Product Review: Groove Life Silicone Wedding Rings

Todays post is a product review. I periodically provide unbiased product reviews for companies that ask for my feedback. As someone that builds products for a living, I find this really interesting and it also serves the benefit of helping my readers find good products and manufacturers improve what they have created.


Today I’ll be taking a look at Groove Life silicone rings. An alternative to metal wedding bands that works well for active individuals. There are a number of companies that make these, but this particular brand has a few unique features that make it stand out.

For some background, I am pretty a pretty active & outdoorsy individual: surfer, bike commuter, marathoner, backpacker, certified stand up paddle instructor, Ironman, & rock climber. I never wore any jewelry or a watch before getting married, and so since tying the knot, wearing a ring has been troublesome for me.

In my first years of marriage I found I would take it off for most activities because:

  • I found the weight and firmness annoying
  • it would place my fingers weird or cut off circulation during activities where my hands were holding something like bike handlebars or hiking poles
  • I sometimes get swollen fingers while running which was really uncomfortable
  • while working with wood or fixing surfboards my ring has nicked a piece and damaged it before
  • during swimming and surfing where I’m in cold water, my fingers contract and I already lost one ring this way
  • I was worried about injuries that can happen from a wedding band, like ring avulsion (Google that at your own risk – its nasty)

Because of all of those reasons, I end up taking my ring off a lot – more than once a day. That means I sometimes misplace it and more often than that forget to put it back on and end up going a while without wearing my ring. I was at the point where I was considering getting a tattoo wedding band, so that I could always ‘have my ring on’ but not have to worry about the above concerns.

That was when I heard about these silicone wedding bands. I knew this was going to be a good fit for me. Three years later I haven’t looked back. Now I just hop in the water to surf without thinking about my ring. I was 10ft up on a boulder wall recently when someone called attention to my wedding band, worried that I should have removed it before climbing – I let them know it was silicone (I had forgotten I was even wearing it until they mentioned it). Basically I just don’t think about it, and never take it off, which is exactly what I want.

The only real decision is which brand of ring to get – it seems like there are hundreds on the market. So how to decide?

My Experience

Since getting married, I’ve tried on close to 20 rings and worn about a half dozen different rings for at least a few months (I had trouble deciding on a material at first). This includes three silicone rings that I’ve worn for at least a few months each. So, I have a decent feel for the options available.

The four big things I’ve found make a difference for me are; weight, profile & design & durability. Lets go through them.

Weight

There is very little weight to silicone rings, the material just isn’t that heavy. If you’re comparing them to metal rings, it about 1/3 of the weight of gold or tungsten and similar in weight to titanium.

I’ve found I like a lighter ring. I previously worn tungsten for a while and eventually got annoyed with the weight.

Groove Life rings aren’t really differentiated here from other silicone rings, they’re all good in terms of weight.

Profile

Photo by: https://www.iconicjewelry.com/education/ring/design-guide/

There are a bunch of different ways to shape a ring and what you chose will make a difference in how your fingers sit and how it feels on your hand. A thicker ring will push your fingers apart and certain shapes will create pressure points.

With silicone rings, the profile comes with some extra tradeoffs compared to metal rings. The thinner the ring, the less durable it will be but the more comfortable it will be. The Groove Life ring is on the thinner side, but not the thinnest ring on the market. That means it is pretty comfortable, but durability could be a concern, I’m not worried about durability in this case though because of their warranty though, which I’ll get to in a moment.

I’ve found that I like the comfort fit profile, which is an oval like shape without any hard edges. The Groove life ring is generally a comfort fit profile, but a little bit flatter on the inside, which in my experience has been fine.

One unique thing about these rings is the groove on the inside that is marketed as creating airflow. I’m not sure that the groove is defined enough to actually do that, but I have enjoyed the extra texture it created which I feel keeps the ring in place in situations where I’m in water. I do agree with the claim that it helps reduce dampness though. The other rings I’ve worn trapped in moisture which didn’t bother the ring, but did bother my skin. With the Groove Life ring, water collects in the groove and escapes shortly thereafter, which means the ring isn’t holding in a bunch of dampness. I’ve even flipped it inside out to see the little balls of water in the groove, pretty cool.

Design

What a ring looks like is important to some people. Most metal rings come with some sort of pattern or texture. Some even have embedded stones or engravings.

Silicone rings offer similar levels of customization, but in different ways. There are a wide range of color & pattern options as well as engravings or prints.

