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Summary:

The smartphone of today has become a powerhouse that fits in a pocket. That is why some even refer to them as “superphones”, which is very appropriate. To demonstrate how useful the smartphone has become, I present this mini-chronicle of a typical day with my smartphone.

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The smartphone of today has become a powerhouse that fits in a pocket. That’s why some even refer to them as “superphones,”which is very appropriate. To demonstrate how useful the smartphone has become, I present this mini-chronicle of a typical day with my smartphone. I use the HTC EVO 4G, but there are many phones on the market that are just as capable (4G excepted).

The day started early with the incessant beeping of the alarm. I stumbled into the kitchen, grabbed a fresh cup of coffee from the Keurig and settled down in the easy chair. I grabbed the EVO and caught up on email that came in overnight. I have two Gmail accounts configured on the EVO: a Google Apps account used for work and my personal account. Android is tightly integrated with Gmail, as you would expect, and processing email on the phone was as easy as — if not easier than — doing it on the desktop. I read the mail of interest, deleted the junk and was through in just a few minutes.

As I sipped my coffee, I fired up Touiteur, my Twitter app of choice on the Android platform. I checked out the Mentions first to see who had responded to any tweets I fired off the night before. I replied to those and then hit the main timeline to see what others were already talking about that early. The beauty of Twitter is it never closes; it only rests occasionally (Fail Whale). Since it’s global, the conversation never stops. I find checking it each day gives me a quick look at the trending topics that are likely to be of interest.

Once I was done with Twitter (and that took only a few minutes due to the speed of Touiteur), I fired up the web browser to catch up on my RSS feeds. I follow so many web sites that there were already several hundred items to be checked. I use Google Reader on the desktop for RSS feed tracking, and it works well on the phone. I’ve tried apps on the EVO for doing this, but always come back to Google Reader. The page formatted for the iPhone in Google Reader works wonderfully on the phone, and that’s where I headed.

I spun through the excerpts in Google Reader, and when I saw something that interested me, I tapped it on the screen. This opened the full RSS feed item, which was often the full article, and I read it right then. If I determined it was something I wished to follow up with further investigation, I tapped the yellow star to tag it in Google Reader. Google Reader is in-sync all the time — no matter the device I use for access — so this works perfectly.

In just fifteen minutes, I was through with Google Reader. My RSS feeds, Twitter updates and Gmail were all at inbox zero — and all done while sitting in my easy chair. Time to hit the shower and get the day started in earnest.

The morning was spent at my desk with my concentration on an involved writing project for our GigaOM Pro site, so the EVO sat in front of me on the desk. I answered the random phone call but other than that, it sat undisturbed. Email continued to arrive constantly, with the EVO sounding a chime to let me know, but I largely ignored it. I’m a firm believer in devoting all my attention to the task at hand and not letting distractions interrupt the process.

I occasionally took breaks from writing, and that’s when I picked up the phone to check mail. This let me keep up with the events of the day, and I responded as needed to important items.

I worked that way all morning, which seemed to pass quickly. Lunch time was approaching, and I decided to head out for a bite. I brought the EVO of course, and I also threw the MacBook into my backpack. I would hit Starbucks after lunch to continue my writing.

When I jumped into the car to head out for lunch, I turned on the BlueAnt S4 device. My wife’s car has phone integration (via Bluetooth), and after seeing how useful that capability is, I bought the S4: a rechargeable device that fits a handsfree speaker and microphone into a form not much bigger than my phone. It clips to the sun visor in the car, and it works flawlessly with the EVO. The phone and S4 are connected after hitting the power button on the S4, and my car is now equipped with a handsfree phone solution.

When calls come in, the S4 announces them to me, complete with the caller’s name (if they’re in my contact list), or by phone number if not. I can answer the call by voice, with no touch required, and I can hang up by voice as well. The first time I paired the S4 with the EVO, it automatically downloaded my contact list to the device, without any interaction on my part: very nice design.

Once seated in the restaurant, I pulled the EVO out of my pocket and read a good e-book using the Kindle app for Android. It was a very pleasant meal — good food and a good book. I do this as often as I can, and I make it a point to not get distracted by going online with the phone. I focus on enjoying the book and having a quiet meal. I am online far too much as it is; I need to unwind at lunch. If I’m eating a “one-handed” lunch, I simply hold the EVO in my left hand to read, but when eating a sandwich or other two-handed meals, I open the kickstand and set the EVO beside my plate. I’m able to read and tap the screen with one finger to turn the page.

