Bob Schwartz

Tag: smartphone

The Goldilocks Test for Phone Size

First things first: You iPhone folks can leave. You have no choice on the size of your smartphone, because Apple has made that choice for you. The iPhone 5 is no wider, but one-half inch longer, than the previous version. Take it or leave it, and millions are taking it.

Android is a whole different world or, as we’ve learned to say, ecosystem. Screens are getting bigger, for optics and utility, and so have the phones. Samsung pushed the limits by creating the Note, half-phone/half-tablet (a “phablet”) with a screen more than five inches in size. Even the same phone may have slightly different dimensions for each carrier. Someone has no doubt charted the dozens of sizes available; it is enough to say that there is probably an optimal size for just about everyone.

But what is optimal? That very practical question arose in the course of handling and comparing two of the most popular and capable Android phones of the past couple of years, the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3. The S2 is superb, but in almost all respects the S3 is better. The S3 does have a bigger screen, and so is ever so slightly bigger to hold.

Ultimately, the question is not whether size matters; the question is whether it matters to you.

That’s what the Goldilocks test is about. There are three parts, one about style, two about functionality.

The style part requires a mirror. If you are someone who uses a smartphone for voice calls (though fewer now do), hold up the phone to the side of your head. Do you feel that you look cool or silly? Do you feel like a modern version of the 1970s hotshot with a monstrous Motorola Brick pressed to his ear? (see above)

The second part is portability. Without getting stereotypical, this is a divide between women and men. Many women carry their phone in a bag, where up to a point, size doesn’t matter. Men usually carry theirs in a pocket, and depending on which pocket and which clothes, this can be an issue. Jeans and tight pants can be a problem (it is taking unreasonable will power not to paraphrase Mae West: “Is that a phone in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”)

The final part is the most important: How much does size affect usability? This is where differences in hand size come into play. You want to be able to use a phone with one hand, and that’s going to depend on the hand that’s using it. This is also where the most objective part of the Goldilocks test was formulated.

Put the phone in the palm of your hand. Reach around the middle with your thumb and middle finger. If your fingers touch, you will mostly be comfortable using the phone with one hand. If not, you are on occasion going to find yourself doing some juggling or bringing in the other hand. It’s that simple.

Take the test. You want to be able to say about your phone, as Goldilocks said about beds, as others have said about the height of trees: This one is just right.

Diztronic: The Wonder Case for Smartphones

The world’s most advanced tech companies spend unlimited money and time to make sure your smartphone is as thin, light and beautiful as possible. And they have succeeded. The Samsung Galaxy S3, for example, is a work of practical art.

Then you put it in a box. An expensive box. As in, say, an OtterBox case.

You do that because you are human. And human beings have been known to drop or otherwise destroy five hundred dollar smartphones in the blink of an eye.

What was once sleek and sexy—but vulnerable—is now bulky and unattractive—but safe. It’s like the father who demands that his teenage daughter go out wearing a dumpy and loose-fitting dress that hides her arms, legs and everything else.

Then there is Diztronic.

Admittedly, the Diztronic cases do not include three or more layers of protection that some other overly-expensive body-armor cases offer. So if you know yourself to be dangerously clumsy or demand a case that will withstand an asteroid, you may have to live with your phone in a box.

But if you want to enjoy a more than reasonable amount of protection, be able to appreciate and enhance the beauty of your phone, have it feel great in your hand and save money, the Diztronic cases are for you.

Diztronic makes its cases from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), a plastic stronger and tougher than silicone, offering excellent shock absorption and scratch resistance. The cases are flexible, ultra-thin and perfectly custom fit for each type of phone. A subtly raised edge allows you to lay your phone down on the screen side without damage or worry. Then there are all the colors that match or complement your phone.

On top of that, Diztronic cases are ridiculously inexpensive, currently $9.90 for Android cases and $11.90 for the new iPhone 5 cases (some even less at their Amazon store).

If you have a new phone, visit Diztronic and buy your phone a new outfit. In fact, at that price, you can afford to buy it more than one look. And if your phone is currently encased in an unattractive hard shell, think how much better you and it will feel with something a little less restrictive and a lot more beautiful.

The Ultimate Notepad?

The best reason to get a very expensive, very powerful smartphone is to have it serve as the ultimate notepad.

No. But if you are someone whose practice has been, since the beginning of time (that is, since the earliest digital days), to go around with a pocket memo book, you may have noticed that the notepad has become vestigial, like a no longer useful appendage about which you still maintain some habitual affection, even if it is no longer useful.

Smartphones are remarkable notetaking devices. Even without the added convenience of voice-to-text, with the right keyboard (recommended: SwifKey) and the right app (recommended: AK Notepad), the flash-of-brilliance scrawl has now become the flash-of-brilliance digital non-scrawl, polished, spell-checked, and ready for prime-time.

A state-of-the-art memo book (Mead top-bound) ended up squarely on a desk next to a state-of-the-art smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S2). Here are some observations.

They are both quite elegant. They are almost exactly the same size: memo book 3×5 inches, smartphone 2.60 x 4.93 inches. The memo book is considerably cheaper, less than a dollar (pen not included), while the smartphone can be hundreds of dollars, depending on the contract. There is no contract available for the notepad.

Obviously, the notepad will never run out of battery power, even if the notetaker does. The worst that can happen is that you run out of ink, at which point lipstick, burnt matches, or dozens of other things will do in a pinch. The upcoming J.J. Abrams television series Revolution is about a world where all electric devices suddenly and completely stop working. Dystopia or utopia, if this possibility lurks on the fringes of your thoughts, for eighty cents or so, you can buy an insurance policy against your most groundbreaking but ephemeral thoughts being lost forever. Seems like a bargain.

Going Naked On Your Smartphone

It is a continuing discussion among thousands of people in the smartphone world: Use a screen protector or “go naked”?

What is so glaringly notable about the debate is how much it echoes the same discussion about sex: Use a condom or go naked?

It is about sensation and response. The thicker and less sophisticated screen protectors seem to reduce the touch and responsiveness of the device.

It is about size. Many people find that screen protectors they purchase don’t fit their device, even when the manufacturers claim they do. Trimming and adjustment are often required.

It is about aesthetics. Even the thinnest and most expensive screen protectors seem to take away from the inherent beauty that has been designed into the device.

It is about messiness. One of the biggest complaints about screen protectors, even among those who choose to use them, is that they are a mess, tending to slip off and be constantly in need of readjustment.

It is about unwanted and unexpected outcomes. No matter how careful you are, screens can get scratched. Once that happens, the experience with and the relationship to the device are never the same again.

That last is a risk many seem willing to take. Maybe they can’t be blamed, because the feel of a gliding fingertip on Gorilla Glass instead of plastic, and the instant, electric response you get is like nothing else. If there’s a price to pay for going screen naked, to a lot of people it’s worth it.