The Best Mobile Devices for Writers: 2013

I am anti-consumerism, anti-materialistic, anti-spending money-on-unnecessary-things.  However, I’ve been searching for the perfect do-all writing device.  Once upon a time, I used to carry around a notebook and a pen, and when I was inspired, I could write my musings down on paper.  I can still do that, but as a blogger and fiction writer, paper and pen isn’t practical. I often need internet connectivity for research and updating my blog.

Currently, I have a cell phone, netbook, laptop, and music player (kind of like the iPod touch).  On any given day, I have two or three of these devices on hand. Unfortunately, I rarely have wi-fi available when I need it. And my touchscreen devices (cell phone and music player) are terrible for writing purposes.  Furthermore, I can only really use my cell phone for texting and talking on the phone. My phone isn’t really that great for email, or any other applications. That’s why I got the music player–by the way, I cracked the screen a couple of weeks ago by dropping it two feet down to the ground; this incident is what inspired this post. Also, my laptop and netbook are useless if I want to update my blog posts and I don’t have wi-fi. Trying to adapt to this situation, and not spend too much money, I’ve spent too much money. Now I’m just to the point where I have too many pieces of technology that I have to worry about, so something has got to change.

I’m in a unique predicament.  I’m hesitant to acquire a new device because of my desire to spend less money and my current condition of having very little allotted to a discretionary budget. Additionally, I want a multi-function device, constant access to the internet, and a physical keyboard.

What I realized is that we have to stop thinking of our phones as a do-all device. Apple started this nonsense in 2007 when they released the first iPhone.  It may be convenient to have one device for everything, but it isn’t practical when that one device doesn’t truly serve all of those needs.

I’ve been all over the net looking for a guide for the best mobile devices for writers. I couldn’t find one, so I did a little research and wanted to share what I found:

  1. Blackberry Q10: This is my dream phone. They keyboard is great for typing; the touchscreen is great for web browsing; and Blackberry, all around, is wonderful for email. I can open and edit documents from Microsoft Word without having to pay a gazillion dollars for an app. I can write and manage my blog with the WordPress app. I can use the phone for making notes of ideas that come to me at inconvenient times. It worked great when I used to take the bus to work because I could blog on my phone.  The only downside is that writing fiction on a mobile phone is kind of a pain if I need write dialogue. If I had this phone, I probably wouldn’t carry around my netbook or laptop unless I knew I’d be writing fiction.
  2. Any Smartphone with a keyboard: My preference is Blackberry, but I found a few newer model phones with keyboards that may work well as a do-all device for a writer. There really aren’t (aside from Blackberry) any high end phones with keyboards. The three I thought worth mentioning are:
    • Blackberry Bold in the 9900 series: I wanted this phone when it came out a year or so ago. My dad had one for work and I envied him. But this phone wasn’t available on my carrier when I was shopping for phones at that time. This phone is available on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon. It is $100 on all carriers with a 2-year contract.
    • Droid 4: Android phone available on Verizon. It got OKAY reviews.  I haven’t tried it personally, but it will probably do the job. It’s 100 bucks with a 2-year-contract.
    • Samsung Galaxy S Relay: This is a lower-end phone on T-Mobile, but it’s the newest and best one they’ve got.
    • Sprint actually has a bunch of phones with a keyboard, but they are lower-end and older models.
  3. Smartphone with an add-on slide out keyboard:  I don’t know why I didn’t try this with my iPhone 3Gs when I had one.
    • Sharper Image has one for the iPhone 4
    • I found this one on Amazon.com for the iPhone 5
    • I’ve even found a few for the Galaxy S3. And it makes me kind of excited because that phone has an enormous screen so it would be easier to see while writing.  I would never have considered getting this phone because my hands are too small to type on the touchscreen. A keyboard changes everything.
  4. 4G Tablet with Bluetooth or  keyboard: I think tablets are great, except they are moronic for any sort of writing, unless hunt and peck is your style. Now they have an assortment cases and bluetooth keyboards that you can pair with your tablet.  I see it as having an extremely light computer on the go.  The only downside is that I’m not sure that typing on a flat surface keyboard will be comfortable for long periods of time. Nonetheless, I heard that Logitech and Zagg keyboards were the best; that they are the closest to the real deal. If you already have a tablet, this may be worth a try.
  5. Netbook with 4G connectivity: Computers can do anything that a smart phone can do, with much more functionality. If you buy a computer with a 4G plan, you will always have internet available to you.  They make some nice, light and sleek ones nowadays. These you will usually find with your wireless carrier
  6. Mobile Broadband via USB: This option is particularly attractive to me because I don’t need a new device. It is also the least expensive.  I can connect my netbook or laptop on the go.  I found that T-Mobile offers a mobile broadband plan for 3.5GB/month for $35/month. If I’ll I’m doing is blogging or researching for my blog, 3.5GB is more than sufficient. I don’t know how great the service is, do you have any thoughts? I’m sure other companies offer prepaid mobile broadband plans and 2-yr contract plans for more money.  If I try the T-Mobile plan, I’ll let you know how it goes.
  7. Mobile Broadband via Hotspot: This device provides the same internet service as a mobile broadband USB device, except you can provide wi-fi for a few devices at the same time. If have a hotspot, and your data needs are fairly low, you can use it at home and cancel cable internet. With Broadband internet via USB or Hotspot, the only devices you’d probably carry would be a cell phone and a small laptop.

