Tom Ross: My phone is smarter than I am
October 5, 2010
My smart phone is smarter than your smart phone. Nah, nah. Of course, it's smarter than I am, too.
During the weekend, I finally opened Pandora's box and discovered the wonder of the Music Genome Project. And now, thanks to a free app, Pandora is streaming customized music stations into my phone. Anywhere I have a couple of bars of service, I can access the music that rocks my world.
Pandora analyzes the traits of different forms of pop music and transforms them into an algorithm. It allows the company to predict what music will appeal to individual listeners based on their suggestion of a single artist or song. And I can customize the music selection by turning thumbs down on a song or asking Pandora to add an artist to my station.
How cool is that?
I've always been a late adapter of new technology. But my new LG Ally Android phone is changing the way I live my daily life. Yeah, it has a calendar. And Blackberries have offered calendars since forever. But this is different.
My wife and I were planning a road trip during the weekend, and for some reason, a popular Chevrolet advertising jingle from the late 1950s and early 1960s popped into my head.
I Googled "Dinah Shore Chevy jingle" and the first link that popped up was the old black-and-white TV commercial I had in mind. One tap on my phone and Dinah was crooning:
"See the USA, in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call,
Drive your Chevrolet through the USA,
America's the greatest land of all
On a highway, on a road or on a levee
Performance is sweeter, nothing can beat her, life is completer in a Chevy
So make a date today to see the USA
And see it in a Chevrolet …"
Remember that one? For anyone old enough to remember when the only TV picture available was in black and white, it's pure nostalgia and purely unforgettable. The rest of you might get a kick out of it, too.
My wife and I shared our first cell phone for almost a year before we got a second one and our own phone numbers. We finally succumbed after we acknowledged that it was irresponsible to drive through mountain blizzards in the middle of the night without the added level of security a mobile phone could provide.
I'm not a technophobe. After all, I couldn't survive in my job if I wasn't able to learn to use new software applications. And I can't imagine functioning as a reporter without search engine fact-finding. I revel in the information-gathering power its gives me.
I just wasn't a cell phone kind of guy until this summer.
I never really liked my last cell phone because learning its features was anything but intuitive. The manual was impossible to understand. I became convinced that today's young adults pick up the nuances of expanded cell phone capabilities as quickly as they do because they've developed neural patterns the Woodstock Generation never developed. I still think that's the case.
However, as I unpacked my Android-based phone it quickly became apparent that anyone willing to explore even just a little bit could increase their productivity and their interconnectivity over night with a smart phone.
I now make notes, thanks to the Ally's raised keyboard, on a free app called 3Banana.
I edit my photographs on FxCamera and PicSay and e-mail them even before I return home from outdoor adventures.
I can gaze at the night sky with Google Sky Map, which identifies the constellations my camera is aiming at.
On a recent mountain bike outing west of Grand Junction, my phone advised me that I was at Kokopelli's Trail and offered to give me directions to the closest coffee shop (let me guess, Anasazi Beans?).
Just this morning, a colleague suggested an app called My Tracks for logging mileage and elevation gain on wilderness hikes. I'll download it right after work. I can't wait to use it on my favorite mild and woolly backcountry ski runs. My Tracks should take all of the guesswork out how many vertical feet we hike and ski this winter.
I'll be able to name and save my ski trips, make notes about how light and dry the powder was and share them with friends either as a spreadsheet or a Google map. Really.
Is there anything my smart phone isn't capable of? I think an app that helps me photograph the full moon is reasonable. Using GPS, it should be able to tell me at what point of the compass the moon will rise, making it easy to shoot the moonrise behind a geographic landmark, whether I'm in Arches National Park or pointing my camera at Storm Peak.
I'm still waiting for someone to develop an app called FishFinder. I want a phone that's smart enough to spot trout in a river. That could be a tricky proposition unless we imbed microchips under the skin of trout. And I'm not sure I want to go that far.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail email@example.com
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