from the Library of Maura

Me & My Smartphone, One Year Out

August 13th, 2009 by Maura A. Smale · No Comments

My iPhone recently celebrated its first birthday, and I’ve been reflecting on how it’s changed my information and communication habits. Last summer I upgraded from a regular old dumbphone, so I didn’t have any prior experience with Blackberries et al. I should also mention that I am not a heavy phone user–talking on the phone is probably my least favorite way to communicate. I was an AT&T subscriber before getting an iPhone so specifics of the phone service don’t have much of an impact on me, either, though I was pleased to discover that phone calls on the 3G network sound better than on my old phone.

I love my iPhone and will never go back to just any old phone. Here are my top iPhone uses (in reverse order, because it’s more suspenseful):

4. Google Maps
Combined with the phone’s built-in GPS, Google Maps is a powerful tool that I rely on constantly to get around the city and on trips out of town. The first time the iPhone helped us route around the perpetually-heinous traffic on the Staten Island Expressway I nearly wept tears of joy.

3. Music
This one will be more obvious and less interesting when I reveal that I only had a tiny iPod Shuffle before getting my iPhone, so it’s still somewhat novel for me to carry around a device with ca. 6gb of music/podcasts. Using Pandora to create custom streaming radio stations is fun, too.

2. Internet
The entire internet in one small device, what could be better? From checking the weather forecast to finding information to answer questions both frivolous and serious, I use the internet on my phone throughout the day. My 7-yr-old now refuses to wait until we’re home to find the answers he seeks, instead demanding: “look it up on your phone, Mom.”

1. Reading
In retrospect, my biggest surprise is how much time I spend reading on my iPhone. It’s true that much of my reading is internet-related; my daily rounds include Twitter, Google Reader for my RSS feeds, and the New York Times. But what shocks me is how much other reading I do on the iPhone, even reading (gasp!) books. I’d never been able to get into reading an ebook on the computer, but now I realize that’s more about location than technology. I can read on the iPhone anyplace I’d take a physical book. And since I’m one of those people who breaks into a cold sweat at the thought of being stuck somewhere without anything to read, having 37 books in my pocket is an enormous relief. As I’m typing this it occurs to me that having an iPhone has probably increased the amount of reading I do on a daily basis, too.

Just to balance things out, here are the top uses I expected for my iPhone that haven’t been as important as I’d anticipated:

3. Games
I do play games on the phone–obsessions have included Subway and Flight Control–but not as much as I thought I would. I’m an avid gamer and had hoped that the iPhone would let me play more often, since I never can seem to find the time for them lately. I guess the big stumbling block has been my hesitation to buy new games (which probably means that what I really want is more time to play the games that I already have in other formats).

2. Task Management
I was a huge Palm/Visor geek back in the day, and utterly devoted to the multiple to-do lists I maintained on the PDA. There’s no native listmaking software on the iPhone and while I know there are many apps out there I haven’t gotten around to finding one that I like. I’ve actually gone back to using a paper to-do list–hopelessly retro, I know, but it works for me right now.

1. Email
While I do use the phone for email, I’ve settled into a pattern of checking email on the phone but waiting until I have access to a real computer to reply. I blame my butterfingers with the soft keyboard which slows down my input speed. I’m sure I’d get better with practice but right now I’m in a chicken-and-egg frustration loop. Now that the current OS supports the landscape-style keyboard in the email app I plan to make more of an effort to get my iPhone thumbs up to speed.

I’ve also started thinking more about smartphone use in libraries and education (which seems messy enough to me now that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it), but that’s a post for another day.

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