How smart is your phone?

Dave Bowman: Hello, HAL. Do you read me? HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL!
HAL: I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that!

In 1968, director Stanly Kubrick brought to life a future where HAL, a computer, believed himself to be alive in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And while 2011 passed without humans travelling to Jupiter, 2012 is starting to look a lot like a science fiction movie. Smart phones have put powerful computing capabilities into the hands of regular people, and farmers are no exception.

A smart phone is a device that combines the features of a cell phone with those of a personal digital assistant (PDA). I used to carry around a cell phone and a Palm Pilot. It was a great day in 2002 when Handspring combined the two into the Palm Treo. Then, Apple revolutionized the smart phone in 2007 with the touch screen iPhone. Recently Google has taken the lead with the Android operating system.

So which smart phone is best for farmers?

Androids and iPhones are very similar devices. They have touch screens, run apps, play music and video, and take pictures—and yes, you can make phone calls too. The difference comes down to simplicity versus choice.

Apple produces both the hardware and the operating system for their phones. This gives them total control over the device, which generally results in a more stable environment and user-friendly experience. Apple’s focus is simplicity and consistency. The down side of Apple’s system is lack of handset choice and price.

Android is an open-source operating system that Google has made available to hardware manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC who produce a wide range of phones. The advantage of this system is choice. You can buy an Android-enabled phone with a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and price points. While Android software is very customizable, the downside is that Androids are not always as stable or easy to use.

My personal recommendation is this: If you want a simple system that is easy to learn and fairly error-free, spend the extra money and get an iPhone. If you want a larger screen and/or prefer Google’s online apps like Gmail and Google Calendar, shop around to find the right Android-enabled phone for you.

Once you discover all the amazing things you can do with a smart phone, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. I guarantee it will make you more productive on the dairy and farm.

If you ask “SIRI” the talking digital assistant on the iPhone 4s to “open the pod bay doors,” her response may make you laugh. But remember, humans in Cupertino, California programmed her responses, she doesn’t really mean it—yet!

Dairy Specific Apps
One of the most compelling reasons for a dairy producer to get an Android phone would be for the Pocket Cow Card app, the Android companion to DairyComp 305. My suspicion is that most dairy and agricultural software developers will write for Android because it is open-source.

Extra Content
My list of techno gadgets: I currently own a Motorola Droid X2 and an iPad2. My wife has an iPhone 4. I also own several Apple Macintosh computers and one Windows PC, the one in my dairy office that runs DairyComp 305 & EZfeed.

Definitions: Open-Source: a type of software that is produced in the public domain. This means it is not copyrighted or patent protected. Usually open-source software is written in collaboration by a group of volunteers and distributed free of charge to users.

Links:
Review of Android phones from CNET.com – http://reviews.cnet.com/best-android-phones/
The iPhone 4s – http://www.apple.com/iphone/
Pocket Cow Card companion for DC305 – http://www.vas.com/pcc.jsp

Title: How smart is your phone?
Author: Dino Giacomazzi
Publication: Dairy Today
Publication Date: February 2012

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