Why is a brand-new smartphone worth the money?
August 31, 2012 12:24 PM   Subscribe

How do you use your smartphone to actually improve your life/work? How would you persuade someone upgrading is worthwhile with real-life examples?

I'm considering upgrading a very outdated phone running Windows Mobile, but I don't want to spend the money unless I know that I can do things that improve my life in some sort of measurable way.

Most of the benefits I hear are hypothetical, and I've bought plenty of products over the years that I thought would deliver something they did not (Power Glove anyone?).

So, can anyone tell me, how do you actually use your phone to save you time, accomplish more, etc.?
posted by likeyoubutme to Technology (35 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
You'll have to define smartphone. Windows Mobile is a smartphone OS, with access to networked calendars, email, internet, etc. For me those are the big difference makers and you already have them. Are you looking for "the apps that you like best" because I think that's the main difference between WinMobile and ios, android, and windows phone.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, the ability to capture receipts with Plendi has recouped the cost of my smartphone about 9000 times over.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:36 PM on August 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


I use my smartphone for GPS location finding and driving directions. Basically I am never lost ever, which is a huge difference because I have a terrible sense of direction and in my pre-GPS days used to get lost constantly.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:37 PM on August 31, 2012 [12 favorites]


I once broke down in the middle of nowhere in Indiana late at night. I was able to use my smartphone to look up some tow truck companies, call them and accurately tell them where I was so they could find me.

With my smartphone I have access to every single e-mail I've ever sent or received. This is immensely helpful when looking up receipts, tracking packages or dealing with staff in stores. When you can pull up all of your correspondence with a person at a moment's notice it can really help you get things done.

With GPS and maps, I am never lost no matter if I am in the part of my city that has weird road alignments or if I get off the plane in a city I've never been to before. Before I had this capability, I used to study maps incessantly before trips to make sure I was acquainted with the areas I was visiting. Now that time is saved because I only need an overview and I can get directions on the fly.

Related to the above is eating while traveling. Before this access to the info was readily available, eating while traveling meant whatever chain restaurant was right off the interstate. Now with GPS, maps and Yelp reviews it is easy to go 5-10 off the main road to eat a gem of a little restaurant.
posted by mmascolino at 12:39 PM on August 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


The best thing about having a smartphone (iPhone) for me is not getting lost. I used to avoid going to San Francisco because I would always get lost and it would be more frustrating than enjoyable. Also, being able to use Google to get "directions" using public transportation is very helpful since I am apparently incapable of reading a bus/train schedule. I'm not sure if that is worth the $30/mo I have to pay for a data plan but it feels like it when I'm lost in the Tenderloin.
posted by sacrifix at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've got an Android personal phone and a BlackBerry work phone. Both, I think, can be considered "smart." Here's how I benefit from their use:
- setting up profiles so that only work calls get through (no other sounds are made-- no e-mail, text messages, etc. notification sounds go off)
- Android's Pure Grid Calendar widget syncs seamlessly with GMail, and I can have it as one giant calendar on one "page" of the homescreens (I've got five such pages)
- I've got a "Travel" page set up on the Android phone that uses the same calendar widget, showing only the week, and only calendar entries labeled "Travel" and "Flight." These are clickable, and show details on where/when I'm flying/staying, complete with confirmation numbers. Below this is a FlightTrack widget that shows all upcoming flights, which are clickable, too. Flight information can and does change, and this widget keeps up to date with them
- The "Travel" page also has travel-related apps in a folder, such as apps to look up cheap flights (OnTheFly, SkyScanner, various apps to keep track of flights and frequent flyer miles)
- Google's Authenticator runs on the Android phone, so I can use 2-step authorization, which is more secure than using only username/password.
- I've got Google Maps, and have cached large maps of places of interest, such as where I'll be traveling), offline, so that I can pull up the map even when I have no data connection. When I do have data connection, I can also pull up "My Maps," which are maps where I've markers of interest such as parks, museums, restaurants, sites, etc.

And the biggest killer app of them all: searchable GMail.
posted by herrdoktor at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


I had a Blackberry through work, which I lost when I was laid off. I didn't think it would matter that much, so I didn't bother to get a new one (money was tight).

However, I found myself stranded in a strange city with float plane and ferry service shut down due to a winter storm (I live on an island) and I needed someplace to stay, and some way to keep on top of travel updates. I couldn't do it! I had to rely on the Yellow Pages to phone up a hotel, for example.