I like things simple, so I picked a basic dark gray ring – though I do kind of dig the blue highlight in the middle, even though no one ever sees it.

As you can see on their website (and below), there are really a lot of design options if that is what you’re into. Lots of bold colors and patterns to chose from.

They even have some college designs if you want to rock your alma mater or favorite sports team.

Durability

When I first switched to silicone rings, I worried about longevity. I remember having a LIVESTRONG bracelet back in the day that eventually snapped. Turns out my concerns were somewhat justified, my first ring lasted two years before getting a small tear that eventually grew until it fell off.  That ring was less expensive, so I figured a lifetime’s worth of rings would cost ~$140, which was worth it to me.

Groove Life took things even further though by creating a lifetime warranty. From their site: “If your ring gets damaged, cut, stretched, stuck in nuclear waste, eaten by a fish, or even LOST we will replace it!” I intent to put this to the test and am super excited they’re standing behind their product like that.

The ring I got is actually two pieces of silicone of different colors that are joined together (glued or melted). I was a bit concerned about that at first, but with the warranty I feel great.

Conclusion

The Groove Life ring wins my pick. It is comfortable, available in a wide range of designs and the warranty is standalone. I look forward to wearing this ring and recommending it to anyone looking to make the switch to a silicone ring.

Ting Review – Four Years With Ting’s Cell Phone Service!

It is now 2018 – I first signed up for Ting in March 2014 – that means I’ve been a happy Ting customer for over four years now! 4 years! During that time we’ve used the iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone SE, iPhone 7 Plus and an Apple Watch.

I thought I’d share a Ting review to shine more light on why I switched to them in the first place and why I’m still happy.

Because I’ve been a longtime Ting customer, they recently gave me a coupon to share with my readers that will save you $25 off your first bill. If you’re interested in switching, here it is: http://www.gregkroleski.com/click/ting

The Switch from Verizon

I had long been a happy Verizon customer when in 2014 I opened a bill to find I owed over $200 for our three phones. That was above my limit of acceptability. I decided I needed to look for options.

I looked at the plans of the major carriers – AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile. I also came across a few alternative plans; Republic Wireless, Tracfone, Cricket, Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile & I had even heard rumors of Google Fi.

Selection Criteria

As I began to look at those companies, I came up with a list of criteria that was important to me.

  • Device Options
  • Cell Service Quality & Speed
  • Customer Service & Experience
  • Price
  • Flexibility

I ultimately selected Ting, obviously. I’ve actually reevaluated every year since then and reselected Ting each time for these reasons.

How Ting Compared

Device Options

We’re iPhone folks and making a switch to another phone would be a difficult undertaking. I actually love Google products and my phone is mostly using the Google alternatives to Apple default software. The effort involved in retraining my wife & mom to use a new OS & phone made it hard for me to consider switching, and so compatibility with iPhone became a strong criteria.

I did try to keep an open mind to other options, but it was going to take a lot to convince me to be on something other than iOS.

On top of that, even if I went with Android, I would want a pure Android OS and not some reskin. I got burned pretty bad by Android fragmentation in the early days where my phone stopped getting text messages suddenly because of an unknown defect that lay between the OS, carrier and phone manufacturer’s reskin. A fix never came. A few of the companies I looked at ran a very custom version of Android and that made me very nervous – unless they had limited their supported phones dramatically, that would likely eventually result in me having a phone that didn’t work and an unplanned need for a new phone.

Ting allowed the iPhone – back in 2014 when I signed up, you had to use the iPhone model that was one year old, but that is what I happened to be using at the time anyhow, so I was ok with that. Recently they’ve allowed the most recent version of the iPhone to be used – something I’ve taken advantage of by upgrading to the iPhone SE the day it came out. I legitimately might have been the first Ting customer to use the iPhone SE.

So with phone selection & my iPhone preference in mind, the results were:

Cell Service Quality & Speed

In the many years I was a Verizon customer, I had very few dropped calls. Switching to something else seemed risky – I knew how miserable the lives of my AT&T subscriber friends were with all of their dropped call issues.

I did a lot of research about service areas and congestion in my area before switching to Ting. At the time they only operated on Sprint towers but now you can select between Sprint & T-Mobile. I live in a major city where there is great coverage, so congestion tends to be the biggest concern, especially during peak times.

After three years of using Ting I’ve noticed a downgrade in cell service quality from Verizon – but it still meets my bar of acceptability. I have had a few dropped calls & there are some places I’ve visited on vacation where I didn’t get great data service. But 99% of the time I am happy with the cellular signal. I’m ok with 99% of the results for ~50% of the cost.

