iPhone: A Productivity Tool?

The iPhone is probably the best media centric consumer grade smartphone to date. But considering the added PDA functionality and ability to add third party software I see no reason why it can’t also be used as a productivity tool. So I decided to take on this task with nothing more than a little creativity and some third party applications.

The main reason why I chose this project was because I had a need to fill. That need being; to create a study guide to get me through my Emergency Medical Technician re-certification course without carrying anything extra to class including the EMT book for the next 6 months. The catch here was that it has to be updatable as pre-hospital procedures change during an EMTs career and easy for any other EMT to understand if read. My other reason was merely the challenge of getting through the entire course without having to write anything using pen and paper. My only exception to the rules is the use of a highlighter pen which I use to mark important sections of the EMT book and of course the usual written examinations given.

The first thing I did was to enter in the entire schedule of classes in the Calendar application of the iPhone. I did this because the course is pre-planned based on the EMT book. This would keep me ahead on the reading that had to be done. I entered the schedule mostly using the iPhone and a few using the Calendar application in MobileMe. Total time was about 45 minutes to enter all the information needed to avoid picking up the paper schedule ever again.

During training I use the built-in Notes application for quick note taking and keeping track of my test scores during class. For this course note taking is only for important testing information and any protocol changes. Even without any organizational functions the Notes application comes in very handy for jotting down important information.

I also found it quite useful to record the lectures for listening to later in case I missed something or to add information to the notes I already took. To accomplish this I used the free version of Griffin’s iTalk Recorder application. I chose iTalk for a few reasons but mainly because it is easy to use, and is free. Since I felt the iPhone would eventually get voice recording which was revealed on March 17, 2009 to be coming with the 3.0 update I didn’t feel compelled to dish out money for this just yet. For a free offering iTalk is a well thought out product, without being complicated and compersome to use making it an excellent choice. One of the features is being able to name each recording which makes it easy to keep recordings organized. Griffin’s iTalk Sync, the desktop client transfers the voice notes directly to the PC via WiFi giving you the added ability backup and/or archive important recording.

Another tool I use is Apple’s MobileMe in conjunction with Quickoffice’s MobileFiles. Using MobileMe I was able to upload the courses entire powerpoint presentation, the PDFs of the Practical Skills Sheets and the NYS Protocals to the My Documents folder. Then, using MobileFiles I created a folder on the iPhone called “EMT-B Training” and downloaded all the files to my iPhone for fast anytime access. This also eliminated any worries with poor cellular signals in the building or anywhere I am when I need to view them.

Using MobileFiles is pretty simple as you just need to sign into your MobileMe account to access your uploaded files. I use the basic version of MobileFiles since all I currently require is access to MobileMe and viewing of files. There’s currently 3 versions available, each with added capabilities should you need more than just the basic MobileMe access and functions.

Once all this was done I still needed to create the study guide itself. So I chose to use eWallet by Ilium Software. This was a “no brainer” for me as I already use it and it’s flexibility made accomplishing this part quite enjoyable. I created a wallet called “EMT Study Guide” and from there proceeded to add sections (folders), subsections (sub folders) and finally cards with all the necessary detailed information.
eWallet is a good secure wallet application that many of us former Windows Mobile users know quite well. eWallet’s main purpose is for maintaining important and private information in a secure file. But, the versatility of the software and and the ability to sync back and forth with the desktop client makes using and setting up eWallet as a study guide a breeze.

I am by no means finished with this but it is turning out to be quite a fun project. Suffice it to say I will not need pen and paper for this course. The iPhone has all my needs covered and it is a pleasure finding new ways to use software in which it was not originally intended for.

As you can see I really did nothing special except make use of what I have available to me. The iPhone has everything you need to be productive on a regular basis and best of all; it’s always with you. So the next time someone says “the iPhone is not a business or productivity tool” tell them that just isn’t true. This type of productivity is the sign of a true uber power user in my book. Take what you already have and expliot it to it’s fullest potential; adding only what you need.


12 thoughts on “iPhone: A Productivity Tool?

  1. Good article but…I think you’re missing the point about why people say the iPhone is not a business/productivity tool.

    You can’t easily edit documents, copy and paste. Makes it difficult to edit large documents where you want to move paragraphs around. not to mention simply copying a link or some text from one app to another. What’s the point of having notes in your iPhone if you can’t sync them. To be fair, these are coming..about f’ing time and there are some 3rd party apps like IMNotes that work very will in syncing Notes to MS Exchange in real time but again, limited to their apps. You can’t work with attachements. The list goes on. The limits of the iPhone as a business tool are spelled out in your article, you have to use “a little creativity” to work around all the limitations. Real smartphones, don’t have these limitations, you spend more time using it than trying to figure out how to use it.

  2. How you will be able to take notes on your iPhone, during class, while simultaneously recording your lecture since there is no multi-tasking?

  3. @Physboy: I never stated it was perfect but using it in the fashion I mentioned is quite possible since I’m actually doing it. People need to be a little creative to get around shortcomings of mobile devices. But in my particular case I don’t need to take notes during a lecture as it’s all based on the reading assignment previously assigned.

    @Joe: Yes, it does require a little creativity but a “real smartphone” as you put it is not defined solely by cut/copy/paste. “We” have forgotten that mobile devices are merely extensions of the PC and to be used in conjunction with them. While I understand your point (I miss my iPaq hx4700 for all it can do) being able to create and edit documents on a mobile device is not the priority of the majority of business users right now because unfortunately we are still required to do things like sign documents and to many of them still only use these wonderful mobile devices for mainly communications and not the official written kind either. So for the time being what we want out of our mobile devices is very much in the minority. Hopefully that will change someday soon, but if you read it carefully you’ll see that I merely stated how I got around things and made use of what I had.

  4. Any way you can use a device to make a task easier is what mobile tech is all about.

    I just completed my EMT-B class about a year ago. I used my WM5 phone along with a free program called vtap to watch or just stream audio of all the skills stations. As they tell you “if you didn’t say it you didn’t do it” streaming audio while driving to work helped memorize each step.

  5. @Physboy: BTW, with the new 3.0 firmware you can record audio using the built-in voice recorder and write notes at the same time..

    @Joe: I absolutely agree that Apple is so late on adding these basic functionalities that have been available in most other (even basic) phones..

  6. I am looking for some good emt study cards for my iphone. Any way you can shed some more light on how to make the notecards in ewallet? Do you have the card info saved?

  7. @KC, I based the guide off the EMT book we used in the class. Each category title is a chapter title and drills down just like the book is laid out. I then inlcuded only the notes I needed. It made it easier to go back to the book if necessary. Just be aware the eWallet doesn’t hold a lot of text so the information should be short and to the point.

  8. @Stephine Thanks for dropping by. Bookmarking and passing it along to others is just fine. Everything on my blog is open to share. Thanks for the good words.

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