What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador ?(Part 8)

My wife and I have been living here almost 6 years and two things all expats can agree on.

  1. Electronics are  25% – 30 % more expensive in Ecuador. Even more if you lived in a state with no sales tax.
  2. This is a subjective matter. Some of us are geeks and need the latest and greatest. Others, especially on a retirement budget need the basics.

I have added some new items and subtracted some others. As always I encourage your feedback.

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 priced 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 . I have since sold the iPad and  my tablet of choice is an 8 inch Fire Tablet from Amazon priced at $59

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 *** I have sold the Apple TV since I find the Roku and Amazon TV take care of all my needs ***
  • 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 ) wirelessly  to your TV. Important note ***. To fully utilize these services you need to purchase a  IP address Blocker so you can connect to these services from Ecuador.  .

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 second  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 second 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
  • IP Blocker   – I use Block US for about $60 per year
  • Skype subscription – Free Video Calls to other Skype users.
  • MagicJack – Practically free phone calls to any cell or landline in the U.S.
  • Wifi Extender – Invaluable for folks living in a house made of Adobe Walls or condo dwellers 30 or more feet from wifi router.

Amazon Echo, Dot or the Google Home Smart Speaker

These gadgets are cloud based devices that will be the next paradigm shift. The Amazon platform has a two year head start. But,essentially both devices accomplish the same goals.

I installed the Echo in the living room next to the T.V. The Echo will pick up our voices from the living room, hall, kitchen, dining room and sun room. So far we have used the Echo to:

  • listen to our (separate) Amazon Prime Music collections
  • Kitchen timers
  • News Updates from local and International sources
  • Calendar and todo lists
  • Manage our Capital One Account including making payments
  • Listen to Podcasts
  • Movia Trivia
  • Control the lights in our house.

The Dot which is the smaller and less expensive version of the Echo is paired with a bluetooth Speaker and is upstairs in Sharon’s Office. She mainly uses the Dot to listen to her music but she likes the “Good Morning Command” which is has an interesting fact of a synopsis of some famous person’s life usually when it is their birthday.

Ok, do you need all these devices. Of course not. But, I think these devices make life much more enjoyable in Ecuador.

My three favorite devices are:

  • Google Nexus Smartphone
  • Amazon Dot
  • Roku Streaming Device

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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  🙂

 

streaming_media_boxes_-_Google_Search Phablet_-_Google_Search ipad_-_Google_Search

Buying Electronics In Ecuador

It’s a fact Electronics (Computers, Smartphones, Tablets, TV’s etc) cost more in Ecuador. Why? Because Ecuador imposes a tariff on all the electronics shipped into the country and secondly there is no significant manufacturer native to Ecuador.

The 42 inch Samsung HDTV I purchased 2.5 years ago at $800 was selling in the US. for $625.  The same holds true for new MacBooks, iPhones and Tablets.  I purchased the TV because I had no alternative short of waiting to try and share some space on a incoming container. But, my family had the desire to watch TV and the resources to pay the extra sum of money.

Of course my suggestion is to bring as much as you can afford on your incoming flight. Realizing that you have limits on computers (1 new and 1 used per family) the same for iPhones. The other suggestion is once you’re here to find someone who is traveling back to North America and have them bring the electronics in for you with the caveat that you will return the favor.

Do your homework when seeing an ad in the local paper or Gringo Tree/Gringo Post.  For example today someone had this ad running in Gringo Post.

2013 Acer Aspire One AO722-0825 11.6-Inch netbook (Black). Windows 7 and Windows Office and virus protection software. Very light (3 lbs.). One year old laptop. AMD c series dual core c 60 Processor 1GHz (1MB Cache) 4 GB SDRAM. 320 GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive. 11.6 inch screen, AMD Radeon HD 6290 Graphics. 7 hours battery life. Built-in video camera and speakers. Great for Skype. Works great. No dents or scratches. Comes with sleeve/cover and AC adapter. Dimensions 11.22L” x 7.91W” x 1H”. Will sell for $445 cash or best offer I receive.

Looking in Amazon.com I found the same unit.

Acer Aspire One AO722-0825 11.6-Inch Netbook  for $210

Should expats charge more for the reselling of their electronics. The answer is not that simple. If you need something badly then you probably are going to pay a premium.  Do your homework. Google the item and then negotiate.

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 5)

My wife and I have lived in Cuenca for 2.5 years and my thoughts have changed considerably since I first suggested what Electronics to bring to Ecuador when you permanently make the move.  Feel free to check the past posts. The most recent (Part 4) being here

I’m going to assume that the majority of readers will not be bringing a container and will use their available suitcases. In the next couple of paragraphs I’m going to surprise some readers and friends with my new recommendations.

