If smartphones are so central to our lives, it’s time to get smart about buying and caring for them.
Get a Clue (I Mean, a Productivity Tool)
Melvin compares smartphones as if he were placing an online personal ad. “Mine has more pixels.” “Mine is faster than yours!” “My screen is bigger than yours!” Sadly, Melvin, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not how big it is, it’s what you do with it.
If you’re making your phone decisions based on the hardware specs, that means you don’t actually do enough with it to justify buying a smartphone at all.
Decide if your smartphone is a toy or a tool. If you decide it’s a toy, bravo! Go play Monument Valley, especially the add-on levels. But if you think of it as a productivity tool, choose your phone based on its capability:
- What software does it run? Choose a smartphone that has software that is robust, secure, and integrates with your workflow, including any apps you may use on your desktop.
- What support is available if things break? When my iPhone got damaged, it was like hitting a brick wall in my business until I got it back. Saving on a smartphone today, only to lose lots of work if it breaks, is a bad choice.
- Can you configure it to back up automatically, so if something bad does happen, you can recover? When someone says “I had to replace my phone so please resend me your information,” they’re admitting that they trusted their entire life to a device without understanding the need to back it up. Don’t make that mistake! Check out Tech Talker’s episode How to Back Up Your Computer Data.
My phone is an iPhone. It integrates with all my desktop and web. The Apple Care service contract is expensive, but I live near an Apple Store and they’ve given me service light years better than anything I ever got from Dell or Microsoft. Plus, Apple’s business model doesn’t depend on stealing your data and selling it to marketers and the NSA – another plus in my book.
Use Your Phone in the Wind
Your phone needs to be usable as a phone. Test it to make sure the sound quality is good. And don’t be that guy, gal, or intersex who calls someone from outside and blasts their ear out with wind noise.
I discovered a cool trick. On a windy day, put your phone in a thin half-size plastic baggie. The touch screen works through the bag, and sound gets transmitted fine. But when the wind blows by, it glides off the plastic rather than hitting the lip of the microphone. Instead of a cyclone-like roar, your listener hears the dulcet tones of your beautiful voice, and the sounds of your neighborhood being destroyed by tornado are barely audible in the background.
I told Europa this trick and she promptly ordered a special plastic bag with embedded rubies and emeralds and a platinum clasp. Mine is a plastic sandwich bag with a zipper lock. Either way, make sure your phone isn’t just smart, but is also a phone.
Get a Screen Protector
Just remember what mother always said: “No matter how big your screen is, make sure to use protection.”
Every time she gets a new phone, Bernice drops it and the screen ends up with a spiderweb pattern of cracks. She says it reminds her of the three Fates, weaving the future into their looms. I know what the future holds, and it isn’t pretty.
Buy a screen protector, don’t look into the future, and remember that ignorance is bliss. My favorite brand is BestSkinsEver.com. Their screen protectors are made of a miracle plastic that is clear, can be easily removed if needed, and is impervious to anything. They use it for tanks so it can withstand Bernice.
Back Up Your Address Book to the Cloud
Protect your screen, protect your data. There’s nothing more embarrassing than getting a new phone and having to ask your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, spousal equivalent, or polyamorous family unit to text you their phone number because you don’t have it and didn’t memorize it (150 Pokemon, remember?).
If possible, get a cloud service for your contacts, so you always have a backup. I use Apple’s cloud, because they don’t make their money by analyzing and selling my personal data. Other companies, who aren’t evil, may also provide cloud services, with varying degrees of privacy and support.
Use a Lock Screen with Emergency Contact Info
And lastly, in case your phone gets lost, make sure your lock screen includes contact information that will be visible if the phone is locked. I make my lock screen wallpaper with an iPhone app like Over or Swipe that lets me add text to a picture. I include a friend’s phone number and an emergency email address, so the good samaritan who finds the phone can easily contact me to return it.
Your smartphone is your friend. Probably, your only friend, since who spends time with real people anymore? So you have to treat your only friend right. Buy a smartphone for its capability, not its technical specs. Use it in the wind with a ziploc bag, protect the screen with a military-grade screen protector, back up your address book, and have a lock screen with your contact information. Your smartphone is the center of your life. Treat it with respect.