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Nokia 8 Sirocco Review

HMD Global has a pretty interesting smartphone lineup for 2018. All of its mainstream and high-end offerings are part of Google’s Android One programme, which means you’re guaranteed to get regular security updates and major Android version updates for two years. This in itself is a big deal, considering how most Android smartphone manufacturers struggle to keep up with Google’s update cycle. Out of the new Android One Nokia smartphone family announced during MWC 2018, we’ve so far reviewed the Nokia 7 Plus (Review) and the new Nokia 6 (Review), and both have managed to impress us with their performance considering their respective price points.

Today, we’ll be reviewing the Nokia 8 Sirocco – a special edition of last year’s Nokia 8 (Review) smartphone that’s an ode to the original Nokia 8800 Sirocco. With exotic materials also comes a higher price tag. This special version of the Nokia 8 is priced at Rs. 49,999, which puts it in Google Pixel 2 (Review) and HTC U11 (Review) territory. So, is the new Nokia 8 Sirocco just a pretty face or does it have enough substance to justify this premium pricing?


iOS 11.3 Reportedly Makes Some Aftermarket iPhone 8 Displays Unresponsive

While iOS 11.3 brought a bunch of new features to enhance the user experience, the same iOS update is reported to make the touch functionality of the iPhone 8 unresponsive if it uses an aftermarket display panel. This newly reported issue certainly pushes iPhone users – once again – to opt for an authorised repair channel to fix their faulty handsets. In early 2016, the iPhone maker was found to use a similar move when it started bricking devices that were repaired from an unauthorised shop.

As reported by Matthew Gault of Motherboard, iOS 11.3, which was released late last month, gives touchscreen issues to iPhone 8 users who have opted for aftermarket screens. Gault notes that a third-party repairing source is usually cheaper than an authorised source and sometimes it’s the only effective option. However, Apple doesn’t encourage its customers to opt for a third-party source.

It is believed that iOS 11.3 is making the iPhone screen unresponsive through a microchip that powers the display. Third-party screen suppliers are said to have already worked out the issue by upgrading the chip. However, this process requires re-opening of the faulty iPhone. “This has caused my company over 2,000 reshipments,” Aakshay Kripalani, CEO of Injured Gadgets, told Motherboard. “Customers are annoyed and it seems like Apple is doing this to prevent customers from doing third-party repair.”

Apple hasn’t clarified whether the issue is intentional or accidental. Moreover, it is so far spotted that only aftermarket iPhone 8 displays are not responding to touch inputs after installing iOS 11.3. This means if you own an older iPhone model, you can opt for a third-party repair, if you so desire.


Samsung Galaxy A8+ Review

Nearly a year after the first smartphones with 18:9 screensdebuted at MWC 2017, nearly every manufacturer has jumped on board. This kind of design started out as a novelty, quickly became trend, and is now pretty much a mainstay of smartphone design. It isn’t any surprise, since this is the first time in a very long time that phones have looked any different, and people do feel like they’re getting something better and more modern. Phones with 16:9 screens, (and heaven forbid, actual buttons on the front) do now seem old-fashioned.

Samsung gained an early lead with its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ (Review) at the beginning of last year (though it went with 18.5:9 which it calls “Infinity Display“) and then released the Galaxy Note 8 (Review) six months later, but didn’t seem think the rest of its range deserved the update. Meanwhile, its competitors were clambering over themselves to make sure they didn’t fall behind the curve. Over this past year, we’ve seen dozens of new 18:9 phones launching across the price spectrum. The most notable example of that is OnePlus rushing to replace its barely five-month-old OnePlus 5 (Review) with the OnePlus 5T (Review), just to make sure it didn’t cede even the slightest ground to its competitors.

That makes today’s review subject all the more interesting – the new Galaxy A8+ (2018) is Samsung’s first non-flagship phone to be graced with an Infinity Display, and it’s priced to go right up against the OnePlus 5T. Is Samsung too late to the party, or has it been worth the wait? We’re about to find out.

Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018) design

As its name suggests, this is one large phone. Samsung hasn’t launched the smaller Galaxy A8 (2018) in India, which is a pity, because the A8+ (2018) can be a bit of a handful. It’s relatively thick and heavy at 8.3mm and 191g. That weight also feels unbalanced, especially when typing, which requires you to hold the phone from close to the bottom. It will stick out of many pockets and generally make itself felt wherever you try to stash it.

Samsung has listed two colour options for this phone, black and gold. We had a black unit for review and with the removal of buttons from the front face, it looks really plain and monolithic. The front and back are both shiny glass, though only the back curves around the matte black metal frame. While some might like this look, others will prefer the gold version which has a black front face and camera module providing a bit of visual relief.

The front face is broken only by the earpiece and dual front cameras right near the upper edge. When the phone is on, Samsung’s Always-On Display readout is splashed across the screen, taking advantage of the sAMOLED panel’s ability to selectively light up pixels without consuming a lot of power. By default, there’s a large clock, the date, the battery level, and four icons representing your most recent notifications. You can choose different clock styles and hide other information, or only enable the Always-On Display between hours of your choosing.

The power button is on the right, and the phone’s single mono speaker is positioned right above it – an unusual position, but one that Samsung has been using on multiple models of late. On the left, there’s a volume rocker and a tray for the primary Nano-SIM. The second Nano-SIM as well as a microSD card fit in another tray that slides into the top. There’s also a USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm audio socket on the bottom. An advantage of the all-black look is that the antenna lines are barely visible.

The primary camera is in the upper middle of the rear, with a single-LED flash to the side and small, rectangular fingerprint sensor right below it. Unusually for phones these days, the camera doesn’t protrude at all. There’s a surprisingly subtle Samsung logo lower down, and some barely visible regulatory text at the bottom.

One feature that we’re always happy to have is weatherproofing, and the Galaxy A8+ (2018) is certified IP68 for water and dust resistance. The SIM trays are flanged with rubber to prevent ingress. However, there’s no mention of whether the display glass is reinforced, which is concerning.

Samsung’s Galaxy A-series phones are meant to be more affordable versions of the current reigning S-series flagships, in this case the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. The Galaxy A8+ (2018) inherits many of their design cues, but it doesn’t look quite as slick or refined. It’s a bit too bulky and awkward to handle, and in fact it more closely resembles last year’s Galaxy C9 Pro (Review). In fact, with its pricing and specifications, it serves the same market. In terms of look and feel alone, it doesn’t really stand out compared to the competing OnePlus 5T or Honor View 10 (Review) either.

Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018) specifications and software

Samsung usually plays it conservatively with specs outside its flagship tier, but with this launch, it’s hoping to take on upstarts like OnePlus and Honor. The Galaxy A+ (2018) uses Samsung’s brand new Exynos 7885 SoC, which has two high-speed 2.2Ghz ARM Cortex-A73 cores and six supplementary 1.6GHz Cortex-A53 cores, plus an integrated ARM Mali-G71 GPU. There’s 6GB of RAM, and the only Samsung phones to ship with so much before now have been the Galaxy Note 8 and the aforementioned Galaxy C9 Pro.

You get 64GB of storage, of which about 51GB is available to users. MicroSD card support goes up to 256GB. Because of Samsung’s unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio, the screen resolution is 1080×2220, giving you a tiny bit more height than the 1080×2160 that you get at 18:9. It measures 6 inches diagonally but the corners are rounded for aesthetic purposes, so you lose a tiny bit of screen space.

The Galaxy A8+ (2018) also features dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5, NFC, GPS, and 4G with VoLTE. There’s a rich complement of sensors, including a barometer and gyroscope in addition to the standard ambient light and proximity sensors. The battery comes in at 3500mAh which is the least we’d expect for a phone this large. Fast charging is supported, but not wireless charging.

