Five years ago I bought a Blackberry. I would constantly use it to check my email, and for the first time I was able to easily get work done outside my office (before that I used a laptop, but that was a pain in the neck). In a similar way, buying an Amazon Kindle around that same time was a big step forward because I no longer had to carry around a pile of books or magazines, it was all on my Kindle.
But life was still not perfect. Surfing websites on my Blackberry was so slow and aggravating that it was not worth doing at all. Any emails I received that involved looking at website, I had to save for when I got back to my office. The PC in my office was still the center of my business universe. My Kindle was great for what it was, but what I really needed it to do was allow me check my emails and surf the web in addition to reading books. Everywhere I went I would carry my Blackberry and Kindle with me, and this made venturing out into the world more pleasant, but was not a game changer.
Then, after several years of resistance, I finally succumbed to the cult of the iPhone. People would always tell me I should switch to an iPhone because it was fun and useful, and I would respond that I loved my Blackberry’s physical keyboard, plus there was no point in changing since I didn’t listen to music, play games, or watch videos/movies on my mobile phone, and those were the main things the iPhone was good for. Heck, I didn’t even use my Blackberry for phone calls. But, I was curious what all the fuss was about, so when my AT&T contract expired, I decided I would try a Verizon iPhone, since I could always return it. I even kept my Blackberry working for a few extra weeks just in case.
Once I started using the iPhone though, a wonderful thing happened. I realized it was able to do everything my Blackberry did, everything my Kindle did (I use the Kindle app on my iPhone), and almost everything my PC at home could do. My iPhone was not just a cool device for me to use, but a replacement for my entire office. I could do things like scan documents (by taking a photo), sign contracts (using the Hellosign.com app), send faxes (using Hellofax.com), open Word/Excel/PDF file attachments, check my Google Adsense and Analytics stats (using QuickAdsense and Quicklytics), deposit checks (by taking a photo of them, saving me many trips to the bank), and surf the web just like on my office computer. I no longer had to take a laptop with me when I traveled, my iPhone was enough. I even started using my iPhone to make phone calls, and got rid of my office phone line (saving $20/month) giving people my iPhone number instead. I still find it more productive to sit at a real computer to get things done, but now my office is essentially wherever I am at the time, making it much easier for me to run my business.
The only problem I had was dealing with the hassle of synching files between my iPhone and PC. Up until a few months ago I had no good way of doing this, other than using Gotomypc.com or putting some of the files in the cloud at Box.com. Then I discovered Dropbox.com, which is a cloud storage service like Box.com and Google Drive, but with one major difference. It allows me to have a directory on my PC at C:\dropbox and any files I save there automatically synch with my Dropbox file storage account. I can then easily access these files in the cloud from my iPhone or another PC. I don’t ever need to manually upload or download anything. Anytime I edit a file on my iPhone, the new version automatically appears on my computer and vice versa.
Everything I mentioned so far is the typical stuff you might read about in various tech blogs, but the way my iPhone changed my life the most was something I never would have predicted. Much like the DVR has caused people to change their TV watching habits due to time shifting (watching a TV show anytime you want, not only when it broadcast live), the iPhone has caused me to actually change the way I interact with the outside world, due to what I will refer to as cloud living. This is one level above time shifting and place shifting (Slingbox popularized this term), as both of those involve better ways of watching TV shows and movies that are physically located in your house. But, because all of my media now lives in the cloud, I no longer have to consume it in the traditionally designated spot. I can watch TV shows and movies using using my Netflix/Hulu/Amazon app not just on my TV, I can read emails and manage my websites not just in my office, I can watch viral videos and check Facebook not just on my personal PC, I can read millions of books and magazines anywhere anytime not just the small stack I have at home. People talk about the joy and freedom of “cutting the cord” from their cable company; I have cut the cord from everything and it feels great.
I used to dread going out because it would take me away from my business and I would spend a lot of time waiting, like at a restaurant, a doctor’s appointment, or a rock concert. I have always been obsessive about being early, but the trade-off was that it led to a lot of wasted time where I was just sitting around. Now, I whip out my iPhone and do all the same things I used to do at home, so no time is lost. Going to the DMV or running errands used to be a chore. Now if I am standing in line, I just check my emails, go to my favorite websites, or read an eBook. It does not really matter if I am home, at the office, or out, it is all the same to me now.
The point of my story is not that everyone should run out and buy an iPhone. Android phones and Blackberrys now do all of these things, plus some people may not have any need for a smartphone at all. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that sometimes even a small change in your life, like switching mobile devices, can have a big effect. So, don’t be afraid to try new things.