Technology’s evolution continue to bring us more computing power at the palm of our hands, this is literally the case when referring to PDA’s and smartphones. However, I often wonder how many of us lugging around these intelligent devices actually know how to put them to good use. Most users of smartphones that I know actually only use them as glorified cell phones or status symbols and nothing more. The reason for this, I want to believe, is that the user typically just doesn’t know (and too often doesn’t need) all of the smarts that the phone has to offer. Surely finding the proper application for your smartphone’s functionality is somewhat unique to each user, but here are some of the benefits that I get out of my phone that may give you some ideas how you can put the smart back into your smartphone.
So to start-off, I use a Palm Treo 750v running Windows Mobile 5.0, and despite the many negative comments that I often hear in the tech world about the Windows Mobile platform, I am actually a strong advocate for it! Especially when used in the corporate environment with MS Exchange mail server. Despite this, the features I will discuss are not specific to the Windows Mobile platform and are common to all smartphones.
The day begins as my phone’s alarm clock struggles to get me out of bed, it often takes all four alarms prior to bringing me to complete consciousness. As I head off by foot to the Pinerolo train station I use my phone listen to a few of my favorite mp3s or a new audio book that help quicken my step. Every morning I have a one hour commute to Torino, during which time my smartphone helps me put smart use to my time and makes the trip more enjoyable. Besides allowing me to keep a large library of eBooks and other reading material always at hand, I also use the phone as a productivity tool.
The key to being able to get the full benefits out of your smartphone is to also have with it a data service plan. Fortunately here in Italy we have an extend implementation of 3G cellular service and thanks to Vodafone‘s data plan I enjoy mobile connectivity just about everywhere (besides when skiing in the Alps where I have to compromise with a GPRS connection will riding up the ski lift). With this connection I can now synchronize with my mail server to get my work email and calendar events or open a web browser to check my gmail and Google Calendar. I then review my list of activities which I track using a wonderful GTD tool: tracks.tra.in, which I keep synchronizing to my phone using the NewsCopier mobile rss feed reeder (thanks to John Jonas for this tip). As I think of other tasks or memos for the day I can post them to my GTD list tool by either sending an SMS or email to my tracks.tra.in account (the message syntax allows you to also directly assign the task to a context or project).
Now that I am up-to-date with the day’s activities I can do some quick project research browsing the web, including finding the store hours and phone number for a shop to wax my snowboard using a Google local search. Since I am not from Torino I often find it handy to have a map or in my case Google Maps. Using the new Google Maps 2.0 I can locate myself on the map even without connecting my GPS antenna. This is especially useful when traveling by foot, however when driving I connect the GPS antenna to the phone and TomTom navigator gets me where I am going.
Finally I can then use my smartphone as a productivity tool allowing me to work on files, respond to emails and follow my favorite podcasts and take notes while listening (mobile OneNote allows you to take notes on your phone and have them synchronized to your PC). Activating the WordPress feature to post by email makes it easy to write and post blog articles from your phone. Finally, if you are a real road warrior you can use the phone has a broadband modem for your laptop (be aware that some data plans may bill separately when using the phone as a modem. You don’t want to get stuck with an $85,000 phone bill as this Canadian man did).
So how do you use your smartphone?