This phone and its smaller siblings are Samsung’s first to feature dual front cameras. There’s one with a 16-megapixel sensor and another with an 8-megapixel sensor, and both have f/1.9 apertures. The rear camera is a 16-megapixel unit with an f/1.7 aperture. Surprisingly, video recording tops out at 1920×1080. There’s also no optical image stabilisation for any of the cameras.

Samsung ships the Galaxy A8+ (2018) with Android 7.1.1 which is disappointing in 2018. The Samsung Experience skin on top is beginning to get as bloated as the company’s reviled TouchWiz UI from years past. At first boot, we were allowed to choose which Samsung apps we wanted installed. We were happy to ditch Samsung Email, Samsung Notes, and Samsung Internet Browser, but there was no way to know what exactly Samsung Connect and Samsung Members are. Samsung Voice Recorder and Samsung Pay are optional apps.

On the home screen, there’s a giant My Galaxy widget showing off the phone’s various features and advertising services such as ordering a meal or taxi and paying bills. You need to sign up with your phone number, but when we tried it we didn’t receive the required one-time password by SMS for hours. You have to register for My Galaxy if you want to be able to find a phone service centre and book an appointment, or chat with tech support.

Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant takes up a page to the left of the first home screen and requires you to create a Samsung account which is a separate process. Interestingly, the Galaxy A8+ doesn’t get Bixby as a voice assistant – you only get reminders of your upcoming calendar appointments and panels for things like the weather and news. There’s no Bixby key on the side of the phone, and long-pressing the Home button brings up Google Assistant (or S-Voice if you choose) so Bixby as a feature isn’t the same as it has been advertised on Samsung’s flagships.

There’s more bloat around every corner – Samsung has tried to transform even the humble Contacts app into a social network with sharable status updates and profile pictures. The Samsung Gallery creates “stories” and multiple apps want you to use a “customisation service” which collects your stored contacts and tries to determine which people you are closest to, for undefined reasons. Opera Max and a bunch of Microsoft apps are preinstalled, and can only be disabled but not removed. The default system keyboard is customisable in many ways and supports transliteration into Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu which could actually be useful.

In the Settings app, you’ll find options to manage the full-screen scaling for apps that can’t handle it natively, the on-screen Android navigation buttons, fingerprint sensor gestures, a one-handed mode, “Dual Messenger” apps (cloning apps to allow you to use multiple accounts), Samsung Cloud syncing, and split-screen multitasking.

Samsung Galaxy A8+ (2018) performance, cameras, and battery life

The Galaxy A8+ (2018) has some powerful hardware and for the most part it runs without any problems. Large games load quickly, and the phone doesn’t get too warm at any point. However, there were tiny hiccups on rare occasions, when we felt the UI behave a little sluggishly or touch input didn’t seem to register. Hopefully, periodic software updates will iron these kinks out, because usage was otherwise perfectly fine.

Samsung’s new mid-range processor is fairly powerful, and delivered scores of 78,359 in AnTuTu, 5,192 in PCMark Work 2.0, and 1,525 and 4,349 respectively in Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core runs. 3DMark’s Slingshot test gave us 1,069 points, and GFXBench’s T-rex test ran at 31fps. We can definitely see that this phone isn’t on the same level as the similarly priced OnePlus 5T and Honor View 10, but it should still be able to handle most apps and games without any problems.

The Infinity Display doesn’t look quite as “infinite” on this phone as it does on Samsung’s flagships, because instead of glass curving around the sides of the phone, there are still distinct edges. Even so, it’s immersive and vibrant. Brightness isn’t a problem even outdoors, and all kinds of content look pretty crisp and enjoyable. The odd placement of the speaker turned out to be a good thing, because it’s hard to block when holding this phone in any orientation and it doesn’t get muffled with the phone lying on soft surfaces. Sound is loud and voices are clear, but music comes out a bit too harsh for our liking.

