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3 Things Writers Should Look For In A Smartphone


by Jennifer on May 17, 2012

This is a guest post from Joe Pawlikowski of BBGeeks

It seems the whole world has a smartphone these days. Maybe you think it’s high time to get one. Maybe you already have one, but feel an upgrade is in order. After all, the low- and mid-range smartphones of two years ago aren’t of much use nowadays.

Yet the market for smartphones might seem overwhelming. There are so many choices out there. How do you start narrowing them down?

Let’s start with the most basic element: our personal needs.

Writers use smartphones in different ways than other people. So shouldn’t we examine the proper smartphone from that vantage point?

Here are a few factors a writer should consider when making a new smartphone purchase.

1. The Ability to Write

It might sound too simple and obvious to be a writer’s first consideration, but the ability to actually write plays a significant factor in a smartphone’s use to a writer. This isn’t to say that you’ll be penning the latest chapter in your novel or your next feature profile on your smartphone.

It’s to say that a smartphone is first and foremost a communications tool, and the most important factor in communications is clarity.

If you have trouble typing clear messages on an iPhone’s all-touchscreen keyboard, perhaps it’s not the smartphone for you. You might need an Android device with a slide-out keyboard. If that keyboard is too wide for you, it might be that the BlackBerry is the best smartphone for you.

Just remember, communications come first. If you’re not comfortable typing, you’re going to have a more difficult time communication.

And if you’re not communicating well, why have a smartphone at all?

2. Note-Taking Apps

Savvy writers carry around notebooks and writing implements wherever they go. With so much potential material out in the world, it would be a shame to see something and not capture it.

A smartphone can easily replace your pocket notebook or tape recorder. In fact, it’s the perfect tool to do just that. You’re carrying it around anyway.

Thankfully, every smartphone platform has apps that will allow you to write simple notes and record audio. That means you can conduct an impromptu interview and get it all on tape. Similarly, you can jot down any loose idea or observation on a simple memo app.

As an added bonus, you’re less likely to lose or forget your smartphone than a notebook, since the smartphone is an expensive and versatile gadget.

Again, this reinforces the importance of typing ease. The last thing you’d want is to make multiple mistakes when typing and be unable to decipher your message hours later.

3. Battery Life

If there’s one glaring imbalance in the cell phone world, it’s battery life. Manufactures keep creating more powerful hardware, and developers create apps that use more and more battery life. Yet we’ve seen little in the way of battery life innovation.

For the practical smartphone user, such as a writer, battery life matters more than a fast processor or powerful apps.

A dead phone is a useless phone; it might as well be a half-pound paperweight. You won’t always have access to an outlet for charging — and there will be plenty of instances where you forget your charger. It’s important, then, to find a phone that consumes as little battery as possible. Both iPhone and BlackBerry are known for quality battery life. Android? That one’s a bit tougher.

Other Considerations

While the ability to write, take notes and have  good battery life are the three primary smartphone aspects a writer should consider, there are others as well.

These additional factors are less important, though, so they can be used for tie-breaking purposes:

  • Camera—in a way this goes along with note-taking, since a picture can record a scene in the same way that notepads and audio recorders capture ideas. All smartphones have cameras; the consideration here is for quality. It will depend on how you plan to use the camera.
  • Social Apps—many writers realize the importance of creating connections with audiences. This includes both your current audience and potential readers. Social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter can help forge these connections. Thankfully, the major smartphone platforms all have Facebook and Twitter apps to make things easy.
  • Games—because we all need a distraction from time to time.
  • Useful Apps—this one is a bit tougher, but think of it this way: You’re going to pay the same monthly fee no matter what smartphone you get. Why not get one that provides you with more useful features than the others. Again, this is why iPhone currently reigns. It has more useful apps than other platforms.
  • Ease of Readinggood writers read more than they write. Finding a smartphone on which we can most easily read is a big perk. Most smartphones today are adaptable — they can fit text on the screen in many ways. Still, it’s best to check out many smartphones and see which one makes for the most comfortable reading.

Of course, everyone will have his or her personal smartphone quirks. These are just the most important aspects, coming from a technology freak who also writes.

For those who already own smartphones: which factors played most heavily into your decision? Would you reevaluate if you were able to choose again today.

About the Author: Joe Pawlikowski writes and edits several technology blogs across the web, including the BlackBerry site BBGeeks.

Image courtesy of Phil Roeder

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 @sylviahubbard1 May 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Large capacity for music and a good YouTube interface. I have to also be able to listen to music and use my internet and writing app at the same time.

I do agree on the battery life and that includes talk time as well.

2 Ben Lloyd May 29, 2012 at 5:14 am

The camera is a brilliant ‘note-taking’ tool – a picture is worth a thousand words after all.

Given the choice, would you pick a smartphone or a tablet though?

3 Jennifer May 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I think both a smartphone and tablet have their uses… but I can’t live without my iPhone. I’ve lived without an iPad for almost a year now.

4 Jeff June 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm

You’re fighting procrastination so BIG WARNING SIGN about games 😉 As for ‘useful apps’ we’re actually in the process of writing one called ‘Decrastinate’ that will make you compete with yourself and help you get things done in a FUN WAY. Here it is: http://www.alienworks.ca/Decrastinate (shameless plug but I thought it could be of help). Cheers,

5 Andrew Toynbee June 20, 2012 at 3:39 am

My (first ever!) smartphone is a Nokia N8. It has a 12Mpix camera, two sizes of virtual keypad for my ‘pigs teats’ fingers, an instant voice recorder and four days of battery life (two if I use it moderately, one if I go crazy). It also lets me access Dictionary.com for those pesky synonyms and is currently filled with over 45 hours of music (not yet full, although it’s been fitted with a 16Gb chip). I recently toured York (the setting of my novel) snapping scenes, listening to music and GPS-ing without any bother.

Yes, it has games too, but let’s not go there…

6 Michael Deaven July 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Great post! It’s funny how writing and technology can benefit one another. It’s also smart to realize that different smart phones offer different benefits. The same smart phone that’s great for a painter may not be so great for a writer. Very interesting to think about.

7 Jennifer July 18, 2012 at 8:17 am

Exactly. I’ve found my iPhone to be the best for me so far, as a writer. But my cousin who’s an app programmer likes his Android. Whatever gets the job done, right?

8 Wendy Stewart November 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Thanks for the breakdown! I currently have an iPhone, which I love, but, since my day job is selling mobile phones, I’ve been considering a phone with a larger screen for reading and writing.

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