Smartphone – no more a luxury gadget!


Just a decade ago, mobile phones were strictly meant for calling, texting and for playing snake game. Some used to take it to next level by getting phones with those really irritating polyphonic ringtones and with tools to create these ringtones. Today, a smatphone is more like an extension of our brain. It does what our IQ-less brains cannot do. From remembering contacts to helping us to go to the next lane, a smartphone does everything.

I have seen many, even to this day, term a smartphone as a luxury. Some lecture about investments and buying gold instead of shelling money on a smartphone.

Before I explain, let me ask few questions:

  1. Why pay 300 bucks or so on cable TV when you can watch Doordarshan channels for free?
  2. Why pay lakhs to buy a car or bike and thousands more for petrol and maintenance etc when you can avail free transport?
  3. Why spend so much on spacious refrigerator, LCD TV etc when you can live without a refrigerator or survive watching a CRT TV?

Think now! Why spend in five digits for a smartphone when you can buy a basic phone for 2000 rupees. Remember one thing. When you are lost somewhere while on a trip, to immediately respond to high priority mail from office, to find information ASAP, which one will help you? A smartphone with features like high speed internet, digital compass, GPS, applications or a 10gram gold coin lying in your bank locker?

There are two kinds of smartphone users in the world. One kind buys smart phone for show off. This kind never goes beyond calling and texting. For this type, a smartphone is nothing but a luxury item but the second kind buys a smartphone based on their need. They utilize most or all features of the phone and make full use of the phone. If you are one of those who still think smartphone is a luxury item, you better start looking beyond calling and messaging.

Read on to know what a smartphone exactly is

Entertainment:

If you are one of those who likes music and movies, there are more than handful of smarpthone that can keep you entertained. And it’s not just that. If you have a smartphone with great music quality, you need not turn on your PC/notebook or home stereo to play music. While few basic phones have superb audio quality, they falter when it comes to media management and video playback. iPhones music app, winamp app on android, maemo’s media app are perfect examples.

Then comes video playback. How many times in the past did those travels guys play your favourite or not-yet-watched movie in a bus? With a great smartphone, you not only get to play what you want, but you get to watch it with stunning quality. And if you are traveling by train, you need to give a blank stare at your co passengers for hours. Take that smartphone out, play your favourite movie/tv show and if you are bored watching movie, hit the music player app. There are few phones in the market that come with HD out. Take N8 for example. With 16Gb of onboard memory, HD out and Dolby support, this thing can eat  your DVD player for breakfast (can’t replace Bluray though). Smartphones like Optimus 2X can play a 1080p video to your HDTV via HDMI out port.

If you are still bored and want to do more time pass stuff, there are loads and loads of fun games like angry birds, cut the rope, sudoku and there are the serious games on Android, wp7 and iOS like Assassin’s Creed, FIFA, NFS, PES etc.

Camera is one area where smartphone caught up with entry level Point ‘n’ shoot cameras. Gone are the days when one need to take picture, give it for develop the photos and slide them into albums.  It has been almost a decade since I last gave a photo for print. Thanks to most of my friends being on social networks, I take a snap on my phone and share  it on facebook or twitter or Picasa in minutes for my friends to see. Smartphones like N8, Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and Samsung Galaxy II actually surpassed entry level PnS cameras as they offer better quality and more features.

So, a good smartphone replaces your age old home theatre (given that you have quality speakers), your DVD player, basic camera.

On a funny note, by playing music using smartphone instead of using a PC/notebook/hometheatre, you end up with lower electricity bills 😀

Social networking:

Am not talking about the generation that still prefer land-line phones for communication over anything else. Am talking about the gen X (born in 80s). We socialize a lot. We communicate via mails, we chat, we post on Facebook and some of use tweet and blog. Android and iOS have superb applications that can hook you into twitter/facebook/linkedin/g+ and they do it with perfection. Also, the bigger screen and faster processor make social networking much much easier. Imagine tweeting on a lag free UI of SGS II or iPhone 4 and then think about tweeting using SE Cedar or Nokia C2-02.

E-Mail is one area where smartphones really excel. Support for wide range of e-mail providers, unified in-box, push email, highly touch sensitive display with Swype keypad make e-mail a fun and no brainer. On my N900, it took no time to setup Nokia Messaging and I get all the mail from dozen+ mail accounts to the mailbox on my phone and I need not login to each email account on my notebook/desktop browser to check mails. Moreover, thanks to push e-mail functionality, I get notified as soon as the mail is sent to my account instead of me searching everytime if a mail has arrived.

Even with chat, I need not login to PC/notebook everytime I think of chatting with a friend. There are dozens of IM clients like nimbuzz, ebuddy, IM+, yahoo messenger etc. Actually, I felt that it is more comfortable chatting on phone than on a PC/notebook.

