Holiday Smartphone Adventures

I'm a bit of a gadget geek, in my own way. I think that new technology is fascinating, and, thanks to my dad who has worked for a cell phone company most of my life, I've followed advances in mobile device features for a long time. On the other hand, I'm also a cheapskate, and I never have been able to justify paying extra on our cell phone plan for the frivolity of being connected to the internet when not in front of a computer. Thanks to my Peek, I had email on the go, and that was enough for me. I still thought the technology was way cool, though.

When I heard my friend Cherie was planning to have an event in conjunction with Verizon Wireless for local bloggers to try out new phones based on Google's Android platform, I was pretty excited. I mean, I am Google loyalist, with Gmail, Picasa, Google Voice, Google Calendar- my entire online life is rolled up in Google, The Android project sounded pretty cool, and, even though the rest of my family has iPhones, I liked what I was hearing about the open-source operating system. I looked forward to checking out the new devices, even at the risk of being disowned by my dad for going to a Verizon-sponsored event.

Turns out, attendees were given phones to take home to try out for six weeks! The six week trial period ended pretty much on my due date, so I was curious how having a smartphone would make the holidays easier while being 9 months pregnant.I ended up with a Motorola Droid2 phone, a new-ish model exclusive to Verizon, with a slide-out keyboard. While I wasn't thrilled with the battery life of this model, I did like the hardware keyboard and the size of the phone (Though, admittedly, I didn't actually use it as a phone, since I still had my regular cell phone with my regular phone number. Reportedly, Verizon phones don't do data and voice at the same time terribly well.) Mostly, I loved being connected all the time. From a gadget perspective, the Droid2 was really cool.

Where smartphones really differentiate themselves, though, is by the operating system- Apple, Android, Windows 7, Palm, Blackberry (are there others?)- and the applications available. I was impressed with Android. The interface was intuitive, and the free apps available in the Marketplace were just what I needed. Throughout the holidays, a few made our lives a little easier, beyond the expected email and Twitter apps:
  • Mint.com - I'm an avid Mint user- I love being able to see all our accounts, including our mortgage, retirement, and credit card, all in one place. We recently refinanced our mortgage, and there was some miscommunication about how the payment would deduct from our accounts at the beginning. Checking the app on the phone helped us catch an error on a Saturday morning and rectify it the same day. The app also helped us keep track of gift spending on the go!
  • Amazon - We did about half our Christmas shopping online this year, but when it came time for me shopping for Josh, I did it all in brick-and-mortar stores. All kinds of sales were going on, but I still wanted to make sure I was getting a good deal. Amazon's app allows the user to photograph the product or UPC code and finds the same product on Amazon. This price check saved me money, because I was able to tell when a "sale" wasn't actually a great deal!
  • Angry Birds - Josh got kind of addicted to this game.
  • Application development- At work, my company was developing an Android app, and, thanks to my handy dandy Droid2, I was able to help with the testing stage of development. It was neat to be able to see that aspect of the open-source operating system too- the ease of app development. 
  • Contraction Timer - As I mentioned in my birth story, this ended up being invaluable. I used it the entire way through my labor to time contractions, to know when we should call the midwife, go to the birth center, and to keep track of the pace of labor once we were there. Without this app, I'm not sure how we would have been able to time contractions for the hours and hours that was needed.
I had to give the phone back about a week after Elliott was born... and, not too many days later, Josh was convinced enough that having a smartphone was worthwhile and that Android was robust and easy to use, that we went out and got him an Android smartphone (with AT&T, free with an upgrade & contract renewal) As for me? Josh got me an iPod Touch for my birthday- all the advantages of a smartphone (when on WiFi), none of the monthly costs. Apple's operating system has some pros and cons compared to Google's, but that's for another post- this one has certainly become long enough!

P.S. I have an iPod Touch now, so if anyone wants to play Words With Friends, my name is keepingfeet

Thanks to Verizon for letting me borrow the Droid2 for 6 weeks & providing a data plan & service for this #VzWhAPPy event. This post is my honest, uncompensated opinion- promise.


Ashley said...

I have a Google phone. :-) (The T-Mobile G2.) I like the Android operating system too! I definitely like it a lot better than my Blackberry that I had a few years ago.

"The Queen of Free" said...

I cannot believe that I didn't know that about the Amazon app. *gasp*. :) Glad you had fun with a new toy over the holidays! Also glad your dad didn't disown you. Looking forward to new pics of Elliot whenever you get the chance.

honeyspoon said...

I have an Android phone as well (the T-Mobile G4). With T-Mobile it was cheaper to go with one of the non-contract plans and pay out of pocket for a phone. Since I wanted the phone to last me for awhile, I went with a G4 phone. One of my favorite features of my phone is that I can use it as a portable wi-fi hot spot. I actually canceled my internet at my apartment and use that feature instead. So basically, I was able to justify paying $20 a month for unlimited data by canceling my $19.99 month internet! (I had the cheapest cable internet option.)

On a side note, Daniel decided to go with an I-Pod Touch like you did. He really likes it but I think he's jealous of my phone at times. I wish he had a phone like mine too because then we could video call.


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