Can you get addicted to smart phones?

crackberryOne of my techie friends has been giving me hell ever since I got my iPhone. “It’s not a business phone,” “you are a Microsoft partner and should use Windows mobile,” “it can’t work with Windows,” “why do you need all those goofy apps anyway.”

Guess who just got a BlackBerry and can’t stop talking about it?

For those of you who still have regular old cell phones, you may think you’re happy, but you haven’t yet experienced true mobile bliss – GPS apps leading you to your destination, effortless email any time you are stuck in line, mobile Internet on screens large enough to be useful…the more you use it, the more useful it becomes.

Can it be addictive? Yes, absolutely – if I get bored in a meeting, it’s hard not to check email just to see what’s come in, or to text someone to keep in touch.

The other day I was visiting a client, and I checked email as I walked from one room to another. When I lifted my head up from the iPhone I suddenly realized I was in a stranger’s office. Fortunately he was very friendly, a Mac owner no less, and we had a great chat about how wonderful the iPhone is.

Shortly after reading an article about people having accidents due to intense focus on their phones rather than the world around them, I saw it in real life – a colleague had knee surgery after she tripped over a crack in the sidewalk while – you guessed it  – reading email on her BlackBerry.

The bottom line? Get a smart phone – but please be careful!

The new wave of GPS-enabled applications

X Marks the SpotWhat can your smartphone do if it knows where you are? A new breed of geo-aware apps have set out to answer that question.

Most of you are familiar with GPS (global positioning system) basics: with a GPS unit or GPS-enabled smartphone, you can enter in a destination and get voice-guided prompts to lead the way. Very handy. You can even look up restaurants and local attractions. Also useful.

But this is the tip of the iceberg…check out the many new and creative uses now available:

If you are on social networking sites, many feature location-based services that will tell you if any of your friends are nearby. I’m not sure I want this much togetherness, but it seems to be a hit with the teen crowd.

A friend told me his BlackBerry GPS is so sensitive, he uses it to see how fast he’s running.

It’s a little Big-Brotherish, but many companies are using GPS to track where their drivers are, and also to ensure efficient routing. With gas prices on the rise, this can be a huge money-saver.

People are using GPS to play games, like Geocaching, a clever high-tech treasure hunt.

You can automatically tag your photos with your exact location when you upload them to Flickr, so you never forget where you got that great shot.

Saving the best for last, a colleague just shared an awesome new app: G-Park, available for the iPhone. When you park, hit the “Park Me!” button. When you come back, tap “Where Did I Park?” Such a simple solution to such a vexing problem. Gotta love it.

iPhone 2.0 – it’s all about the apps

iPhone appsEveryone’s talking – and blogging – about the latest iPhone. As one of the original owners, there on iDay 2007, how can I resist?

You may be surprised to hear I’m not buying a new phone. GPS would be nice, but the geo-tracking already built in is enough to get me un-lost when needed. The faster Internet? Well, I admit that’s tempting, and ultimately I may upgrade. But a plastic case? Really?

Actually, the best part of iPhone 2.0 isn’t the new phone, it’s the software. Fortunately all iPhone owners get it, not just the newbies. There are plenty of new features, from subtle to amazing, but the single most revolutionary change is open developer access. Programmers are now writing iPhone applications as fast as they can type.

Download new iPhone apps directly to your phone via the iTunes store. Many are free, others cost. Look for a rapidly expanding selection as more and more programmers get involved in iPhone development.

The most useful app I’ve found is the new iPhone version of Jott, a free reminder service I wrote about a while back. It records a voice message but transcribes it to a written note. Perfect for jotting down your to-do list in the car or between meetings.

Many apps tie into social networking, so you can tweet to Twitter throughout the day, locate Facebook friends who are close using GPS, or instantly geo-tag and post new photos to Flickr.

But my very favorite so far is midomi. Have you ever heard a great song and wanted to know the artist? Hold up your iPhone to the radio so midomi can listen. In seconds, you’ll have your answer. Can’t remember a favorite song but you can hum the tune? Sing directly into your phone. Seriously. I’m so fascinated I’ve been singing to my dogs for the past 20 minutes to see if I could stump it. So far it’s gotten every single one right. I’ll be unbeatable next time we play “name that tune” on trivia night!

One last thing…for all you Apple-bashing Microsoft devotees, you can sync with Exchange. Wirelessly. With push technology that rivals the BlackBerry. The iPhone is now officially a player in the business cellular market.

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An end to card-shuffling

CardscanDo you have a stack of business cards on your desk, waiting to be entered into your computer? Maybe you shuffle through a file of cards each time you need a phone number. Toss those piles and save the tedious typing—get a business card scanner instead.

These smart devices read contact info directly off the business card and enter it in your electronic address book, cleverly sorting out the name, the address, the office phone, etc. The accuracy is remarkable, better and faster than most people.

Scanners like the CardScan can sync to Outlook, Act!, Goldmine, and Palm/Treo, as well as popular Customer Relationship Management software such as Microsoft CRM, SalesLogix, and