One feature of the Galaxy A8+ (2018) that Samsung is promoting heavily is face recognition. This isn’t the same as the iris recognition feature on Samsung’s top-end phones, but is much more like what you’d get with the OnePlus 5T. In our experience, it just didn’t work well, either failing completely or taking more than five seconds to unlock the phone every time we tried it. This was despite trying to enrol our faces multiple times to account for poor lighting or angles. There’s an option to make recognition quicker by reducing the security threshold, which we obviously do not recommend.

The camera app has stickers (some of which are live and animated with sound), filters, and Bixby Vision for object and place recognition. It isn’t immediately clear how you’re supposed to switch between the two front cameras – there’s a Live Focus mode shortcut right within the viewfinder which lets you take shots with background blur, and then there’s a Wide Selfie mode in the hidden menu that you have to swipe right to see. In both cases, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in the composition of frames when using the secondary camera. In Wide Selfie mode you still have to physically pan the phone from side to side, whereas some other phones have a wide-angle lens that just gives you a wider frame.

This might be Samsung’s first phone with dual front cameras, but there really doesn’t seem to be anything that really takes advantage of the second sensor. Live Focus gave us some fairly decent-looking results, and the phone lets you adjust the degree of background blur from the gallery app long after taking a shot. As far as the promise of low-light performance goes, we couldn’t see much of a difference there either.

As for photos taken with the rear camera, results were a bit weak. If there was even lighting, the Galaxy A8+ (2018) managed well, though we would still have liked to see better handling of details and exposures. Objects at even a slight distance came out looking artificial, with noisy textures, rough edges, and overblown whites. At night, things took a drastic turn for the worse. If there wasn’t a lot of artificial light falling directly on a subject, the phone could barely pick out any details whatsoever. Even on the phone’s bright sAMOLED screen, it was clear that there was a ton of noise, and that you just couldn’t see things even if you were standing right in front of them. We weren’t expecting camera quality to be on par with that of the Galaxy S8, but this was totally disappointing.

Video recording only goes up to 1080p with the rear as well as front cameras. You can choose the slightly wider custom resolution of 2224×1080, which at least doesn’t crop your frames in order to fill the screen, but Samsung decided not to make this the default selection. There is digital stabilisation but not optical.

Battery life was good overall, and we were able to get through a full day of normal usage with about 15 percent left over. Our HD video loop battery test ran for 12 hours, 52 minutes which is not too bad for a phone with a screen this size to light up. We found that the phone charged up to 50 percent in slightly over half an hour, which is also good. Wireless charging isn’t supported, in case you were wondering.

The Galaxy A8+ (2018) is in a bit of an awkward position. It isn’t very convincing when seen next to the OnePlus 5T (Review) and Honor View 10 (Review), especially because of the features and capabilities that Samsung still reserves for its flagships. We don’t think the new Galaxy A8+ it’s strong enough to fend off the OnePlus 5T at exactly the same price. Camera quality is severely disappointing, and the implementation of dual front cameras just leaves us confused. Despite its Infinity Display, the phone’s design doesn’t really scream for attention. While the performance is good, it’s let down by software bloat. On the other hand, high-quality sAMOLED screen is great, and the battery life is excellent.

With that said, Samsung needs to figure out how to give its phones at this price level a strong identity and build on unique capabilities such as Samsung Pay, because the Galaxy A8+ (2018) definitely can’t compete on specifications and cost. Right now, Samsung’s own Galaxy S7 looks more attractive thanks to its lower price. The Galaxy S8 is also soon to be replaced, which means it will become more affordable as well.

Massive Leaks Reveal Motorola’s Smartphone Plans

You’ve got to hand it to Motorola — the Lenovo-owned phone maker never slows down. Last year, it released a whopping seven devices in the United States, with even more hitting overseas markets.

The Moto X, formerly the brand’s flagship, was reborn into a midrange handset with support for Google’s Project Fi network, while the G5 Plus set a new benchmark for quality and performance in the budget segment. And that’s to say nothing of the E4 Plus and its gargantuan battery life, or the second generation of the Moto Z range, which saw many more mods released in 2017.

