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Smartphone, one month later.


So I’ve been a smartphone owner for about a month now. In other words, I’m a newbie and I’m sure I know less about those things than you. Some of you may even be reading this from one.

One thing you need to know about me is that while I’m far from being a technophobe (otherwise I wouldn’t spend most of my free time in front of a computer), I’m not a big fan of mobile phones. Maybe it simply comes from the fact that I’m not a big fan of phones, I don’t know. Or probably, it comes from the fact that when mobile phones started to become widespread, more and more people became really obnoxious with them, to the point that nowadays most people don’t even see what is obnoxious and rude about having a long and loud phone conversation with your friend while on the bus or things like that.

One thing that also bothers me with those machines is that they created a need that didn’t really exist and now people think that they can’t live without them.

I’m not saying that mobile phones are totally useless, but truth is, they are for most of us most of the time.

No, nothing bad will happen if you’re unreachable for a couple of hours, you should try it one day.

Actually I bought my very first cell phone in late 2005! Never needed one before, but I needed one then. I had just moved to Paris, lived in a apartment with two other roommates and not landline at first and I was looking for a job.

Between 2005 and 2011, I have owned two phones. Both of them very basic: they could make and receive phone calls as well as text messages. I think the second one could do more things, I never bothered learning what those were. Both of them were “pay as you go”, and they cost me about €10 a month in calls and text messages.

Then, last month, the move to Japan – and I guess the fact that I was without an internet connection for a few weeks – made me get a new phone and for some reason I decided to give a try to smartphones.

A costly try, I must say, I go from paying €10 a month to about €70 and I’m stuck with paying those €70 every month for two years now, whether I use it or not.

Oh, and as I’m sure the geekier ones among you care, I got a Samsung Galaxy S2. Apparently it’s a good phone. I don’t know, I had never really heard of it before.

And a bit more than a month later what do I think about all of this???

I think that yes, when you don’t have an internet connection at home, smartphones can be useful.

However, it cannot replace a computer and I still have trouble understanding how some people use their phones as much as their computers if not more.
I mean, right now, as I type these lines, here is what’s open in my computer:

  • Outlook
  • Skype
  • MS Word (where I’m typing this before sending it to the blog)
  • Evernote
  • Winamp
  • Tweetdeck
  • Chrome with 9 open tabs
  • Rockmelt with 6 open tabs
  • SRWare Iron with 4 open tabs
  • Opera with one open tab
  • (FYI, 20 open tabs is on the low end in terms of number of tabs open at the same time for me)

On the other hand, when I use a smartphone, I basically have one program/tab open at a time. I know more can be open at the same time, but while on a computer everything is one click away, on my smartphone, it’s a whole endeavor to go from one program/application/tab to the other without closing everything at the same time.

And as far as reading websites is concerned, I basically have the choice between needing a magnifying glass or scrolling every four lines or so… Not the best way to use the web in my opinion.

Then there are the infamous applications.

I have to admit that some can be useful at times.
Let’s see what I have on my phone and how useful they really are.

Angry Birds: Do I need to explain? Actually I don’t play as much as I thought I would, mostly because I’m afraid to look silly playing (I know I do when I forget that tilting the phone won’t make unstable pigs and blocks fall).

Barcode Scanner: It’s actually pretty useful as nowadays – especially in Japan it seems – data matrix codes are everywhere.

Earthquake Alerts: a must have when in Japan. I actually have two of those and while they give me info about earthquakes all over Japan, I still don’t know if the “alert” part of the application is useful as I live in a relatively quiet seismic area and there hasn’t been any earthquake since I installed them.

Evernote: Well, to be honest I don’t really use it that much. I’m using the computer version more and more (it allows me to have less random notes all over my desk), but I rarely find a use for the mobile version.

Facebook: Of course, I use Facebook with my mobile. However, I use it more to read my feed than to actually post.

This leads us with my main problem with smartphones in general:

It’s a real pain in the ass to type anything on a touch screen!