So I got a smart phone, an HTC Hero (this was a few years ago). It did the trick, although over time I stopped using it (I started doing less business development and traveling, and started to work from home).

The Hero wasn't all that powerful.

Anyway, I recently upgraded to a new phone (an HTC One X) and I've started using it every day, for

- Email
- Skype
- Calendar + Tasks (entered on my laptop)
- Music
- Streaming audio and streaming radio
- Streaming HD YT onto my stereo (my laptop's processor doesn't like HD)
- Voice search
- Local search
- Taking and sharing photos and video with family
- Storing photos and video on Dropbox
- Stargazing (with Google's Star Map)
- Taking to client meetings instead of a laptop to review Word documents stored in Google Drive, Dropbox, or Skydrive
- Calling up Google Drive documents and editing them

Just tons of uses.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:53 PM on August 31, 2012


A modern smartphone is basically a small, always-on, always-connected little computer in your pocket. With built-in GPS.

What do you use your computer for? You can probably do it on a phone. When I killed my laptop after slipping on the Reykjavík ice too many times, I was able to configure my old smartphone to allow me to continue doing my IT job until I could get back to the US (where laptops are affordable, and have English language keyboards).

If I'm stuck in line at the grocery store, I can put a dent in my reading list. If I'm in a new city, maps, transit directions, and restaurant reviews are at my fingertips. My music collection is always in my pocket, and if that's not enough, I've got Pandora and Spotify, too. If I'm out with friends and we think we might like to see a movie, we know for sure in a few moments.

I even use my phone as a nautical chartplotter when I'm sailing offshore. Really, the sky's the limit.
posted by zjacreman at 12:54 PM on August 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ways in which I use a smartphone that has improved my life (in no particular order):

1) Since I have the Kindle App on my phone I always have something to read. It has definitely helped my stress level when it comes to really boring activities like waiting in the doctor's office, for example. I use this functionality almost every day.

2) I can check my personal e-mail from work. Personal email is inaccessible from my work otherwise. I use this functionality every day.

3) I can send and receive texts. I believe my old dumbphone had this capability but I never used it. Too hard to access and/or type. I use this functionality every day.

4) If I get lost I can always figure out where I am at using GPS. Sometimes I now intentionally drive new ways because I know I'll be able to get back on track if needed. I use this functionality a few times a month.

5) Listening to Audiobooks and Music and Podcasts. With the Audible and Spotify and Stitcher apps I'm able to find tons of stuff to listen to in the car. I use this functionality almost every day.

6) Finding concrete pieces of information, e.g. movie times, phone numbers, business hours, etc. I use this almost every day.

That being said, I still haven't mentally wrapped my mind around, paying $60 extra a month for the listed benefits. I used to pay $30 for cellphone service and now I pay $90.

If I had to I could easily go back to using an ordinary "dumb" cellphone. The smartphone hasn't improved my life so much that I have to have it.

Ways in which other people use smartphones that I've never really gotten into:

1) Playing games and using apps.

2) Being able to get to the Internet whenever, wherever.

3) Taking photographs and video.
posted by dgeiser13 at 12:55 PM on August 31, 2012


Iphone. Has saved getting me from getting lost in multiple time zones. I frequently take trains and public transportation and it has been a lifesaver for updated schedules and changing tickets. Ability to take photos everywhere: sometimes a frivolous thing, sometimes really useful for remembering details, posters to look up later, and though it hasn't happened, good for accidents or other things needing photographic records. Access to my email: tickets (plane, train, events,) phone numbers and addresses, receipts, landlord emails, etc. I ended up with a smart phone right after Hurricane Irene came through my area and before a freak blizzard. It was invaluable to have internet access and a way to view problem areas and news. After the hurricane it was stressful to navigate the floodwaters and downed power lines without knowing what the roads were like, which is less of an issue now. The difference between the two events before and after iPhone were remarkable.

I wouldn't say it's been essential; I don't use it abroad and I just pack pocket maps and schedules and look up restaurants beforehand. But timing is usually more urgent than on vacation, and it's been invaluable for handling rough commutes. A family member is in the hospital now and it's been super useful to be able to look things up on the spur of the moment-- either facts or emails from other family members with updates.

