There are many smart phones on the market today, so many choices to make. Just walk into Best Buy and your head will start spinning.
Smart phones are usually not for those who just want “a mobile phone.” Smart phones are for people who want to maintain communication with the outside world using so many more options available.
Here is an iPhone review by one of the most technically knowledgeable truck drivers I know, Mark Pritchard, aka @markinark on Twitter. If anyone studies, researches, and understands the most current technologies available….MARK does.
Mark refers to himself as “I’m a geek, a trucker, and a grandpa, and so far I am enjoying all 3…”
Review of the Apple iPhone by Mark Pritchard, USA
Home state Arkansas Company FWCC of Muldrow, OK,
“There have been some questions in the Blogosphere wondering if the iPhone can be a credible business tool. My answer is a resounding “Maybe”. As a geek and a trucker, I say it has some good points. I’ll hit a few high spots.
First off, is it a good phone? Actually, yes. People I talk to report clears speech, a reasonable volume, and very little background noise. Paired with a good quality Bluetooth headset and the sound quality goes up. Of course, much depends on the network, but AT&T is decent. What was a surprise to me was how far out of town you can go and still get a good signal. The antenna in the iPhone completely internal and usually covered by the hand. Any one who drives the hills of Pennsylvania, back roads of Arkansas, or anywhere in western Wyoming quickly learns the meaning of limited access.
Again, network dependent. The full screen controls provide easy access to all the phone features, contacts list, voice mail, recent call lists. It is a nice change from the tiny buttons on my last Motorola phone. There is not a one button speed dial function, mostly because there are no buttons. But you do get a “favorites” list you populate with names from your contacts, and the phone will dial with one touch on the list. No voice activated dialing, but I understand AT&T offers that as an optional service. And last,the phone book/contacts list can be synchronized with your favorite contact list on the web or laptop thru Google, MobileMe, Hotmail, and even Microsoft Exchange.
The other half of the device is the “Smart Phone” features. There is a growing population of truck drivers with laptops in their cabs. The big brokerage houses have web access to post and book loads. Truck stops all have services and fuel prices on the web. The big money services like Comdata or TCH have web portals to generate checks and move funds around. Fuel accounts are managed on the web. I have seen one large company with its dispatch, driver check-in, and scheduling all up on the web. With full HTML web browsing instead of that tiny WAP system, a driver can have all of that information in his or her shirt pocket. Will the iPhone replace the laptop? No. But your sitting at breakfast, and you remember you need to rebook a load or pay a bill, the laptop is out in the truck, so pull the phone, tap some keys, go back to coffee…
About the screen, the Apple spec says 3.5 inch 480 X 320. For a phone, that is huge. It is bright, in full daylight the screen is easily readable. There is a user selectable auto-dim feature that responds well to changing light conditions. In the cab at night, the phone will self-dim down to about the same as dash lights. So far all of the text and images I have seen have been clear and crisp. I strongly recommend getting some kind of full face screen protection film for the iPhone. In the truck there is dust, dirt, diesel oil fumes, and this will wind up on the glass. You can clean and replace the screen protector for around $10 at your favorite big box store. Replacing the iPhone glass is more like $200 and a couple weeks without your gadget.
Google maps on the iPhone offers real time traffic information for major cities. The Weather Channel has a free app that gives you real time weather, satellite pictures, and even live video forecasts. The built in mail client works with all the big web mail services, and supports standard POP3 mail for corporate server. If something goes wrong, the built in camera makes documenting the broken freight simple, and keeps the safety director happy. (neat trick that last) You can email the photos directly to your insurance man from the phone. With a small expense tracker, a spreadsheet or two, and the driver can have all the information needed to plan the day, or the week. For the modern trucking industry, facing tight schedules, thin profit margins, and complex government regulation; accurate record keeping and smooth information flow are critical to success. The iPhone has enough computational power to be a useful information management tool.
So its all roses, yes? No. The iPhone does not have a physical keyboard. You type on the screen. It does take a little practice, but my fingers learned after about a week. And the battery life is not wonderful. Real world work, mine runs about 5 hrs on a charge. By that I mean typing email, surfing the web, pulling down weather maps, making phone calls, and playing Tetris while I wait for the shipper to find his pick list. (yes, it has games, and music, it IS an ipod, too) Apple could have done better with the battery, every one says so. They could have gone with a removable battery, so we could just plug in the spare and keep going. Not going to happen. According to people “in the know” a removable battery is about as likely as the devil wearing snowshoes or pig with wings…pick your favorite metaphor. I don’t see that as the large problem some tech analysts have made it out to be. Most of my day, I am in or near the truck, with all the shiny power plugs my geek heart could want. If I am in the office for 5 hours, something is very wrong with my day that batteries won’t fix.
Will the iPhone make me a rich truck driver? Not unless someone emails me their Swiss Bank account numbers. Will it make me more efficient and profitable? I believe so. It is one of a growing collection of high-tech tools that are finding their way into truck cabs. It is convenient and portable, two must-haves for a Driver. And the original Space Invaders game is available so you can blast aliens while you wait for that last pallet of fuzzy dice to come off the dock. See y’all down the road… ”
Oh, Mark also uses the iPhone Application “Trucker” which we were thrilled to hear.
© 2009, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.