I really don’t understand how some people spend their time writing on Facebook, Twitter and whatnot from their mobile phones. I don’t really have big fingers, but it’s an ordeal every time I want to type even the simplest sentence. Something that should take 10 seconds can take up to 1 minute!

My other problem with Facebook mobile is that I still haven’t found how to share something with it.

Foursquare: Let’s admit it, this app is pretty useless unless you live in a place where a lot of people use it and many places have many “Foursquare discounts”. The only place that has any where I live is Domino’s Pizza. Yet, this is one of the apps I use the most. I guess I find it amusing to check in all of those places and earn badges and all. I don’t promise I won’t get suddenly bored of it one of those days.

And then we have the Google products.

I don’t know if this is the case for every Android phone, but my phone is completely synchronized with my main Google account, address book included. Once again, it’s not exactly indispensable, but it is pretty useful.
So let’s see what Google Apps I have installed:

Google Maps: I don’t know if it is because I’ve recently moved in a new city or simply because I love maps, but it is one of the apps I use the most, and I can’t wait to travel with it.

Gmail: It’s great to be able to read your e-mails on the go (and to weed out your inbox several times a day so that only important e-mails make it to Outlook when I’m back home.

Google Latitude: For some reason I love this app (the map thing certainly) although it’s sad that none of my friends really use it (and they’re on the other side of the planet anyway). Too bad Latitude doesn’t have some sort of Foursquarish dimension to it (you know, the points, the badges, etc). I know one can check in places too, but without the game aspect, I still haven’t really understood what the point was.

Google+: Just like with Facebook, it’s great to read my stream on the go, but typing… eh…

Google Reader: I use this application every day. With my new job, I don’t have as much time as I used to have to read the many blogs I have subscribed to, but thanks to this app, I can read a lot of them during the 40 minutes I spend on a train every day. The downside is that I don’t read books on the train anymore…

Google Sky Maps: I don’t use it that much right now, but mostly because I spend as little time outside at night as possible (it’s called Winter) but wait til it gets warm again!

Google Goggles: I know it’s still in beta and it doesn’t work as well as it could, but this is pretty amazing. Take a picture of anything and the App will google as many things as it can from it (text, barcodes, images, etc.)

What else do I have on that phone?

– A bunch of news apps (BBC, NY Times, Le Monde) to read the news in the morning.

– A bunch of Japanese apps that came with the phone, I have no idea what most of them are for and I can’t read any of them anyway.

Youtube, although I don’t really use it.

Tweetdeck: I know some people think that Twitter was really made for smartphones and use it only from their mobile, but just like with the other social networks, I need a real computer to use them the way I like to use them.

Imdb and Wikipedia: I don’t really use them either, but it’s good to have them there, just in case.

The Weather Channel: extremely useful especially when I need to take my bike to work and know what the weather will be like at the end of the day.

Shazam & Sound Hound: I’m not sure why I have both on my phone, but they are great tools! For those who don’t know them, with them, if you make your phone “listen” to a song that’s playing somewhere, it recognizes the song. I do prefer Sound Hound, it seems better at recognizing, will give you the lyrics of the song too, and can every recognize a song that you sing!

Flashlight: I’ve never used it, but it could be useful one of those days.

– Vlingo: I still haven’t really figure out what was the point. Sure I can speak commands to my phone and it will understand most of them, but unless I’m at home, that means basically talking to yourself in the street.

XE Currency: gives you the exchange rates of various currencies in real time, useful when you spend your money in Yen, Euro and Dollars (although to be honest, I don’t use my phone when I need to know the rates).

So all in all, yeah, there are a bunch of useful things that come with smartphones, but I still think that they mostly are gadget that most people could live without even if they all look so addicted to them nowadays.

What about you? Why do you use a smartphone? Do you really think you couldn’t live without one or are you just being a diva?

And what apps do you think are missing to my collection?

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