1. Banking and Bills
My bank recently added the ability to deposit checks by taking a picture of them in their Android application. This saves me time, makes sure that my checks don’t get lost in the mail and simplifies the deposit process. For bills, Manilla’s app lets me check the status and amounts of bills. I don’t really have a good way to pay bills from the phone, but I’m not sure if that would really benefit me that much. I mainly need the phone to just make sure I don’t miss a bill and it isn’t a problem to do the actual payment from the computer.
I’m still a big fan of physical books, but having a few books on my phone means that I can do something useful when I have an unexpected delay waiting for someone. I also use it to read to my kids at night because I can turn off the room light and still read the screen. With the light off they go to sleep faster. Recently we read Around The World In 80 Days and Black Beauty. We are currently reading Journey To The Center Of The Earth. All of those books and many more are in the public domain so you can read them at no cost using pretty much any reader app.
I’ve been mainly using Amazon’s Kindle Reader because it keeps my place synced regardless of whether I’m reading on my phone or on their web-based Cloud Reader on the computer. I’ve also had good luck with Aldiko.
Another way I use my phone for reading is with Readability. I have a bookmark extension in my browser so if I find something I want to read later, I can save it to my queue. Later on when I have time to read, I can bring it up on my phone. There is an app for the iPhone, but the web version works well for Android. Readability will strip out everything except for the article itself so it is a lot easier to read on the smaller screen.
When I’m learning something new, I’ll take notes in Evernote. When I have a few spare minutes, I’ll bring Evernote up and read through the things I’m trying to remember. More recently I’ve started experimenting with Anki. It is a flashcard program and seems particularly useful for memorizing things like languages.
4. Instant Messaging
I do a lot of work with people in different timezones and a lot of our communication is over Google Talk and Skype. I can use both of these from my phone and it makes a huge difference in keeping things moving without being chained to my desk 24 hours a day. The downside is that it is easy to stay working even when you should be focusing on your family, but on the flip side it is easier to do things with family when you aren’t worried that your absence will bring other’s work to a stand still–particularly when they are people on your own payroll.
The really nice thing about these to IM tools is that I can start a conversation on the computer and seamlessly switch to my phone and vice versa. If a message is more involved than what I can easily type on my phone, I’ll switch to my computer to type out the details. If I’m headed out the door, I can continue the conversation using my phone.
5. Portable Copy Machine
I’ve been getting good use out of my phone as a type of portable copy machine / scanner. For example, a few weeks ago I was in Colorado waiting for a bus to take me to the ski mountain. I realized it would be nice to have the bus schedule of that stop with me for the next day, so I took a picture of it. Later on when I needed to look up the schedule I had it with me. Last week I had to go to the lock box to get some paperwork. I used my phone to photograph what I needed so I had it with me in electronic form for later.
Camera phones weren’t always good enough quality to use like this, but many new phones offer enough resolution to make readable copies.
So there are five ways that I use my phone to be more productive. What are yours? If you have any tips for getting more done with your phone, please share it in the comments.