I walked over to the Starbucks after lunch to get back to work. Cappuccino in hand, I sat down with the MacBook and logged into the free Wi-Fi to get busy. This turned into a frustrating experience, as the Wi-Fi network was extremely slow. It was inconsistent too, as was evident by the stuttering of web page loads. The performance of the network was so bad that I was geting more frustrated by the moment. Then it hit me: I had my own hotspot in my pocket.

I pulled out the EVO and turned on the 4G; in just 30 seconds I was connected to the Sprint 4G (WiMAX) network. A speed test showed me the connection was much faster (6 Mbps down/1.2 Mbps up) than the spotty Wi-Fi network at SBUX, so I hit the Mobile Hotspot button on the phone. I told the MacBook to switch to the “JK EVO” Wi-Fi network, and I was back in business. This mobile hotspot service costs me $29.99 per month, but it’s worth it.

I worked for the next two hours with the EVO on the table next to the MacBook. The 4G network was so fast I forgot I was on a mobile hotspot, which is the way it should be. When I needed a break, I checked my email on the phone, which was lightning fast due to the 4G speed. I jumped on Twitter, too; I confess.

I got a lot of work done, and when I was ready to head back to Mobile Tech Manor, I hit the Hotspot widget on the EVO screen and turned it off. I then hit the 4G widget to toggle it off, too, as that saves battery life. No need for the phone to be constantly searching for a 4G network I don’t intend to use, while I am driving around.

I spent the rest of the afternoon back at my desk, which passed uneventfully. I was just about done working for the day when I got a text message from my wife reminding me that she had an event after work she couldn’t miss. I was on my own for dinner.

This is a rarity, so I thought about going out for a nice dinner and reading my book again. Where to eat dinner? I pulled out the EVO and fired up the Places app, which is part of the HTC Sense software on the EVO. It is a nice front-end to Google Maps, designed to make it easier to find specific places. I tapped the Restaurants icon on the screen and a long list of places near me appeared. I spun through the list until I found a restaurant I’de been wanting to try but had forgotten about.

I like the Places app as the list of places has not only information about the restaurant (type of food, menu, pricing, payment methods, etc.), but it also has customer reviews. These are aggregated from sites like Citysearch, Yelp and Urbanspoon, and they give a good idea what to expect.

Once I decide on a restaurant, I can fire up a map with directions, a navigation session to guide me there, dial for reservations or hit a button on the screen to get a photo of the place from Google’s street view. This app is wonderful.

I didn’t know exactly where the restaurant of choice is located, so I hit the Navigate button and a Google Maps navigation session was instantly generated. I popped the EVO into my Arkon phone mount in the car and headed out to eat. The phone guided me straight there, and I was soon sitting at a table with my meal on the way.

I intended to read my e-book, but I was feeling too conversational for that. I hit the 4G button on the phone and discovered the network was at full-bar strength. That meant very fast speeds, so I fired up Touiteur and dove headfirst into the Twitterverse. A lot of my friends were online and I carried on Twitter conversations (twitversations?) with over a dozen of them throughout the meal. It was incredibly fun, and I enjoyed myself immensely. I even got my butt kicked in a “biggest nerd” contest. This on Twitter, which was pretty darn nerdy in its own right.

After having all this fun, I headed out to return home. Traffic around the restaurant was unusually heavy, and I decided to find a shortcut home avoiding as much of it as possible. I turned into an adjacent residential area, and fired up Sprint Navigation on the EVO. It quickly plotted me a route through the subdivision that got me back home, avoiding all of the major thoroughfares in the area.

Once back home, I turned on the TV to watch the Little League World Series semi-finals. I love watching these kids give their all for a chance of a lifetime. The entire time I was watching the game, I was bouncing around the web using the EVO. I finished up on Twitter for the day, too. A very pleasant end to a good day.

The EVO certainly qualifies as a superphone, but I could have done everything this day (4G excepted) using a number of phones currently available. Smartphones have gained so much capability, and they can now fill many distinct roles. Today my phone served the following functions:

  • Phone
  • Personal Navigation Device
  • Web appliance (browser, Twitter, RSS feeds, etc.)
  • Mobile hotspot
  • Mobile connection for my car
  • Communication portal (email, text messaging)
  • e-Book reader

The smartphone is here to stay, as customers get spoiled by all of the functionality in the phone once exposed to it. I’ve spoken to many people who are excited to show me a new thing they can do with their new smartphone. It is a great time to be a mobile tech enthusiast.

