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The best apps and uses for my smartphone after one year

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I’ve now been at the Redford Observer almost two months, and have not gotten around to an update. Before I do that, however, I’ve wanted to write a post around the beginning of July all about my cellphone.

I heard for years how helpful a smartphone is to journalists. I watched as fellow students and co-workers use their phones for their reporting. Being able to look up information in a pinch, taking photos on the fly and publishing on the web from a small device appealed to me greatly. In July 2011, right before Verizon killed off the unlimited data plan, I snuck in and purchased an Android-powered Droid Incredible 2.

Save for a few weeks when I was using a Samsung Stratosphere, I’ve used the Incredible 2, running Gingerbread, for an entire year. It’s come in handy several times, and some apps have meant more to me than others.

Here are the most useful apps I’ve found while using my phone:

Twitter: The app I find myself opening the most on my device. The official app from Twitter, it’s been updated from the design I originally got used to. I’ve made it a point to follow many different accounts, from Michigan news accounts such as the Detroit Free Press and MLive to other journalists and journalism-related publications, such as the Nieman Lab and Society of Professional Journalists.

It’s a useful tool when in the field, such when the tornadoes hit Dexter earlier this year. I was able to follow area agencies and news outlets to stay on top of things we may have missed in our reporting. It’s also a way to push out news, sharing photos from accident scenes and tweeting out information as it comes in when I’m not near a computer. It’s a must-have for me.

Facebook: Another big one, although not as big as Twitter for me. I used it more at my old job, posting updates to our weekly newspaper pages, and responding to readers’ comments. Photo-sharing from events was simple too, a quick photo of an event such as Manchester’s Easter Egg hunt, and it was pushed to our readers.

While Facebook has returned to a more personal use for me at the Observer and Eccentric, it still comes in handy. A lot of organizations in Redford use Facebook, and I’m able to stay up-to-date on everything the organizations in Redford are posting.

Evernote: A great note-taking tool I use exclusively for my current job. The ability to sync between my computer and phone is a plus, so everywhere I go, I have my notes with me. I type out my notes on a computer when I do interviews, and I’m able to clip articles if I find something that’s relevant to Redford.

I take personal notes in it too, such as directions or instructions. Each note can be placed in a specific folder, or notebook, and I can easily retrieve it with a quick search on my phone.

It captures other forms of media as well, including photos, audio and documents. I use the quick snapshot feature if I see something that’s story-worthy, such as a flyer on a billboard. I’ll use it to take images for reference, if I have to remember how something looked while writing.

There is a premium version of Evernote, but I’ve found that the free version does the best for me. I’ve thought about upgrading, but haven’t had the reason too. With 60 MB of storage per month, Evernote is a great tool for keeping organized at work.

Disqus: This is one I didn’t expect to be so helpful, but it’s great for those online moderators out there on the go.

We launched Disqus as our commenting platform at my previous job at Heritage Media near Ann Arbor in April. Looking, I stumbled across this app which, for some strange reason, could only be found on Android. For the month or so I was still moderating comments for Heritage.com, I would use this app to preview, screen, approve and delete comments that needed moderation for the website.

It came especially handy on weekends, when I was away from my computer. A notification would appear in my notification center, I’d open it, read the comment and approve or delete. Piece of cake.

Tape-a-Talk: There are plenty of recording apps out there, but I’ve taken a liking to this one. The quality is good, and you can record in two settings: wave/pcm or 3gp.

The recording is crisp on the Incredible 2, which has a microphone on the top of the device. I use it frequently enough that it’s replaced my $50 recording device from 2008.

It saves files in a separate folder on your device, and you can access it when you mount the phone as a hard drive. Simple and easy to use.

Google Drive: This is becoming my standard cloud storage unit since I have a folder on my desktop. I use it to write stories in, and label my folders according to month so I know right where a story is.

Recently, with the switch from Docs to Drive, I’ve been using it for photos for work. I take a few photos for work using my phone, and I use Drive to transfer them to the cloud.

Other cloud services are important, too. I find myself uploading large folders of photos to Box, where I have 50 GB of storage. I’ve tried using Dropbox, but I find I’m filling it up too fast. I may go back and use Dropbox, but for now, I’m going to with Google.

Flipboard: A new addition to my phone, it came to Android last month. And I love it.

Reading stories on Flipboard is a clean experience, much cleaner than on the web browser that comes on the Incredible 2. I can pull my Twitter and Facebook feed into it, and get a clean, crisp reading surface that “flips” as I read.

It also gives me top recommendations for subjects such as news, technology and sports. It’s great for lunchtime when I want to catch up on news that I haven’t had a chance to look at yet.

I’ve tried using different readers, such as Google Currents, the Flipboard copy, but nothing compares to the easy reading on Flipboard. It makes reading on my phone easy and enjoyable.

Is there an app I should add to this list? I’m always looking for a new addition to my phone.

Written by David Veselenak

July 8, 2012 at 7:06 pm