iPhone As Swiss Army Knife

One of my predictions for 2010 was a rise in dependence on mobile computing. When I say mobile computing, I am not talking about your basic laptop. I am talking smartphones – those pocket-able devices that really shouldn’t be called phones at all (I’m looking at YOU, ATT!)

Smartphones and, in particular, the iPhone have been game changers across the spectrum of users. Applications, much like the little tools that pop out of all corners of a Swiss Army knife, meet any and all needs. Eminently customizable, devices like the iPhone really do serve as high-tech duct tape.

I have become quite dependent upon my iPhone. Initially, it really was more toy to me than anything else. I was dazzled by the big, vibrant display and user-friendly interface – these were new to me, after years of dumb phone and Palm Treo 750 experience. Over time, however, I have stretched its capacity, tested its boundaries and found that it really does have an answer to almost any question.

Take, for example, this past weekend. I went skiing with my family over the kids’ spring vacation. Just before leaving, a Twitter friend asked if he could pass my website on to a friend looking for a lawyer with background in writing and social media. That message first arrived on my iPhone via Boxcar (link here) and I responded there.

On Friday, while wearing my skis and riding on a chairlift, a message popped through on my phone via Google Voice and another message came in through my email from my website’s contact form asking for assistance. Later, I emailed and then phoned the potential client and laid down the groundwork for a proposal.

Over the next couple of days, I received background information via email and conducted research using mobile Safari. I used the built-in Notes app to outline some questions. I used Dragon Dictation (link here) to “write” my initial piece of the proposal while riding in the car and used Documents to Go (link here) to create a Word document and edit the piece to final form. As the client preferred communicating by IM / chat, I downloaded BeeJive (link here) to seamlessly chat on the move.

While I was at it, I checked the weather with Weather Bug (link here), used Navigon’s Mobile Navigator (link here) to get me between destinations and Where (link here), AroundMe (link here) and Siri Personal Assistant (link here) to find decent restaurants and other spots high in the mountains. I passed the time pinning my location in Gowalla (link here) and Foursquare (link here). I videoed the kids on my 3GS iPhone and uploaded the content to Flickr (link here) via the app. I stayed in touch with online friends via Tweetie 2 (link here) and Facebook (link here). When I could get signal, my husband and I stayed in touch on the mountain by SMS.

Although I didn’t personally download it, my husband loaded the iSki app (link here), which provides snow condition reports, your downhill speed, vertical feet, and the location of other members of your party on the mountain by their cell phone numbers and GPS.

Because of its extreme versatility, I was able to use both native programs and download new applications to get the job done. No laptop required.

Although I didn’t use the applications during this particular weekend, I have in the past used Westlaw’s mobile webpage interface and Fastcase (link here) to research and send legal information to clients. From my phone, while moving from one place to another.

Think about this: a phone that can cover pretty much any material need and, if you don’t have a particular ability or tool installed, you can find and download one as the need arises. You can even delete that functionality later and add different features. On the fly.

It really is no wonder that smartphone sales have sky rocketed. Who wants to put a laptop in their pocket while riding a ski lift?

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The 2009 Holiday Wish List

Last year, I posted my holiday wish list in the hopes that my husband someone reading this blog would take note and respond accordingly. Readers who have slogged it out here on the Studio for more than a year may recall that my list for 2008 included a Flip Mino HD, an iPhone 3G, a 30″ Gateway monitor, the Wacom Cintiq tablet, the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen, the B & W Zeppelin iPhone / iPod speaker dock, the Plastic Logic eReader (still not out and available for the 2009 holiday season), the WildCharge wireless charging pad for small electronics, the Sentry Safe hard drive, and the Canon EOS 50D.

So maybe I was a wee bit ambitious. The list of “haves” versus “have nots” is decidedly skewed in favor of the latter. I did get a Bose Sounddock, which is pretty cool. And right after Christmas, I bought myself the iPhone as a present. Later in the year, I got a serviceable Fuji digital camera, opted to forego the Flip in favor of an upgrade to the iPhone 3GS, and still gaze longingly at the other gadgets whenever I get the chance.