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d): To Ship or Not to Ship — Product Launch in the Smartphone Era

  1. Nice article, James. I have found the main thing that prevents many people from using these newer generation of devices in the manner you described is simply force of habit. They don’t really THINK about the fact they have such an amazing device in their pocket, and don’t use it to the extent that they could.

    It’s a shame that some people seem to think those brandishing their smart phones are just trying to act “cool” or whatever. The fact is I have my smartphone out all the time because I use it constantly, and phone calls aren’t even in the top five.

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  2. James, what are you using to manage tasks? I thought you wrote about something new recently, but the (new?) search on your website didn’t bring up anything so maybe I saw it elsewhere. A friend and I were just complaining about the weaknesses of every task manager we tested lately. I’ve wasted hours randomly trying things from the Android market.

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    1. Froyo does a great job managing tasks and experts have recommended to me that one should not be used. I don’t and find that statement to match my own experience.

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      1. Kevin,

        Have been searching the interweb since you posted this comment:

        What is the reason cited by experts when they recommend against the use of task lists? Or did I misunderstand your comment?

        Thanks,
        Tony

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      2. Sorry, meant James, not Kevin

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      3. I was referring to a task manager, not a task list. Android keeps many tasks running in the background, and some users run a task manager to kill them manually. I’ve been told that interferes with Android’s ability to handle memory effectively. It learns over time how you use your system and manually killing apps impedes that process.

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      4. Tony, it’s also worth noting that Android 2.2 (aka: Froyo) offers native task management if needed. There is a Running Apps tab in the setting that lists all of the running programs and any or all of them can me manually closed at that point.

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      5. “Task manager” is an ambiguous term, and it’s possible Robert may have been asking about an application to manage human tasks as opposed to Android processes, perhaps similar to the applications described here:

        http://androinica.com/2010/06/30/the-best-android-gtd-getting-things-done-app-is-droid-vs-droid/

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  3. So I have Evo in Dallas and can’t get 4g in the hole in coverage that I live in. Many calls to Sprint but only 3g here. I agree having 4g makes the phone more versatile. Any tips on getting Sprint/Clear’s attention for better 4g coverage in a supposed 4g area?

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    1. FTTP Engineer Sunday, August 15, 2010

      Since D/FW is pretty much a flat area suggest you scope out you neighbor hood churches looking for a suitable steeple and then get you carrier to install a 4g tower in the church, we do this all the time. Once you get 5 bars of 4G goodness your head may explode with unicorns and rainbows galore and you will never go back to that 3G rented mule once you enter the fast lane.

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      1. Great idea! That’s a win-win for all involved.

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  4. Great article as I can also relate to your “typical day” with my EVO as well. I also find that the Google Listen app is also one of those apps that I use on an almost daily basis now at least once a day to get podcasts of radio shows that I miss from the prior day.

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  5. So what’s your battery usage after a typical day? Plugging it in every night for a full recharge? Getting those dreaded low battery warnings by 6pm?

    I have both a deluxe desktop cradle and an Energizer XP8000 for my HTC Touch Pro 2. The cradle works great to stream audio thru to my home audio system. When away from the car, the XP8000 goes on my belt and can give me 8+ hours of BT 3G tethering.

    Keep in mind I often work heavy days, and can be away from an outlet, and my car, for sometimes 12+ hours.

    I never turn off BT or wifi, since I use both when at home and on the go. That said, I’ve never run into a situation where I needed to turn something off on my phone to avoid running out of juice. Remembering to constantly turn things on and off would for me defeat the convenience of such a device.

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    1. I plugged in at midnight that day at the 40% mark.

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    2. Luscious, I would highly recommend Tasker or Locale. They will turn things like bluetooth and wifi on/off when certain conditions are met (they can be over-ridden). I have Locale set up to turn bluetooth on from 4:30-5:15 during my commute home and turn on wifi when I’m at my house or my parents’ house. It also puts my phone on vibrate while at work.

      Locale works great for location based stuff but Tasker is basically a control-it-all scripting beast for non-location stuff (head phone plug ins, laying the phone face down, etc).

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      1. Tasker does location-based things, too. Harder to program, but it does work well.

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      2. That’s definitely a great tip, and thanks for the response, but the thing is I need wifi on when I’m at home, and BT on while driving and working. Having both on doesn’t hit my battery hard at all. Also, I’m using a WinMo device, and the TP2’s native task manager already does a good job. Add the fact that the HTC Sense interface puts much of what I use in memory without booting up separate programs, and I’m very happy with the end result.

