Seniors Should Be Dialing In On Smartphones

With one billion smartphones now on our planet, it is amazing that one device can provide such utility to so many different people. The combination of apps on my LG Spectrum let me do things I couldn’t do without it. However within my over-sixty demographic, I find myself in a small group of smartphone users. I find myself wondering why something so useful to me is embraced by so few of my friends? 

Estimates for smartphone users my age range between 8% and 24%. Actually, among friends of my age, I suspect only around 10% of the people I know have a smartphone. That number is exclusive of my former colleagues in the real estate industry where smartphone usage is very high, even as the average age of agents is 54.

Making Progress

Seven years ago, I was just happy to have the contacts on my Mac computer sync with my Nokia 6620 cell phone. I gave up even that when I went to work in real estate in January 2007, where many were hooked on Blackberries and Windows computers were the standard. That summer, though, Apple introduced the iPhone and the world of cell phones began to change rapidly.

In March of 2010, I bought a Droid phone mainly because of Verizon’s network. I was impressed that the Droid could be populated with my address book and Gmail accounts while we were paying for the phone and signing the terms of use contracts.

The increasing sophistication of the apps that helped us do business in real estate convinced me of the utility of smartphone. It was great to be riding around in car with a client and be able to instantly find out information on a home that caught their eye.

Even outside of business, I found some great uses that helped me become a dedicated smartphone user.

Apps For Every Pursuit

With a life long love of GIS and maps, I became smitten with a wonderful free app by Google called My Tracks. I love to hike, boat and kayak. My Tracks records those adventures and lets me store them on the web at My Places, which is in turn hooked to my Google account. I can see how far I walked or kayaked and share the maps with others. I can also edit the maps and attach pictures to the locations. It is really neat to take someone on a boat ride of our marshes and then share with them a map of their trip.

I also love to take pictures and it is not unusual for me to take hundreds in a day. The edited ones I want to keep are uploaded to my Picasa web album account. Since my original Droid, the Gallery app has been a repository for not only the photos I have taken with my phone, but also all of the pictures stored in the cloud within my Picasa account.

Last year, I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and desperately wanted something similar to the Android Gallery app. I ended up finding a neat app called Portfolio. At the time I was experimenting with Microsoft’s SkyDrive so I ended up putting Portfolio for SkyDrive on both my Android devices. It is the easiest way to create a slide show. Now if I know that I want to show some photos, I just drop them in a folder on my SkyDrive and can show them from my phone or tablet. They also have apps for Flickr and Picasa.

Another neat app that I find very useful is Google’s Latitude. My son and I often use it to track each other when we are traveling. If you are trying to meet someone, Latitude is hard to beat. You can see other person’s progress on a map showing your current location. Latitude is another tool integrated with Google Maps.

I will also admit to using Evernote, Instagram and Foursquare. My Tracks is great for a full hike, but with Foursquare I can check in at landmarks and see how long it takes me to get to the next one. I also find Foursquare a good way to keep track of restaurants and places that I like. I had some great lobster in Maine this fall. I may not immediately recall the name of the restaurant, but I could find it easily in my Foursquare history.

Another app that I like is Share My Position. When I am on the road and take a different route, the first chance that I get, I will share my location with our children. If I drop dead, they will at least know where to find me.

Texting on a smartphone is a revolution compared to the old way of using a numeric keypad. It gets even better using voice input or when you install Mighty Text on your computer and your smartphone. I can send texts via my smartphone easily from my computer. Once in a while I even get a response from my grown children.

I even use the Alarm/Clock app to keep my afternoon naps to a reasonable length.

I also use CallTrack in conjunction with Google calendars. It records the date, numbers and durations of all my cell phone calls. With the calendar app it is easy to synchronize with my Google calendar, which has everything from our church calendar to the local tide tables.

There is one final app that I have to mention. It is the Sea Tow app. Sea Tow is like the AAA for the water. You pay a yearly fee and if you run out of gas or get stuck, they will come rescue you. I boat a lot. This summer for the first and I’m sure not the last time I got my skiff stuck on a sandbar. I used the Sea Tow app to send the GPS coordinates of our location to our rescuer. Even with a drive to launch his boat, he reached us in about an hour after I sent the message. It only took a few minutes to get us off the sandbar and on our way. It would have been a lot harder without the app since their captain was unfamiliar with the area. While I have a GPS on the boat, coaxing the coordinates out of it is more difficult than tapping “send.”

While I could live without my smartphone, it has become a great tool that I use all the time. Given the useful and personal nature of all of these apps and more, it still surprises me that more people my age don’t take advantage of smartphones.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.