So I would say its benefits probably depend a lot on what you do and what you have regular access to during the day.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:59 PM on August 31, 2012


The two biggest ways my smartphone impacts my life (there are lots of little ones too, of course):

1. Having access to my calendar from everywhere without carrying around a planner. Not to mention the extra smart calendar behavior, like reminders, being able to schedule a recurring meeting without writing something on the calendar multiple times. For a concrete example, when I'm at the doctor's office and I am making an appointment for next year, I don't have to run out and buy a 2013 planner (or wonder if I was supposed to be doing something else that day).

2. Accessing the map, especially (for me) the transit map. No longer trying to read multiple paper bus schedules to figure out my route. I just tell it where I want to go and it tells me when the next bus is coming and where to transfer.
posted by beyond_pink at 1:03 PM on August 31, 2012


+GPS/Mapping software. Like the others above, I am never lost.
+Calendar. I can keep my appointments, meetings, and all other schedule dependant things in the calendar on my phone and share that with my husband and coworkers as needed. I get reminders of when things are happening and I can even put in the address of the event so that I can actually get there.
+Reading. I have a kindle, iPhone, and iPad. I have the Kindle app on both of the iThingys and can read my current book on whatever device I have with me at the time.
+Music. My iPhone talks to my car, my headphones, and my stereo at home. I can have the exact same music with me all the time and never have to remember to grab the right cd or music player. It's always with me.
+Walgreens app. I kid you not, it has been the most wonderful thing to be able to scan the barcode on a prescription and have it refilled. Then they send me a text when it's ready.
+Redbox app. I want to watch a movie. I find out which Redbox has that movie, reserve it and get a map to the location. All while standing in line to check out at the grocery store.
+Good camera. I never need to remember to bring the camera on trip because I have a freaking awesome camera right there in my pocket.

There's about a million other things that I use my phone for everyday that I'm not thinking about. And that's what happens, you increasing become reliant on them and you just don't realize it. I love it though and wouldn't go back.
posted by teleri025 at 1:03 PM on August 31, 2012


Note also that for most of the things people (myself included) are talking about, you don't need the newest whiz-bangiest smartphone. I'm using a nearly 3-year-old Droid Incredible and not feeling a great deal of upgrade pressure. Whatever your carrier offers as a free upgrade is probably OK.

If you're balking at monthly data charges, you can often buy a phone outright, either used or something like the Google Galaxy Nexus from Google's Play store, set it up with a voice-only plan (they don't make you get data if the phone isn't on contract), and still get many smartphone benefits over wifi connections.

I've done this in countries where my Verizon phone didn't work, and it's not ideal, but it's better than not having a computer in my pocket more powerful than any desktop PC I owned prior to 2005.
posted by zjacreman at 1:06 PM on August 31, 2012


Well, it means that you potentially always have something to fill your idle time. This may or may not be an advantage, depending on your point of view and proclivity towards addiction.

But, besides the idle time wasting, there are a number of really positive things:

1. I remember the first time I posted something on Craigslist that I wanted to get rid of, that weekend, and planning when I would have to stop home in the middle of my errands to check my mail for responses: "Oh, wait, I can just check it wherever!" Same goes for doing anything you'd need the web for, like even looking up hours/phone numbers, or ordering something, etc. Stuff that you'd have to put off until you get to a computer you can just do. This is great if (like me) you forget stuff. I can remember that I need to order door hinges (this really happened), and ordering them takes just as short as making the reminder.

2. It's easier to make notes. See the forgetting stuff, above. I have an endless supply of searchable notes, and I can be reminded of stuff at particular geo-locations which is handy.

3. That idle time comment above--it means that you can spend that time playing Angry Birds, sure. But, you can also actually Get Stuff Done wherever you are. Alternatively, you can connect socially via Facebook, Twitter, what have you. I'm not being disparaging here; when I'm busy at home and work, stolen moments with the phone is just about the only social interaction I get.

4. Oh yeah, I almost forgot--I use the GPS and mapping a lot. Don't know if your current phone does that.

5. Never underestimate the importance of a backup internet connection. If I lose my home internet connection, I can look up why online (on my phone). If my work blocks something via their draconian proxy, I can just check on my phone. If my hotel connection is flaky, I'll just use my own connection.

6. Reference. Both the internet and stored reference materials. First, a modern phone is going to be a better reading experience (more pixels) than what you have. Second, it's just a convenient form factor for reference at times, like when I'm looking up a part for something in the garage.

