Monday, 4 February 2013

Is Your Phone REALLY Smart?

Or is it just a beefed up old clunker?

If you are reading this, chances are you own a smartphone. You know, the one that does all the clever stuff: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, web browsing, calendar, even editing of some office documents, and you can add various other apps, too. After all, this is why it's called a smartphone in the first place.

All this as opposed to an older type, now called a feature phone, which could only do: e-mailFacebookTwitterweb browsingcalendar, even editing of some office documents, and you could add various other apps, too.


What happened just there? Are these new phones not so smart after all or were the old clunkers smarter than we think? Me, methinks neither. Neither are actually very smart, although the new ones have great potential (possibly the old ones, too, but I doubt there's much interest in development there).

So, what makes a modern smartphone not so smart, despite all the clever tricks it can perform? It should be obvious really. It doesn't actually do anything very smart on its own. If you want to type an e-mail you open the e-mail up and do it yourself. Same for most other activities you care to think of. The rest of the time, the time you don't actually touch your phone, it just sits there and does really very little. Yes, various services push notifications at you, but that again is not very clever I hope you agree.

Can it be different, though?

Why, of course it can! These things are not called smartphones for nothing. Same as they can be taught to show you where you are or wake you up at a certain time with a tuen of your choice, they can be taught to be more aware and do some really clever stuff. On their own. Without your intervention. Useful stuff. Something that actually saves you from having to fiddle with them too much.

Consider this:

You walk into your office and the phone in your pocket sets itself to your chosen pattern of notifications and other settings (e.g., disable Bluetooth). You step out again, and the settings change to very loud and Bluetooth is turned on so your phone can connect to your car hands-free system. Once it does, all sorts of other settings are changed to suit your needs. Step out of the car, walk into your house. Now Bluetooth is off again, and your ringtones are set to something less disturbing. While you go about your chores and the night sets in, your phone again changes into something very silent, something that will only make a soft buzz when it's time to wake up, and keep totally schtum in the meantime. Then, when it's safe again it will become louder and be ready to drive you safely to work again. And in all this you never had to touch the thing. You go about your business, it goes about its - for your pleasure, convenience, and benefit.

Oh, it could also do more: log your position into the cloud and e-mail at set intervals; record and log other events of interest, including making a safe record of all your phone calls and text mesasges; it can also respond automatically with location data to anyone who knows the secret question (and tell you who asked). And many, many other things that only you know are useful for you.

Can your phone do this? At least if it runs Android I know it can.

Lest it sounds like an advertisement, you should try either Automagic or Tasker (but I highly recommend the former). There are probably more, but these two are very, very good (did I tell you Automagic is my favourite). And yes, my phone does everything described above for me (and more!). It does it so much without my involvement that I have started finding it difficult to remember how exactly I have designed the algorithms involved. It's been that long since I did it and set it loose.

Designing algorithms! Oh, no! It must be sooo difficult. Err, no. It ain't. It's as simple as getting on the right bus at a bus stop. Or as simple as cooking pasta (well, there just may be some magic involved in cookign pasta just right). You should give it a go. Even the free version of Automagic will give you powerful tools, and it is quite straightforward to use (OK, Tasker may be more lay person friendly, but I think there's some false economy in there somewhere).

So, what are you waiting for? Let your phone be really smart, instead of just a miniaturised dumb laptop. Or a real old clunker that only ever does a bit of phone calls for you...