A recent study from the Pew Center for the Internet reveals that American adults use only a fraction of the features on their smart phones. Perhaps that’s just as well.
Smart phones have powerful core features that can give you the cutting edge in business, but they also offer loads of distractions and even some dangerous pitfalls.
Here are five tips for making the most of your smart phone’s capabilities while avoiding trouble. These tips are based on Apple's iPhone, but many of them apply to the Google Android phones and some Sony phones as well.
1. Master the phone.
Smart phones make it easy to access your contacts, dial calls, identify incoming calls, and quickly manage visual voicemail. Take advantage of the ability to add new callers’ numbers to your contacts application — there’s nothing worse than looking at a list of recently called numbers and wondering which one was the woman who’d made the back-up offer on the house you’re selling — or what her name was.
But keep in mind that these easy-to-use phones also make it very easy to accidentally redial someone, or even butt- or purse-dial a number. The result? You might cause mild annoyance at the other end. Or you could trigger hideous embarrassment and business problems when a caller you don't realize you've dialed gets to overhear you talking to someone else — possibly about them.
Tip: When you end a call, make it a habit to navigate from the phone application back to the home screen, or even to another app, before you put down your phone.
2. Invest in maps.
The built-in Maps app in the iPhone includes a compass, Google maps, and the ability to pinpoint and bookmark any address you plan to return to. And, of course, it can chart your route from place A to place B. If your business is heavily dependent on driving, spend $50 to $100 on a GPS app for the phone that will guide you with turn-by-turn voice directions in any vehicle you're in. Caution: This could make you a rather annoying backseat driver.
Tip: Tap the compass needle in the lower left of the iPhone screen to see where you are. Tap it a second time, and it shows you the direction you (or, at least, your iPhone) are pointed.
3. Learn to create voice memos.
The voice memo app on the iPhone is pretty basic, but there are plenty of great third-party alternatives. In an emergency, you can use any one of these to record the license plate number of a hit-and-run-vehicle. Dashing through the parking lot, you can record and send an important reminder to yourself or someone back at the office via email or MMS. You can save the .m4a-format voice memo file you receive to iTunes or to another music library on your computer.
4. Stressed? Take it easy with the Google app's Voice Search feature.
The restaurant you've arrived at with your client is closed. The film is sold out. You can't remember the name of the hotel where your professional group is meeting. Stressful situations are not when you want to try tapping keywords into a tiny search screen. So, don't. Just use the Voice Search feature. Speak the keywords and it will generate a page of results, most with tappable maps and phone numbers, and you're on your way.
Tip: Step away from loud crowds or music to use Voice Search effectively.
5. Remember you’ve got a camera
The saying goes that “the best camera is the one you have with you.” With a smart phone, a camera is always with you, and the cameras on the latest smart phones are probably quite a bit better than the point-and-shoot digital you keep in a drawer somewhere. A smart phone camera enables you to snap photos and immediately attach them to an email or text message. It’s is an ideal way to say “thank you” to someone, or to keep in touch with a prospect or a client.
Tip: Sending a photo directly to an individual is a great business gesture. But be cautious about posting a photo to a public web page or a social media site like Facebook. Before you do, make sure everyone identified in the photo has agreed to it or, if it’s a photo of a company function or facility, that your company approves.