7. A smartphone makes for some pretty good entertainment, too. Maybe you're not buying it for that (movies, music, ebooks, newspapers, magazines, great games), but people certainly spend a lot of money on entertainment so that may count to you as "worth the money".

8. Pictures and movies of friends and relatives. Again this is not so much "smartphone" as it is a number of things together (maybe that defines a smartphone?) like screen, camera, and OS. But it's nice to be able to take and view high-quality pictures with a camera that's always there.

Like someone said above, it's basically like asking, "Why have a computer?" with the computer, incidentally, being this little slab that's always with you. It took me a long time to justify the expense. We ended up canceling the land line to compensate, and we haven't missed it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:06 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here are the things my iPhone has replaced, for me:

-alarm clock
-checkbook register
-flashlight
-paper calendar
-maps
-camera
-rolodex

and here are things I use it for that I never knew I needed, but improve my life immensely:

-grocery IQ (syncs between my phone and spouse's so whoever's at the store can get what we need)
-Couch to 5K app
-keytag loyalty card app
-access to all my bank accounts, can pay my bills with my phone now
-and having access to email and web is of course extremely handy on occasion
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:09 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


1. Maps and nav - being able to find a route to any destination from wherever I am, as well as being able to locate new destinations on the fly. Additionally, checking traffic status before or during my hellish commute, then re-route myself a different way home.
2. Alarms and reminders - being able to set complex notifications to remind me to do things depending on time of day, location means I'm not quite as forgetful as I used to be. This is seriously a big one that makes a huge difference to my work and personal life.
3. Internet access - being able to look up information wherever I am - store opening hours, movie showtimes, trivia to solve friendly disputes, wikipedia to understand something in a discussion, killing time browsing while waiting for appointments etc. I include checking my personal email in this. I can also check work email from my phone, which is awesome at times.
4. Camera - shooting quick photos or videos of my kids or weird stuff I see out and about, taking snapshots of work-related things and being able to immediately email said photos and videos to my work account or family or whoever. No need to carry a separate camera around with me.
5. Shopping list app - makes grocery shopping easier, I can add things to the list wherever and whenever I think of it.
6. movies, videos, music - entertains my small children in a pinch - tedious waits wherever, or restaurant meals that go on a long time can be smoothed out by allowing my monsters to watch something on my phone, reduces fidgeting and complaining.
7. Various misc apps - things I don't do very often but I'm delighted to be able to do them occasionally, when I'm not near a computer. Check weather; check flight status when family/friends are on their way to visit; track my partner's commute home if I'm trying to time food to his arrival; book restaurant tables on a whim; look up recipes; check house listings; move documents with dropbox; convert values with a conversion app; use a calculator; get language translations when traveling.
posted by Joh at 1:14 PM on August 31, 2012


So a couple of years ago I got an HTC Desire, which was a revelation. Then I moved for my job and was given a blackberry, which I was a bit underwhelmed by and then they decided to give people the option to go for an iphone instead of the blackberry. Since passed the HTC on to my auntie who adores it. Thinks it's the best toy ever and I like my iphone a lot.

So what do I use my iphone for every day:
- work tool so I use it for my work emails, diary, calls etc
- to tether my work laptop when I am travelling (which I do a lot) and haven't got wifi access
- I do not have a car at the moment so a vast range of travel apps to check schedules, buy mobile tickets and for mobile boarding passes
- to listen to music
- to read books
- to check the weather forecast
- for all my personal diary, contact detail and my email needs
- to play on the internet - work pay for a bunch of data for us, too.
- for directions
- as alarm clock
- to take pictures when I do not want to take a camera with me
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:15 PM on August 31, 2012


- The obvious stuff (email, music, video, calendar, alarm clock, maps, GPS with traffic)

- When I lived in DC, the NextBus app allowed me to almost perfectly time my commute, saving me up to an hour a day.

- Camera + Blogger app = actually starting a blog.

- Lists (grocery, life)

- Various health / fitness tracking apps

- Games for entertainment

- Books!

