Smartphones - everywhere you look you'll see an iPhone, Blackberry, Android or Windows phone. Case in point: nine out of 10 delegates from the NZ Marine Industry Conference answered my online survey by saying yes, they have a smartphone.
You either love them or hate them, but one thing is sure: most people (and companies) are wasting their money buying them, because they're hardly using any of the features. Most people simply use them to call, text, do a bit of email and web browsing. I'd hazard an estimate that under 1 per cent of people use smartphones well.
Let me outline a few ways to make a smartphone work harder. Before I do, I'd like to address those in the corporate world who hate their phones because they feel they put them on call 24 hours a day and steal time from family life.
I beg to differ. I think they actually offer you the ability to achieve better balance if you do two things.
First, apply self-discipline. You can turn off or walk away from your phone at night. You can turn off the email function. Also, you can use the little pieces of downtime you have during the day. Times like standing in line or waiting for a meeting. These are the times to look at emails and catch up on messages, rather than letting them accumulate and handling them after 7pm.
Back to the ways you can get more value from your smartphone.
While driving in the car, listen to audio books. Public libraries have plenty you can digitally check out for two weeks.
Paperwork - no fax
If you are completing paperwork with a client, or are out of the office (and the form is not online) snap a photo of it and email it back for immediate data entry.
Verbally document meetings and save the file for future reference.
Shows videos to clients
Help sell, showing potential clients videos and pictures stored on your phone.
A great idea for so many businesses - for example, real estate and car repair. Take before and after photos. Photos of products or people are another option.
An office away from the office
Your phone does about 80 per cent of what your computer does. Dropbox can store documents online, and you can use gmail docs or similar services.
All the phones have free apps for social media, allowing you to contribute when you're out. A perfect example is when out networking, at functions, or with a client - you can upload photos, videos, tweet or talk about the occasion.
Most businesses - especially the self-employed - have too few testimonials, and feel reticent about asking a client to take the extra effort. Why not record the testimonial? Just a quick little "do you mind if I catch what you're saying on video" (or voice recording). This bit of gold can then be posted on your website, or YouTube. The link can be emailed, and written into proposals and quotes.
I was just in the US for three weeks. I used Skype on my iPhone to call my son in Britain and call home. This saved a bundle in phone calls, plus you can do video calls (on the iPhone 4). I called clients and returned calls with Skype, paying 1c to 19c a minute, rather than the higher cost of a mobile call.
Built in GPS
Why buy a system for your car when you have one in your phone?
It's easier to text than on older cellphones
Use text more - it saves time and money and is fine in most business contexts when you have to pass a message on.
There are thousands of applications you can get to help you in dieting and fitness, alarms to wake you, compasses to steer you, museums to peruse and virtual apps to show you ratings on restaurants or where to find the next cafe.
Debbie Mayo-Smith is a bestselling author and international speaker.