Blackberry/smartphone idiot.
November 6, 2009 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Blackberry/smartphone idiot... a smart move? For the complete idiot, tell me what a smartphone can really do. Wiki says alot, but I don't understand much. I'm attracted to more and better access/apps, but need to watch my budget. $$$$$ How to find a reasonable plan in NYC, for someone who does not need the phone by my side 24 hrs.
posted by ebesan to Technology (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's great if you have information addiction and want to fiddle with frotz/solitare/reader while riding public transport.

They are good for looking up that tip-of-the-tongue actor on at a restaurant.

The iPhone is great at immediate access to that old song that got stuck in your head.

They are not good for heavy browsing.

If you have a blackberry, your job may expect you to always be able to answer emails, even if it is personal (can avoid this by not tying it to work exchange account).

I have a jailbroken iphone. I love it. But I'm a gadgetophile, and got it because the phone aspect is actually the least important to me (not a phone person). I love tweaking it, customizing it, breaking it and fixing it again.

If you say your need to watch your budget, you don't need a smartphone, at least not a current-gen one. Get a free-with-plan phone, an old gba and an old mp3 player for a total of $70 + monthly contract. If you have an IMDB moment, ask/text a friend to look it up on THEIR smartphone.

Food > thinking you look cool in public.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 1:33 PM on November 6, 2009

email, calendar, phone, contacts, documents, synced w/ an account
apps - very specific to chosen model
also browser, notepad, calc, camera, music

I depend on my calendar because I have organization trouble, love having my calendar synced to a Blackberry. I would love to have an iphone - great apps have been created - but I like the Blackberry. I like a qwerty keyboard. There are apps for the Bberry.

Wishlist - clamshell, better audio/volume, FM radio, and a sturdy loop so I could attach it to a leash sometimes.
posted by theora55 at 1:41 PM on November 6, 2009

To add on to the budget aspect, if you are bad with money, the micro-transactions (apps, music, etc.) might sneak up on you.

"Oh, it's only 99c/$5.99." a dozen times and suddenly you have an "oh shit" moment.

If you aren't tech-savvy, they have the dangerous mix of attractive usability and complete frustration if you can't remember what menu an option is in.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 1:41 PM on November 6, 2009

Smartphones are really mobile computers. With that said you aren't going to be doing graphic design or editing the next hollywood blockbuster or typing novels on the things. They really excel at information retrieval and searching as well as doing things like IMing and e-mailing. Contributing information is getting better as the mobile browsers get better and as sites build iPhone and mobile apps/websites that are tailored to the limitations of the current devices.

If you are on a budget and you don't absolutely need this, then I'd say forgo the expense. If you are around places that have free wi-fi, you might find the iPod Touch other devices like it to be more reasonable since you get a lot of the same capabilities without the monthly data fees.
posted by mmascolino at 1:44 PM on November 6, 2009

Response by poster: I'm a mac person; what are the hookups available to me?
posted by ebesan at 1:46 PM on November 6, 2009

I use my Blackberry for:

1) Email on the go.
2) texting with a full keyboard
3) mobile twitter and facebook apps
4) taking notes on the go.
5) Google maps/driving directions on the go <>
Reason #4 means I want a physical keyboard, I don't think I could type much of anything on a screen.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:51 PM on November 6, 2009

You may be able to recoup the cost by cutting out home internet and using your new smartphone as a modem (ie: tethering). Not all smartphones and service providers allow this, however, and reception may not be good enough in your home. Obviously not a choice if there are more than one person who uses internet at home.
posted by meowzilla at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2009

oops I blew it by making something that looked like an html tag. let's try that again:

I use my Blackberry for:

1) Email on the go.
2) texting with a full keyboard
3) mobile twitter and facebook apps
4) taking notes on the go.
5) Google maps/driving directions on the go: EXTREMELY useful. This is probably the "how did I ever live without it" one, unless you already have GPS in your car I suppose. But I even use it while walking- Google maps app and a cheap international data plan is how I found my way around Sydney when I was on vacation. The smartphone in general becomes doubly useful when traveling.

Reason #4 means I want a physical keyboard, I don't think I could type much of anything on a screen.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2009

They're really good for giving yourself carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis in your arms. If you're not already addicted and/or required to be on call, I'd recommend against getting one.
posted by decathecting at 2:15 PM on November 6, 2009

As mmascolino said above, smartphones are like carrying a little laptop in your pocket which is, most importantly, hooked up to internet access.

There's some pretty good lists above, here's how I used my iPhone last Monday:

While chaperoning two busloads of 6th graders to a museum 45 miles away, the lead bus driver got lost in the middle of San Francisco. I used my phone's GPS to pinpoint our current location + the museum and was able to display a constantly updating map and turn-by-turn directions for the driver to bring the busses to the front door of the museum. While we were on our way, the phone had also looked up museum's phone number, which I called to let the school coordinator know we were running a little late.

After all the kids had lunch in the nearby park, we discovered there were no public restrooms in sight. The museum guards refused to let us in before our tour time and were completely unhelpful in directing us to an alternative. I logged into the App store and downloaded/installed an app which locates public restrooms based upon your current location. The app found restrooms hidden behind a structure that were completely out of sight from where we were assembled and 90 little bladders were made happy again.

Inside the museum, I took a bunch of pics of the kids and the exhibits with the phone and then emailed the pics to the teachers so they would have them when they got back to the classroom. I also uploaded a few to my Flickr account. Our docent-led tour was sort of lame so I looked up some webpages about the exhibits we were viewing. I used Evernote to jot a few notes about what we saw as well as the random crap that always seems to pop into my head at inopportune times (groceries, reminders, project ideas).