Essentially, it's a computer in your pocket, optimized to ease your days and routines.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:26 PM on August 31, 2012


I'm a freelance producer/project manager/writer and the biggest way my iPhone has improved my life is that it's untethered me from my computer. I can be out and about while keeping a project moving -- checking/responding to emails, reviewing comps, answering questions, etc. I find other features vital as well (GPS, camera, banking, Kindle, Amazon wishlist, music player, etc.) -- but the ability to "work" poolside or wherever has been incredibly liberating.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 1:29 PM on August 31, 2012


Having the calendar, e-mail, and flashlight apps have been enormous conveniences that have simplified and improved my life. Always-there google, wikipedia, and GPS are also nice (though I could live without). A shared grocery store app has really reduced the amount of time I spent futzing around with grocery lists; I can just add things as I think of them, my husband can add things, either of us can drop by the store with a complete, up-to-date list. Being able to access google docs is nice ... I have a list of questions for my pediatrician I can always add to and then immediately access in her office; I have a list of all my husband's sizes in case I'm out and see shirts on sale.

The thing that continues to blow my mind, and is such a convenience, is an app that manages my phone's activities based on what *I* am doing. (I use Llama, for Android.) It has, for starters, daytime, naptime, and nighttime "profiles" where it is quiet but audible during naptime, silent at night but lets certain people ring through very loudly (so it'd wake me if my mother called at 3 a.m.). But that's just the start of it. At night it automatically disables rotation so I can read the phone lying on my side in bed ... unless I turn on the app that controls my thermostat, in which case it enables rotation so I can access all the functions, and then turns the rotation back off when I click away from the app. It can see on my calendar when I have meetings, and when it "knows" that I've arrived at the meeting building (tells by cell tower polling), it silences itself except for allowing texts or calls from my husband to come through in case of emergency. It shuts off its wifi when I'm in certain buildings where I can't use the wifi, to conserve battery. It knows when I'm at the pediatrician's office and a) fetches a bunch of articles for me to read on my phone while I wait and b) silences itself so it doesn't interrupt the doctor. When it picks up the library wifi it quiets the phone and connects to that wifi network.

My husband, who has a long commute, has his set so that when he exits a certain radius around his office, it text messages me automatically to let me know he's left work. In the morning, when it picks up his office wifi, it texts me to let me know he's arrived safely.

My personal contacts have not just phone #s but addresses, FB profiles, etc., whatever you want, all linked. When I'm going to my friend's house from the other side of town, I can open her contact info, click on her addresses, and it'll turn on the GPS and direct me to her house. I have it programmed with the hours of various after-hours urgent care places that specialize in pediatrics, so I have an emergency with one of my kids, it "knows" what the closest currently-open place to go is and can turn on GPS to there and pull up the phone # of the place.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:31 PM on August 31, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have a HTC Wildfire, which I loved after 6 months with a Blackberry. The Blackberry opened my eyes to how handy having a smartphone is, the Wildfire has let me enjoy all the different app possiblities. Unfortunately, it has very little internal memory, and just isn't as powerful as I would like.

Soon I'll upgrade either to an iPhone or a comparable HTC.

I'm a teacher, and I use the subway to get around, so the usefulness of my smartphone is related...

I LOVE:

the Kindle App - I LOVE LOVE LOVE that I can carry all the books I want with me to read, without breaking my back.

Music - obviously

Evernote - I snap photos of notes on the whiteboard, I write notes about students, I plan classes on my phone, write down ideas, take photos of projects or student posters, etc etc etc and later, be it at home or in a cafe o even in an internet cafe - EVERYTHING is available instantaneously.

Getting emails - I receive lots of student work via email, answer student queries, etc.

Engrade app - grading online in class

There's many many other apps and possibilities - but those are the ones that stand out immediately that really make having a smartphone worth it. Actually, just being able to read books on my phone on the subway... the others are just perks!
posted by Locochona at 1:41 PM on August 31, 2012


It allows me to read my book when I use the toilet at work. It's not socially acceptable to head to the bathroom with a book or my kindle, but I can go in with my phone in my pocket.
posted by hazyjane at 1:42 PM on August 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


One thing that I really like is the instant and automatic upload of my camera phone pics to my Dropbox account.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:45 PM on August 31, 2012


This is obviously not required for a full and complete life, but I can SET MY DVR FROM MY PHONE. We live in the future and it is awesome.

Also, everything else everyone has said: maps, searchable email in your pocket, being able to change tickets/look up restaurants etc on the fly. I take SO many more pictures now, because the iPhone camera is pretty good, and I love that. Plus, I have my whole iTunes library, more or less, in my pocket.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:55 PM on August 31, 2012


1. Idly reading through email while in a restaurant and seeing an urgent request to "call me soon" from a client. Without the phone I would have not seen the email until five hours later.