You Don’t Need A Computer

It’s not a typo. if you are not doing proprietary work (i.e. video editing, accounting, database work, programming) then the latest tablet with a bluetooth keyboard will suit you fine.  Although my preference because of my Apple background and equipment would be an iPad Air or an iPad Mini, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy and they are considerably cheaper than the iPad.  The iPad does have the advantage with the 1 Billion strong app store but I know several people in Ecuador that are very happy with their Nexus 7.

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You Don’t Need A Printer

Most expats are retired. they are not working for a living anymore. Printers are bulky to bring and they are more expensive to buy in Ecuador. Initially we brought our Laser Printer with us when we first moved.  The paper jammed and I can’t find anybody that knows laser printers to repair the machine. For the past 6 months I have put anything I needed to print on a thumb drive and walk two blocks to a local copy shop and they print my documents in color or black and white.

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You Need A Smarthphone

The<$100 cell phones that you buy in Ecuador have inferior reception and transmission. I can always tell when I’m not speaking to someone on a Smartphone when there voice cuts out 3-5 times during a minute conversation. The benefits of a smartphone are numerous.

  • email availabiliy
  • Skype/MagicJack  ready
  • Spanish/English Translation
  • Web Access
  • GPS Map Apps
  • Great Camera

If you can afford an iPhone then you can’t go wrong. However, for what you would pay for 1 unlocked iPhone 5S you can buy 2 Nexus 5 phones. Data plans are about $35 per month. Half of what they are in the U.S. and you don’t get charged for incoming calls.

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You Need A VPN Router

For those people who want to have a seamless experience with their computer, tablets , Apple TV, Smartphone, or Roku Box then this is the easiest way to go. Yes, you can individually connect your devices via software to a VPN service (i.e. Strong, Witopia, HMA etc) but you can’t connect an Apple TV or Roku box any other way but through a VPN router. A Roku Box won’t work at all unless the device sees you with a U.S. IP address. I  extensively cover the benefits of a VPN router in this post

You Don’t Need A Point And Shoot Camera

Although I do own a Canon DSLR camera most of my shots are snapped on my iPhone. I have my iPhone all the time. I never miss a shot and I don’t have to lug a bulky camera kit with lenses around with me. I initially brought a Samsung point and shoot and now I don’t use it all. The iphone shots are great and you can also shoot video. The same can be said for the Samsung Galaxy and new Nexus 5 smartphones.

You May Need A Wifi Extender

We live in a 40 year old 2 story adobe house and need a wifi extender for the signal to reach from my office(router and modem location) to the second floor bedroom 40 ft away.  Wifi signals cap out at about 30 ft and don’t do well going through concrete floors or walls.

You Need A Roku Box

The Roku 3 Media Box is a little larger than a hockey puck. There are over 300 channels you can receive (with a VPN router). Netflix, Amazon Prime, NBC News, PBS, CBS News are just a few of the channels we can receive. If you have an investment in Apple equipment I also suggest you purchase and Apple TV for the Airplay facility as well as having access to the Itunes Store.

I look forward to your comments, and suggestions. There is no strict list of what you should bring. These items work well for my family. Your mileage may vary.  I’m available via Skype (at $20 per hour) to anyone who is considering moving down to Ecuador. During that hour I can suggest brands, vendors and installers that will save you hundreds of dollars and share with you mistakes that I made choosing the wrong equipment and ISP.

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What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 4)

Now that I’ve lived in Cuenca, Ecuador for 26  months and have experienced some of the opportunities and limitation of  High Tech I thought I would update my list. These are just my recommendations based on my needs and prejudices.  Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that I worked for Apple.  There are great windows machines out there but the windows operating system is too vulnerable to bloatware, malware, viruses and Windows 8 is an admitted failure.

Computers:  I highly recommend coming down with a notebook computer. The latest engines on the notebooks make them as or more powerful than desktops and you have the added advantage of mobility.  My wife has a MacBook Air and I have the MacBook Pro with Retina screen.

