Despite being a bit more tech-happy than might be ideal for both practical and personal reasons, it took me a while to switch from my comfy clamshell flip phone to a full-featured smartphone. At times I still miss the “slips in a small pocket/don’t mind if I drop it” ease of my old favorite silvery cellphone, but in that way that only a sentimental pseudo-geek writer can, I now love my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant for T-Mobile running Android Eclair, if any one cares, but the specs are definitely NOT the point), cuz it’s smart in all the ways I would have wanted when I was a 10 year old reading library books late into the night by the wavering glow of flashlight always almost out of battery power:
1. IT READS TO ME!
I love reading aloud and I love being read to. Live humans have a lot less patience about providing this service to me than recorded humans, so I almost daily bless the hearts of the LibriVox volunteers who supply me with tastes of classics while I do tedious things like take out my contact lenses or file receipts. Ditto for commercial audio services, including Audible.com, that work well on Android.
2. IT LETS ME READ IN THE DARK!
Despite a promising collection of booklights (incl: the full-page LightWedge; a sleek model that looks suitable for space shuttle use; a flex-neck model with a charming owl-and-tree pattern; several retro flashlights; a couple of usb devices; and some actual lamps), nothing that properly lights up a book for easy-on-the-eyes reading seems to ever be in the right place with the right batteries when I want it (exception – sunshine glowing through west windows on an autumn afternoon – but then the trick is me being in the right place, book in hand). But my phone works wonderfully as a palm-sized e-reader, with choices of light or dark backgrounds, text size, and light levels. I use the free app Aldiko for public domain and Creative Commons material, and Kindle for Android for must-have new books that I want to read in that format (which isn’t everything – some things, esp a lot of kidlit, I prefer in classic paper format that encourages me to savor the words a little more slowly and doesn’t mind too much if I drop it in the bath).
3. IT LETS ME WRITE AWAY FROM MY COMPUTER!
OK, it’s a bit ridiculous that I tend to feel trapped behind my laptop, but it does run hot and loud (much as I love it for many of its other characteristics). And I am finding after years of computer addiction that writing longhand does good things for my creative energy and focus. Nonetheless, I love that with a simple Bluetooth keyboard, I can write as easily onto my phone as I can onto my laptop. A small, but surprisingly useful upgrade in my sense of writerly freedom.
And for bonus points:
-it’s one of those things that does a bunch of things that I dreamed that something would be able to do for me when I was a kid (and that was when I was thrilled by my first cassette tape recorder and first manual portable typewriter). If so inclined, I can even read a book under the covers using the flashlight app (choice of 10 colors).
-limitless voice recording – great for notes to self, sketching out ideas for later transcribing, reading bits of drafts or exemplar writings and listening back to them as wanted, audio copies friends’ encouraging messages to replay as needed, etc.
-camera for quick capture of visual material (I’m currently filtering through many images from recent trip to England including the stunning neo-Gothic John Rylands Library in Manchester relating to work on Bookberry and Inch — see http://www.arcary.wordpress.com for background on that fantasy novel).
And that’s without mentioning the happy Hobbit-y music that tells me there’s a phone call, or the pixie-dust sound that announces an email has arrived gently enough that I don’t feel I have to dive to find out what it is that second, or the fact that it fixed my iPad lust (at least temporarily…!)
There may be more essential bits of tech for writers, there may be phones that a better in countless ways, but I’m happy that going smart has turned out to add an unexpected amount of freedom and fun to some important chunks of my writing life (and I haven’t even started to tweet or blog from my phone yet….watch out!)