If you’re considering switching, the best thing to do is check the coverage (use this cool tool) around where you live and ask neighbors who use Sprint & T-Mobile how those services perform in your area. From my experience, neither is quite as good as Verizon but often that is fine because the cost savings are so great.

Customer Service & Experience

I mentioned above that Ting uses other company’s towers which they essentially rent signal from.  What Ting actually provides themselves is the account tools & customer support. Those are top notch and probably the biggest reason I picked Ting.

Their website & mobile app are amazing. Here are a few things you can do really easily from either your computer or phone:

1) Settings

Control the settings on devices. You don’t need to do this often, but it is nice to be able to control and check easily whenever you need it.

2) Usage

Here is a screen you can use to see your usage during the month. Along with total usage in each of the three categories they charge for, you can see how much each person is using.

With this I can see that we are at 99 text messages so my next text message will actually kick us up a tier to the next payment level. With text messages that is only like $2 so it isn’t a huge deal. With minutes it can mean another $20, so it is great to have this info handy.

3) Usage Alerts

Along with seeing our usage, I can set automatic alerts to help us stay within our budget. You can see below that I have it text reminders at certain limits and then actually turn off the data if you exceed another limit. It is easy to turn back on if we decide we’re ok going over, but having the limits in place helps make sure you don’t accidentally blow through data when you thought you were on wifi or something like that.

Customer Service

The final part of the customer experience is Ting’s customer service which I would rate as world class.

The few times I’ve had to call them for help with something, I’ve talked to someone that was friendly, helpful and empowered. They were able to solve my problem and one time even gave me a $10 credit as an apology.

I’ve called in before on a weekend and actually talked to a human in the United States in less than 5 minutes – which is amazing. When I’ve emailed in there was great follow up thanks to their use of a ticketing system called Zendesk (which I also love).

One caveat is they don’t have store locations all over like the major brands do. Some people like going into their local Verizon store and walking away with a phone & signed contract. I much prefer doing things on my time which often is not the same time a local store would be open. Doing things with Ting sometimes means waiting a few days for a new phone to come in the mail rather than having it in hand right away – but that isn’t a big negative to me – most of my shopping is online these days anyways and part of the reason Ting is less expensive is they don’t have to pay the overhead for all of those storefronts.

Overall, I’m super happy with the customer experience with Ting – this is one area where they exceed the national providers.

Price

Ting makes it pretty easy to predict your price with this cool tool as long as you have some info about your average usage over the past months. Because of that, I knew what I was getting into and if you’re thinking of switching, you can too.

What I wondered back then was if things would drift up over time. I pulled some data and it turns out that hasn’t really happened. In fact, I’m paying less today that I was when I switched over.

I’m averaging about $85 a month for 3 iPhones – much less than the $200 I was paying to Verizon before I switched to Ting. Just to reiterate, I’m paying nearly 60% less than I was on Verizon for service I’m just as happy with.

For the observant, there are two things you might also notice in the chart above.

First, there was a time towards the end of 2015 where you can see our data usage drifted up a bit, as did our bill. We set up some better alerts (the ones I showed up above) and that helped us get things down lower than we originally were.

Second, there are a few months that are a bit lower. When I first joined I got a credit for signing up and cancelling my old contract, so my first few months didn’t cost much. The few other random dips are because of credits I received, like the one I mentioned from customer support.

I’ve kept abreast of other cell phone plans that have come out such as the recent T-Mobile unlimited plan and every time I run the math, I am still coming out on top with Ting price wise. For someone like our family that doesn’t use a ton of data, there doesn’t seem to be a better plan.

Flexibility

My favorite thing with Ting is that I have a ton of control over how I use my cellular devices, how much they cost me and how often I change things. I haven’t found many other options that give as much control.

Not only am I not in a contract – which means I can cancel at any time, but I don’t even have a fixed amount I pay every month, it is based on what I use. So I know that I can use less and pay less, which is awesome control & flexibility that I’ve taken advantage of to save an additional 15%.

I also have flexibility into what device I use and when I upgrade. With the major carriers you often get a discounted phone after two years, but really you’re just paying for that over time as part of your bill. With Ting we have full control of how often we switch. We’ve found that if you take good care of your phone, it can last longer than 2 years, which means a little more savings through a longer depreciation curve. On top of that, we also usually buy our iPhones used when a new model comes out so we often save even more.

