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Computer Care: Hard now to imagine living without a smartphone
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When I got my first flip cell phone back in the mid-90s, I truly felt like Captain Kirk communicating with the Enterprise. But that was all we were able to do back then: talk.

Now we can chat, text, email and browse the Web. With our phones, we can read maps or books, use voice recognition, shop, access financial services, get boarding passes, scan bar codes, make and accept payments, take photos and videos, play games or music, watch movies or TV and do it all with a device no larger than a wallet. Not every one has those capabilities though. You do need a smartphone.

There are plain cellphones (like the old clamshell-type), feature-rich phones and the smartphone.

There are 6 billion mobile phones in use on the planet with almost three-quarters of them smartphones. Over 85 percent of the world’s population has mobile phones. Three billion have texting capabilities and one third of them access Facebook regularly.

Only about 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone as of this time last year.

Currently, Android beats the iPhone worldwide, but in the U.S., Apple has a slight edge over the Android phones.

Personally, I’m an Android guy. I like to tinker, change settings, fonts, backgrounds widgets and the like. If you just want a simple out-of-box experience, then the iPhone is probably for you.

Internet accesses via mobile phones have increased over the past few years to 10 percent of total Internet access.

In 2011, 8 trillion text messages were sent. In 2009, I sent about eight.

I was one of those who initially thought I didn’t need a smartphone. Two decades earlier, I thought I didn’t need a computer and then saw no reason to get a laptop. Society eventually changed my mind and I now use all of them. Although I could survive without them, they all make my life easier.

I could live without a stove or dishwasher, too, but why should I?

I’ve gone from eight texts in a year to about eight daily. It is the choice method of communication between my girls and me. It’s fast and not intrusive.

Two years ago, I thought I could wait until I got home to check my email. But now if I don’t call someone back ASAP, I realize they may go elsewhere to get their computer tuned up.

I’ve discovered how much easier my phone makes so many things to do. I’ve grown accustomed to its interface.
Having a GPS in my phone is wonderful. I don’t get lost anymore looking for obscure addresses. I fear not when I hear, “Go about another two miles after you turn off the paved road.”

I use voice recognition to make calls in my car and ask my virtual assistant what the expected weather will be like.

My daily agenda is in my phone. So is my calendar, my address book, camera and photo album, computer, clock, stop watch, radio, scanner, television, alarm, calculator, translator, encyclopedia, flashlight, navigator, voice recorder, notebook, weather station, e-book reader, texter and, oh yeah, my communication device.

It’s also a gaming device, but that’s one function I don’t use — not even on my computer. I simply have better things to do than shoot angry birds or shuffle cards about. Perhaps it’s an age thing.

Smartphones used to cost a bundle as did the bundle of options that came with them. But as prices for the devices decreased, so has usage plans. I used to pay more than $160 for three lines and now pay $72 for the same options. You can still pay a lot if you’re not careful.

Mobile computing is evolving. By 2015, money spent on mobile advertising is expected to exceed $20 billion worldwide. Mobile shopping is anticipated to reach $119 billion that year.

As the smartphone evolves, Wi-Fi is becoming more widespread. Globally, it is beginning to increase at an exponential rate. Where it used to be available for a fee in places like coffeehouses, it’s now free. Many municipalities worldwide now offer free Internet access. More will certainly follow their example.

Whether you like it or not, we are a connected society. You can check your voicemail, your balance or your Facebook status as easily as you check up on your family.

If you have a smartphone, it’s your key to connectivity.

Just like my knife, my phone is always in my pocket. I never know when I’ll need it.

The smart mobile phone is like an electronic Swiss Army knife. Although it doesn’t cut, it has many blades. Some of them are hidden; some you use more than others; all of them are sharp with a well-honed edge.

I can only wonder how this ubiquitous device will evolve. As time passes, they will be faster, cheaper and yes, smaller. As they grow more diminutive, we may soon be wearing them in our glasses or watches, possibly even as subcutaneous chips implanted in us.

Even Mr. Spock would agree that the technology is indeed — fascinating.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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