The Benefits of a Smartphone in a Writer’s World

June 14, 2009

Smartphones  are quickly propagating the cellphone landscape, making anyone who whips out a mundane flip phone appear slightly "out of touch".  The point of this article is to discuss whether or not the benefits of owning a smartphone are to the writer's advantage.  But first, let's answer a few general questions about the gadget.

 
 

What is a smartphone?
In a nuthshell it's a cellphone that allows you to do a host of other things via mobile applications. 

 

What's the difference between the iPhone, the Blackberry, and all the others?
In a word…OS (Operating System).  In order to access email, internet, IM, pictures, etc on your computer you need an operating system like Windows or OS X, right?  Same thing goes for  smartphones  – which are basically tiny, limited computers that allow you to easily make phone calls. The iPhone's OS is derived from OS X.  BlackBerry has a proprietary OS created by RIM.  Treos either use Palm or Windows Mobile. Google has also entered the smartphone market with its Android operating system. In addition, each carrier has propriety operating systems on their less expensive QWERTY cellphones (i.e. VZ Navigator) that don't quite qualify as a "smartphone" because of the limitations of the OS.

 

Is the smartphone an imperative tool for writers? 
Let's put it this way; you can live in a log cabin with no indoor plumbing or electricity and create the greatest novel known to man using a 1935 Remington typewriter.  So technically, technology isn't imperative to a writer, but it does make life easier.  That's exactly what the smartphone does for a writer – IT MAKES LIFE EASIER – for the reasons listed below:

 

 

 

 

1) Accessibility

 

It's the 21st century. You are expected to be more accessible in a multitude of ways. Meaning…your publicist or agent should be able to contact you at all times via phone, email or text.   Don't want to be bothered 24/7?  Then turn your cellphone off, but at least have the ability to be more accessible.

 

2) Mobility

 

What if you want to take a break from writing and leave your laptop at home, but you still need to attend to a few emails?  You can still conduct a wide range of business using just your smartphone.  The editor just sent the 2nd draft changes via a word doc and you'd like to take a quick look.  No need to haul out the laptop.  Smartphones have applications that can open .DOC, PDF, .XL and .txt files.

 

3) MemoPad

 

I use the MemoPad on my BlackBerry a lot!  Ideas are always popping into my head.  Pen and pad are not always available and nor can I trust that I won't lose the slip of paper, so I whip out my smartphone, open MemoPad and access my personal "Ideas" file.  When I get home, I sync my phone with the computer so that I have access to my "Ideas" file at home, the office and while mobile. 

 

The iPhone comes with a simple application called Notes.  MemoPad is free with BlackBerry and there are applications for Palm and Windows Mobile as well.

 

4) Reminders/Calendar

 

Writers can constantly be pulled in a million different directions, especially immediately after the release of your best seller.  You've got an appointment with the publisher, lunch with the agent, a meet and greet at Starbucks, the dentist at 3:00 and a 7ish writer's group meeting.  Smartphones have all your appointments neatly organized within the calendar, alarms to alert you, and it all syncs nicely with your computer.

 

5) The Web

 

I'm not going to list the hundreds of reasons a writer needs to access the web, so let's just take it as a given that you do…  With built-in internet capabilities, smartphones allow you to carry the world in your pocket.  The world is a good thing.  Having access to it 24/7 is a great thing.

 

6) Tethering

How do you access the internet on your laptop when you're away from home? If you're at the local coffee shop you can log onto the cafe's Wi-Fi service.  You can also use a modem solution which attaches to your computer via USB or ExpressCard slot, but you still have to pay an additional monthly service fee.  OR you can tether and completely eliminate the need for Wi-Fi hookups when you're mobile.  Tethering with regard to smartphones means you can access the internet by "tethering" your phone to your laptop either via Bluetooth or USB.    Wherever you have cellphone coverage, you have internet access.  To learn more about using the iPhone to tether go here.  BlackBerry and Verizon allow you to tether for $15 /month.  As long as you're not downloading huge files and limiting your bandwidth it's a great solution.

 

7) Staying Informed

 

No matter what kind of writer you are, it's important that you stay abreast of current issues and what's going on around you.  I use a free application on the BlackBerry called Viigo to receive RSS feeds from my favorite internet sites.  I get world news, local news, tech news and financial updates from my trusted sites. 
 

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Chung Nguyen-Le | The Write Network June 15, 2009 at 2:57 am

Hi Robin

Great article on introduing smartphones for writers.

I love using pen and paper, but sometimes a smartphone is needed and I use my Nokia e61 for all those points you mentioned above (Google Reader for feeds).

One thing I would like to add is using the note recorder on a smartphone.

I was commenting on an article over the weekend on NouveauWriter about using the voice recording feature on a smartphone as an invaluable tool for recording memos, notes and capturing thoughts in those moments of inspiration.

I don’t have a Blackberry but I find that GooSync is a great tool for synchronising my Google Calendar with my phone.

Smartphones are great and if anyone is interested, I actually have some pictures of what I call my ‘ultra-portable office’ on my cnlifeasitis Flickr account

Reply

Robin June 16, 2009 at 11:23 am

Chung – I used a voice recording software several years ago when I owned one of many Treo smartphones. Thanks for adding that feature, because I had completely forgotten. That’s a great tool for writers who work that way.

Having a voice recorder, MP3 player, GPS, camera, video recorder and phone all-in-one gadget really condenses the size of one’s gadget bag. And when it all works perfect, it makes life that much sweeter.

I’ll have to do an article on smartphone applications for writers. I’ve heard a lot of good things about GooSync working for BlackBerry/Mac users as a workaround to the lack of synergy between the two OS.

Reply

Gnorb September 29, 2009 at 9:09 am

Great article. You haven’t by any chance done comparisons between phones, have you? I’m currently debating between the Palm Pre and iPhone and would love to hear from other writers what their preferred phones are and why.

Reply

Frank K. September 29, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I tried the iPhone and gave it my best shot. The lack of keyboard hardware and the terrible AT&T coverage was a deal buster for me. Don’t know much about Palm Pre.

Reply

Robin September 29, 2009 at 7:23 pm

Gnorb – I have to follow in line with what Frank has said. Choose your carrier first and choose the best – not according to rates but rather coverage. Smartphone technology will only drive you crazy if you don’t have the network to support the device.

Second, a keyboard is essential…for me. On-screen keyboards like the BlackBerry Storm and the iPhone can be difficult to master because the technology eliminates the sense of touch that comes with a tactile keyboard and thus, no motor skills are employed. Thumb motor skills help you type faster, just like with a regular keyboard. If you can “feel” the key placements you can look at the screen instead of the keyboard.

I have heard a lot of good things about the new Palm Pre, but you won’t have access to as many 3rd party apps as the iPhone or a BlackBerry. Make sure you have a 30-day trial period so you can return the device and choose another if it’s not to your liking.

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Gnorb September 30, 2009 at 6:40 am

Thanks for your opinions, Frank and Robin.

Both AT&T and Sprint have pretty good coverage in my area. (I currently have AT&T and other family members have Sprint.) What concerns me are the 3rd party apps. The phone itself is a bit of an afterthought because I find both a physical keyboard in a phone and an on-screen keyboard about the same: I’m not particularly fast/comfortable with either, but can deal.

Finally, thanks for reminding me about a 30-day trial. THAT’S important.

Reply

Anonymous July 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm

smartphone makes our work easier

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