After the tour, I saw a few books the teachers could use in class but thought the shop prices were high so I did a quick lookup using an app that uses the book's front cover or UPC code to compare prices across several online vendors. The book prices turned out to be reasonable so I bought them but I took a quick snap via Amazon Remembers of some jewelery that a friend might like for Christmas.

After the tour while waiting for our busses to return, a few of the chaperones (including me) were dying for a caffeine fix. An app located a nearby espresso stand), again one that was out of sight but within easy walking distance.

On the long bus ride home, most of the kids sacked out. I used the quiet time to catch up on some websurfing, email, read part of a book on my Kindle app and I also let some of the kids play a few games.

I've only had this thing for a few months and I'm amazed daily by how useful it is, I'd leave the house without my pants before I leave home without it.
posted by jamaro at 4:31 PM on November 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you're trying to save money, I recommend the BlackBerry over the iPhone.

The BlackBerry has an open development process. Anybody can write an application and distribute it from their website. There's a whole ecosystem of free applications available. My phone is full of apps, and I've paid not one cent for them--and I've developed several myself. The downside is that there's no centralized app store for you to browse through at the dentist's office.

The iPhone, on the other hand, requires jailbreaking to achieve this level of freedom. And then you're in a constant war with Apple: you jailbreak, their firmware update bricks your phone, you reflash and wait for the next jailbreak to come out, etc. Without the jailbreak, you're going to be paying for many applications--even if it's just 99¢.
posted by Netzapper at 4:32 PM on November 6, 2009

I have crackberry addiction and -- full disclosure -- I am generally a gadget hound. I use my Blackberry to check the weather, here and in many other geographic locations, read all my work and personal email and respond to a lot of it, read books, listen to mp3 music and audio books, track my daily runs and walk and automatically upload them, amuse me when I stand in line (games), read latest headlines and keep track of the Red Sox and Mariners (internet browser), tell myself who is calling (ring tones) and keep callers entertained while my phone rings (answer tones), sooth my soul by looking at peaceful electronic garden screen saver, take pictures, take short videos, keep track of calories . . . boy, if there is something you like to do, they have an app for that.

I'd go a lot simpler than a smartphone, though, if you are not into gadgetry, as there is no point having all that muscle car to take a Sunday drive.
posted by bearwife at 4:39 PM on November 6, 2009

Every now and then I'll be at lunch with my coworkers, and two of the older ones will get into an argument or debate over a question of fact. I say, "Well, let's Google it," pull out my Blackberry, and get the answer. The conversation can then progress to something more interesting, instead of the endless arguments they used to have (before I started doing this) over whether something was or wasn't so.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:43 PM on November 6, 2009

Netzapper is wrong about the Jailbreak issues, although his point about open-development is mostly valid (most of my iPhone apps are free, legal, and from the vanilla App store).

Updates do not "brick" your jailbroken phone; in fact, the whole process is fairly bulletproof thanks to the way that itunes backs up and restores the phone. You don't even have to update right when a new firmware comes out; I've been able to wait the 1 day to 2 weeks it normally takes for a new exploit/jailbreak to come out.

It IS annoying to have to let your phone resync and redo all the jailbroken apps, but for 100% customization (most of it unlocking the phone's potential that has been crippled to appease AT&T) I gladly do it.

Issues with jailbreaking he didn't address:battery life is slightly less if you use custom themes, and memory issues can come up if you try to overdo the multitasking (Backgrounder) app. These issues are almost non-issues in the 3GS, which has double the ram.

The good apps on the iPhone are generally better than the good apps on the Blackberry. The iPhone has more apps available, though, so there is more chaff as well.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:22 PM on November 6, 2009

I'm attracted to more and better access/apps

Can you explain this in more depth? Why do you want a smart phone? Are you sure you want a smart phone? Do you just want to be able to check your email more, or what?
posted by dubitable at 8:57 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

And, I know you're asking for more information, so sorry to come off as though I'm ignoring your question, but I guess what I'm getting at is: what is the idea in your head that made you want to ask this question in the first place, see what I mean?

They are like little computers, but there is more differentiation in the marketplace right now, in terms of both OSes and the apps that come on the, the services that come with those different phones, and etc. etc. Having a bit more of a clue of your priorities--perceived or not--will help (me at least) answer your question better.

For the record, I have the "MyTouch 3G" on TMobile. It's comparatively cheaper than an iPhone plan--$65 total, which includes unlimited Internet access--but is missing some of the things the iPhone has. Like, the vast marketplace of apps, smoothness of functioning (Android is still kind of in the early phases), etc., while it *does* have a more open development model. I'm running a hobbyist-enhanced version of the OS (Cyanogen Mod to be precise) and like that a lot, it runs faster than stock and gives me root access.

Yeah, need more information. I don't know if you give a crap about any of what I just listed, maybe you have other priorities?
posted by dubitable at 9:02 PM on November 6, 2009

Response by poster: ok. what i really want is pretty simple. clarification.
email, messaging, google, notes.
information junkie; book reviews; wiki; ask metafilter; sudden questions/ideas that need answering/exploring.
not a gamer, and few apps. tho they come along in time, but later.
posted by ebesan at 6:32 AM on November 7, 2009 that case, if cost is an issue, you just might want to consider the MyTouch 3G on TMobile, or one of the Blackberry variations. Sounds like the iPhone may be a bit overkill for you, really, considering the prices. You can do most everything you want that you listed pretty easily with the MyTouch 3G. The service is reasonably good (can't be worse than AT&T!).

Verizon has a better network, I'm sure, but I can't speak to the prices. But TMobile is relatively cheap and I use my phone for more or less what you describe.

...although, just writing the name of that phone makes me cringe. If you want a phone that DOESN'T sound like a child molester's nickname for a gadget you may have to pick a different phone...jeezus, they pay people to come up with these names?
posted by dubitable at 11:55 AM on November 7, 2009

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