On May 18th and 19th, I’ll be giving a CLE presentation on smartphones and social media. I thought I’d give you a preview of one of the topics today.

Smartphones are awesome! Not only can you play cool games, like Angry Birds, but you can increase your productivity.

One hesitation that people have about getting a new smartphone is the inherent cost of ownership. Not only do you have to purchase an over-priced device, but you’re committed to a monthly contract of $75+. For some, that’s too excessive and limiting.

I too was reluctant to make the switch to a smartphone. I believed I didn’t/wouldn’t use it enough to justify spending some much needed dough on a device. Instead, I purchased an iPod Touch. I LOVED the device. It gave me much of what I wanted in a smartphone, without the nasty contract. I could access contacts away from the office, review documents, and even search the internet (albeit in limited quantities). After some time, I grew bored of the iPod, and my tech-beast longed for “the real deal.” I played with the iPhone, but eventually settled on the Android-based Motorola Droid.

Quite simply, owning a smartphone can escalate your law practice to another level of service. Smartphones allow users to remotely access and manage their businesses and practices. For the workaholic, the smartphone will keep you tethered to “important” meetings, emails, phone calls, and other business tasks. For everyone else, the smartphone will give you a unique ability to balance your work and home lives.

I have several reasons I love my smartphone, and most of those involve applications that make me think my life easier.

First, GPS. I can’t count the number of times I’ve found myself lost in somewhere-Oklahoma, on the way to a courthouse or client meeting. Android has a native navigation feature that functions better as good as some of the self-contained units. I also purchased the CoPilot Live USA app, which compensates for the data connection requirement of the native app. At $4.99, this is a steal-of-a-deal.

Second, Google Voice. With GV, I can forward calls to a number, have messages transcribed (good at best), and delivered via email/app for my review and return call (included in the app). I can also send text messages to callers. I love to be able to give this number to my clients for “direct connection” to me, without them having my cell phone and “burning” up that number.

Third, access to email, social media, and RSS. Part of staying abreast of developments at my law firm and the world, is being able to access information. Smartphones provide remote access to email (managed through Google Apps/Gmail), my social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and my RSS feeds (through Google Reader).

Fourth, tethered/untethered WiFi connection. Remote access to documents is a key feature for being able to run a productive “paperless office.” Smartphone tethering provides a solution without having to pay for an extra data package for laptops. Android 2.2 introduced the WiFi hotspot feature (although many providers disabled it). Many applications, like PdaNet and Barnacle Wifi Tether (my 2 favorites), provide access to the internet while on-the-go. With these apps, you don’t need to find a Starbucks, Panera, or hope the county courthouse’s law library has internet, you can create your own hotspot and move forward.

Finally, games and other apps. The wide range of games and other cool applications make owning a smartphone even better. I love being able to listen to audiobooks, browse e-books, access religious or personal fitness programs, and even view the night sky. The range of games (to ease the boredom of waiting for court) is equally great, as well. Soon, hopefully, I’ll also be able to stream Netflix movies to my device (the app has been leaked, and apparently works – sort of).

Smartphones are truly cool devices. Their capabilities will help improve your work as an attorney and family-person. The trick to effectively using a smartphone is to think of the device as a small personal computer, capable of handling the simple task of making a phone call, or carrying out a complex remote desktop connection. If you’re “fence sitting” on whether you “need” a smartphone, the answer is yes. With manufacturers producing a variety of phones, your type and model is available somewhere.

Photo: Sklathill via Flickr

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.

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