 

So that’s the list.  Is there anything else I haven’t thought of? What do you devices do you use to write when you are on the go?

 

*** Update May 2014.  So, I ended up buying the Blackberry Q10 last summer and I love it.  I don’t use the WordPress app as much as I thought I would. The app is not as good as on the older Blackberry models (Blackberry OS 7), so I just don’t feel like dealing with it.  Yet, I do use this device frequently for writing on the go.  I type bits and pieces of my novel in a word document on my phone and then upload the document to Dropbox (over wifi) for a copy-paste into my novel later. If you have a cell phone company with lots of data, you probably could sync Dropbox all the time and write directly into your novel or whatever else.

Typing is great on here. The touch screen makes web browsing easier, but I do miss the trackpad that older Blackberrys had. Sending emails to clients is a piece of cake on this device.  Battery life is amazing: I’ve lasted two days with this thing.

One thing that I love about this phone with Verizon is my ability to create a hotspot.  I use that feature all the time when I’m away from the house.  It doesn’t cost me extra money.  I like the hotspot for my laptop or netbook. I can always write and access my documents from anywhere. Blogging online doesn’t use too much data– even though I haven’t been keeping up with it.  Actually the 4GLTE is faster than my internet at home and at my ex-job.

Device Downfalls:

Apps.  This this not a gamer’s phone.  I have apps and games on here, but I’ve just gotten used to the lack of availability of apps.   My cellphone is a tool, not a toy. And while I do use Facebook and a side-loaded version of Instagram on here, those apps were not the reason why I bought this particular phone. (You can sideload pretty much any Android app on here; the side-loaded apps work great.  I haven’t had any problems doing this. For me it’s kind of a pain, and I don’t really use apps that much anymore. )

Another down fall: this device was not cheap. Nor is my cell phone plan with 3GB of data. I pay $112.80 a month on this sucker with Verizon. Whew!! It’s expensive.  I miss my cheapy phone bill!

Last issue: Call quality.  Not superb. Not even really good.  I don’t know if my phone was defective or if it’s Verizon cell phone service, but the phone handset quality is not that awesome (for neither the speakerphone nor the handset).  I can always hear okay, but people say they cant hear me that well.  I never looked into the issue. However, if I’m on a serious, important or lengthy phone call, I use a headset or Bluetooth and that fixes the problem.  I’m not on the phone enough anyway to really care.

Overall, I like the phone, despite its pitfalls. Although, I’ll probably find a new cell carrier when my contract expires next year, I will probably stick with Blackberry!

 

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