Motorola certainly has a formula for producing consistently solid devices at every price range. However, 2018 looks to shake up that formula significantly, thanks to breakthroughs in the market, like full-screen displays and 5G connectivity. What follows is everything we’ve heard about Moto’s lineup for the upcoming year.

Moto Z3 and Z3 Play

While the Moto Z2 Play and Z2 Force maintained the same basic design of the first-generation Moto Z, the Moto Z3 could change everything.

Motorola held off from committing to a complete redesign with the Z2 so as to maintain compatibility with the first generation of Moto Mods, which began releasing in 2016. However, the industry has moved on, with smaller bezels, larger screens, and narrower form factors — and it appears the company’s competitors may have forced Motorola’s hand.

That may explain the only serious rumors we’ve seen surrounding the Moto Z3 so far, which depict a Galaxy S8-like curved front glass panel that drapes the screen over the left and right edges, along with minimal bezels above and below.

The renders come from Droid Life, which received them from an anonymous source. Although the blog admits it was unable to verify the details with a second source, prominent leaker Evan Blass appeared to lend credence to the reports soon after they were published. Nevertheless, it’s always a good rule of thumb to take such rumors with a grain of salt.

The story so far indicates the Moto Z3 could see a 6-inch display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2160 x 1080. Under the hood, the updated phone be powered by Qualcomm’s next-generation Snapdragon 845 chipset, which is all but certain to feature in the Galaxy S9 as well as many other Android flagships throughout 2018.

For a long time, Moto has turned to a prominent physical button or fingerprint reader on the front of its phones. Interestingly though, if the company goes with a full-screen design as rumored, it will face the same challenge that Apple and Samsung ran into with last year’s flagship phones, which could force that fingerprint sensor to move.

While the images we’ve seen thus far of the standard Z3 and midrange Z3 Play indicate there won’t be a rear-facing scanner, there does look to be a software button where the navigation bar is typically found, and it could potentially double as an in-display fingerprint reader — though it’s too early to definitively tell.The only thing we know for sure about the new Z line is that it will still be compatible with all of the Moto Mods released to date. That means that no matter how Motorola approaches design this time around, these phones are pretty much guaranteed to have the same basic frame, though they will probably differ in thickness, fit, and finish. It’s also safe to assume there will be at least two models in the Z3 family, though Droid Life was tipped to a third, even more premium variant releasing down the line.

Moto X5

It was only a matter of time before we saw Android devices copy the iPhone X’s notch and devil horns, but we wouldn’t have expected the first device to do so would be the next Moto X. Lo and behold, the same source that sent those juicy details on the Moto Z3 to Droid Life has also shared a render of the Moto X5, and it very much resembles a cross between the company’s previous work and Apple’s latest handset.

In the image, the notch splits the status bar, similar to the way it operates on the iPhone X. However, the status bar is left black, which allows those areas to blend into the front glass. It’s a different look from Apple’s software, which rarely attempts to mask the existence of the notch in the same way — though it does create a disparity between the rounded corners at the bottom of the display area and the 90-degree angles at the top.

The notch also provides space for a pair of front facing cameras, which, if they function the same way Motorola’s dual rear cameras have, should allow for shallow depth-of-field Portrait-style selfies.

On the display front, the rumors suggest a 5.9-inch panel, again with a resolution in the neighborhood of 2160 x 1080. A logo appears where you would have found the fingerprint sensor on previous editions, though it strangely spells out “Motorola” in full, rather than the shortened “Moto” moniker that Lenovo has been favoring more recently.

Just as on the Z3 render, we see a single on-screen button underneath the home screen dock, indicating the X5 could offer the same solution for navigation in addition to the stock Android back, home, and recent apps keys.

Moto G6, G6 Plus, and G6 Play

The Moto G5 Plus was one of our favorite inexpensive phones of last year, so the G6 has a lot to live up to. Back in October, VentureBeat’s Evan Blass tweeted that Motorola was planning to revive the Play series with the G6, meaning there would once again be three devices in total in the family: the G6, G6 Plus, and G6 Play.

