Tech Insights: The Smartphone Advantage

Daniel S. Kaplan

It won’t be long, some analysts predict, before your old cell phone goes the way of the Boy Scout telephone, two tin cans connected by a string. Meanwhile, you might consider purchasing a smartphone or upgrading the one you have.

Smartphones are handheld computers that allow the user to make phone calls, check and send emails, surf the Internet, take high resolution photographs, get travel directions by GPS, and make life and work easier and more interesting  with tens of thousands of other applications.

On the market for roughly a decade, the smartphone is often known by its brand name: industry leaders are Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Google’s Android, but there are a number of other models and operating systems.

Smartphones don’t come with instruction manuals, but users accustomed to PCs and cellphones typically find their way, often experiencing delight and wonder on their digital adventures. Some users recommend keeping the same model in the family: if Dad conducts his business on an iPhone, for example, it will be easier for the family to stay connected if Mom and the kids have iPhones, too. Family members will also be able to share apps, another convenience and money-saver.

If you’re considering purchasing a smartphone, consult your friends and colleagues for recommendations. Get several opinions, then try out the various models, holding them, using  the keyboard, and seeing how they feel in your pocket.

The following tips will help you make the best choice:

Which one should I buy?
This is a very personal choice. The two most popular operating systems are iPhone and Android. The iPhone offers only one model; the Android offers an ever-growing range of options at varying price points. Other systems are available. Weigh your needs and wants against the advantages and disadvantages of each model. With smartphones, one size does not fit all users.

Organization. Your smartphone can function as a personal organizer, with contact lists, notes, and automatic reminders.

Information at your fingertips. With a 3G data plan or connected to WiFi, you have the Internet at the ready.

Access to email. Easily stay connected to work when on the road or away from the office.

What about Apps?
For many people, apps are the main reason to get a smartphone. Because there are so many, I surveyed the Information Technology Department at LGC for their favorites:

Gas Buddy: Helps you find the cheapest gas prices in your area.

WeatherBug:  Provides access to the largest network of professional weather stations in North America and thousands of locations around the world.

CardStar: Offers an amazingly simple solution for managing digital versions of your plastic loyalty cards, reward cards, and club membership cards.

Evernote: An easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. It helps you to stay organized and save your ideas while improving productivity.

Flipboard: Creates a personalized magazine out of whatever  is digitially shared with you.

Wunderlist: Organizes your tasks, syncs them between devices, and shares your lists.

Scanner Radio: Lets you listen on your phone to police and fire department communications, in real time, from around the world.

Words with Friends: Players exchange turns forming words horizontally or vertically on the board, trying to score as many points as possible for each word.

Snapseed: Makes any photo extraordinary. You can easily enhance your photos, add amazing effects, and share them everywhere.

Draw Something: Gives you access to the most popular social drawing and guessing game.

The Night Sky: This  magical app  enables you to identify the stars, planets, galaxies, constellations, and even satellites visible in the sky.

ESPN Score Center: Delivers live scores from hundreds of leagues around the world.

Instagram: Shares your photos in a simple photo stream with friends and lets you follow your friends’ photos with the click of a button.

TweetDeck: Your browser for social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Buzz.

Dan Kaplan is Chief Information Officer for the New Hampshire Local Government Center. He can be reached at 800.852.3358 or dkaplan@nhlgc.org.

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