2. In another restaurant, in a distant city. I needed to know where the closest FedEx Office was. The phone told me, and showed a map with directions.
posted by yclipse at 2:14 PM on August 31, 2012


I have an iPhone. The things I use most often:

- Runkeeper. I run far more when I use it.
- the to-do list. My phone's always near, so I don't forget things anymore.
- looking up addresses and then using the GPS to get to those places.
- the calendar and its alerts. Everything goes into the calendar, and it buzzes me an appropriate amount of time prior to the event so I can get myself there.

During a family reunion I was able to find a German restaurant nearby that was vegan-friendly, BYO, and took reservations. Made reservations online, mapped the route, and got my family to dinner. That sold my very anti-gadget father on the iPhone.

I use the camera a lot to take pictures of things I need to remember - a recipe, a quote, a bottle of wine. It's super-handy.

The silliest, most one-off use was being able to track my sister while she ran the New York marathon, but that was pretty great.
posted by punchtothehead at 2:43 PM on August 31, 2012


- GPS - saves me from having a separate device (that left in place, would likely get my window busted). This means when I have to get across San Francisco, I don't need to figure out the best/fastest route. The GPS does it for me.
- Restaurant reviews and reservations - we're often out and about (let's say in San Francisco), and we know about lots of places already, but we want to try somewhere new, or somewhere within walking distance of where we are now. We can use Yelp to search for reviews and OpenTable to reserve a table, if necessary.
- Flashlight - I would never, ever carry a flashlight on my person. But having my phone (where the Flash can be used as a flashlight) has saved me a bunch of times. From having to get behind equipment in a dark area in my job to walking in to a concert when the lights are low, to fishing for keys in the dark, having a flashlight built in is great.
- I have books and articles to read everywhere. My phone isn't my primary reading device, but I no longer waste time in the grocery store line, or waiting at the doctor's office, airport or for my car. I always have something on me to read.
- Calendar and Tasks - I know where I'm supposed to be and what needs doing.
- Alarm clock - I no longer own a separate alarm clock.
- Phone - I no longer have a land line.
- Weather - If I'm going somewhere, I have an idea of what the weather looks like before I get there.
- Fuel Finder - I use this every time I get gas. Where I live, two stations five blocks apart literally charge 33 cents per gallon difference in gas. Our household probably saves $200 per year from this app alone.
- Camera and screen - I can scan someone's business card or a receipt or a note with directions on it, or someone's white board notes, or the price of something in a store, or a friend's really great bottle of olive oil/wine/whatever for later. There are dozens of other uses just by having a portable camera and screen.
- Portable music player - Bluetooth and my phone means I never have to listen to the radio again, AND THANK GOD FOR THAT.
- Notes - With something like Evernote or Springpad, you can walk around with all of your personal notes all of the time.
- Event or location-based apps - Some zoos are making apps specific to their zoo. Last year's Maker Faire had an app with a map and event schedule. Mumford and Sons recent Gentlemen of the Road tour had an app with showtimes and stage locations, among other things.
- Parking - The app SFPark shows you street parking availability in certain San Francisco neighborhoods.

These are ALL things that save me tremendous amounts of time, stress and in some cases, money, and these are all 100% practical uses. They have nothing to do with gaming, Twitter or Facebook (which I also do on my smartphone).
posted by cnc at 3:31 PM on August 31, 2012


Oh, also, I hate lugging shit the way some people hate Marmite, and my smartphone has meant way less laptop lugging. Win! Also, I am not at all interested in the whole "I am Ansel Adams with an iPhone, let me show to you my Instagram gallery" thing, but I snap an occasional snapshot for Twitter or Facebook and also take the odd video to send to my mum or sisters. I only bother with these because it so ridiculously easy to publish to Flickr or to social media with a smartphone that it is just fun rather than stressful.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:31 PM on August 31, 2012


nthing everything that has been said already. The biggest and most surprising gamechanger for me that came with my smartphone was GI Monitor. I have inflammatory bowel disease, and being able to track my symptoms, how I feel day to day, all of my medications, my stress level, and my food intake conveniently has made a huge impact on my quality of life. The combination of ease of entry (vs. notepad and pen) and analysis (e.g. I can quickly determine if my average pain level was better this week than last week) is unbeatable. There are similar apps for other conditions as well as a whole slew of quantified self type apps that aren't specifically for the ill.
posted by telegraph at 5:27 PM on August 31, 2012


