My husband and I run a small carpentry contracting company. We’re not very technical, but we needed to communicate between office and field more efficiently, so we started looking at the current crop of smartphones. The iPhone was tempting, but we decided on Motorola Androids, since we wanted to stay with our current carrier (Verizon). A “buy one get one” offer cinched the deal for us.

These phones are amazing. It’s like having a minicomputer with you all the time. I know many people say they don’t need all the silly apps or bells and whistles (I was one), but we’ve found some very practical ones.

GPS. This is included on the Droid. It uses Google Maps to give you directions and a route map, or turn-by-turn directions via voice. There’s no need to carry another device in the truck.

Mobile modem. Before we bought the Droids, we used an AirCard to get our laptops online remotely, which worked but was painfully slow. We now use a “tethering” program that allows the phone to be used as a modem. Several apps can do this; EasyTether Lite ( has worked well for us so far.

Calendar. The Droid uses Google apps and comes with many pre-loaded. As an example, we set up a shared calendar on Google, where the information appears to all the users who share it. A notify/invite function sends an e-mail alert to the users, though you still need to make sure everyone routinely checks the calendar.

Weather updates. I set up what’s called a “widget” on my home screen with WeatherBug ( It gives me a small box with today’s forecast. One touch gives the forecast for the week. It also issues local severe weather warnings.

Color Note notepad and checklist ( Downloading this made paper lists a thing of the past.

Internet access. It’s quick and easy. The small screen is sometimes hard to read, but it’s also simple to zoom in and out.

We’ve found other cool apps, including one that lets us access a frequently visited website with just one click, another that allows flight check-in on Southwest Airlines, and another that gives me a daily Mark Twain quote.

More Pros

  • Most apps are free or have a nominal ($1-$5) cost.
  • Android Market offers over 30,000 apps — more than we’ll ever need.
  • The phone is solid, with a good-sized slide-out qwerty keyboard.
  • It has a 5-megapixel 4x-zoom camera and video capture (24 fps).
  • It works as a music player (MP3 and many others).
  • It’s Bluetooth enabled.

Some (Minor) Cons

  • Voice quality on the phone occasionally sounds garbled.
  • The sliding unlock feature and the touch keyboard took some getting used to. The device senses the heat from your fingers to activate keys and commands, so the screen doesn’t respond to pressure from a fingernail, pen, or stylus. I find the keypad difficult to maneuver in the car (another reason NOT to use the phone while driving). For these reasons, we’ll be buying Bluetooth headsets for the phones.
  • A good, durable case and screen protector are musts.
  • Each device requires a data plan that will set you back $30 a month.

Sue Burnet co-owns Manor Redevelopment in Berwyn, Ill.