Mobile Lifestyle: things I do with my smartphone


This site, as it is said in our moto top line, speaks about Mobile Lifestyle. So it is time to write a little more about it, and tell some main aspects of one of the most important mobility accessories of today's life, the cellphone.

So, first things first: what is Mobile Lifestyle in my point of view?

I am a person who is always in motion. The first side of my work here (consulting and integration for Israeli customers) forces me to be a lot of time on the road or at customers, and the second side of this work (software sales at Latin America) forces me to be at least once every three months abroad for a week or so. At the same time I do all this, I have a company to manage, other customers to answer to, and two websites to manage and post content to. And I still haven't begun talking about Twitter, Facebook, newsgroups, etc..... All this can't be done so easily when you are most time outside.

In this context, i am always in search of solutions that will provide me:

  • ability to respond quickly to necessary messages, phone calls, or emails.
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  • ability to keep in control of my different business activities
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  • ability to optimize my contact with customers and minimize the amount of paper I must carry with me.
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  • ability to keep in control of my different social activities
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  • ability to optimize the management of my websites

I can say that I could hardly do a quarter of the things I needed with my phone 5 years ago (and I needed a lot less). Nowadays, I can do almost 90% of all I need in the phone, as long as I choose the right platform for myself. My almost perfect phone (there is no perfect phone for me, and there won't be since I will always want more) should fulfill the following:

  • excellent message and email system - customers should feel like I am always available at the office.
  • lots of software options - continuous development for this phone by software houses.
  • full multitasking system - I don't want to be getting out and into applications.
  • a good camera - I use it in trips and to keep images of documents I need to save.
  • good voice system - calls should be loud and clear
  • good data system - 3.5G, WiFi, Bluetooth - soon I will add WiMax to the list.

So looking at today's platforms for a smartphone, I have chosen Windows Mobile for my use. This is my reasoning:

  •  Symbian: Nokia really has a point by still maintaining 38% of the smartphone market with Symbian. However, it hasn't managed to get developers really interested in large scale on this OS. Everytime we need a new application it is difficult to find it. Software houses that develop more than simple off-the-shelf applications don't do it for Symbian. Furthermore, the differences in Symbian implementations make it difficult for me to move from phone to phone and still keep my software.
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  • iPhone: definitely the king in terms of off-the-shelf software available. But the question: which kind of software? there are MANY things that I use and need (you will see in the continuation) that are not available for iPhone. Furthermore, the system doesn't allow real multitasking, the camera is lame, and I have seen at my customers problems with email reliability as well. So, after owning an iPhone for some weeks, I have decided that at this point it is not an option for me.
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  • RIM: this is a difficult call. How can I rule out the perfect mail device? Yes, it cannot be defined otherwise. In terms of mail, it is perfect. But I had two problems with it: first, the amount of software available for the platform is very limited. Second, the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) is TOO HIGH, and it would only make sense if I was travelling abroad two weeks every month. So, again, ruled out.
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  • ANDROID: Android could be and will surely be an option for me in the future. The OS is perfect and comparable to Windows Mobile in every possible feature. The phone hardware is also coming with everything I need. The only point is software, there aren't many software houses developing for it, and most software is sold only through the Android store which is still not open for Israel. So it is very difficult to get applications for this platform at this moment.
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  • WINDOWS MOBILE: Well, I know all the arguments against Windows Mobile, saying it is slow and outdated. Yet, my Samsung Omnia looks extremely fast when compared with a Nokia N96 or N97. Regarding outdated,  WinMo 6.5 is coming, and will be giving a new feeling to the device (and, BTW, more speed too). WinMo 6.1 is very stable as well, and I can go at least for a full week without doing a single soft reset. In terms of functionality, it is all I need: multitasking, great voice calls, great data options, an excellent camera, and ALL the software I need. So it is clear to me that this has to be the platform of my choice.

OK, having set the platform of my choice, let's get to the heart of this article, and do an all around view of things that I do with my phone. I will divide them in categories of use, something like business, social, entertainment, etc.

My list of installed software is 3-page long now. We are talking about nearly 50 software packages installed. I won't be talking about everyone of them, but the will surely get a picture of what I am talking about in terms of the usages of the phone.

1. Regular Phone/PIM/Mail Use

Much has been said about this kind of use of Windows Mobile phones, and I won't extend too much with that. My phone is directly connected with my Exchange Server with one Exchange-Activesync connection to my company account, and one POP3/SMTP connection to my PocketPCFreak.com account in the same server. I am still waiting for Microsoft to gives us the possibility to have Exchange-Activesync connections to more than one account - at least for email - in order to get things going in an easier way. But I can say that in this meaning, the phone fulfills all my needs.

I must declare that I have tried almost all PIM replacement software - AgendaOne, Pocket Informant, Calendar Touch, and many others. I always came back to the default PIM, which in my opinion is the easiest to use and makes sense in every meaning that I can think of.

I synchronize all items: mail, contacts, calendar and tasks. Synchronizing contacts not only gives me the option of easily sending mails from the device, but is also a good backup of my phone contacts. Calendar and tasks are must-have options for managing my daily life.

