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Smart Phones Changing the Way We Live !

Ever since I first gained internet access in the late nineties, I thought whenever someone released a device which allowed that same access but through a handheld mobile product, I would be attached to that device day and night. Ten years later, smartphones are here, and this is exactly what has happened.

Probably 70% of my online time is spend through my phone. But with the smartphone's media capabilities, probably 80% of my media consumption is also through my phone. Basically, my smartphone has revolutionized the way I gather information; I am never more than two minutes from an answer to a question, if that answer exists.

My smartphone is the single-most used and most useful item I own. It's my phone, my music player, my web browser, my encyclopedia, dictionary, calculator, calendar, notepad, contact list, finance tracker, news reader, book reader, to-do manager, clock (and alarm clock), exercise tracker, movie critic, restaurant critic, email terminal, radio, movie theater, map, compass, weather reporter, camera, camcorder, stenographer, television and game machine, all packed into a tiny pocket-sized device that runs all day on a single charge. Really, it's nothing short of miraculous. Essentially, it has become a second brain that takes care of the innumerable rote and mundane aspects of life and puts just about every bit of the world's information a few seconds away. Remember having to set meeting points and times for the inevitable separation from your friends? Now anyone is a quick call or map point away.

I've always been a fan of the whole idea. I like having access to all of my info, communications channels, streaming media, web, etc. away from the house or office. Ever since I picked up a 3G connection with my Smart Phone, I've been glad to see the kind of convergence I had been waiting for since I first got into computing as a kid. Nothing like having access to just about anything in your pocket, be it answers, information, media, or entertainment.

I personally think that as these things keep growing in power and integration, things like location aware services and general interconnectedness will have a big effect on society in the places where people can afford the services and devices. You can get all your social network updates and email messages simultaneously, and connect with people you can't find anywhere else. And this life as we all know has been a continuum of constant change over the last decade. Thankfully, as the premium devices raise the bar, the basic functionality gets cheaper and more common for everyone.

The PDA functions are great, having my personal data with me at all times is useful. Calendar, with audible reminder and contacts are especially useful. Add to that an encrypted password database, a general-purpose mobile database, e-books and games.

Converging the phone + PDA into smart phone is tremendous, not only because it eliminates need of multiple devices but because you now have access to the world's information as well your own Wikipedia, news sites, forums, etc. I refer to my smart phone as my auxiliary brain.

The other big thing for me is GPS. I honestly don't know how I got around finding things without it. I literally use it every day now to get a GPS route, or usually to find a restaurant, business or phone number.

Smart Phones changing Lives !

Here are some incidents collected from parts of my life and friends where smart phones showcased their positive impact on our lives :

I was at a press conference half an hour away from the office by car with my friend who is a reporter.
By the time we had driven 15 minutes toward the office, she had "written" her lead and I used my phone to put the big news online before anyone else at the press conference released it.
Smartphones are invaluable tools for journalists.

Although my friend's husband had to convince her to get smartphone initially, she is now a fan of it! In the folktale: Boot's and His Brothers, retold by Eric Kimmel, a recurring point is: "Whenever you ask a question, do not rest until you find the answer." The smartphone helps her answer dozens of queries that come up in a day: Like, where is Chandni Chowk or Red Fort and how far is it from Rohini ? She loves being able to research an answer at the point of wonderment because previously, even the questions would be forgotten by the time she had the resources available.

My aunt had a baby two days after Christmas. She was on maternity leave during New Year's Eve and the beginning of the year. If she hadn't had my smart phone, she would have went insane more so than she already was. Having the smart phone kept her in contact with friends via Facebook and Words with Friends. It also let her read books on a whim and chat with friends via AIM. She still spent time with her baby, but while she was rocking him to sleep and needed some grown-up talking time, it was there to save her sanity.

My best friend works in an outdoor "toy store" selling backpacks, bicycles, camping equipment. Smart phones make a difference there because often the customer can access technical information about products faster through their phones than he can using store computers or product information sheets! The customer will also use the phone to compare costs or send information and pictures of the product to a spouse or friend for their help in selection. This easy access to and transfer of information has changed the focus of our job from giving product information to helping the customer select the right product and helping with how to best use the product.

My maternal uncle, in the late 90s, made fun of people with cell phones. He bought one when he had his first child. It made phone calls.
I remember in the mid 2000s, he used to think that it sure would be great if his phone and MP3 player were one gadget, so he wouldn't have to carry both. Apparently he wasn't the only one with that thought.
These days, he can't imagine not being connected. He play scrabble constantly, look up info, directions, reviews, and weather. He email, Twitter, and Facebook on the go. He exchange texts with his children grandparents.
As an educator, he see endless possibilities in the use of mobile technology. He dream of a classroom made of docks, ready for students to slip their personal readers into. He hope for the day that we stop banning technology in our schools and start embracing it.

Smartphones and Work Life Balance

A couple of days ago a question was asked in a forum about the positives and negatives of smartphones on work/life balance.

In my experience when it comes to smartphones and work/life balance I think a lot of the pros/cons are about how a person uses a tool such as this. Like any technology you have to know when to turn it off and setup personal guidelines for how to use it.

These communication guidelines should be clearly explained to others you work with as well. Sometimes people think because you have a smartphone that gives you almost instant access to email you should be replying to every message within minutes regardless of what time of day it is.

I am a proponent of “work/life integration” as I believe balance can be difficult to achieve at times – but tools such as smartphones and other new communication tools make it easier to integrate work into your life. So if that means you have to do a bit of work on your vacation – but instead you get to take vacations you couldn’t take before – in my opinion that is a win.


To conclude, listing 5 broad points about how smart phones change our lives :
  1. You are much more productive from a personal standpoint. You no longer miss important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. All of those appointments with the dentist and chiropractor are scheduled with lots of lead time and alarms. Every phone number you could ever imagine is at your fingertips. You are way too connected to FaceBook and Twitter.
  2. You are much more productive from a career and business standpoint. Schedules are a piece of cake. You even use your phone for scanning important documents – then emailing them to your biggest client. You are engaged and respond at lightning speed compared to your competitors. You never miss that important opportunity.
  3. You are better informed. You are the person that lets everyone else know when there is a traffic jam on the interstate – in real time. You know exactly what the financial markets are doing – in real time. Big news story breaks? You are all over it. Competitors? You know more about what’s going on with them than they do. Tee time? You can make sure the weather is going to cooperate – you are a hero.
  4. You are better prepared. There is nothing worse than someone coming into a meeting that isn’t prepared – if you own a smart phone this should never happen. GPS whether you are hiking, walking, driving, cycling, or flying on a commercial jet – you always know your ETA. When you have information at your finger tips – you are always better prepared than the next person.
  5. You can unwind and relax more often. Standing on the fairway – use that GPS and iPhone App to decide which iron to use. Early for an appointment? No problem anymore – catch up on your favorite game while you wait – or read some of your favorite book. Riding in a cab or sitting at the airport – chill out and browse your FaceBook and Twitter accounts – have a little down time from real work.