Tablets: No surprise that I would recommend the iPad or iPad Mini.  Again the recommendation comes from the >700,000 apps that are available in the App store. We also have an active iPad Users Group that meets twice a month on Thursdays. Samsung, Asus, Acer and Amazon manufacture excellent tablets but the key is the number of free and paid available apps. Plus the Kindle Fire has a some difficulty receiving Amazon Prime media without a VPN. If you’re purchasing an iPad make sure you pick up a bluetooth keyboard.  Except for photo editing and video editing I think the iPad replaces a computer. There are some decent Android Tablets but again it’s the Itunes App Store that makes the difference

Printers: What worked for me was bring down my Brother Wireless Laser Printer from Oregon.  The cost was $90 and the printer works all over the house and prints from the two notebook computers and the iPad.  I know that several expats have purchased ink jet printers but I have heard several complaints about the quality of ink in Cuenca. I’m seriously leaning towards a recommendation of not bringing a printer.  In the last 5 months I have used my printer 3 times.  Might be easier and cheaper to print at a local Internet cabina or copy place.

Phones: Duh, again no surprise that I have an iPhone 4s.  I purchased the phone from Claro for $480 and my plan runs about $55 per month. Samsung’s Galaxy is a great rival to the iPhone and I have several Cuencano friends who really like that phone. If you’re not in the market for a smartphone I would still bring an unlocked phone from the U.S. In addition to the iPhone I have purchased a used Motorola Razr for $30 in Oregon and brought that with me.  The cheap phones ($30 – 60) in Cuenca have terrible reception.

Camera: Digital cameras are super cheap in the United States.  I have two cameras in Cuenca.  I have a Samsung ultra compact that I purchased in Costco for $130 two years ago . I take 80% of my photos with that camera. Why?  Good to Very good results and it doesn’t draw attention in the middle of a busy street.  The other camera is a Canon T4i (looks expensive) DSLR.  I only use this camera when I am with another person or I am on a trip with a lot of other people.  I just think it’s good street smarts not to draw attention to yourself and your vunerable when changing lenses.  Another advantage to the iPhone 4s is that if you’re not an experienced photographer then the iPhone takes exceptional photos and video.

Hard Drives: They are smaller and super cheap.  If you’re shooting HD video then it’s a must to have one.  I just purchased a 1 TB Seagate Drive for $79.  Higher densities are available at similar prices.

Wi Fi Extender: An absolute must purchase if your apartment/ house is on two levels or you need to obtain a Wifi signal that is more than 30 ft from your router. I purchased the Diamon Wifi extender for $70 on my last trip to Oregon.

TV & Blu-Ray Players: I purchased both of these in Cuenca.  I purchased a 40 inch Samsung 1080p HDTV and paid a 30% premium. The LG Blu-Ray player only cost my $15 more than a similar one in the U.S.  If you have the opportunity to share a container and bring a big screen TV –  Do It!

Apple TV:  OK, The last Apple Product I will recommend on this list. However, this is a must have device if you want to watch Netflix, Free Podcasts from Network TV or subscribe to the NBA, NHL or MLB subscriptions and display them on your big screen TV.  The hockey puck sized hardware is $99 and requires an HDMI cable. There are alternatives such as Google TV and RoKu but I am not familiar enough with these devices to recommend them.

Slingbox: If you have a source for good American/Canadian TV programming in North America then you should consider bringing a SlingBox.  This device attaches to your your TV and you can view the same programming on your TV in Ecuador.  The source is usually a friend or relative in North America that has a Slingbox attached to their TV.

Magic Jack/Plus: This is a device that is sold in North America.  It is similar to Skype in that it uses the Internet to make and receive calls. Magic Jack is only voice but the advantage is that you can make and receive unlimited calls to cell/land lines for about $39 per year.  Less if you purchase a multi -year contract.

Miscellaneous: Cables, SD Cards, Surge Protectors etc. Bring them . A 4 ft HDMI cable (connection from your device to a HDTV) cost $18 compared to about $6 in the U.S.  The same is true of of memory cards and surge protectors.

I welcome discussion and suggestions on this topic.  Yes, I said in the beginning that I have a prejudice for Apple products and yes these products are more expensive. For me the Apple products work.

**** New Addition****.

Subscriptions:

 I highly recommend for anyone interested in viewing  Movies,  Present and Past TV Series to purchase a Netfilx, and Amazon Prime subscription. The Netflix subscriptions  is $7.99 per month and the Amazon Prime Subscription is about $70 per year. They each supply a vast amount of movies and TV programs to stream.

VPN subscription  – About $80 per year – allows you to view programs that are blocked in Ecuador. 

VPN router – To be seamlessly connected via your browser as a Non Ecuadorian Connection.  More on your choices in a future upcoming post.

ipad mba MagicJack USB Drive SAM_6147

What Electronics Should You Bring To Ecuador (Part 3)

Now that I’ve lived in Cuenca, Ecuador for 19 months and have experienced some of the opportunities and limitation of  High Tech I thought I would revise my list. These are just my recommendations based on my needs and prejudices.  Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that I worked for Apple.  There are great windows machines out there but the windows operating system is too vulnerable to bloatware, malware and viruses.

