February 23, 2008

Why a SmartPhone?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by dgcombs

Demian came over for Tyler’s birthday party last night. Katie and he got to talking about phones. He wanted something to help him get organized. I wrote the following to see if I couldn’t (a) prove I am still relevant and (b) help.

If your goal is to “”get organized”” then I don’t think you need to spend a dime on a smart phone. In fact, I don’t think you need to spend any money at all. I used to use a Samsung A640 which, granted, was a pretty snazzy for a phone. But it had none of the features of a SmartPhone from Apple, Microsoft or Palm. So I cobbled together a number of free services that would give me the appearance of being organized. Here’s how to do it.

1) Sign up for Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging, social networking site. In other words, you find your friends and send an SMS text message (or you can use a web browser) to Twitter. All your friends can read your messages. And you can read theirs. Excellent. You’ll know when someone got rained on running for a bus! But you don’t have to experience the Web 2.0-ness of it to use it.

2) Sign up for Remember the Milk. This is bar none, the best ToDo list management software in the world. Well, at least of the free ones any way. Remember the Milk lets you sort your tasks into groups, prioritize them and remind yourself to do them with SMS Text messages. Best of all, when you add rtm (Remember the Milk) as one of your Twitter friends, you suddenly can interact with your to do list via Text messages. For example, you can ask Twitter to tell rtm to send you a text message with all your School tasks, or your priority one tasks. Or, if you complete one, you can send an SMS text message to your Twitter friend, rtm, to set it to complete.

3) Sign up for Jott. Jott is fantastic especially when you’ve shut down your computer to go home, you start driving out of the garage and remember that important presentation is due the next day! You call Jott and tell it to send a ToDo over to Remember the Milk to work on that presentation! If you can’t type, you can Jott! They’ll transcribe it for you.

4) Finally, check if your phone is using some form of Java. Most phones do support it. If it is, get on over to OperaMini and download their web browser. This is a nearly full function web browser that lets you interact with these services and more when you are nowhere near your computer. You can connect to http://m.twitter.com and http://m.rememberthemilk.com directly from you phone.

Now of course, to do all this you need to use Text Messages and Data/Internet. Those typically come at a low price.

Notably absent, if you’ve been paying attention, is Contact lists and Calendars. When you sign up for GMail, you also get a wonderful calendar. It can send you an SMS or email or both to let you know where you’re supposed to be. It is also free. GMail also comes with a contact list. These two I was never able to figure out how to sync with my little A640 phone. There may be a way, but it’s not quite there yet. GMail also lets you collect messages from other mail accounts. So you might have three or four email accounts that you only read on GMail!

So the reason I bought a SmartPhone was fairly simple. I needed to get work email and sync my calendar with work. A Blackberry is nice, but costs the same as a SmartPhone. The SmartPhone did not require the costly data service plan that Blackberry did. Moreover, I use my SmartPhone for taking notes in meetings. This is very hard to do with a Blackberry, but easy to do with the handwriting recognition available on the SmartPhones.

Should YOU buy a SmartPhone? Well, that depends. If you and your phone can use these services and you don’t want to spend any more money on a new one, then perhaps not. If you don’t have to talk to a Microsoft Exchange back end, it just might not be worth the money.

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