Affordable smartphones, sending texts, getting faster

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By Kim Komando

Cheaper smartphones

Q: I don’t have $1,000 to spend on a new phone. What can I get for around $300 to $500?

A: Phones are a lot like bottles of wine. You don’t have to sacrifice your budget to get a good one. A $1,000 iPhone or an $800 Pixel 3 may be glamorous, but you can fall in love with a smartphone that costs a whole lot less.

I researched some budget beauties that come in under $400. These hard-working gadgets still deliver pleasing photos, eye-catching displays, and excellent performance, but they won’t stress out your wallet. The Google Pixel 3a, Motorola Moto G7, Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Apple iPhone 7 are just a few of the more affordable alternatives to a brand new phone discussed at

Text from a PC or Mac

Q: So many of my friends use texting to communicate that I can’t keep up. Is there an easier way to send text messages from my desktop?

A: If you own an iPhone, you may not even realize the full power of iMessage: You can instantly send a message — along with photos, video, and web links — to any other phone, anywhere in the world — from your desktop or laptop.

You could also use an app like Google Hangouts or WhatsApp, which operates through Facebook. Another option is a service like Pushbullet, and, even wilder, some phone carriers let you send text messages through their websites.

Making ringtones

Q: Is it possible to make your own ringtone? I want to know it’s my phone ringing and not a co-worker’s phone.

A: The short answer is yes, you can make a custom ringtone. This makes perfect sense, since the ringtone file is so small, and sound manipulation is straightforward in a digital setting. But most of us don’t customize our own; maybe it’s because many people don’t use ringtones, preferring to let the phone vibrate to announce an incoming call. Still, making your own ringtone is a really fun and creative idea, and you’re right about distinguishing your phone from all others. There’s a free program available at:

Pair Bluetooth

Q: Sometimes my phone pairs but frequently not. How can I fix the Bluetooth, so it always works?

A: Bluetooth is definitely its own animal. Unlike Wi-Fi and cell phone data, Bluetooth has a comparatively weak signal, and its connectivity can be a little unpredictable. Don’t get me wrong, Bluetooth is very effective, and most compatible devices will work on the first try.

But there are a lot of things that could go wrong: You may forget to activate Bluetooth on both devices, or you may not have updated to the latest software. Incredibly, something as simple as a garage door opener could interfere with your Bluetooth signal.

To troubleshoot your Bluetooth problems, there are many helpful techniques.

Here’s a few from 1. Make sure your devices are Bluetooth compatible with each other; 2. Check the manufacturer websites for potential patches; 3. Make sure both devices have a good charge; 4. Get away from potential sources of interference; 5. Check for updated drivers and firmware; 6. Make sure both devices are close together; 7. Get away from other sources of interference, like USB ports; 8. Clear stored settings on your device(s); 9. Delete the device you’re trying to pair and restart discovery.

Accelerate Windows

Q: My Windows PC is so slow. I cannot afford a new one. How can I speed the old gray mare up?

A: Windows-based computers have always been versatile, but they are also infamous for slowing down over time. Usually, this is due to cluttered files and forgotten background tasks that eat up your memory.

You can probably dig into your hard drive and manually remove programs that you know you’ll never use. But you also run the risk of illuminating files that seem useless but are required for your computer to run. What you need is a separate program, preferably free, that can analyze your computer and recommend files and programs that are ripe for deletion.

Luckily, it exists, and its name is UninstallView. And it doesn’t cost you anything.

For information on Kim Komando on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks, visit her at

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