is available for the Apple TV and shortly for the other two streaming devices. Well worth the $14.99 monthly subscription
  • The new Roku 3 has a voice search and has the most add channels of the 3 streaming boxes.

So which is the best box? If I were to advise you on one box it would be the new Roku 3 with voice search. Why? The Roku 3 has the most channels including Amazon Prime.  If your budget is flexible and you have the HDMI ports for the other two I would definitely purchase them.

  • Fire TV has the best voice search and the most memory
  • Apple TV has Airplay to easily project your IOS device to your TV

There are also stick versions of the Fire TV and Roku available

  • The Apple TV (1080p) is now $69
  • The Fire TV is $99
  • Fire TV stick (limited memory and expansion) $39
  • Roku Stick(limited memory and expansion) is $49.99

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Amazon Fire TV

Just returned from the United States with the video streaming device from Amazon. First a couple of caveats and observations.

  • You need an Amazon Prime Account ($99 subscription per year) to fully take advantage of the powerful features
  • You need a VPN router to watch the Amazon Prime material
  • Amazon automatically  sets ups your streaming box so all you have to do is connect the box to your network

I already own a Roku 3 and Apple TV (720p) version. So you might be asking yourself why did I need a 3rd streaming device?. The short answer is that the voice command is not available on my other two devices and the Fire TV manages my Prime membership with watchlists and voice commands much better than the Roku device.  The long answer will be coming shortly when I compare the Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV.

It has only been 3 days of Fire TV use but here are my first impressions.

Pros:

  • Amazingly fast
  • Voice command works almost all the time
  • My Amazon photo and music collection is instantly available
  • More apps than the other two boxes

Cons:

  • Not as many channels as Roku
  • HBO Now is presently unavailable

Full review and comparison  coming shortly.

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador ( Part 6 )

It’s now a year since I wrote Part 5 and my wife and I have lived in Ecuador for 3.5 years.  This post is largely subjective based on my usage and mistakes in Cuenca.

This advice is meant for those on a limited budget and not bringing a container to Ecuador. I am going to start with the most important device and work by way down to the small items that you can’t find or that are expensive in Ecuador.

Smartphone: Invest in an unlocked Nexus 6 or iPhone 6+. These are relatively large phones sometimes called Phablets but they will be your best techonology friend in Ecuador. I also suggest you buy a data plan. In Cuneca I pay $32 a month for minutes and data and never run out of either one.  Below are some uses other than voice and texting.

  • Maps and directions
  • Photo and video ( I haven’t used my expensive Canon in 4 months)
  • Easy Taxi – requesting taxis at night and in bad weather
  • Learning Spanish (Translate, SpanishDict, Duolingo)
  • Music listening ( Amazon complete music library)
  • Netflix (watching movies)
  • Playing Bridge

Tablet: I have the iPad Mini w/ retina screen but I can highly recommend the Nexus 7. I recommend the larger tablets ( The iPad Air is an excellent choice) if you are not going to bring your computer.  I’m sticking to my recommendation of not bringing a computer if you don’t need it for business or serious photo/video editing. A large tablet with a bluetooth keyboard will be powerful and very portable.

Streaming Boxes: These hockey puck  devices will be your night time companions if you enjoy watching movies and TV series. You can’t go wrong with the ones below:

  • Apple TV
  • Roku 3
  • Amazon Fire TV

Basically you can watch TV series and movies with these devices connected to your TV. They also have the added advantage of wirelessly connecting some of your devices ( computer, iphone tablet ) wirellessly to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a VPN (virtual private network) Router. I use the Sabai Cisco router because of the excellent technical support. I go to great lengths to describe the challenges of watching TV/Movies in Ecuador. I recommend using the search facility on this blog and typing in “VPN” and you will see several posts with recommendations.

Google just came out with their own streaming box called Nexus Player but I haven’t seen enough reviews to recommend buying that device.

Miscellaneous recommendations:

  • Netflix subscription- $9 per month – Invaluable
  • Amazon Prime subscription $8.25 per month – (Music, Movies, Books, Unlimited Photo Storage(
  • Bluetooth keyboard for your tablet or smarthone
  • Thumb drives (32 gb) for transferring information or bring data to be printed
  • VPN subscription  – I use Strong VPN and it’s about $8 a month
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.

Some of the subscribers of this blog have great success with Ooma. It’s  worth a look for cheap and dependable calls back to the U.S.

Again this are my recommendations based on my experience. I haven’t used my DVD player in 2 months and my camera in 4 months.  Save the room in your suitcases for good sheets and towels  🙂

 

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Need A Tablet?

Now why would the founder of the Cuenca iPad Users Group suggest that you purchase a Amazon Tablet? I have committed this blog to being platform agnostic. Amazon is going through some blips in their stock price. They are one of tech titans but for a limited time they are offering a great price on two of their tablets. Don’t get me wrong I think that any of the iPads are top of the line and you could do no wrong buying any of the iPad models, but the iPads are pricey.

