Sunday, June 7, 2009

Working out of your pocket!

Okay, I admit it. I fell in love with another PDA/cell phone. My last love was a Motorola MPx200, which I bought from AT&T wireless back in 2005. It had everything I wanted: email, calendar and contacts that sync with outlook, voice recorder, MP3 player, high quality display screen, and a small clam shell design. The only problem was that the cell phone range was limited and calls were often dropped or could not connect, or there was no signal. Not being able to use the phone was a problem!

I don't know if the problem was with the cell phone or the AT&T network. I decided to change both. In 2007, I switched to Verizon Wireless and bought the Motorola RAZR. The RAZR had no PDA functions, it was just a very slim, easy to carry phone that actually worked! I looked at the Palm Treo, which was the most popular at the time, but had no desire to carry such a large device especially with a less than attractive screen display. I also looked at the Motorola Q, which looked too flimsy.

In 2008, I was tempted by the iPhone - the design is beautiful! But it was not designed for business and I don't have that many pictures or songs I need to carry with me. Also, I did not want to switch away from Verizon and take the chance of losing signal quality. The Blackberry looked interesting, but never compelling because of its large keyboard and I didn't want to be tethered to my email Inbox all the time. I'm not interested in texting on a continual basis or having clients think that I am at my computer 24x7.

Finally, Blackberry came out with the Pearl, a slim, attractive device that fits in my pocket and contains all the functionality of my old MPx 200! Not only does it sync with outlook, but it also provides live access to the Internet (extra $30/mo. for unlimited data usage). Now I can receive emails in real time and occasionally browse the web.

I was intially sold on its small form factor, but after using it for a few weeks found that it has a number of surprisingly helpful features:

Email/Fax/Voice Mail - My emails are received in real time. I can easily check for new messages from clients. It also has a great "search sender" feature that makes it easy to locate all the emails from a specific client immediately. My fax and voice mails are automatically forwarded to my email, which makes it "one-stop shopping" for checking all communications. Even my home phone sends voicemail to my cell phone (both work and home are VOIP phones).

Calendar - The cell phone has a calendar application that syncs with Outlook. I use Google to sync with outlook, which I bookmark on my cell phone. Not only does it track my personal calendar, but the office calendar as well.

News - I bookmarked a few websites that I like for news :,, and It is a great way to stay informed of the latest headlines. You can even request that it automatically update the news hourly and save the information off-line (in case you lose signal).

Maps - The phone comes with a maps program, which provides basic maps, but I don't use it. Instead, I installed Google Maps, a brilliant application that works even better on the phone than it does on my desktop computer. Google Maps shows current location, traffic, directions, and favorites. It also shows a "satellite view" if you want to see an actual picture of the location you are trying to find at street level. It has essentially replaced my need for a GPS. The killer application is the voice recognition. Last night, I was looking for a restaurant called "Cafe Mangal" in Wellesley. I said the restaurant name into the phone without mentioning the city. After a 10-second search, the name, address and map appeared on the phone. It found the right location the first time even though it was three towns away. It even had reviews for the restaurant!

Weather - A constant icon on the phone has the current temperature for my location, which I can click on to get a full weather report. It saves a lot of time every day not to have to check the computer or listen to the radio.

Voice Recorder - I use it to record meetings or presentations. The device automatically saves the files in 10 minute block so they can easily be emailed or uploaded to a website. The microphone is good enough to pick up voices at a 10-foot or more distance.

Camera/video recorder - The built-in camera is only 2MP, but comes in handy more than I expected. You never know when you need a camera (impromptu meeting with a friend, car accident, looking for a new house, etc.). Last week, I rushed to see my son's 5th grade music recital and didn't have time to pick up the digital camera. I was glad I had my cell phone to record on video his first time playing the trombone!

Accessories - The phone comes with many other useful applications like calculator, alarm clock, password keeper, task list, and memo pad. These are not essential, but nice to have. If you are traveling, you don't need to bring a separate alarm clock - it's one less thing to carry! If you are shopping, you can use the calculator to compute discounts, sales tax, or budgets.

The Blackberry Pearl makes it easy for me to stay in touch and be productive whether I am in or out of the office. It has become command central for news, updates and communications. There are a few applications that I have not gotten to work yet (e.g., remote control of my desktop computer), but I expect will be available in the future.

The bottom line is that the Blackberry Pearl allows me to work out my pocket. This is the ultimate in flexibility for being a virtual lawyer.

What kind of cell phone to you use? What cell phone applications do you like best? What computer applications would you like to access from your phone?

[6/14/09 - Update: It is clear that "smart phones" are going to fuel the next major technology boom. Netbooks and Internet-enabled phones reflect a long term convergence of computers, cell phones and PDAs. I have always appreciated the productivity boost from new computers and software applications. But the smart phones seem to go beyond prior innovations in terms of their functionality. My "crackberry" is now an essential devive both personally and professionally.

According to Apple, iPhone now has over 50,000 applications. I don't need that many. The Blackberry has enough that every day I find a new application that seems to enhance my life. The most recent are:

Google Integration: Google is amazing. Not only does it provide a killer voice controlled GPS-like service, it provides seamless integration with information, ratings and reviews. Google maps even integrates with Outlook calendar and contact list. Now, I can open an appointment or contact and make only one click to see a map of the location. It saves having to print out directions and carry them with you!

Banking & Investments: I can check my balance and pay bills from anywhere (very helpful when you leave for vacation and forget to pay that credit card bill). You can check investments or even make trades. Bloomberg, Fidelity, and CNBC all have applications that provide up to the minute news, quotes and stock charts.

Radio & Music: Many major radio stations across the country and around the world provide free Internet broadcasts. You can save your favorite stations and listen to them anytime, whether you are within the traditional broadcast area or on the other side of the country. Pick local news radio to keep up with your old home town, popular music, or national public radio. It's all available!]

1 comment:

V-lawyer said...

Suzane Smith over at Court Reporters Schools just told me that they just posted an article, “Top 20 iPhone Apps for Busy Attorneys” ( If you an iPhone user, check it out!