Thanks to Skype and thanks to my unlimited internet connection, I can call my friends over VoIP and pay nothing for call charges. In case I want to have a video chat, the front facing  camera on N900 is more than enough for me. Best thing is that I need to sit with straight back in front of my notebook/PC. I can talk while walking around, I can talk with freedom.

Day-to-day activities:

Are you one of those that forget about tasks/work a lot? Use note taking applications like evernote that doesn’t just take notes but let you access your notes online, on PC/notebook, mobile phone. Most of the smartphones come with excellent calendar applications to let you organize tasks, setup reminders, alarms and lot more. You can even sync these events/tasks to your online accounts.

Then there are apps like DocumentsToGo, Adobe Reader that let you read and edit documents. PDF Reader apps, when used on a smartphone with large display can be extremely helpful. There are some instances where I had to quickly go though Clearcase tool related manuals when I am away from my PC and thanks to the PDF reader app on my phone, I was able to go through the PDF document to find what I am looking for. With the availability of Document editing apps on smartphones, you can quickly create/edit documents on the go. Ever been in those situations where you quickly needed to make some changes to a word document or an excel sheet and send immediately and that you need to run for a PC or an internet centre? Wouldn’t it be easier to have a good smartphone with document editor?

There are lot more areas where a smartphone really helps you with apps like:

  1. News applications (thanks to huge amount news applications)
  2. RSS readers that deliver those news feeds and let you quickly go through the feeds from anywhere
  3. ebook readers (smartphones are not yet perfect at this due to the bright displays but will get there when they replace paper books for reading)
  4. Finance management apps by world’s leading banks to take care of your account and money management apps from top finance experts
  5. Fitness applications like Nike+, RunKeeper that keep track of your workouts, analyze data and store it on-line and compare with other’s data.
  6. Countless dictionaries from simple English dictionary to more complex medical dictionaries
  7. maps and navigation apps that let you take the right route and help you out when you are lost in an unknown place.

Customization:

This is something that is mostly done by geeks and those who want the phone behave the way they want it to.

Rooting and Custom ROMs: This is something that Android users enjoy. Rooting is done to gain full/admin access to your phone and get access to restricted areas. Manufacturers like Samsung and HTC provide pre installed applications with their android phones. You cannot remove these applications as they are locked. Such apps can be removed once you root the phone and gain admin access. Let’s say that the OS or the firmware on your phone is too restricion or you didn’t like the user interface. All you need to do is load a ROM developed by a developer outside the company. These ROMs are not distributed or supported by manufacturer. In most cases, they does not cause any harm and as long as you are a bit careful, you get to enjoy lot more than what you can with the factory ROM. To know more about custom ROMs etc, head to this article: http://www.androidpolice.com/2010/05/01/custom-roms-for-android-explained-and-why-you-want-them/

jailbreaking: Apple has tight control on what applications can be installed on an iOS device and this is done by locking the phone to iTunes application store. And the application need to be approved by Apple to be available on app store. By jailbreak method, what you do is that you break the bond between iTunes and your iOS device. While you can install applications from the appstore, you can also install applications designed for your device and placed in non-Apple application store like Cydia app store.

Personalization: While on a non-smartphone, max you can do is change wallpaper and theme on a phone. On a smartphone, especially android, you can change many areas of the Operating system. You can set what keypad that you want to use (default, swiftkey, swype etc), given that you have a touch screen, you can set what application should be the default application, what home screen UI you want to have (launcher pro, go launcher, adw launcher etc). There is so much in offer that you can make drastic changes to the way the OS or UI looks.

Education:

There are huge list of apps that provide valuable information to you. TED apps are list of  such apps that let you watch TED talks, there are apps that teach english grammar, there are apps that teach kids how to learn alphabets etc in an innovative way. Take a look here and you will know how valuable a smartphone can be for education: https://market.android.com/apps/EDUCATION

I wanted to keep it simple here but there is lot more to explain. Some feature phones are good at music, some are good at navigation, some are good at videos, some are good at education but a decent smartphone can be good at all of these. And this is where you get the kick. One device for everything. A great smartphone is not about running these tasks but running the tasks with perfection, giving you more than one option, giving you complete freedom.

All I can say is that smartphone is not anymore a luxury item. You just need to pick the right one and learn to use it the right way and tap it’s full potential and you can never leave/live without one.

Explore. Learn. Discuss. Geekify! Investments are good but that doesn’t mean that one should always shove the money down Mr.investment’s throat. Instead of ridiculing a gadget or device by looking at the price tag, understand what it does and how it can be helpful.

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One thought on “Smartphone – no more a luxury gadget!

  1. Pingback: Smartphone – no more luxury gadget! « Bandla's Blog

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