Talk to your phone and have it whisper back one task at a time

I was going to point this Harvard Business Review article out to you because it’s about using your phone to capture all those stray thoughts you have. I do this constantly. Especially when driving, I will now many, many, many times per drive say aloud “Hey, Siri, remind me to…”. Sometimes I’ll tell it to remind me at a certain time or a certain place. And I knew I wasn’t alone in this but I wanted you to hear someone else saying it, hence:

Throughout the day, I tell my phone to “remind me to follow up with Sarah about the Warren account next Tuesday morning,” “remind me to pack my phone charger when I get home,” or even “remind me to buy gum tonight at 9.” Yes, I come in for a certain amount of mockery (as when a friend overheard me dictating that gum reminder), but I’d rather be mocked for my voice dictation than for my tendency to forget commitments.

Conquer Your To-Do List with Your Phone – Alexandra Samuel, Harvard Business Review (1 December 2014)

However, Samuel makes a hell of a good point that I had not thought of.

Creating reminders on your phone also means that you’ll be triggered to act on the tasks you’ve captured at a certain time, wherever you are. I’ve never been diligent about reviewing to-do lists, largely because they quickly get so daunting that I can’t bear to look at them. Instead, I now rely on reminders that feed me one thing at a time – instead of facing the long list of everything I have on my plate.

She’s right, isn’t she? Read the full piece.

Yeah, yeah, put the phone down, all that


I was a mobile junkie. The phosphorescent glow left me mesmerized and needing more. Each Snapchat or push notification fueled my need for news, updates, and winning the battle against boredom. At my worst, most conversations with friends and family would start with “do you have a charger?”

I remember the turning point. I had just returned from a camping trip where I ‘witnessed’ a beautiful sunset. As I was reminiscing over the dozens of photos I took, I barely had any recollection of ACTUALLY being there. I was so focused on eternalizing the moment through my phone, that I hadn’t taken the time to eternalize it in my brain. I accepted my addiction and decided to make a change.

This is your brain on mobile — Jeremy Vanderhey, Medium (10 August 2014)

Read the full piece.

The Verge on the best coming-soon Android features

This means nothing to me. But if it’s your thing, knock yourself out while I deal with a sudden hankering to visit Vienna. Let me know if any of these features look like they’ll be handy for productivity, would you? Thanks.

Google’s approach for rolling out the latest version of Android, Lollipop, is a little different. There are the usual things we see every year — a new Nexus phone and a new Nexus tablet — but instead of a big event, the company is posting details in blog posts and on the main Android site. So if you’re tracking the rollout closely, you probably have a sense of what’s new and what’s cool in the OS. If you’re not, though, getting a sense of what Lollipop is actually like and what it actually does isn’t easy.

Luckily, we got a chance to sit down with some Google execs last week to get a walkthrough of the coolest features. We won’t know everything until we actually have a chance to use the final version, but there are some clever additions we saw last week. Here are some of our favorites.

12 of the best new features in Android Lollipop – Dieter Bohn, The Verge (28 October 2014)

Read the full piece.

Apple’s iOS 8.1 is out and adds some goodies

I’ve a friend I like a lot who doesn’t have an iPhone. I know. But when she texts me, I can be knee deep in my Mac or on my iPad and I’ve got to get out my phone and send her a reply from there. I know, crazy.

As of now, in fact as of about midnight last night, that ends.

With iOS 8.1, when she texts me in her ordinary texting way, my iPhone will get it in its ordinary way but will automatically, unthinkingly, un-setting-up-ily pass that text on to my Mac and iPad. She’ll be there in amongst everyone else I exchange iMessages with.

And I’ll be able to reply to her from there.

So, yes, I’ll type at my Mac and it will pass the text over iMessage to my iPhone and my iPhone will text it out to her but you are reading the only time I will ever have to spend even this long thinking about it. It’ll just be what happens.

You can get iOS 8.1 on your iPhone and iPad now. Open Settings, General and tap on Software Update.

Handiest. Thing. Ever. Make and take phone calls on your Mac

If you’re the kind of person who leaves your iPhone in a pocket or purse placed inconveniently across the room, you’ll appreciate the ability to answer an incoming call with your Mac. You can also initiate calls from your Mac—to the other person, the call will look like it’s coming from your iPhone, but you’ll be chattering away with your Mac’s built-in microphone and speakers. For this to work you have to configure both your Mac and iPhone.

How to make and receive iPhone calls with your Mac – Christopher Breen, Macworld (17 October 2014)

This is the thing I think I am most looking forward to using now that I’ve moved from the OS X Yosemite beta to the final release. In theory it worked before but I had problems and put them down to the beta nature of it all. Plus I just put it down, decided to do it again some day.

That day is now. Or it would be if I were back at my office. I’m away with my iPad and I have already used that to make and receive calls. The audio quality is subtly different but receiving calls sounds great and making calls sounds fine. I love how it just happened, too. I’d left my iPhone in my office and was reading something on my iPad somewhere else in the house when the phone rang – and then so did my iPad. One tap and I was taking that call. Gorgeous.

