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Bloom: A Different Kind of Productivity App for the iPhone

Bloom: A Different Kind of Productivity App for the iPhone
    Photo courtesy of Mindbloom

    Seattle-based Mindbloom has made waves with its digital inspiration and productivity web app, adding a gamification element to the niche that was both unique in approach and in accessibility. Now they’ve added a standalone app to its arsenal with Bloom, a free app that gives users a real kickstart in doing what really matters in everyday life. It offers a fun and simple way to transform photos and music into a private or shared digital inspiration. Bloom brings what’s really important in life to the forefront, enabling users to connect better with their lives as a whole as opposed to just their to-do lists. I’ve had a chance to play with the app while it was in testing, and the Mindbloom team definitely are onto something with Bloom.

    The digital inspirations that are the foundation of the app are called (fittingly) Blooms, and the app comes pre-loaded with several of them. You can set reminders that will notify you when it’s time to “Bloom” them – and those reminders can be randomized or set for particular dates and times. You can associate different images from your iPhone with each Bloom, and do the same with music from your iTunes library. Each Bloom comes with imagery attached already, so you can choose to go with those defaults or pick photos from your own library that fit the Bloom best. As for musical selections for Blooms, each one comes with a preview of a suggested iTunes song (and offers a download link so you can grab it straight away), or you can go with your own song if you want.

      The "Edit Bloom" Screen

      Blooms can also be shared socially via your Facebook and Twitter accounts, or can be sent to friends and family via email. Once shared, Blooms can be saved in the Bloom app, played, or be used as the starting point for a new, personalized Bloom. Here’s an example of how I’ve used varying privacy settings with Blooms:

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      1. I sent a private Bloom to my wife to be sure that we share a hug every day.
      2. I have prepared a share group-only Bloom with fellow NaNoWriMo writers on “staying the course”.
      3. I’ve got a public Bloom that ready to be “socially shared” (Facebook and Twitter followers) that suggest they give Bloom a look as soon as they can download it.

      Bloom notifications are one of the things I really took advantage of during my testing of the app. It reminded me to reflect, take a break, or trigger an action that kept me focused on what mattered to me most. I’ve never been really good at keeping up with water intake, but Bloom has allowed me to do this.

      I’d never enter something like “Drink water” into my task management app of choice, but since I don’t look at Bloom in that manner, I’m able to do it here. What I consider Bloom to be is a life enhancement app, a companion piece that I can use (along with Mindbloom) to keep augment mindfulness while I let my task manager handle all of the other stuff. It’s part of my combined system, and it works well for me because each component does what it does better than the others.

      But why should you grab Bloom? And more importantly, why should you use it – or Mindbloom, for that matter?

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      Unlike any productivity-type application I’ve seen, Mindbloom basically makes achieving what might be usually considered an ordinary thing quite an extraordinary digital experience.

      Parks Associates, an industry research firm, is studying a growing demand for health entertainment and lead analyst, Harry Wang believes Mindbloom can be just as entertaining as it is beneficial.

      “Many health and wellness applications often take a prescriptive approach when designing the user experience. But we’ve seen that people tend to become less engaged with these types of applications over time,” said Mr. Wang.  “Mindbloom takes a more personal approach, entertaining even, which makes the overall experience more inviting, relevant and rewarding.”

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      I had the opportunity to speak with Mindbloom founder Chris Hewett when Mindbloom first launched and just days before Bloom was scheduled to go public. What I discovered is that he is among those who are developing a new generation of productivity/task management apps that “gets it”.

      It brings to mind this quote, which, much like Steve Jobs, I’ve been a fan of:

      “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzky

      Hewett and his team are doing just that with the Mindbloom web app – and now, with Bloom on the iPhone.

        The "Reminder Prompt" Screen

        “Everyday, more than 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook, Instagram recently celebrated 150 million photos being shared and iTunes recently surpassed 16 billion song downloads,” said Hewett, a former executive producer for Monolith Productions who developed blockbuster hits such as No One Lives Forever, Tron 2.0, and F.E.A.R. ”Photos and music are a powerful way to express ourselves and to share experiences, but we believe there’s an untapped opportunity to use photos, music and inspiring words to remind ourselves and express to others what matters most to us and what we’re doing about it.”

        As mentioned, Bloom can act as a standalone app, or can work in conjunction with the Mindbloom web app through the recently launched free-to-play “life game”, which serves to inspire people to define what’s important, discover what motivates them, and take meaningful daily actions in all areas of their life. Users can connect Bloom with their Mindbloom life game, where it builds on these goals by focusing on the science behind behavioral change – integrating technology, art, and human psychology to make personal growth more effective on-the-go.

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        Bloom is now available as a free download in the iTunes App Store .  I recommend you give it a look – it’s not your ordinary productivity and lifestyle app.

        In fact, it’s quite extraordinary.

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        Mike Vardy

        A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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        Published on September 25, 2020

        10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

        10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

        When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

        VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

        How to Choose a VPN

        • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
        • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
        • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
        • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
        • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

        Why You Should Trust Us

        Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

        Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

        1. NordVPN

        The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

        Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

        NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

        In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

        NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

        Buy this VPN.

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        2. ExpressVPN

        ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

        Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

        Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

        Buy this VPN.

        3. Surf Shark

        With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

        Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

        The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

        Buy this VPN.

        4. CyberGhost

        Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

        The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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        What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

        Buy this VPN.

        5. IPVanish

        IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

        IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

        Buy this VPN.

        6. Private Internet Access

        Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

        One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

        In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

        These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

        Buy this VPN.

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        7. Hotspot Shield

        Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

        Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

        Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

        Buy this VPN.

        8. TunnelBear

        As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

        The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

        Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

        Buy this VPN.

        9. Norton

        Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

        As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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        Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

        Buy this VPN.

        10. StrongVPN

        The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

        StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

        As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

        Buy this VPN.

        Bottom Line

        Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

        With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

        We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

        Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

        Reference

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