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Headshot of me wearing red lipstick Kara Babcock

Android Rocks My World, Part 1: Gmail, Twitter, and social networking

Back in December, I mentioned that I got a new phone, my first smartphone. This is the first in a hopefully lengthy series of blog posts chronicling my passionated love affair with my Android phone and how it is changing my behaviour and habits. Previously, in a sort of prelude, I discussed Swype and how I'm attempting to get used to it as a superior form of text input on a mobile device. Today I'll cover the basics: email, social networking, and instant messaging.

Being able to read and send emails on the go was my primary reason for getting a smartphone. I do not phone many people, but I do send a lot of email; it's the primary way I communicate with my dad, when he's at work, with my profs, and with some of my friends. Although Lakehead is finally beginning to roll out WiFi around the campus, it's nice to have a phone with a data plan that lets me check my email wherever I want. Plus, I find it makes me slightly more productive.

I have trouble switching off, in that it makes me tempted to check if I have new email every five minutes. That's why I love push notifications: if I've got new email, my phone will let me know. Otherwise, I can get on with what I'm doing. In particular, my phone is a nice push notification system (as opposed to just having such a notifier on my computer) because I can take it with me. So I can have it sitting on my desk while I'm working on my computer, or I can be in the living room, outside, or at school.

Also, I love having access to my email on the go. I store a lot of information in my email. I archive and label my correspondence so that when I need to recall something, a label or a quick Google search results in the information I want. So if I need to double-check a room number where my prof said the class was meeting, I don't need to find a computer now; I can do that from my phone.

Of course, since it's Android, it comes with a native Gmail app that's pretty cool. There are some unfortunate limitations--e.g., I've yet to find a way to see the email address of a sender who's in my contacts, and sending from your non-default email address is problematic at best. Nevertheless, it works well with both my default Gmail account and the my school Google Account, so I won't complain too much.

You know what's really cool about having a smartphone? If I want to backup my SMS and call logs, there's an app for that. All my text messages are automatically saved to my Gmail label, as are my call logs, which are also entered into a calendar on my Google account. I like the calendar integration, since it lets me see at a glance when I've made and received calls at any given time during the week or month. And I like being able to save all my correspondence--even SMS.

Twitter and Facebook for Android are pretty much what you might expect. I wouldn't say I tweet a lot, because my volume varies depending on whether I have anything to say on a particular day. It's nice to have the option to tweet easily from wherever I am. I could do this using my old phone and a workaround (because I couldn't just text to Twitter, blah), but that required me to type out a message on an ordinary numeric pad. Now I have a QWERTY keyboard, a Swype QWERTY keyboard, and tweeting is much easier. Plus I can take photos and upload them. It's this instantaneous connection, the fact that I can do this immediately from wherever I am, that is so awesome. It may not seem much coming from me, because my idea of "going outside" involves walking from my car to the building where my class is at university. But for people in Egypt, Tunisia, and all those other countries experiencing unrest? Twitter, at least until the government blocked it, was a primary means of expressing themselves and communicating using mobile devices.

I'm not quite as obsessive a Facebook user as some of my friends confess they are, but I do like using Facebook to keep in touch. People send me messages, and once in a while someone writes on my wall. So it's nice to be able to check Facebook from my phone.

Finally, I can use the eBuddy app to sign into my various instant messaging accounts on my phone. This is really convenient when I want to be away from my computer but still "online." Right now I usually use it when I'm in the living room, watching television or playing a video game, and don't want to drag my laptop in there. I'm already imagining using my phone in the summer when I want to sit outside and read. Indeed, this is only the beginning.