So I know I’ll use that again and I know that I’ll use it when my Mac is doing it too. Maybe even more so: I do a lot of phone interviews so I’m assuming I will be able to use Audio Hijack Pro to record these. This could even transform my biggest problem of prevaricating before phoning people. When they are one tap away, I’m going to tap.

If you’re using iOS 8 on an iPhone and an iPad, those two already work together, you’re set. If you want to do it with your Mac too, you need to do a couple of things. Read this full piece on Macworld for exactly how to do it.

Put your phone away and go to sleep

photoI have very clearly noticed that I sleep better when my iPhone is not displaying a clock face all night. (I do lower the brightness, I’m not daft. I’m not that daft. Okay, I’m not that daft about that one thing.) Even so, I carry right on doing exactly that and apparently so do you.

Okay, most people with smartphones keep their phones near them at night. Okay, 95% of people in a very specific study do:

I asked staff at BuzzFeed, in a survey, if they ever fall asleep with their phones in their beds. Of the 82 people who responded, 70% said they at least sometimes sleep with their phones in their beds, and 41% said they do it almost every night.
Single people were somewhat more likely to sometimes sleep with their phones in their bed — 78% of singles and 61% of people in relationships said they at least sometimes sleep with their phones in their bed. Roughly 95% said they sleep with their phones either in their beds, or on a nightstand or floor right next to it, and only four people said they leave their phones away from the bed, either in another room or on another side of the room.

We Can’t Stop Sleeping With Our Phones And We’re A Little Anxious About It – Hillary Reinsberg, Buzzed (25 August 2014)

I’m just not sure it’s a problem. I pop my iPhone onto its stand each night and I have this conversation with Siri:

Wake me at 4:59am
Wake me at 5:01am
Switch on Do Not Disturb
Open Awesome Clock

Awesome Clock is the curiously no longer available app that lets me have that clock face on my phone all night. (Gorgeously, you just swipe down and it dims, swipe up and it brightens. Love it.) And the bit with two alarms is that for some reason my iPhone will occasionally fail to make a sound if I ask for one. I set two and it works.

But the key thing there is probably that Do Not Disturb. The phone is on but unless you’re someone I’ve said is important enough to get to me, you don’t. Mind you, in case you’re reading this and thinking both that you thought you were important to me and yet I didn’t answer last night, your getting through my phone is no guarantee of your getting through to my skull. And I did dream about you last night, so you got to me on some entertaining if not very useful level. Hello again. What did you want to say?

Sorry? You want the link for the full Buzzfeed piece? It’s no trouble.

Don’t wait

Yes, it’s easier to put that phone call off and yes, you’re probably right that you wouldn’t get the work. Everybody is calling, everybody is more qualified than you.

Just promise me that the next time something like this comes up, you say yes or you phone immediately to ask about it. This is easy for me to say because I suspect I have more faith in you that you do, you daft eejit, but because it’s easy for me to say, I’m saying it. Maybe you won’t get the gig but you can do it, you can do it in the way that only you can. Don’t write off an opportunity.

This is also easy for me to say because most of the time, I do it. It is hard, I grant you. Especially the phone call part: for some reason that is a killer for me. If I’m doing a job for you, fine. And I’ve been a journalist for years, it’s natural and second nature to pick up the phone then. But for myself, calling about something I want, it’s tough.

But whenever I haven’t called or I have hesitated, I’ve got nothing.

And whenever I’ve said yes, it’s worked out. Sometimes better than others. Occasionally I’ve looked around wondering what in the world I’m doing here and how will I make it through another two days of this. But usually, it works and works out well.

I can see where I was when I got a round-robin email from a colleague on the Writers’ Guild committee saying he wasn’t able to go to a thing, would one of us want to do it instead? I said yes and filling in for him at one single meeting has led to nearly a year so far of very many and varied jobs that all sprang from there. I get to work and have a really great time with people I’d not heard of before I said yes.

It is true that there are better qualified people than me, there are simply better people than me. But so long as they hesitate and I say yes, I’m okay with that.

Amazon Fire Phone

My considered opinion after Amazon finally unveiled its own smartphone is that I like the name.

Beyond that I do have a curiosity about exactly how easy this phone will make it for people to spend more money at Amazon. I am immune to this, I am above such trivialities as UNCONTROLLABLE BOOK BUYING ON IMPULSE, or at least I will be via this phone because I won’t get it.

I don’t know that I’ll buy the forthcoming iPhone 6 either – though as I’m now out of contract, I’ll certainly look at it – but there’s no way I’m chucking this for an Amazon Shopping Trollery. I mean, Amazon Fire.

But BBC News has done an interesting roundup of reactions across the web from people who know more than I do.

Dial 6 for Murder (and other phone tips)

The downside of having our phones with us all the time is that we have our phones with us all the time. We end up getting calls we don’t want and there are times when we either have to make calls we’d prefer not to – or we are obliged to give out our number. You can’t stop all that but you can make it less of a problem.

Next time you get Unknown Caller and it is another sales call, do whatever you normally do and after you’ve got that out of you system, put their number into your system. Take that moment to add it under the name Spam. And the next one who calls, also Spam.