One thing I learned from Blackberry: to add to my signature a line "written from my phone" - or some variation of it. We tend to answer mails with short sentences when we answer from the phone, and it turns out people sometimes get angry about that. When they know it has been written from the phone, they are more likely to excuse us for that.

2. Business applications

There are some very important uses of my phone for business, in parallel to the PIM and mail use.  Here are some screenshots and explanations:

Codewallet: The screenshot above is my Codewallet main page. Codewallet is a secret archive for private information. There are many like these, and the most well-known is FlexWallet from Ilium Software. Since I began in my first days with a PocketPC with CodeWallet, I stayed with it. I have here a lot of information, from all my networking passwords, through software registration keys, and until my Knowledge base for Windows Mobile and Exchange Integration. The information is  encrypted, password protected and cannot be seen from outside the software. www.developerone.com

Money conversion: essential to my business, it rules both the prices for the invoices I issue to my customers and the calculation of my earnings from software exports.  www.mobile-sg.com

Auto SMS Reply:  this is one of the most important pieces of software in my daily life. In many cases, I don't want the phone to be interrupting me in the middle of meetings with customers, but I also don't want callers to think that I am not willing to answer them, or just not available. The software can send standard messages that we prepare in advance to callers, and keep a log of all calls during the time of the meeting, so that we can call back when the meeting is over.  www.bytesurge.com

TimeBiller:  mainly for my steady customers, this program keeps an account of all work done for them, regarding work-time, expenses, travelling, etc. At the end of the month it gives me a complete report of what I need to bill the customers.  www.fannsoftware.com

SendApp: Another very important software for my daily proceedings. Here it is mostly used for customers from which I have to have a signed-form of every activity done in order to bill them. The software is actually a service. After initial setup, I can build on their website every form that I want, putting there some logic, different kinds of fields, and much more. It has its limitations, but does almost everything I want for the moment. The form above is a service form in Hebrew, but the service fits all languages. http://orange.sendapp.com

3. Travelling abroad

There are a set of applications that are very useful when I am travelling abroad. Here are some of them, probably the most important ones:

Spb Traveller: This is the toolkit which is indispensable for everyone travelling abroad. I use it to plan my flights, to know time differences, weather, and measure units conversions. www.spbsoftwarehouse.com

MetrO: this is a very old software, but still being updated and still very useful. By using it, I never get lost in the subway networks anywhere in the world. I can plan trips in the subway, know when I am supposed toget to the other side, find my way in different cities and get to tourist attractions. www.nanika.net/metro

Fring:  Fring is another one of those must-have software packages. It keeps me connected to my MSN Messenger and Skype networks, and to my VOIP server so that I can make cheap VOIP calls to Israel and other places. www.fring.com

Free Telecom: this is an Israeli VOIP-over-data operator, which provides us an inbound Israeli phone number, free incoming calls and cheap outgoing calls. Since I mainly use local since cards when I am abroad, I take care of forwarding my cellular number to my Free Telecom number before I leave the country, and use it for receiving and making calls to Israel. www.free.net

Navigation: iGo 8 and Google Maps:  I usually use IGO 8 from www.navngo.com as my main navigation software, but I surely don't have the maps to everywhere I travel. So I also have Google Maps (http://m.google.com/maps) ready to every contingency.

Mobiscope: Many times during a trip I want to see what is happening in my office or at home (like to check if there is someone at the office, or someone at home, before I call). Unfortunately I don't have surveillance cameras and installing those both at home and in the office would cost a great deal of money, so this could be a difficult task. Luckilly I have many PCs in both sites and there is Mobiscope, which permits me to activate an server module at my PCs that shows me up to 4 cameras connected to the computer when I simply connect with the agent installed on my phone. www.shapeservices.com

4. Entertainment

Well, when I am out, I also need to be connected to my entertainment network and software. So here is what I do:

PockeTwit: keeps me connected to my multiple Twitter accounts (hdiamant and PocketPCFreak). Best software for Twitter in my opinion, no software at any platform has achieved it in therms of its features. http://code.google.com/p/pocketwit/

Facebook: I use two different packages for Facebook - first I use the facebook application by Microsoft (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/en-us/downloads/facebook.mspx), which does most of my facebook needs. Then there is Skybook (http://www.magnifoca.com/download_skybook.html), which allows me to bring pictures of my facebook contacts to my contacts book at the phone. This last application is not perfect, it has crashes, but does what I need quite well.

Spb Online:  Lets me see TV from all over the world wherever I am through a 3G or WiFi connection. www.spbsoftwarehouse.com

YouTube:  lets me keep informed of all changes in my YouTube subscriptions, including the ability to see the movies.  An application by Google. http://www.google.com/mobile/products/youtube.html#p=default

Conclusion

Holding my Windows Mobile phone I can do almost everything I want in order to keep a completely mobile lifestyle. I can be out of the office and feel I am inside. Furthermore, my customers will in most cases not even feel I am outside. I can be connected to all my social networks, make VOIP calls to everywhere in the world, and in summary, be active just as if I was at home or at the office.

I hope this article gives you some ideas on how to use better your Windows Mobile phone, or on what to look for if you are using phones in other platforms. In case it did, I can be happy and feel my work is done.