        Battery problems have never once hit me, partly because the TP2’s factory 1500mAh battery can run quite well, but since I carry the XP8000 with me I can run the phone full blast all day and not hunt for a power jack. The XP8000 does so much for my smartphone, it has practically changed the way I use it – if you’re interested, hit up my blog for a detailed review:

        http://lgponthemove.blogspot.com/2010/07/accessory-corner-3-energizer-xp18000.html

        Let me add also, for James; great job once again on an insightful article.

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      3. James, I had heard complaints (in the Android Marketplace, various blogs, and Lifehacker comments) that Tasker’s location based stuff wasn’t as accurate and responsive as compared to Locale. I haven’t used Tasker yet so I can’t say myself. I plan on downloading it this weekend so I can check it out.

        And as you mention, Tasker is very complex which is why I’m glad I got my feet wet with Locale. I’m excited to tweak things a bit more with Tasker.

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  6. As much as you use your phone daily I actually use it more. You’re right in that it is indeed easier to dos one tasks on the phone than a computer. The tethering feature has saved my ass a couple of times too with the iPhone 3GS. I do have to point out thought that in this case the 4G network didn’t live up to its advantages – I’ve had 6Mbit connections with the iPhone using HSDPA here in Norway, so it’s really a matter of carriers fully utilizing existing technologies and not necessarily expanding.

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  7. You ripped this story off from Brian Hall on the smartphone wars.

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    1. Excuse me but I’ve been writing these for 6 years. I don’t rip off anybody, ever. Don’t accuse me of that, please.

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    2. I let Brian know (and provided evidence) that James has done these types of posts for years and Brian was quite the gentleman about apologizing. I don’t expect you to do the same, of course – that would be out of character. ;)

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      1. Wow, I have my defenders! (Or maybe you just have your haters;-)

        Salty language aside, I am a gentleman.

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      2. And I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Thank you, gentleman Brian.

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    3. Wow, some blogger does a bullet list of what he does on his smartphone and thinks he’s ripped off by an as usual lengthy and articulate article by James. Overreaction much?

      Nice language too Brian, you talk like that in front of your mother? Enjoy your few days extra traffic.

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  8. James, Your “Typical Day With…” articles are among my favorite to read. I always seem to pick up some little tid bit that helps me with my mobile tech.

    When I read “A Typical Day With a Superphone”, I could not help bu compare it to your past articles. Your daily routine has not changed, but your devices seem to have gotten smaller in size and number. And the “cloud” has become you biggest tool.

    The very first JK On The Run article I read was about a typical James day using a Tablet PC. Same routine, bigger devices. It seems the superphone has taken the place of your Tablet PC and the Macbook is your go mobile computer.

    I’m curious, where do netbooks and the iPad fit into your daily work flow? I know you are a fan of the iPad, but the superphone article gives me the impression that the iPad takes second place to the HTC EVO 4G. Do you still use netbooks?

    Oh, and one other question, since the EVO 4g can also be a mobile hotspot, are you still using the Sprint Overdrive?

    Love the blog. Its still my first read every morning.

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    1. My work routine has changed drastically over the years; the biggest change was hanging up my shingle as a geophysicist and giving this writing gig a full-time try. In my previous work life, a Tablet PC was the vital tool that kept is all together, as evidenced in hundreds of posts here.

      Now my work is more keyboard oriented, and while I still have (and use) a Tablet PC the keyboard is used more.

      I do not own a netbook, I’ve sold them all off. Since my work centers on sitting in front of a screen for long periods, a bigger device makes more sense for me now. My MacBook is only 13-inches, but a good portable size to get the work done.

      The iPad is used daily all the time, it is never far from wherever I happen to be. I don’t take it for short outings, the EVO serves for those.

      I still have the Sprint Overdrive but am finding I just use the EVO for the mobile hotspot. I am seriously considering canceling the Overdrive, but for that pesky ETF.

      Thanks for visiting jkOTR, you’ve definitely been coming around for a long, long time. :)

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  9. Yet another great article, James, full of little details that convey clearly which features of your EVO are truly useful to you.

    Quick question: would ebook reading be as satisfying on a smaller screen of same resolution (say, a 4″ screen of a 3.5″ screen)?

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    1. I have been using phones to read e-books for many years, and find smaller screens to be just fine for the purpose. I do like the bigger EVO screen, but have no issues with smaller displays.

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  10. this is great James. I use Google Maps traffic information for commuting, and Buzz in Google Maps to post pictures on the web Google Maps. I also use Google Reader on my phone. I use WMWifiRouter to turn my Windows Mobile phone into a mobile hotspot, just a one time $20 to purchase the app.

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