After a while you will build up this contact called Spam with an awful lot of phone numbers. But it’s surprising how often the same spam numbers call you so while this won’t cure all such calls, you will regularly see the name Spam as Caller ID and can just tap the decline button.

As for making calls, get a burner phone. You’ve seen this in movies: the baddies and/or the goodies who are falsely accused of being baddies and are on the run, they all get burner phones. They’re just another mobile phone that you buy anonymously and you only use for a specific job before throwing them away or planting them on your enemy.

Cheaper and handier than buying new phones all the time, you can just buy an app. Burner is a free iPhone app that gives your phone a new, temporary number. You only get a very limited-use number for free but you can buy new temp ones and delete the old ‘uns at any time.

If you’re thinking that you simply can’t remember the last time you were on the lamb, pursued by the police forces of Illinois and needing to run some interference for the mob, you can also use Burner for eBay. Craigslist, eBay, anything where you need to give out your number to someone but, seriously, you don’t want them phoning you for the next ten years trying to be your buddy.

I don’t get that a lot. But most every woman I know does. For them – or at least for women in the US – here’s my favourite phone trick that will surely, hopefully come to the UK too:

The experience is all-too familiar for many women. An overly aggressive suitor asks for your number. You feel uncomfortable or unsafe, manipulated or just want to end the interaction. Sometimes, it feels easier to hand over your digits than to reject the person outright; but you don’t want to field unwanted text messages or phone calls.

Been there? Over it? Go ahead and memorize this number: (669) 221-6251.

That’s the hotline for the new Feminist Phone Intervention, which automatically replies to calls or text messages from unwelcome admirers with an automatically-generated quote by renowned feminist writer, theorist and professor, bell hooks.

As the anonymous saviors behind the hotline write on Tumblr, “Why give any old fake number, when you can have bell hooks screen your calls?”

This Feminist Hotline Replies To Your ‘Unwanted Suitors’ With A bell hooks Quote – Huffington Post (13 June 2014)

I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of bell hooks. In following that link through to Feminist Phone Intervention, I didn’t learn a lot more but it was a lot more sobering. This is that site’s explanation for why its makers set up the service:

because we’re raised to know it’s safer to give a fake phone number than to directly reject an aggressive guy.
because we’re raised to know that evasion or rejection can be met with violence.
because women are still threatened and punished for rejecting advances.
because (669) UGH-ASIF, WTF-DUDE, and MAJR-SHADE were taken.
because why give any old fake number, when you can have bell hooks screen your calls?
so next time, just give out this number: (669) 221-6251
tech to protect.

Feminist Phone Intervention website

Not a great world, is it?

Who needs Siri when you’ve a $10,000 phone and a real assistant?

I would totally buy one of these. If I had $10,000 and no sense, if I had a need for an assistant more accurate than Siri, and if this new Vertu Signature Touch phone ran iOS. As it is, I haven’t, I haven’t, I haven’t and it doesn’t.


(Image from Vertu and via

Actually, I’m not even sure I like the look of it. For that cost – and please note that $10,000 is the starting price for the base model, you can spend up to $21,900 – I’d want to like looking at this plastic and metal embodiment of a bank loan.

Wait, I’m feeling the cost of this but only intellectually. Let me punch myself in the stomach with the Sterling prices. The base model is £5,972.41. The top one is £13,079.58.

Actually, that sounds reasonable. I’ll take two. Have you got them in blue?

Oh, wait, there is a tiny extra. Just £1,791.72 or $3,000 per year extra:

The Signature Touch’s Concierge service is what sets it apart from other phones. It’s free for the first year, then jumps to around $3,000 a year. Concierge makes the phone more like an American Express Black Card or a diplomatic passport. It works like this: You request (legal and somewhat reasonable) things via the Concierge app, and then a real, live person makes them happen. You basically have a personal assistant on call at all times. A little button on the side of the phone fires up the Concierge app directly. The assistant who helped me was Celine. She was great.

To commence my Vertu experience, the company offered to book me a dinner reservation at the members-only CORE:Club to show how the Concierge could gain access to exclusive places. I declined that offer, as I wanted to test the Concierge using my own requests.

Instead, I checked OpenTable at 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday and found popular restaurants fully booked that day and on the weekend. There was nothing available for dinner at ABC Kitchen in a few hours or brunch at Red Rooster the next morning. I opened the Concierge app and asked for reservations at 7:30pm that night and noon the next day, knowing it would be tricky. No problem, reservations booked. Thanks Celine! On another Saturday night, I was a head-nod away from getting a group of five on the VIP list at a fancy club called Avenue. If we’d been willing to pay $200 apiece for a table and bottle service—and had any intention of actually going—we’d have been in. Coincidentally, $200 is the price of a normal phone.

What It’s Like to Use a $10k Phone with a Real-Life Personal Assistant – Tim Moynihan, Wired (5 June 2014)

Read the full article: Moynihan is very conscious of the cost yet also able to step away from that and see the benefits and the problems of the phone and service.