Managing Personal Mobility

This is a follow up to my last post on the Nook Tablet. I now have a Nook Tablet (7″ screen), Dell Insprion Duo (10″ screen) and Samsung/Google Nexus S 4G (4″ screen) smartphone in my possession. I also have an HP 17″ laptop in my office which stays there except for rare occasions. However, given the title of this post, it is not relevant here and won’t be discussed. Essentially it’s a desktop.

Now that I have all of these devices available to me the question becomes how to manage them in a useful way. What should be each device’s primary uses? Of course I had some idea why I wanted each item before I bought it. Typically, though, buying technology and living with it are different things and require some post-purchase adaptation. These devices are no exception.

It is first necessary to set some definitions. “Content creation” will refer to the act of creating something, like a word processing document, spreadsheet, image, etc. “Content consumption” will refer to the act of reading, viewing an image or listening to something. Each device can do both to varying degrees depending on which applications are installed. However, the tablet and the phone are primarily about content consumption while, for me, the laptop is primarily about content creation.

My overall objective is to have the most flexible, adaptable and portable working environment that I can. That’s a tradeoff between computing power, power consumption, battery life and weight. I also spend more time consuming content than creating it so I want to be able to consume content wherever I am, make notes about what I consume wherever I am and have those notes available for content creation most places I am.

I quickly realized that the smartphone and tablet should be considered a unit. The tablet is Wi-Fi only but the phone can be a Wi-Fi hotspot. By keeping the two together I don’t have to be a slave to meeting where Wi-Fi connectivity is provided. I usually pay a 3G speed penalty for wider coverage, but here in Houston 4G is fairly available when I’m out and about. Since my primary concern is email, the penalty is manageable.

One criticism of the Dell that it is powered by a dual-core Intel Atom processor and only two gigs of RAM, so it’s a little underpowered. However, I am able to run the complete Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus suite with acceptable performance. I also have assorted other serious business apps that run at acceptable levels of performance. As long as the Dell is plugged in and working at full power, it streams video quite well over an 802.11N connection.

That brings us to the center of my non-Office application universe, Evernote. I have been a big Microsoft OneNote user for some time but it only works (at least for now) in a Microsoft environment. Evernote works with almost every operating system and almost every device. I have Evernote on every device I own and subscribe to the $45/year premium package. For more information on Evernote and their subscriptions check out their website. A comparison of OneNote and Evernote is beyond the scope of this post. I like and use both products. However, Evernote’s dramatically better operating system support makes it my go to personal knowledge management system.

Another discovery was that reading documents on a 7″ screen is dramatically better than a 4″ screen. Interestingly, the difference in reading the same document on a 10″ screen is somewhat better than a 7″ screen but not dramatically better. Like most people, I believe that the more screen real estate I have the happier I will be. I have screens ranging from 4″ to 22″. However, for most business applications, while a 10″ tablet screen is better, it’s not differentiated enough over the 7″ screen to justify the difference in cost.

The Android productivity apps that I have installed on both my smartphone and tablet are useful but still very lightweight. I use QuickOffice Pro as my primary Office-like app on both my Android devices. While it’s useful and I like that I can use several types of cloud storage options it isn’t an Office replacement and I have to resist the urge to try to force it to do more than it can do. I would recommend that you get ezPDF Reader rather than use the other available PDF readers. To me, it’s that much better and worth the price.

I’m happy with my selection of devices. I can carry all of them with me comfortably in a modest size briefcase and address my needs. When I want to leave the briefcase behind, the phone (on my hip) and tablet (in a small case) are even more portable. While your choices may differ, I believe that all of our goals are similar. We all need to be very portable, be able to consume content and do lightweight content creation everywhere. We need to be able to do serious content creation many places but not necessarily everywhere.

That’s all for now. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll see you next time.

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