Computers:  Initially I came down with a desktop and a notebook computer. I’ve since sold the desktop. I highly recommend coming down with a notebook computer. The latest engines on the notebooks make them as or more powerful than desktops and you have the added advantage of mobility.  My wife has a MacBook Air and I have the MacBook Pro with Retina screen.

Tablets: No surprise that I would recommend the iPad or iPad Mini.  Again the recommendation comes from the >700,000 apps that are available in the App store. We also have an active iPad Users Group that meets twice a month on Thursdays. Samsung, Asus, Acer and Amazon manufacture excellent tablets but the key is the number of free and paid available apps. Plus the Kindle Fire has a some difficulty receiving Amazon Prime media without a VPN. If you’re purchasing an iPad make sure you pick up a bluetooth keyboard.  Except for photo editing and video editing I think the iPad replaces a computer.

Printers: What worked for me was bring down my Brother Wireless Laser Printer from Oregon.  The cost was $90 and the printer works all over the house and prints from the two notebook computers and the iPad.  I know that several expats have purchased ink jet printers but I have heard several complaints about the quality of ink in Cuenca.

Phones: Duh, again no surprise that I have an iPhone 4s.  I purchased the phone from Claro for $480 and my plan runs about $55 per month. Samsung’s Galaxy is a great rival to the iPhone and I have several Cuencano friends who really like that phone. If you’re not in the market for a smartphone I would still bring an unlocked phone from the U.S. In addition to the iPhone I have purchased a used Motorola Razr for $30 in Oregon and brought that with me.  The cheap phones ($30 – 60) in Cuenca have terrible reception.

Camera: Digital cameras are super cheap in the United States.  I have two cameras in Cuenca.  I have a Samsung ultra compact that I purchased in Costco for $130 two years ago . I take 80% of my photos with that camera. Why?  Good to Very good results and it doesn’t draw attention in the middle of a busy street.  The other camera is a Canon T4i (looks expensive) DSLR.  I only use this camera when I am with another person or I am on a trip with a lot of other people.  I just think it’s good street smarts not to draw attention to yourself and your vunerable when changing lenses.  Another advantage to the iPhone 4s is that if you’re not an experienced photographer then the iPhone takes exceptional photos and video.

Hard Drives: They are smaller and super cheap.  If you’re shooting HD video then it’s a must to have one.  I just purchased a 1 TB Seagate Drive for $79.  Higher densities are available at similar prices.

Wi Fi Extender: An absolute must purchase if your apartment/ house is on two levels or you need to obtain a Wifi signal that is more than 30 ft from your router. I purchased the Diamon Wifi extender for $70 on my last trip to Oregon.

TV & Blu-Ray Players: I purchased both of these in Cuenca.  I purchased a 40 inch Samsung 1080p HDTV and paid a 30% premium. The LG Blu-Ray player only cost my $15 more than a similar one in the U.S.  If you have the opportunity to share a container and bring a big screen TV –  Do It!

Apple TV:  OK, The last Apple Product I will recommend on this list. However, this is a must have device if you want to watch Netflix, Free Podcasts from Network TV or subscribe to the NBA, NHL or MLB subscriptions and display them on your big screen TV.  The hockey puck sized hardware is $99 and requires an HDMI cable. There are alternatives such as Google TV and RoKu but I am not familiar enough with these devices to recommend them.

Slingbox: If you have a source for good American/Canadian TV programming in North America then you should consider bringing a SlingBox.  This device attaches to your your TV and you can view the same programming on your TV in Ecuador.  The source is usually a friend or relative in North America that has a Slingbox attached to their TV.

Magic Jack/Plus: This is a device that is sold in North America.  It is similar to Skype in that it uses the Internet to make and receive calls. Magic Jack is only voice but the advantage is that you can make and receive unlimited calls to cell/land lines for about $39 per year.  Less if you purchase a multi -year contract.

Miscellaneous: Cables, SD Cards, Surge Protectors etc. Bring them . A 4 ft HDMI cable (connection from your device to a HDTV) cost $18 compared to about $6 in the U.S.  The same is true of of memory cards and surge protectors.

I welcome discussion and suggestions on this topic.  Yes, I said in the beginning that I have a prejudice for Apple products and yes these products are more expensive. For me the Apple products work.

ipad mba

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