It’s Thanksgiving morning, and I have the day off, but my
body’s internal clock wouldn’t let me sleep in, nor would my animals, whose
bellies are quite used to their normal early morning feeding time. So, as I was
lying in bed, thinking about today and reflecting on all of the things that I’m
thankful for, I decided to pop online and write this quick blog post.
First and foremost, I’m thankful for TechRepublic and the IT
community that calls this web site their home away from home. Secondly, I’m the
editor of TechRepublic’s Smartphones blog, and I use my smartphone a LOT. I
would like to say it’s because I take my job very seriously, but it goes beyond
that. I’ve been out to eat with a group of friends and colleagues and noticed
that everyone was on their
smartphone, so I know it’s not just me. In fact, TechRepublic’s sister site,
SmartPlanet, recently highlighted a survey about the growing smartphone addiction in the United States (and I’m sure that other
countries are quite attached to their devices as well).
So, without further adieu, in the spirit of Thanksgiving,
I’d like to list 10 things about my smartphone that I’m pretty darn thankful
for. I have a Droid Razr Maxx HD that runs Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), but many
things on my list are fairly common features that are available on most
smartphones, regardless of the OS platform or manufacturer.
- Clock: Over the years, my smartphone has
increasingly become the primary way I know what time it is. I’ll pick it up,
click the power button to wake it from sleep mode, check the time, and then set
it back down. There are even numerous clock widgets that you choose from to
make the time more prominent on your home screen display. I used to wear a
watch, but not so much anymore.
- Alarm: Just like my watch from days of old, I
used to own an actual alarm clock that plugged into the wall and took up space
on my bedside table. My smartphone has taken over that duty as well, and I
think it does it much better. Not only is my smartphone alarm feature easier to
program, and I can select several different alarms to go off throughout the day
(either one-time alarms or ones that repeat daily, weekly, or certain days
throughout the week), but I can also select from a variety of different tones
(less jarring tones than a traditional alarm clock) to wake up to.
- Speaker and Mute: I used to wear a Bluetooth ear
piece to talk while driving or whenever my hands were too busy to hold my
smartphone to my ear. However, I’ve recently been taking advantage of the speaker
instead of siphoning the sound through just one ear. I know that’s not ideal
for every situation, but I mostly telecommute, and my animals aren’t disturbed
when grandma calls and broadcasts her new favorite recipe. There are also times
during phone calls when Mute comes in handy. In fact, I mute approximately 90%
of my conference calls – only becoming audible when questions are directed at
me or I have something to add to a conversation. I have a teenager in the house
that may or may not be a game rager. If he was, believe me, no one would want
to hear that (not even grandma).
- Font size: A couple years ago, small text
started to get a little fuzzy. Almost everyone over 40 will be able to relate –
and everyone younger will get there eventually! One of the best customizations
I made to my smartphone was increasing the font size so that I can actually
read things without glasses. I went to Settings | Display | Font size, and then
selected Huge. I’m definitely thankful for huge font.
- Voice texting: I’m a big texter. For me, sending
text messages are sometimes easier and more convenient than making a phone
call. However, there are times when texting isn’t possible or safe – like when
your hands are busy preparing dinner or you’re driving home from work – but you
still need to get a message out about items that are needed from the grocery
store. The voice text feature doesn’t always understand my words correctly, but
I continue to use it in a pinch. It’s functional, plus there’s potential
entertainment value of the auto-correct feature.
- Google Now: I admit that I have Siri-envy, but
Google Now has been satiating my need to get information quickly, without
having to type. When I click the Google Now microphone and ask, “Where is the
closest Starbucks?” it responds with a female voice that says, “Here is a
listing of Starbucks within 20 miles.” The information it provides includes
address, phone number, web site, reviews, and directions how to get there (with
the help of Google Maps). If you’re in an unfamiliar part of town, or another
city altogether, information like this is golden.
- Calendar: I use my smartphone calendar for
planning just about everything. I’ve synced it to my work calendar, email
calendars, U.S. holiday calendar, and even my Facebook account (events and
friends’ birthdays). I look at my smartphone calendar every single day, and it
lets me know important information, like what work tasks I need to complete.
Whenever I’m scheduling an appointment, I’m thankful that I no longer have to
say, “Let me check my calendar and get back with you,” because my calendar is
always on me and up-to-date with all of my information.
- Contacts: I know this seems like a simple thing,
but having quick access to information about the people I know is pretty cool.
It used to be that you had to get everyone’s information and then enter all of
the individual pieces – name, home phone, cell phone, work phone, address –
into your contact list. Now, with the help of Facebook syncing, all of that
information automagically appears. I may not have kept in very good touch with
some of my high school friends, but there sure are a variety of ways that I can
reach them now!
- Camera: Smartphone camera capability has
increased over the years, and this feature alone is how a lot of people base
their new smartphone purchase. My smartphone takes really good photos, and I
use it more than I ever used a regular camera, because my smartphone is with me
wherever I go. However, I don’t just take selfies or cute photos of my animals.
I also take pictures of receipts, error messages on my computer screen, and
other things that I want to remember but don’t want to spend the time writing
it down or have to hold onto a piece of paper.
There are numerous apps on my smartphone, and many of them are addictive. Some are functional and some just provide countless
hours of entertainment. Currently, I’m most thankful for the following apps:
Facebook, Google Maps, Grocery IQ, Local Places, and Bitstrips (which is
connected to my Facebook account).
What other smartphone features – ones that you possibly take
for granted – are you thankful for? Share your thoughts in the discussion