How Home Inspectors can “Get Your Infrared On” with the Tap Inspect app

One of the more common questions we get from home inspectors is how to get infrared photos into a Tap Inspect report. The short answer is: Once you infrared image is on your device’s camera roll, you insert it just like any other photo. The next question is usually: How do you get them onto your camera roll?

When we started Tap Inspect, a home inspector’s only choice was to manually copy the photos. Since then it has gotten to be a no brainer.  Now, it all depends on how old your equipment is and how much trouble you are willing to put up with.

Take a picture of the the camera with your device

This is the easiest, quickest method and seems to work for most people. Just hold your thermal camera up and take a photo of the screen with the object in the background (Just like the image above). While you do not get the resolution or the detail of the actual home inspection photo, it does do a good job helping make the point you are trying to make and does it quickly.

Use the FLIR One for iOS

The Flir One is an accessory that plugs into the lightning port on your iPhone or iPad. For about $250 you get a a FLIR camera, software and you get the images right on your device. Go to FLIR and reserve one. They seem to be going fast.

Upgrade to a Wifi or Bluetooth device

If you are a heavy FLIR user, use lots of thermal images, and need the full resolution you will likely want something like the FLIR E Series.  These connect wirelessly to your mobile device and transfer the images for you. The will set you back several thousand but if thermal imaging is your read and butter its just a cost of doing business as a home inspector.

Manually copy images onto your device

If you have an older infrared camera, a lower end camera, and are unwilling to update to newer technology this may be your best choice. Take out the SD card and use a camera connector kit to copy the images from the SD card to your device. If you have a Micro SD card in your thermal camera, you may need one of these micro to SD adapters too.

This is basically the same process you must follow if you want to copy photos from an older point and shoot digital camera to your iPhone or iPad. Its not pretty but it works if you are on a budget.


How I Unlocked My iPhone and Lived to Tell About It

Now that my 2 year contract is up I am thinking about what to do with my old iPhone once I get my next replacement. One of the biggest issues I need to address is unlocking it. An unlocked iPhone is worth more when selling it on the secondary market and also makes it possible to use it on a discount cellular carrier.

Before the US Congress passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act you typically had to find some way to hack your device to ‘Unlock’ it or to pay someone to do it for you. Not anymore. Every carrier, by law, offers a way to do it for free.

What does it mean when your iPhone is ‘locked’?

When I purchased my iPhone 5 in 2013 I signed a new 2 year contract with AT&T. As a frugal home inspector, that way I would get the new handset for $199 instead of paying full price.

AT&T was happy because I would need to pay a little more in each of the 24 months and there would be a penalty if I broke the contract. That would more than make up for the big discount they gave me when I bought it. I was happy because I was certain I would stay with AT&T and did not have to pay full price.

That was all fine and good but AT&T does not trust me. They ‘lock’ my iPhone to only use AT&T for cellular and LTE service. If I was to quit paying my monthly bill and try to use a discount GSM provider my iPhone would not be able to connect to it. It would be ‘locked’ into only using AT&T or using nothing at all.

How can home inspectors go about unlocking your iPhone?

Just because you have completed a 2 year contract your iPhone does not get automatically unlocked. You have to ask AT&T to unlock it for you. The process was amazingly simple and also FREE.

The first step was to go to this page and fill out the request. You will need a few pieces of information such as the IMEI number of your device and possibly the last four digits of the account holder’s SSN. Since my iPhone was on a business account I needed to use this page. Once I filled out the info I waited.

In less than 48 hours I received an email with the title AT&T Device Unlock Request – Complete. In the body of the email was a link to the step by step instructions how to complete the unlock procedure.

The second step of the process was to plug my iPhone into iTunes on my computer and do a Factory Restore. Just to make sure, I backed up my iPhone with iTunes to my local computer so I could restore all my apps and settings once the Factory Restore was complete. Once that was complete I started the Factory Restore. This downloaded new firmware from Apple and once it was installed iTunes told me my iPhone was now Unlocked. Success !!

