My phone is smarter than me.

After years of month-to-month service without a contract, paying for our own cheap and crummy phones as the old ones broke, we were seduced by technology.  We have new phones.  Practically free phones.  Fancy phones.  Smart phones.

Why do they call them that?  They make me feel dumb.  Is that it? It’s a Smarter-Than-Me Phone?  First I can’t find the homepage or desktop or whatever we call that starting point.  Then it’s there – what did I do to get it?  My finger twitches reflexively and it’s gone again.  Where did it go?  Help!

New technology toys make me think of this.  I feel his pain:

I knew my phone had a learning curve, and I knew my own curve would end as soon as the shine was gone, so I resolved to spend as much time as possible on that curve in the first few days.  I know myself and my weaknesses, and one is that I learn just enough to make a device do what I want it to do, then I lose interest.  I wanted to have a good grip on my phone’s capabilities before my complacency kicked in so that I could use it to its fullest extent.

Here’s what I’ve learned about Android so far:

  1. It’s not an iPhone.
  2. Cnet was right: it’s much less intuitive than an iPhone.  I’m glad I jumped on the learning curve while my enthusiasm was high.
  3. A smartphone can literally do anything a laptop or netbook can do, but…
  4. Anything that requires typing is painfully slow.  I expect to get better at that, but I can’t imagine my thumb speed will ever approach my typing on a real keyboard.
  5. Did you know you can use your phone to check your pulse?
  6. What starts out as a forced march up the learning curve can turn into an adenaline-rushing freefall.  I should ask someone to save me, but I’m having too much fun!

Here are my 10 favorite free apps so far:

  1. Gas Buddy: a savings of a few cents/gallon can add up when you drive a gas hog, and this will help the phone pay for itself month by month – if I remember to use it.
  2. Cadre Bible: I love E-sword and its iPhone app Pocketsword, but it’s not available for Android yet.  Cadre Bible is a full featured Bible program that lets me customize the look and feel to my heart’s content.  I have 2 other Bible apps with more limited features, but Cadre will be for my daily reading.
  3. Bump – Makes it fun and easy to share files.  If 2 users open Bump on their phone/iPod, one can easily choose files or apps to share, then they hold their phones and bump to transfer the files.  It’s like a knuckle bump or a toast.  How fun is that?!
  4. Coupons – There are plenty of times I could have saved money with this, and I really want to get in the habit of checking for coupons.  But honestly, I got this because it has a barcode scanner for comparison shopping.  The coupons are a bonus.
  5. Sound Hound – Let it “listen” to a few seconds of a song, and it will give you the title, lyrics, artist, and help you download it if you want.  The song isn’t playing but it’s stuck in your head?  No problem.  Just hum it.  We’re living in the space age, people.
  6. My Fitness Pal – Perry has been using this to track his calories and weight loss (30 lbs!  Give the man a hand!).  With our new phones, we can scan the barcode of the food packaging to input it after he eats.  Coolness.
  7. Dropbox – because we already use it regularly on our computers.
  8. Photoshop Express – because we’re already bigtime PS users on our computers.
  9. doubletwist – the Android answer to iTunes.
  10. Urbanspoon – we don’t eat out often, but this looks very handy for those rare occasions!

My current mission: find the best app for creating grocery lists.  Besides a quick and intuitive interface, I want one that can sync among various devices; organize items by aisle as they’re found in my favorite store; remember the items I buy most often; recognize items by voice and barcode.



    Might be something to help with your grocery shopping.

  2. Okay, so I just discovered a better news/RSS reader to keep track of whatever sources of news/stories are important to you.

    Before Pulse was the bomb. But this one looks better My Taptu

    Here’s 2 minute demo video:

    I learned about it from an update to one of those android blog feeds that is my reader and pulse. Ironic I’m deleting pulse to switch now.

    my taptu seems more customizable with a widget too that pulse does not offer.

  3. Well I just googled how to share your google reader subscriptions with other users and found this neat tool that allows you to bundle subscriptions and send them to people so they can quickly subscribe to all of them.

