Illinois REALTOR® Magazine  | October 2012
by G. William James | @GWJ2000 
The winds of change in mobile technology are constant. New features, capabilities and apps are introduced every week it seems.
Finding the right device can be a challenge, As a Realtor®, how do you make the best smartphone choice, and will you need to buy a tablet as well?
Here are some guidelines.
A phone store offers a maze of choices of mobile devices, each with a slick interface that does everything except prepare dinner (it can get you reservations, however). These hot new devices claim to offer the best access to e-mail, Internet, social networking, multimedia and of course, apps. While all of them provide these features, the difference is how these features are delivered. If you want to weed out the pretenders from the most practical devices for you, the process will take a bit of homework and some road testing.
Let’s take a look at the smartphone Operating Systems (OS) platforms as the first step in finding what will ultimately meet your needs.
The Apple iPhone changed mobile computing forever — twice. First, the iPhone raised the bar for smartphone design, followed by the iPad. The iPhone has the best display and an easy-to-use interface, requiring no more than a fingertip to operate. Primarily an entertainment and Web device, the iPhone did not start off as a great business tool. But a wealth of apps, system upgrades and the integration of cloud computing has made it a productivity tool that excels.
The Apple iPad, for the most part, is a larger version of the phone, with a 9.7-inch screen. The iPad has redefined how mobile professionals will look at computing in the future. It’s designed for cloud computing, with models with Wi-Fi only, or Wi-Fi plus cellular access.
iPhone 4S, the latest model, includes an 8 megapixel camera with high definition, a second camera on the front, a fast dual-core processor and up to 64GB memory. Siri, the iPhone’s voice control system is sophisticated and quite good. The iPhone 5 rumors are swirling, and finally, 4G data speeds should not be far away.
In 2011, the Android OS solidified its presence in the mobile world with a number of very capable smartphones, outselling the Blackberry and iPhone. This is an open-source, powerful system that offers a clean, easy-to use interface and touch screens. The most powerful Android devices have super-fast one- or two-GHz processors, tons of memory, high resolution screens and access to over 400,000 apps, many of which are the same as those found in Apple’s app store. Some models come with both traditional and on-screen keyboards, to satisfy a variety of comfort levels.
One liability of the Android is how it manages memory. If you are not conscious about closing applications and leave programs running in the background, you run the risk of frustration with device speed and battery life. The latest versions of the OS, Android 4.0, more affectionately called “Ice Cream Sandwich” and the soon to be released 4.1, called “Jelly Bean” are said to be a marked improvement in these areas.
Expect to see a number of Android based tablet devices grow, such as Samsung’s new Galaxy tablet, and the Google Nexus 7 for only $199.
Windows Phone is the latest OS on the market from Microsoft, replacing Windows Mobile. Nokia is the primary manufacturer of Windows Phone devices to date with its Lumia line. Comparing the devices to the Android and iPhone, Windows Phone devices offer the same fast processors, memory, and screen technology, and certainly is a great improvement from Windows Mobile. If devices using this OS can get past the tremendous head start by the iPhone and the Android, the Windows Phone can be worth a try. One great benefit to it all are the Lumia devices. They are equal to the competition in many ways and are much cheaper, ranging from $50 to around $100. Once they take hold, expect prices to become competitive.
While we’ve yet to get specific details, the word is that there will be tablet devices available on Windows Phone OS later this year.
Whatever works best for you. We all have unique expectations regarding what we want from our devices, based on our business style and tech comfort level.
G. William James is a mobile technology consultant and workshop presenter. Since 2001 his company, Handheld Computer Solutions provides classroom and Web-based instruction on time management and productivity using mobile devices. James can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What REALTORS® Should Know about Mobile Devices
Catch G. William James in action at the IAR Fall Conference  Oct. 3, 2012 in St. Charles.
Disclaimer: the report concerning these products does not represent an endorsement by IAR. Readers are encouraged to make an independent evaluation of any product before purchasing. IAR makes no representation or warranty regarding quality or cost of products.