 

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ Tablet is $179

 

Fire HD 6″ Tablet is $99

 

Below are some trusted video reviews. If I was buying another table I would spend the extra $79 ang get the Fire HDX for the Mayday feature. Amazon guarantees 15 second live video help with any problem.

Fire HDX review

Fire  HD 6 review

 

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Caveat Emptor

I buy all of my tech products in the U.S. The most important reason is that 99% of the time the item is cheaper and comes with a reliable warranty or recourse if something goes awry. I am aware that one may not be able to return to the U.S. or Canada to buy the product or they need an instant replacement for family or business reasons.. I have been watching the “for sale” tech items on Gringo Post for over a year and have been amazed at some of the prices being charged.  Yes, I know there should be a small premium built into the price since some of the items can not be purchased here but the other day I saw a used laptop compouter being offered at $900 +. The same item with a warranty can be purchased on Amazon for $320 less

Here are some guidelines when purchasing a high tech item.

1. Make sure you have the model # of the item. An Acer laptop doesn’t  fly since there are many confiqurations  of that computer.

2. When buying a smartphone make sure the phone is factory unlocked and ready for a sim replacement. Jailbroken phones have to be jailbroken with each new upgrade in operating system.

3. Plasma TVs need to be a model specially manufactured for high altitude or you will have problems.

4. Make sure there is someone in Cuenca that can fix it. My wife brought a computerized sewing machine from the States and there is noone in Cuenca that can fix it.

5. Look for reviews on Amazon.com, Cnet.com, pcmag or just google the product with the word “review”

6. Find the product on Ebay and see what it is selling for

For those of us with smartphones there is a new app called  Poachit.

If you can wait then inquire if someone is going back to the States and offer them an incentive to bring back your item.

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Watching TV In Cuenca – Revisited

Technology changes every day and TV Watching in Cuenca is no exception. Last year I wrote this post. I have revised and changed some prices and and added a few recommendations. The revisions are in bold and the new products have *** before them.

 

In April of 2012 I wrote a post about our TV services in Cuenca. A lot has changed in 18 months. We no longer have DirecTV and now our TV viewing is based on the following services.

I have installed a VPN Router. For the non geeks in the audience my VPN router came fromSabai Technology

This router basically is configured with VPN software and every time I  turn my computer, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV my Internet presence is in Miami and not in Ecuador. This allows me to watch anything on the web, Netflix, Amazon, Hula etc as if I was living in the U.S.

You also need to subscribe to VPN software. I use Strong VPN as my service. Good customer support and very reliable.

Summary of Costs:

  • One Time Cost: VPN Router $150
  • Yearly VPN subscription $90
  • Monthly Netflix Subscription: $8 – Now $9
  • Yearly Amazon Prime Subscription $70 – Now $99
  • One Time Cost  Apple TV – $99
  • One Time Cost Roku Box – $90

My monthly costs including the amortized hardware is about $25 per month

Pros:

  • No configuration of VPN software
  • All your devices are connected
  • Full Netflix and Amazon Prime Video collection available to you >10K titles
  • Watch any TV website on the Internet

Cons:

  • Initial Expense
  • Yearly recurring fee
  • Slight loss of Internet connection speed

I highly recommend this route. We watch great BBC and American TV series with no limitation.

*** Amazon Prime is now better than ever. They have added all the HBO Season 1 Shows and many more movies.

*** Netflix has added more movies and solid original productions like House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black

*** Amazon has come out with a Streaming Box similar to Roku and Apple TV called Amazon Fire TV. The initial reviews are excellent

 

On a separate note. A quick reminder that I do Skype consulting for those of you that are permanently moving to Ecuador. The charge is $25 and last night a happy future expat said that after the call she saved $150 by planning to bring certain electronics and eliminating others.

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The Almost Final Word On Smartphones In Cuenca

Last night at a restaurant in Cuenca I polled the 8 people present and only 50% of the table had smartphones. Statiscally that may defeat my argument for the need of a Smartphone in Cuenca. However, for me the Google Nexus 5 ( I previously owned an iPhone 4s) is a necessity. In my previous post – The Case For A Smartphone in Cuenca, I gave 8 personal reasons that worked for me.

I just read in an interesting statistic that a child with a smartphone in 2014 has more information available to him/her than President Clinton did in 1996. – Triple Yowza.

Yesterday, in preparation for this post I jotted down on my phone all the ways I used my phone to save time. The first couple of bullet points are obvious ones.

  • answering email instantly
  • Being available to my children and grandchildren through the magic jack app in an emergency
  • Winning a bet with a friend having coffee
  • Playing competitve Bridge with players around the world
  • ** Tethering to my laptop when the Internet went down yesterday**
  • Navigation when the taxi driver could not find his way
  • Listening to Amazon Music’s amazing music collection

I just started a Facebook Group called – Cuenca Smartphone Users. The purpose is to share apps and interesting uses of Smartphones.

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