    There is a subscribe button here:

  4. By the way, it’s funny to compare these great family blogs to each other on this organizing arena. You have Life in a Shoe going high tech with android ….

    and then you have Large Families on Purpose sticking with low tech. Check out her post from yesterday:

    I’m amazed because I make it a point to never write anything down anymore…I like it on my task/calendar/notes/contacts apps on my phone so that I always have access to it an have it synced with all my google stuff.

    If you’ve never seen their newish blog it’s a great one to follow in a reader:

    And I highly recommend everybody use google reader to follow blogs they like with RSS feeds.

    The way to learn android is to youtube (search) how to use android phone or any combo of words like that and you’ll get training videos on using it.

    And google android blogs or best android blogs and subscribe in google reader to 3-5 of them so you can easily glance each day at the latest news/apps/tips on the android. This is a way to quickly master the android phone. Same strategy works for learning the ipad for example.

  5. power android user here and in the spirit of the blog post I am responding on my phone of course much of this will be the dictated as I can type much faster that way : )

    I use 3 batteries a day and run my business and life from this phone so here are some tips for you in no particular order:

    1. get a spare battery charger and an extra battery. it is great never having to worry about running out of juice; you just pop in a new fully charged battery that was in your pocket this is a small investment with big returns.

    2. Dolphin hd browser. this is an amazing internet browser which lets you customize your experience such as gestures to take you to specific web pages, multiple tabs et cetera

    3. Swiftkey — s keyboard that let’s you type mega fast often by clicking the space bar over and over rapidly because it already knows the next word you are going to type. It learns your patterns: )

    4. Olive Bible reader. Multiple study Bibles and tools to download. You can also install them on a tablet.

    5. Evernote

    6. Dropbox rocks

    7. Gmail app

    8. Handscent for texting

    9. Beluga for group texting where your reply goes to each person in that group. Can be useful for family trips outings.

    10. Places

    11. Pulse news reader. Imports your google reader too…

    12. Navigation

    13. Springpad

    14. Facebook

    15. Pure calendar widget

    16. Cam business card reader

    17. Time mobile

    18. Cnet

    19. Tweetdeck

    20. Voice search — a google app that let’s you boss your phone around by voice such as “text so and so” or “navigate to… ”

    21. Google voice

    Happy apping…


    • Thanks for the list, Jay. I already discovered and fell in love with quite a few that you mentioned and can’t wait to try out the rest!
      We ordered extra batteries the day after we bought our phones. 🙂

  6. I second the Google Night Sky app. You just hold your phone up and it shows where all the major stars, constellations, and satellites are, above and below the horizon. I can only imagine all the neat homeschooling uses you could come up with for it.
    I also have a daily Bible app, it gives me a new verse to meditate on for the day, and I can listen to sermons about the verse, or read the Bible as well. It also let’s you pick your translation, I like comparing the translations as well.

    • Rose,
      We were just trying out Google Night Sky tonight. We love it! Definitely a keeper. I’m constantly amazed at the apps we can download for free!

  7. Elizabeth M. says:

    Hey, I just read an article in WSJ the other day that there is an app (not sure for which phones) that helps you monitor your electricity use. All you do is have an electrician or yourself hook up something to your circuit thingy (technical terms here), and your phone will show how much light fixtures, plug-ins, appliances, etc. are using and how much money they are costing you per hour. I don’t remember the name of the app, but it sounds like it would be right up your alley (and mine). 🙂

  8. I meant to say “has” not had. 🙂

  9. I am typing this on my smartphone using swype. I LOVE swype. I would hate typing in my phone without it. A grocery app that had what you are looking for (or most of it) is mighty grocery. The developer is very responsive and is always trying to add features people want. I will post some more suggested apps soon.

  10. My dilema is that I just had to google some vocabulary words–such as “iPod” and “smart phone”. What exactly is a “blackberry” and how is a cell phone different from an i-phone? I’m not proud of my ignorance and I honestly just don’t know these things. I do have to google the definitions and remember the particulars. This is technology today and it moves, changes, and advances so fast. HELP. Honestly, HOW does one jump in and learn these things…what is the solution?

