The Scholar’s Phone, Fall 2014

I was in the market for a new phone. A ‘smartphone’. Having had my current phone since 2007, I had never tried a smartphone before. In fact, I had rejected the mere idea: it is bulky, battery life is too short, and most importantly: a machine is by definition not smart. I am smart. We are smart. Machines are dumb, should be dumb, and should definitely not be personified. Talking to your phone (“Ok google!”, “Hello Siri!”, “Hi Cortana!”) borders at insanity if you ask me.

I will have to save a more in-depth analysis of what a scholar would want in a phone for later. For me, it boiled down to a choice between the iPhone 6 and the Motorola X. I would have probably enjoyed either phone. That is why I will not wax too lyrical about the iPhone 6. If you are in the process of choosing yourself, I suggest to get to know the different devices that are out there.

What I particularly enjoy in the iPhone 6 is that it solved my two objections and then added a lot more value. The device is very thin and in general feels very small. Due to the home button it is longer than it needs to be but I guess the length also helps the battery to be as big as it is and the TouchID function of the home button is very satisfying. Its battery life is excellent, that is, for my needs as a scholar. It easily lasts an entire day. Plugging it in every night is less cumbersome than I had expected.

The added value surprised me. Not only does my phone replace all of the functionality of my tablet, it even covers activities I was accustomed to do on the computer. My phone has helped me to reduce my time on the computer. The following are the apps I use most often:

 

  • Evernote . Helps me to make quick or not-so-quick notes on whatever project. Syncs over different devices. This is my version of the shoebox/file cabinet. With thousand+ notes I notice a decrease in speed. I will have to look into this. However, it is easy to get your notes out of Evernote so I do not at all feel boxed in.
  • Agenda . Comes with iOS and OSX (Apple only). I have an uncomplicated life so the standard agenda app easily does the job for me.
  • Omnifocus . This is the heavy-lifting option for project management, from the general outlines to the granular activities. I only use it now and then. I wish I used it all the time, but it is not yet a habit to open it up and work with it. The app on iPhone is brilliant.
  • Gmail . I use my gmail-account most often for my email. I could hook it up to the (supposedly excellent) Mail app provided by Apple but I don’t. I have no problem having it on the server and not in my own possession. It would only eat away my memory. If Google would stop existing I’d be fine with it as well. I also don’t need a good mail app for sorting since I have a most basic sorting system: everything is saved in my inbox. I guess my approach to mail is read and discard. Only recently did I switch on the automatic refresh and notification. I will say more about that later on when I have more experience.
  • Goodreader . My go-to app for PDFs. I have it sync a folder (through Dropbox) from my computer so I always have all the files for the project I am currently working on. I will come back to reading on a phone later.
  • Safari . Browsing on the iPhone works really well.
  • Pocket . What even works better is to ‘pocket’ an article (on the computer or on the iPhone) and read it at a more convenient time. This is an app I only recently discovered and even though I only make light use of it, I really like it.
  • Dictionary.com . I use dictionary.com and thesaurus.com for my English-language needs. The app works great.
  • iTranslate . Not sure if this is the best option out there, but to check against a different language, this is the app I use. On the computer, I always use http://www.interglot.com
  • Scanner Pro . I am experimenting with this app that allows for scanning books. More info will follow.
  • Skype . I have found out that using Skype over LTE network (i.e. internet without WiFi) works great. My iPhone does get very hot and burns through a lot of the battery. This is less so the case with FaceTime.
  • Wunderground Weather . This is a reasonable option to check the weather.
  • Citymapper . For my travel needs around the East Coast of the USA this app is great. I especially like the way it gives information on walking, biking and taxi next to your public transportation options.
  • Google Maps . Still much better than Apple Maps.
  • DuoLingo . Like Omnifocus, you have to get in the habit, but once you are, this app is great to build your knowledge of a new language. Supports a number of European languages.
  • Now Then . This app I sometimes use intensively to keep track of what I am doing. If you do it for a couple of weeks really well, you will be able to see patterns and notice bad (and good) habits.
  • A number of apps that I use in my private time include YouTube (works really well), Amazon (easy to use, lots of reviews), Sleep Cycle (alarm clock), Converter+ (to understand what the temperature is in my own apartment), WhatsApp, Podcasts, Piano ∞, etc.
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