Question: I have an aunt in a nursing home. I wanted to ask whether you might have any suggestions for devices I could use to set up a video call with. My aunt is limited to her bed most of the time and has difficulty answering the phone. So what I am looking for is some sort of system that can be turned on remotely, or left on until we phone her, as she might not even be able to turn on the button on her phone.
Is there any system I could set up like a screen or a phone and that will automatically answer? Then she might talk back when she heard us calling. Is there any way of using existing methods like a tablet?
The main thing is that as my relations and myself are unable to visit her in the nursing home, it would be great to be able to see her.
- Declan Ward, via email
There are two ways you could approach this. The first is quick and easy if your aunt has an iPhone or iPad, or you can spare her one.
Most people don't know that iPhones and iPads can be set to auto-answer without anyone having to touch or swipe them. To do this, go into 'Settings'. Then go into 'Accessibility'. Then choose 'Touch' and then 'Call Audio Routing'. You'll now see a setting that says 'Auto-Answer Calls'. If you switch this on, your iPhone or iPad will automatically answer a call after a few seconds. And it works for FaceTime video calls, too. (Obviously, the device has to be on and connected to Wi-Fi at the time.)
There are a couple of alternative video-calling systems that can be controlled by voice, rather than touching a button. In particular, Amazon's Echo Show and Google's Nest Hub devices can make and receive simple video calls when set up, just by saying the words "Alexa, call Mary" (on the Amazon device) or "video call Mary on Duo" on the Google device.
To answer a video call, it's a similar routine. On Amazon's Echo Show, you just say "answer", whereas on Google's device you say "okay Google, answer the call".
Of course, these smart devices can be used for a lot more than this - they're handy for music, radio and news, in particular.
But for these systems, a consideration here might be the nursing home's policies. If your aunt has her own room, there probably won't be an issue.
It might be very different for someone who didn't have their own room, say in a hospital. Nurses and managers may not want a smart device that can accidentally be triggered in normal speech by someone else. (There may sadly also be objections based on conspiracy theories of the devices listening when they shouldn't, but that's not a debate you'll win quickly if a manager sets his or her mind to it.)
Question: I am looking to purchase my first tablet and would appreciate your advice on what might be best to suit my needs. I have an iPhone 8 and a non-smart TV. I want a tablet for a mix of web browsing (when I do not want to take out my laptop) as I find my phone screen too small.
I was thinking of getting an Android model as I can then watch movies via Chromecast on to my TV, and Android has more options for free streaming than Apple, if I am correct? I would like as good a specification as possible but the maximum I want to pay is €250. What would you recommend?
- Jane Collins, via email
For someone who's used to an iPhone, an iPad is easily the best option for a browsing device that you can pick up and use comfortably, including movies on to your non-smart telly. Unfortunately, they start at €399 new, although you can get guaranteed refurbished models for between €200 and €300 from a variety of online shops and they're generally good - iPads have a long life.
If it's Android, the pick on that budget is probably Samsung's Galaxy 10-inch Tab A (€229 from PC World or Currys online). Huawei's 10-inch T5 Mediapad (€189 from Harvey Norman online) would also be okay, as would Amazon's Fire (€189 from Currys.ie). You'll find a handful of 8-inch tablets that are a little cheaper, but those devices aren't much bigger than the phones in our hands.
In terms of specific uses, like using a Chromecast, there isn't that much difference between using an iPad and an Android tablet. For instance, in my house the main television isn't a smart one so I use an iPad and a Chromecast dongle to get Amazon Prime Video and other film app channels like Mubi. It works absolutely fine.
And no, Android tablets don't have more free streaming options than iPads.
Recommendation: Samsung Tab A (€229 from PC World / Currys online)
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