How motherhood turned me into a smartphone whore

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When I had my baby girl four months ago, my life changed. I became a first-time mom for one thing, which in itself is monumental for me, but since this isn’t the place to talk about how my little one has made me incredibly happy, I’ll tell you how she turned me into a smartphone whore instead.

That looks rather crass when I see it in writing, so let me rephrase that. I am now a smartphone escort who now fondles multiple high-profile handsets at the same time. This is why after years of having very little interest in smartphones beyond whatever I was using at the time, I am now entertaining four of the best phones that are available right now: HTC HD2 (Windows Mobile 6.5), iPhone 3GS (iPhone OS 3.1), Nokia N900 (Maemo 5), and Google Nexus One (Android 2.1).

Or maybe they’re entertaining me. Either way, my days of remaining faithful to a single phone are over.

I’ve strayed a few times from my primary phone in the past, yes, but I always came back to resume our monogamous relationship. But not so anymore. Being with just one phone is no longer satisfying to me. Why settle on vanilla ice cream when there’s rocky road, lemon custard, cookies & cream, macadamia nut, and countless other flavors out there?

Smartphones are becoming so incredible lately that they’re making me question the value of non-phone MIDs and UMPCs. They’re rapidly closing the gap that sits between themselves and laptops, almost to the point that they’re becoming the “third device” I always identified as the place where UMPCs/MIDs belong. I used to think that smartphones lacked so much, that they would never be able to compete with the “real” pocket computers I loved.

But that was a long time ago.

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It was before smartphones had such powerful processors, big displays, high screen resolutions, lovely touchscreens, improved media functions, great cameras, gorgeous designs, and all those awesome finger-friendly apps. It was also back when I had both of my hands free all the time and could overpack to my heart’s content whenever I left the house. In other words, it was before I had my daughter.

Her arrival changed what I value in a mobile device. I still think UMPCs are great products for certain users (myself included), but I quickly realized that I don’t need a desktop operating system to do what I want to do most of the time. I will continue to use (and review) UMPCs for mobile productivity, but for everything else—multimedia, internet, email, casual games, etc.—I’m now turning to a smartphone.

And here’s why.

One-handed operation. The most I ever have now is one arm free, so my go-to mobile device has to be easily and comfortably operational with one hand.

UMPCs/MIDs can be held with one hand but using them usually requires that second arm/hand, both of which are now reserved for carrying my daughter. They can also sometimes be overkill for quick, casual use. Other devices like dedicated DAPs or PMPs are often smaller and therefore better suited for use with one hand, but they don’t have as many features as smartphones so that rules them out as my go-to device as well.

Convergence. I still carry a lot when leaving the house, but it’s not chargers, cables, and gadgets in my bag anymore. It’s the accessories that come with my daughter: diapers, baby wipes, a changing pad, plastic bags, bottles, formula, sterilized nipples, disposable bottle liners, bibs, burp cloths, socks, hand sanitizer, and extra clothes. And don’t forget the stroller, car seat, and of course my actual baby girl. There are barely enough shoulders, arms, and hands between my husband and I to carry everything as it is, so packing light for myself is a must.

I used to refuse to compromise on certain features before I became a mom so even though a lot of gadgets I had could function as all-in-one devices, I still preferred to use my Archos 5 for videos, my Sony X Series Walkman for music, one of my UMPCs/MIDs for anything related to the internet, and my iPhone for casual games and phone calls.

Now the only thing I will grab is a smartphone. It’s out of necessity, yes, as the fewer things I need to carry the better, but it’s become a preference too. Smartphones have come so far (and will only continue to get better) that they’ve become MIDs. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything when a smartphone is the only gadget in my purse anymore, and I don’t think the “jack of all trades, master of none” saying applies to them either.

Smartphones can practically do it all . . . and now they can do it really well, too.

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When I identified that one-handed operation and convergence are what I need in a casual-use mobile device, I began to see my iPhone 3GS in a new light. I had been using it since its launch last summer and had used the two previous generations since the day of their release as well, but I never really cared about it very much. It was just my phone. No big deal. The 3GS was the first iPhone that I used faithfully (I left the first-gen iPhone for the AT&T Tilt and the iPhone 3G for the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1), but I only began to really appreciate it after my daughter was born.

There were days that it was the only gadget I used. It’s very unusual for me to use just one device in a day, but taking care of a newborn is time-consuming and recovering from a c-section limits mobility, so once I got settled on the couch I wasn’t about to get up unless I really had to. This was during my maternity leave from Pocketables too, so I didn’t need to do any real work. It was the first time I had ever taken a real break from the site and therefore the first time I had ever looked at a gadget with nothing but personal enjoyment in mind. And if there’s one area that the iPhone 3GS excels in, it’s entertainment.

Once I discovered how much I valued my 3GS, I started to pay more attention to what else was out there. I'm a general gadget fangirl rather than a particular OS's fangirl, so my interests weren't limited to a single platform. I also wanted to make sure I gave other systems a fair chance so that I could be more well-rounded and objective.

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And that’s how I ended up here, with the iPhone 3GS, my second HTC HD2, the Nokia N900, and the Nexus One. It won’t be long before their features and specs are eclipsed by upcoming phones like the HTC EVO 4G, but they’re all at the top of their platform’s game right now with fast processors, great web browsing experiences, finger-friendly UIs, app stores, and good media players. They’re also very enjoyable to use and pocketable to boot! Some are better at certain things than others, but all of them are amazing devices.

I have some four-way ideas for my new smartphone brigade to try out soon, so stay tuned for a series of comparison articles and other posts in the coming weeks and months.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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