Conclusions

I’ve been very happy with Ting as have a few friends I’ve referred over. If you feel like you’re paying too much for your cell phone service or you aren’t happy with how they treat you, then I suggest you consider the other options that are out there. If you care about the things I mentioned – I hope this post helps with your evaluation.

Hey! If you made it this far, you probably benefited from me sharing my experience. If so, I’d appreciate if you would click on the link below – it will save you $25 off of your first bill, and Ting will also knock a few dollars off my next bill to say thank you for helping you make a decision to switch.

http://www.gregkroleski.com/click/ting

Thanks!

COR 40L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack

Todays post is a product review. I provide unbiased product reviews in exchange for discounted products with the goal of helping people find good products and manufacturers improve what they create.

My bike commute lately has taken a turn for the wetter. I moved to Seattle last fall and attempted to bike through what has been the rainiest winter on record. A typical day would look something like this.
seattle-rain

Lots of water on the ground, some big puddles and a steady trickle of Seattle’s famous light rain.

During my commute, my backpack is usually stuffed with a laptop, smart phone, battery backup, cables and my change of dry clothes. Nothing I want to get wet. Even with a water resistant backpack and rain cover, I was always a bit worried and would quickly check when I got home.

This is where the COR backpack comes in. It is essentially a hybrid between a really sturdy dry bag, like the type I camping, and a biking backpack.

Here are my thoughts.

Pros:

Dry

Not a drop of water gets in. Here you can see a shot from after a bike ride home. It was thoroughly drenched. I tossed it in the tub to dry off, and grabbed what I needed out of it.

I bike with confidence with my things in this bag.

cor-backpack

Easy Loading

The bag has two pockets, both easy to use.

The main section utilized a load-from-the-top method and has a really wide mouth so it is easy to shove in a change of clothes and pull them out later. The nice thing about this setup is it is easy to get things out when the bag is wet without them getting wet. By unrolling the top clipped area, I can pull everything out and keep it a safe distance from any water.

The front zippered pocket is where I keep a few things I need quickly – my phone, keys, FOB to get into the bike parking area and wallet. Having those handy is nice and the clear pouch makes it easy to see what I’m grabbing.

Comfort

I assumed this would sacrifice in the comfort area but was pleasantly surprised. There are padded areas on the bag and the straps are adjustable so you can get a good fit.

Thanks to cross-straps at the waist and chest, the bag stays in place while biking, which is critical. I’m really impressed by how well it rides.

Construction

This bag just feels really high quality. From the stitching to the material, it all feels solid. The simplicity of the design also means fewer high-stress areas to worry about.

The first thing I did when I got it was to seal it up with air inside, like a balloon, and then sit on it. I figured that was an easy way to detect leaks. No air came out and the bag didn’t show any signs of stress.

Cons:

No product is perfect. This one is pretty great though, but there were two things that stood out to me as needing improvement.

Lack Of Internal Organization

The bag has two pockets, the front one with the clear plastic view and the large main pocket. In the large main pocket there is a divider designed to keep a laptop padded. Other than that and the water bottle mesh on the sides, there is nothing.

This is a hard transition for me coming from a Patagonia bag with a lot of little pockets. Right now my default state includes a lot of EDC (every day carry). Because of my job I don’t go anywhere without

  • Laptop
  • Backup battery
  • Charger cable
  • Mifi
  • Adaptor dongles
  • Earplugs & eye mask
  • United lounge coupons
  • Screen cleaning cloth

In my current bag I have a place for everything, but in the COR bag, a lot of that just sits together in the main area. Not ideal for my setup. There are certainly workarounds, but I expect my every day bag to handle carrying and organizing that much stuff.

Water Bottle Mesh Is Too Small

I couldn’t get my 32oz Nalgene into it. It is just too thin. These days I expect an adjustable side pocket that will easily take a wide range of water bottles, this wasn’t up to par.

Final Thoughts

I’m keeping it. This can’t quite be my every day bag right now, but it can be my bag for commuting on really rainy days. It will also be a good hiking bag for rain or canyons. I’ll also leverage it for surf trips or boat outings where I’m around water a lot – it will greatly reduce the risk of any electronics getting ruined and save me the extra step I usually take of putting a dry bag within a normal backpack.

I am very happy with the bag and impressed by the construction. I think it can easily be an every day bag for many people and if my two complaints don’t affect you, I’d recommend you get it.