We only ever got the G5 Plus and its dual rear camera-equipped sibling, the G5S Plus, in the United States, so it’s hard to say right now how many of these models we’ll receive. Regardless, another set of renders courtesy of Droid Life depicts all three rumored G6 models sporting 18:9 aspect ratios and slim bezels, just like their more powerful and expensive siblings. The sizes would measure 5.7 inches for the G6, and 5.9 inches for the G6 Plus.

Unlike the rumored Z3 and X6, all three G6 models look to preserve their fingerprint sensors — although the G6 Play’s appears to have been moved around back. If they operate similarly to how Moto’s scanners have in the past, they may double as capacitive home buttons and even respond to gestures to replace the back and recent apps buttons — an interface Moto has historically called One Button Nav.

When it comes to specs, the G6 and G6 Plus will see a predictable bump in power according to Droid Life. That means an upgrade from a Snapdragon 430 processor in last year’s G5S to a 450 in the G6, and an upgrade from the Snapdragon 625 in the G5S Plus to a 630 for the G6 Plus. The report adds that the G6 Play will feature the largest battery of all the models, at 4,000 mAh.

There will also be a slight difference in cameras across the range. The G6 and G6 Plus will benefit from a pair of 12- and 5-megapixel dual rear shooters, while the G6 Play will only receive a single lens at a resolution that wasn’t disclosed in the report. Moto’s Play series has always been used for lower-end products, so the G6 Play is expected to undercut the prices of the other models.

Speaking of which, the anonymous source pegs the G6 at $240 and the G6 Plus at $330. It also adds that each variant will arrive in three exclusive colors, among which are rose gold, silver, charcoal, blue, black, and teal.

A 5G Moto Mod

We’ve seen Moto Mods that turn your smartphone into a projector, health monitor, Polaroid camera, and portable speaker, but we’ve never seen anything like what Motorola is reportedly planning.

The final item leaked to Droid Life was not a handset, but a Moto Mod — and a pretty remarkable one at that. While 5G is still at least a good year away, Motorola may be working on a mod that adds 5G connectivity to the Z family.

Now, it’s important to note that Motorola has talked about this before — about a year ago, as a matter of fact. So it’s quite possible this project may never see the light of day, and was simply relegated to internal test status. However, if it does surface, it could mean that Moto Z customers — users with phones they bought as far back as 2016 — would get 5G before the last devices to drop in 2018.

The Outlook

If these rumors bear out, 2018 will be an exciting one for Motorola, and some of these devices could end up in our best-of considerations by year’s end. However, these are just the first details to drop for a long line of products set to release over many months. There’s a chance we’ll see one of these devices debut at Mobile World Congress (MWC) at the end of February in Barcelona, so watch this space over the coming weeks.

WordPress Automation Tools and Tips

When I first started the company seven years ago, I did everything myself and everything was done manually. It wasn’t long before I realized I had to find and set up some WordPress automation tools to keep me sane. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of plugins, SaaS products, and tools. Many have come and gone, but a few good ones have stuck around and I’m very thankful for them.

There is a false belief that marketing and selling on the internet is quick and easy. Well it isn’t. There are a lot of components that go into making marketing efforts successful.

The reality of the situation is that internet marketing opens the doors to the world and with it anything is possible. I believe it truly is an open book of options for the every day person and that anyone can use the internet to achieve their goals.

But success only comes with planning, due diligence, and hard work. Adding in the right tools can help put the focus more on planning and creativity, with less emphasis on boring day to day activities. This shift not only keeps you happy, it also drives a lot better results.

Work Smarter With These WordPress Automation Tools

Today I’d like to share some of my favorite tools for automating WordPress and my daily workflow. Some are found within the dashboard of WordPress and others are third party applications. Some are free and others are paid for on a monthly or annual basis. All of them are worth their money.

