A Typical Day With a Superphone

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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

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