Once I restored the backup I just did, my iPhone was exactly like it was before except it was now ‘Unlocked’. My iPhone 5 was now free to change carriers and just increased in value.

So what exactly happens when you unlock an iPhone?

At the simplest level, when you ask AT&T to unlock your iPhone, they tell Apple to ‘whitelist’ your specific device. Once that is done Apple can update the firmware on your iPhone with the ‘Unlocked’ version of the iPhone firmware that you install via iTunes.

You can now buy an ‘Unlocked’ iPhone from Apple and avoid all this but you will need to pay full price. I hope to cover that process in another post.

Is a 2 Year Cellular Contract Cheaper than Pay As You Go?

Hopefully you have been following this series of posts describing my journey of purchasing a new iPhone. As a home inspector, the iPhone is an invaluable tool, especially with the Tap Inspect app.

This time I want to focus on the cost of actually purchasing the hardware or as the cellular industry calls it, the handset. Traditionally there have been two ways to get your hands on a new handset. Sign a new 2 year contact or purchase the handset outright. The idea of purchasing the hardware outright is a fairly new option. The cost of the hardware was hidden inside the cost for monthly service over the 24 months of the contract.

It was not long ago that your only option for cellular service was to have a contract and the cost of the handset was minimal or even free. The only time anyone noticed the actual cost was if you lost it or your device broke. Then it was total sticker shock when you realized your flip phone or BlackBerry cost almost as much as a laptop computer.

The situation is different today. Every carrier offers a pay as you go service plan so there is no need to sign a 2 year cellular service contract if you do not want to. You can even hop from provider to provider chasing the best deals as long as your device is compatible with their network like I described here.

To make things even more complicated each carrier is now offering some type of early upgrade plan like AT&T Next and Verizon Edge. They seem to be moving more and more away from the 2 year contract and instead financing the handset with monthly installments.

So, home inspectors, what are the costs?

To determine the total costs we need to add the cost of the hardware to the cost of service. We will use a 16 Gb iPhone 6 and a plan that provides unlimited voice and text with 3 Gb of LTE data over the course of 24 months using AT&T. Verizon should be similar.

Option 1: 2 Year contact

Cost of handset: $199
Cost of Service: $1920
Total Cost: $2119

Option 2: Full purchase of hardware

Cost of handset: $649
Cost of Service: $1560
Total Cost: $2209

Option 3: AT&T Next Plan

Cost of handset: $649
Cost of Service: $1560
Total Cost: $2209

So, home inspectors, it looks like the best choice really depends on your future plans. Keep in mind that with options 1 and 3, your carrier will only give you a handset that is compatible with their network. You will not be able to take it from CDMA to GSM or vice versa.

You can save almost $100 over 2 years if you commit to a a 2 year contract. If you plan to stay with your carrier and want to upgrade your device as soon as possible when a new one comes out you would want to the AT&T Next plan or the Verizon Edge.

Since my plan was to stay with AT&T for at least the next 2 years but hand my device down and possibly use it on a different network option 2 works for me.

I will bring my own handset to AT&T that I purchase for full price from Apple and is CDMA and GSM compatible. The flexibility in the future is well worth and extra $100 over 2 years.

How Buying my Next iPhone Got Very Complicated

iphone-6It’s that time again for me. Time to get a new phone. Argh.

My iPhone 5 has served this home inspector well for the last two years but is now showing its age. The battery doesn’t seem to last as long and it has its share of dents and scrapes. This is not to say my iPhone is useless. It’s considered in ‘Good’ condition. I can get $80 by selling it to Gazelle but I am much more likely to hand it down to one of my kids.

Gazelle also offered to pay me $100 if my iPhone was unlocked. This got me asking some questions: “What is an unlocked phone and should I just buy one this time around?”, “Should I go with another 2 year contract or just pay full price for the phone?”