    • Jamie,
      “Smartphones” like iPhones and others are more like tiny handheld computers that can also function as phones. They let you easily download small programs (apps, short for applications) that add new functions in addition to the amazing variety of built-in functions.
      I think Blackberries were some of the earliest smartphones, though I’ve never had one.
      My solution to learning these things is to work hard at it early on so I have a basic level of knowledge by the time my interest and motivation dies.

  11. Great video–thanks for sharing!

  12. You really expressed my feelings exactly. I’ve been a holdout for texting and use just a very basic (read: cheap) phone so I don’t have to pay any extras or an ongoing contract. But, I feel the world is leaving me in the dust. I’m going to have to break down. But, what “smart” phone can I actually handle. I consider myself to be quite intelligent but this really intimidates me (almost as much as college math).

    • Debbie,
      You can do it! If you want an easy learning curve, go for the iPhone. It’s really very intuitive once you get the basics down, in just a few minutes. The Android system is a little harder but I hear it has more potential so if you’re wiling to put in some hard time you may be happier in the end.
      The deciding factor for us was the carrier, though. Sprint has better coverage in our area and a better price on the package that we wanted.

  13. Mindy W. says:

    Yep, I can totally relate to this. I stopped everything just to figure this handy little device out. Well worth it, and I just keep finding new ways to use it. I am so glad you are sharing your favorite apps. I like “Out of Milk”, but it’s pretty basic. “Springpad” is one I’m checking out, looks neat, but another learning curve. Don’t get me started on “Angry Birds”, so addictive! “What’s the Best Deal” is helpful if you don’t have your homeschoolers with you to do the math. 😉 “ShopSavvy” is also great! Did you know you can also get a “Bubble” level and a flashlight? (It’s an electric version of a Swiss Army Knife) Another good app is “Google Sky”. So many apps so little time. Please keep us updated on new useful apps and how to use them. I can’t wait to try “Cadre Bible”!

  14. I have also recently made the switch to a “smart”phone. And yes, it annoyed me to no end when I first got it. It is also android-based, and I have several of the above mentioned apps. I think my most used app is ‘Advanced Task Killer’. This quickly shuts down all open and running apps on your phone to free it up and help it perform better. Enjoyed the video, and will probably forward it to my hubby, who is the ‘help desk’ for most of our acquaintances! Hope you have fun learning your new phone, and if you need a fun game to relieve stress, try ‘Alchemy’! Your kids will probably like it too…! 🙂

  15. vanessa says:

    Another vote for ourgroceries! it saves previous searches so you can very easily add items and share them with other users.

  16. That video is hilarious! [smile] There’s always a learning curve…


  17. my husband just got an android too, two of his favorite apps are it lets you drag you finger from letter to letter instead of having to type. it also learns your most commonly used words so you don’t have to re-type them all the time. Another app we like is i don’t know that it’s exactly what you want, but my hubans has been at the store and i’ve been at home adding more items and it popped up right in front of his face! Where didn that come from?!? Oh yes…one more is an app called “track me”. This is neat…you can see exactly where someone is (almost real time) after they send you a link. Enjoy!

  18. Yea! So glad you and Perry have Evo’s because you can find all these awesome apps and talk about them and I have less trial and error. LOL But I LOVE my Evo

  19. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    What happened to your ipod?

    • My Boaz’s Ruth,
      I still have the iPod but it’s very old and doesn’t connect reliably to the wireless. That makes it hard to use, although I really like it.

  20. I’m in the same boat you were…in fact my cell is so old I was given notice it will no longer work when they upgrade the network AND they no longer offer my current plan. So I am on the search for a new phone! Do I get a smartphone or just stick with the basics? will a smartphone be worth the money each month or just be an expensive toy?! So I loved your post because I’m teetoring between the IPhone and Android phone. And I absolutely loved that video! my husband used to be in helpdesk so I was all too familar with that scene! and also reminded me of trying to teach my FIL how to use his laptop!

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