Think back to the days when we used a mobile phone for texts and calls, an iPod or MP3 player for music, a DVD Player for movies, a radio for local broadcasts, a SatNav for directions, consulted time tables for travel and then used the computer for just about everything else. A lot of finicky gadgets, each with user manuals, cables, batteries and chargers.
Today’s smartphone can accomplish all these plus a lot more.
With a worldwide community of developers for the Windows Phone, the iPhone and the Android Phone, the app market is very competitive. Hence an array of apps for Communication, Entertainment, Information, Productivity, Sport and Travel.
I will attempt to cover each area or category with my own experience and app suggestions. I use an Android phone, however many apps of the same name are also available for Windows phone and the iPhone.
The original reason for a using a phone is for communication. Communication has gone a lot further to utilise social media and the phone’s data/ video/ webcam/ bluetooth capabilities.
Three apps for communication are already shipped with your phone. These are used for phone calling, text messaging and email. When your phone is connected to wifi, you can bypass your allowances by using other communication apps.
- Messenger (FaceBook)
Apart from making calls you can also video call, text, send pictures, files and voice messages. Each app has it’s own list of features, so not all of them do everything. The person you are connecting to must also have the same app installed.
Using your Mobile Phone in the Car
The law states that if you are caught using a hand held phone whilst driving, you will be fined £100 and 3 penalty points on your licence. You can use your phone safely and within the law whilst driving, but you will need a couple of accessories:
- A mount or cradle fitted to your car dashboard or windscreen.
In my experience, a mount that requires the use of two hands to mount the phone will probably never be used due to the trouble it takes to fit the phone. For one handed use try products from Scosche or Brodit (Find the Holder for your phone plus the ProClip for your car).
- Bluetooth communication to a speakerphone.
A car which already has a bluetooth connection in it’s audio sytem
A bluetooth speakerphone car kit.
I use a Jabra Freeway which clips to the sun visor. As an alternative to its own quality speaker, it can transmit audio to the car stereo via its built-in FM transmitter.
The first time you use your phone in the car it will need to be paired once with the car audio system or car kit. Subsequently you need to ensure the phone’s bluetooth radio is switched on.Optionally, an app installed on your phone can then determine what happens after your phone is connected. Examples are:
- Read text messages out loud
- Open maps
Entertainment encompasses music, movies, video, photo albums and games. Most phones include apps for music and photo galleries, but it might be worth exploring for an app that offers more features according to your requirements.
Movies and TV
Each platform has it’s own music and movie store which will charge you a fee for each download.
- Netflix – Movie Rental at £6.00 per month
- ToView – Freeview Live TV Channels
- BBC News
- BBC iPlayer
Screen Mirroring is the ability of the phone to mirror its screen onto another display such as a TV.
A modern Smart TV should have a Miracast screen mirroring feature (usually selected as one of the inputs) but various accessories can be bought to make screen mirroring possible:
- MHL cable – (MHL – Mobile High-definition Link). This is a cable that plugs into the micro usb socket of a phone that is MHL capable. The other end plugs into the HDMI socket of a TV, projector or computer monitor.
- Miracast Receiver – I use a Microsoft Display Adapter – This forms a wireless link directly between your phone and any display with an HDMI socket. Great for business presentations to a projector straight from your phone.
Information comes to us in all sorts of ways. Newspapers, radio broadcasts, television news, weather forecasts, Facebook and Twitter posts and so on. Likewise apps for all these are available for the smartphone.
My recommendations are:
- BBC News
- BBC Weather
Microsoft Office as a productivity suite of programs has the greatest market share, so having an app that can display Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on your phone is great for reference purposes. Creating or editing a Microsoft document on a phone is not a great experience because of the limited screen size.
The very fact that you can add items to your calendar, create or reply to emails and catch up with phone calls means you are being productive on the go and thus saving you the hassle of attending to things later.
Using your phone as a presentation tool means having less kit with longer battery life. Researching and keeping up with the news using the internet and various apps also means you stay informed and productive. The use of DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Apple iDrive means you have access to files from any device. Other useful productivity tools are EverNote and Pocket.
Keeping your Contacts, Calendar and Notes in sync is also a consideration. Users of Microsoft Outlook who use an Android phone could use an Outlook plugin called gSyncit. This keeps Outlook synced with your Google Calendar and Contacts which in turn keeps the same updated on your phone. Makes absolute sense to me!
Group all apps for Travel into a folder on your home screen, so that they are all there at once.
Maps and Navigation are apps that come included with most phones. The Google Maps app doubles up as a navigation app and provides you with route, directions and navigation to a searched location. You can select travel by car, public transport, walk or bicycle and the map and directions will change accordingly, providing accurate information for the best way to your destination along with alternate routes.
Your Maps app is constantly updated with traffic information, delays and construction works. Positioning your phone in a cradle in your car therefore turns it into a useful SatNav device.
Bus Checker is a clever app for finding a bus, a bus stop and a route. There are numerous Bus Checker apps and the one for Bristol and Bath is called TravelWest Bus Checker.
Train Tickets from CrossCountry does a brilliant job of finding trains, booking on-line and viewing the progress of an existing train or journey.
Fuel Buddy records Fill-Ups, Services, Expenses and Trips. Pay the small once-of fee and get a lot of extra features. It works out your fuel efficiency and how much you can claim for business mileage.
TripIt manages trips. Whether a business or vacation trip, TripIt includes every aspect of your trip: flights, accommodation, car hire, public transport, activity etc. It provides location information, weather updates and stores all your phone number, contact and booking details. You can share trips with others too. Allow TripIt to scan your email and it will automatically add trips into your calendar. View your trips in your calendar, in the app or on-line on the web-site.
We can advise you on a phone and the applications you will need to go with it, along with the correct set-up and training.
Make sure you’re not left behind – enjoy the value of your SmartPhone while on the move …and care less about your computer!