This seemed like a simple question but the answer has gotten more involved than I had ever thought. Keep in mind, I only was looking at getting a new iPhone. Over the course of the next few posts I will be sharing my journey and hopefully save you the heartache and headaches I went through.

My first step was to list what I needed from my new iPhone. Not just the hardware but also the services I needed as a home inspector.

Talk on the phone and also have Internet at the same time. There have been a number of times that I put someone on speaker and open another app or web browser so I can look something up at the same time. AT&T has this but Verizon does not.

I need a mobile hotspot or data tethering.  There are many times I need to connect my laptop to the internet while out in the field doing home inspections, especially to use the Tap Inspect home inspection app. Many smaller carriers like Cricket prohibit this so I need to stick with major carriers like AT&T or Verizon.

When I upgrade again I will sell or hand my old one down to one of my kids. It would be great if this phone would work on any carrier not just the one I got it from. At my daughter’s home, only Verizon seems to work and AT&T has no signal.

I have decided that I need AT&T service so I can talk and use Internet at the same time, use my mobile hotspot to connect my laptop and be able to switch to Verizon or another carrier when it is time to hand this phone down.

Sounds simple but boy was I wrong.

Next time: Why Won’t Your AT&T Phone Work on Verizon?

Stay tuned.

5 Ways Home Inspectors Can Protect their iPhone

Broken iPhoneThere’s nothing worse than working in the field as a home inspector, and cracking your phone screen or dropping it in water. Manufacturers are busy helping you find ways on how to protect your phone. And Tap Inspect will reveal to you just how far folks are going for their iPhones, iPads and other smart devices. Because hey, damages happen! Here are 5 extreme ways to protect your iPhones and other smart devices:

  1. Waterproof Casing: Believe it or not, there is an actual case for iPhones to protect them from any water damage and people are buying them like crazy. Retailers like LifeProof and OtterBox are offering waterproof iPhone cases for between $60.00 and $70.00. So for life’s fun moments in the pool, or harsh weather conditions in the field, a waterproof iPhone case may be the solution to all your water damage concerns.
  2. Screen Protectors: We here at Tap Inspect understand the demanding field of a home inspector. We understand moments where you may climb a ladder and drop your phone from high off the ground and shatter your screen. We’re also aware that merging your tools with your phone may result in a scratched up phone screen or even a cracked one. To avoid that, there are screen protectors that can be manually placed on your screen and purchased at any phone store, Apple Store or electronic retailer like Best Buy. They range in prices but aren’t too costly when it comes to protecting your iPhone!
  3. Bounce Casing: The ways to protect your iPhone is getting even more extreme with a case that actually bounces once it is dropped to avoid damage. Retailers, like Case-Mate, has wowed iPhone users with the bounce case. Although the idea of a bouncing iPhone seems strange, it is quite cool to know that once you drop your iPhone, it’s safe from harm. The corners of the “bounce cases” are bulkier than usual, which allows for it to bounce once it is dropped.
  4. Shatter-Proof Screen Protectors: You can hit your phone with a hammer after applying this particular screen protector…yes, a hammer! And regardless of the impact made by the hammer, your phone will not even get a scratch. Amzer, the known retailer for their ShatterPoof Screen Protectors, will cost anywhere between $50.00 and $70.00. This is not just a sceen protector to avoid scratches; shatter proof screen protectors will shield your iPhone from all damage made to its screen. The protectors are made from premium silicon adhesives. Now that’s extreme!
  5. Protective Casing: In addition to protecting your iPhone from water, cracks and shattered screens, you can also protect it from dust and particles, too. We do understand that and Inspectors job can get down and dirty! Purchasing a protective case will only cost you between $30.00 and $50.00 and can be bought from main phone store retailers or electronic stores. Brands like OtterBox can be found online or in local stores.

Let’s keep those iPhones safe while working hard! A damaged phone is no good to you in the field. Bite the bullet and pay a one-time price to avoid coming out of your pocket to pay a ton of money to replace your phone. Better safe than sorry!