Akismet – If you are using WordPress to blog and you have comments turned on, Akismet is a must use plugin. It efficiently monitors incoming comments and addresses any spam without any interaction by the user.

AutomateWoo – This is a powerful extension for WooCommerce that provides follow up communication based on user defined workflows. We use this plugin to automatically alert theme buyers that their subscriptions are expiring and request they renew to receive continued support. – I recently found this software service and I’m loving it! We own a number of social media profiles and this tool helps automate postings based on RSS feeds. I use it to share Web Savvy posts, as well as articles from my favorite websites and blogs. It offers a lot more options then HootSuite and is significantly more user friendly.

Follow-Up Emails – This is another WooCommerce extension that I use for onboarding new buyers of our stock Genesis themes and online SEO courses. I have multiple emails scheduled to send after an order has been processed. They give information on using the new theme or course, as well as answer many of the common questions I’d receive time and time again. This WordPress plugin drastically reduced my support time and has increased customer satisfaction.

Gravity Forms – We purchased a developer license of this WordPress plugin years ago and I believe it is one of the best WordPress plugins available. The developer is solid, the plugin is robust, and the user interface is excellent. Each custom website we build uses Gravity Forms and I make sure every stock theme is styled for it.

Gravity Forms MailChimp Add-On – This Gravity Forms extension connects MailChimp to WordPress inquiry forms. Subscribers are automatically fed over to MailChimp and added to the appropriate email list.

Hotjar – This is a tool I recently discovered based on a referral from another WordPress developer. It’s like people watching at the mall, but on your very own website. If you want to know what people do when they open your website, this tool is amazing. It even offers a free trial. This tool will save you time in user surveys and in design.

iThemes Sync – Sync allows you to manage updates for all your WordPress sites from one place. It connects with BackupBuddy which will automate remote website backups and keep you protected. The iThemes team is very solid and they produce excellent plugins. Since we manage 50+ different WordPress websites, this tool is a key part of keeping us as efficient as possible.

MailChimp – This is a third party software solution that provides email campaigns and RSS based emails. While I will occasionally send out individual emails to groups of users, we actively use this service to send weekly newsletters to blog subscribers. MailChimp uses our blog’s RSS feed to automatically populate the newsletter and send it on a preset day and time.

Simple URLs – This plugin helps me quickly link to external websites and track usage of these hyperlinks. I use it for linking to destinations that are frequently referenced in blog and support forums. It’s free and saves me lots of time. It’s also great for managing affiliate links.

Subscribe to Comments – This plugin is another free piece of software that I’ve used for years. It allows users to request notification on blog comment updates for a specific post. It helps build engagement and increase visitor satisfaction.

WooCommerce Google Analytics Integration – This WooCommerce addition connects WooCommerce sales to Google Analytics reports. This allows GA to track sales and report on important data such as sales by source, sales by day, etc.

WooCommerce MailChimp Subscribe – This WooCommerce extension not only saves me time, it has drastically increased the subscribe rate to our weekly newsletter. It drops in a check box on our shopping cart and asks buyers to state whether they’d like to subscribe to our blog. Quick and simple, but responsible for producing thousands of subscribers.

WP 101 – I subscribe to WP 101 and include these how to tutorials in every custom website we develop. Not only does it help answer basic WordPress questions, the videos are automatically updated and pushed to WordPress with each new software release. That means I know my clients have the latest information available to them at all times and I don’t have to do a thing. As with the other tools, this plugin is a double win because it saves me time and makes my clients happy.

Yoast SEO – I’ve used the Yoast SEO plugin for years. It helps automate some SEO efforts, by providing a SEO grade per post or page. While it isn’t everything needed for SEO, it does help deliver feedback and solid produce XML sitemaps for search engines.

What Tools Do You Use?

I’ve given you 14 tools for WordPress automation, but there are hundreds available. What tools do you use and love?

Drop a comment below and tell us about your favorite plugins and add ons for WordPress automation. You might have a hidden gem I’ve never heard of but need to use.