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Tiny but mighty Titan phone offers hints of BlackBerry

by JOY SCHWABACH | June 12, 2021 at 1:58 a.m.

If I were buying a cellphone today, I might get the new Titan Pocket because of its BlackBerry-style keyboard.

Remember the old BlackBerry phone? Its physical keyboard was much-loved. Then the iPhone swooped in with a gazillion apps, temporarily crashing the networks, which weren't prepared for the onslaught. Google, which had been working on a clone of the BlackBerry system, switched to an iPhone clone so it also could offer apps.

Now you can have the best of both worlds: a physical keyboard and as many apps as your phone can hold. In the case of the Titan Pocket, what you sacrifice is screen size. Its square screen is only 3.1 inches, which may be too small for people who like to play games. Otherwise, this phone from Unihertz has all the bells and whistles one could wish for, including Android 11, a fingerprint reader that doubles as a home button, an 8-megapixel front camera, a 16-megapixel back camera, expandable memory, two SIM cards, an infrared blaster for controlling other devices and near-total customization.

You can use the keyboard as a scroll wheel. You can dedicate a key as a shortcut. For instance, you might want to get a flashlight whenever you long press the power button. Or you might want to double-tap it to get Google Assistant. Or assign a single letter such as "M" to take you right to Google Maps.

The phone is rugged. You can drop it without breaking anything. It doesn't need a case. Its battery is 4000 milliamp/hours, which should last for days. It compares favorably with the 3000 mAh battery in my Pixel 3a, though it's not as good as the Motorola moto g power, which has a 5000 mAh battery.

Unihertz raised the $50,000 it needed for the launch of the new phone in the first seven minutes on Kickstarter.com. It went on to raise more than $700,000. You can preorder it for $219, with delivery in September.

BLUE LIGHT FILTER

Recently, I mentioned that blue light filters don't offer any benefits for your eyes, according to ophthalmologists. A reader begs to differ: "It is difficult for me to go against ophthalmologists," he writes. "But when I do not use my blue-light glasses bought off the shelf at Dillard's, I have a more difficult time going to sleep."

It turns out he's right on that. Though most of our blue light exposure comes from the sun during bright daylight, as opposed to the reddish tones of sunset, our gadgets do give off blue light. Though pooh-poohing blue light filters on glasses, ophthalmologists agree that too much of it at night can interfere with sleep. If you look up "what is blue light and how does it affect our eyes," you'll find an article on healthline.com with tips for limiting exposure. It suggests using the "night shift" setting on your computer. In Windows 10, type "night light" into the search box in the lower left corner of your screen. On a Mac, click the Apple menu, choose "System Preferences," then "Displays," and "Night Shift." You can also find a night shift or night light setting on your phone. Tap "Settings" then look for "Display."

GETTING A BETTER DISPLAY

You may have heard that graphics card prices went through the roof as bitcoin mining took off. But the good news is, they're not expensive for less-demanding chores.

A retired mechanic wrote to describe why he decided to swap out the graphics card he was using in his Windows desktop. His first clue was the funny noise he heard on startup, which sounded like the card's cooling fan was ratcheting on something. His second clue was an incomplete picture on some websites. For example, on the National Weather Service site, the basic map was there, but the overlay showing precipitation was no longer available.

Fortunately, after installing a Zotac GeForce GT 1030, available from Amazon, he no longer experiences those problems. What's more, the new card turned out to have benefits beyond the fix.

He tested it by running Microsoft's Flight Simulator X, his most graphics-intense program, noticing a significant improvement immediately. "Now, the graphics are so much faster, the images change almost instantaneously," he said. It's a big improvement over the jerkiness he experienced with the old card, even when it was still new. After getting the Zotac, he changed a setting in his flight simulator to make the scenery as realistic as possible. The more complex the scenery is, the more graphics power you need.

"The whole job probably took less than half an hour, and seemed to be pretty much idiot-proof," he said. But if you've never installed a graphics card before, he suggests looking up a how-to video on YouTube first.

SHOE TIPS FOR THE BLIND

New devices that fit on each end of a pair of shoes emit a signal that will warn the visually impaired before they run into objects. They're called InnoMake.

The user gets a vibration on the foot or a warning from their smartphone when an object is 13 feet away or less. That's much more advance notice than they can get with a cane.

The chief executive officer, who has been dealing with a 96%-loss-of-vision since birth, says these gadgets make it easy to get around in unfamiliar surroundings without a cane. They're $4,600 from tec-innovation.com.

Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at joy.schwabach@gmail.com.

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