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David Lee King: What has your Smartphone Replaced?

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Image: What has your Smartphone Replaced?

If you’re like me, you use your smartphone and your tablet a lot. A LOT. In thinking about my smartphone and tablet use, those two devices have replaced (or could replace) a lot of what I used to do on other devices.

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King

David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other articles…

Here’s a short list of things I used to do with other tools, but now do on my smartphone/tablet:

  1. Alarm clock: My old one died, and I haven’t replaced it. My smartphone works great as an alarm clock. And it automatically changes on Daylight Savings Time, so I don’t show up late/early to things.
  2. Watch: As soon as I owned a phone that fit in my pocket, I ditched the watch and haven’t looked back.
  3. Phone: ok, my smartphone is a phone, so that one’s a no-brainer, right? A few years ago, my wife and I ditched our landline phone. Because of our smartphones.
  4. Handwritten letters: That’s what email is for.
  5. Camera: I actually own a nice point-and-shoot camera (a Canon Powershot G7 X Mark II) that I use when I want nice-looking video (and don’t want to mess with a DSLR). But most people really don’t need another camera, because their smartphone takes great photos and videos.
  6. Video camera: See above. Some reporters even use their smartphones to capture the news as it’s happening.
  7. Calendar/daytimer: My phone does that. And dings at me when I’m supposed to be somewhere - something my paper calendar never did!
  8. Guitar tuner: I have an app for that.
  9. Huge paper list of passwords: OK, before social media and smartphones appeared, I probably didn’t have a lot of passwords to remember. Now however … let’s just say I have a LOT of passwords. Thankfully, there’s an app for that (I use 1Password).
  10. Notebooks: I mostly use a Moleskine paper notebook for work meetings. Sometimes I go digital, and do my note taking in Evernote on a smartphone or tablet.
  11. Weather app: There wasn’t really a single device when I was growing up that checked the weather. You could install an outdoor thermometer, and watch the news to see the weather. You could also buy a weather radio that tuned into the weather service alerts. The weather app is so much easier.
  12. Radio/CDs/Stereo systems: iTunes and Spotify pretty much play anything I want to listen to.
  13. Map apps: I never owned a separate GPS map device, but I’m certain my smartphone map apps would have easily replaced them.

I’m sure there are others.

Image: What has your Smartphone Replaced?

There are also some really cool apps that do things that simply didn’t exist before the app. Some examples include:

  1. Google Translate: I was recently in Germany, and Google Translate actually worked. It successfully translated words from German into English. Even in Airplane Mode.
  2. Shazam: I love the Shazam app. When I hear really cool music on the radio or in a store, I can usually find out what that song is by using Shazam.
  3. Night Sky: Like stars and constellations? Point this app at the sky, and it will tell you where everything is. How awesome is that?
  4. Photomath: Photomath does just what the name implies. Open the app, point your camera to a math problem, and this app solves the problem for you. And shows the work, too. Don’t tell your kids about this one!

How does this relate to libraries? In quite a few ways. Some thoughts:

  1. Do app advisory with your customers (see my App Advisory at the Library article for more info)
  2. Think about how you work. Maybe you don’t need to buy another notebook/calendar/camera/etc. if your smartphone meets your work life needs.
  3. Work devices might change. For example, our security and facilities staff at the library don’t have “normal” phones, pagers, and two-way radios anymore. Instead, they use iPhones with apps that mimic pagers and radios. We turned three devices into one device.
  4. Going to a conference? Maybe you don’t need to take a laptop to take notes and stay connected. Instead, you can probably get by using a tablet. Maybe even your smartphone.
  5. How about library staff technology needs - does everyone really need a desktop computer? Can some staff succeed with smartphones and tablets? I’m not joking - I know some CEOs that primarily use tablets to do their work. It’s definitely an idea worth exploring.

So what’s my point? Libraries and library work life is changing fast. Most of the changes I listed above have taken place in the last 5-10 years. It’s a good idea to purposefully think through what your staff needs to do their work, and to keep that in mind as technology continues to rapidly shift and change in the next 10 years. So start experimenting with those apps and mobile devices!