So in the spirit of “if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again,” I am going to put my 2009 list right out there. Who knows? Maybe Santa is a Studio reader.

Here it is, Martha’s WishList for 2009:

1.  Apple MacBook Pro

Yep, it isn’t cheap. But it sure is pretty. I have finally come around to realizing that I really need two completely different systems running herein the house. Perhaps it is the fact that I have fallen for the iPhone’s beautiful simplicity and design chops and am looking for a similar experience in my desktop / laptop. Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with my slick Lenovo. I just feel that I should experience all worlds in order to make a completely informed decision on the perennial geek question: who makes the better system? The 13-inch would be just fine for me.

2.  LG BD390 BluRay Player

As I spend pretty much all of my limited visual down-time watching movies, I have been getting more and more interested in BluRay players. From my research, this bad boy packs in an awful lot of features into its sleek black box. Streaming Netflix, YouTube and CinemaNow video (ondemand new release movies) wirelessly, and magically able to sniff out any visual media on your own home network, there is little this player can’t do. You can find it online for well under $300, which in my book seems a pretty cool deal. You listening, Santa? It’s cool AND cost conscious!

3.  Sony Bravia XBR KDL-40XBR6 40″ 1080p TV

If you are going to hook up a fancy player like the LG, you really need to have the proper viewing device. This slim profile 40″ set is the maximize size I can fit into my allotted TV screen space. I went to Best Buy to look at these sets and I can tell you that, to my eye, Sony has the most nature, best picture with the least artifacts. This particular set probably has more on it than I need, but this is a WISH list after all. I can’t wait to watch The Matrix in BluRay on this cool surface! Until the OLED’s get large and reasonably-priced enough, this one will do just fine.

4.  PowerMat Wireless Charging Station

Last year, it was the Wildcharge, this year it’s the PowerMat. You lay out the mat, equip your devices with the appropriate case, battery door or dock and simply place the device on the mat and voila! wireless charging! It comes in either a Home/Office or Portable version for charging on the go. Losing all of those proprietary chargers and cords littering my kitchen countertop is a beautiful dream and the PowerMat charger can get me there!

5. Plastic Logic Que

I still want this, and now it has a name: Que. Sleek, lightweight, with a gesture-based interface, Que is going to be sold through Barnes & Noble’s e-store. It will have 3G and Wi-Fi capabtility (at least as rumored). It is really being marketed as a business-savvy document reader, but that won’t stop me from downloading the recent best seller from B & N to view on its sexy “shatterproof” capacitance based touch-screen. Now, it just needs to come OUT onto the market. C’mon 2010!

6.  Motorola Droid

I am definitely a tech groupie so it doesn’t bother me this current darling of the mobile computing world to my list. I would love to check out Droid’s Google-y goodness, particularly Google Maps Navigation, despite all that macho male marketing bull-crap (yes, I just said “bull-crap” on my respectable legal tech blog). I like its looks and have been dying to try Android. I only wish I could justify a second personal phone on a completely different carrier, but maybe Santa can work a little Christmas magic!

7.  Microsoft Windows 7

I have been having a bit of a disagreement with my husband IT guy about upgrading our Windows-based computers to Windows 7. I really would love to do it, and not just because I like being a tech guinea pig. It’s faster, lighter, and more stable than its predecessors and I have heard nothing but good things from people I trust on this subject about the new system’s chops. I hear upgrading it can be a bear, though. Maybe I should just replace every computer in the house with pre-installed Windows 7 systems! What a concept!

8.  Touch Sensitive Rubik’s Cube

You know the famous line “All Work And No Play ….” etc. I have no interest in being dull, so I am throwing in this highly awesome touch sensitive Rubik’s Cube. I was a huge fan of the original low-tech version back in high school and used to be able to solve the thing in under 3 minutes (I have since lost my chops most likely due to the excessive amount of other less fun content crowding my overtasked brain cells). I think I could spend way too much time on this, but I do need something to fill my stocking.

So that’s it for this years modest list. Happy Holidays to all and to all a good gadget!

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