Taking notes by snapping text with the camera or taking screenshots and uploading to dropbox, or taking a snap of the text, then OCR-ing the image with the mobile OCR pro app, and pasting the text into googledocs. Taking photos of bits of paper I'd otherwise lose - uploading to gmail or dropbox

I have the Samsung S3 and a jot pro stylus ( writes fine lines like an ordinary pen - magic!) - so I now have an endless notepad which I can use to upload notes from to my gmail or gdocs and no pieces of paper to lose. I found a handwriting recognition app - 7 notes with mazec - that works on it, so now I can fill in forms, chat, and easily write emails and posts by scribbling away not typing - much easier than typing on a phone.

I can record on it to decent audio standards.

I know when my next bus or train is and if it's delayed.

I read newspapers magazines and books on it. I have a radio on it

Bonus fun fact - Helps in the war on creepy-crawly things. Step 1 - use phone to take and blow up photo of unidentified beetle. Step 2 - upload photo and drag into google image search. Step 3 Google search for similar images identifies the beetle as a naughty beetle, likely to eat the furnishings. Step 4 - Smite beetle with rolled up local history magazine.

You never know what the next unexpected use for the phone will be!
posted by Flitcraft at 5:28 PM on August 31, 2012


With my HTC Droid Incredible 2:

1. I always have a map.
2. I can always call for help.
3. I always have a good camera on me.
4. I can always access notes/lists.
5. I always have my calendar at hand.
6. I always have a flashlight.
7. I always know the weather forecast.
8. I can always tweet that thing I saw.
9. I can always look up answers.
10. I always have TV and music available.
posted by limeonaire at 6:43 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have a really varied life, it is a life-saver.

Here's my example:
I teach and design in Chicago and like to hang out at the horse stables in Sheboygan, Wisconsin training and learning how to train horses. Up until this Summer, this was really, really difficult.

I couldn't maintain all of my businesses in Chicago on the crappy satellite connection at the very rural stables, so I was always behind on email and always in a kind of hurried tired rush trying to make both poles of my life balance.

I'm not an Apple fanboy (anymore) and there are a lot of everyday functional UI problems I have with the iPhone and iPad, but:

Yesterday I used the phone, while on horseback, to respond to an email about my classes while I was also helping friends set up a bonfire for the local youth group. As I rode around helping set everything up, I probably answered 5 emails or texts that I would have had to run to the computer for just a couple of months ago. I was so excited that I can now really blend my lives like that. I then found a nearby (only two counties over!) tack shop and got directions that were clear and perfect as I sat at the top of a Ferris wheel at the Sheboygan County Fair looking out at the fair and thinking that instead of worrying how to get to the tack shop and when I'd need to get my Summer audits in order in the city I could think about the cow barn (baby shorthorn steer are adorable!) and whether I wanted to watch the 4-H English riding show in the arena or the lumberjack competition at the top of the hill.

Calendars, contacts, and documents on the cloud are a lifesavers. My life is a thousand times easier and somehow more relaxed and focused at the same time.

Now I am back in the city, but on my way in I researched some problems I have been having with the green mare, watched some training videos to perfect my techniques, ordered the tack I need, answered the seemingly never ending flood of emails emails emails, did three renderings for future evening gowns, double checked my enrollment for next week, and scheduled my week in the city - all through the phone while I rode the train.

Screw Jetpacks.

THIS is the future that is really magical.
posted by Tchad at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2012


You guys are awesome. I'm definitely seeing some uses I had never considered, and I love that you guys made these actual real world examples rather than "I LIKE THE APPZ."

I use my Windows Mobile phone a lot to check email and do "smartphone" things, but there's a lot that I can't do with an OS that developers have abandoned. You guys are mentioning a lot of great ideas and a lot of reasons for me to seriously consider upgrading.

Thanks for being awesome!
posted by likeyoubutme at 1:16 PM on September 1, 2012


One more...

I commute to work on my bike through the woods. With "where's my droid" on android, if ever I don't arrive at work, my wife of collegues can text a certain word and my phone will text back my location. Handy if ever I have a bad fall.
posted by guy72277 at 2:26 PM on September 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just had one: went to recycle a bottle of wine I'd gotten as a hostess gift and particularly liked. Scanned the barcode, googled it, found the wine, found who carries it locally, and pinned it to Pinterest so I can remember it when I'm at the wine store!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:12 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


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