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The 7-Eleven Effect

January 2010

By Elizabeth Laird

My friend Becky has owned both the iPhone and the recently-released Motorola Droid, in the past 30 days. She switched because the iPhone kept dropping calls, but she wanted to keep all of the bells and whistles of a smartphone. Serviced by the Android Market, this Google-equipped, Verizon-serviced smartphone works better in the DC area and is the sole service provider on the metro. Although she wasn’t immediately happy after returning the iPhone because she found the Droid was not as intuitive, she has "grown to love [her] new smartphone because it does everything [she] wants at the same time." Bulkier and heavier, what the Droid lacks in "tech appeal" it makes up for with reliability.

Regardless of the model, the myriad smartphone applications allow its owner to see how humid DC is that day, know when the next bus/metro train is arriving, and even find the price of a boxset of The Wire by taking a picture of the barcode. An informal survey of my Washingtonian friends and smartphone owners indicate the following applications make their lives easier and better:

The Weather Channel--Be the first to know if it is raining donkeys and elephants. (free)

iTrans DC Metro--Provides metro map, walking directions, and train schedules and is available for other cities. ($.99)

Red Laser--Scans bar codes to compare prices and read product reviews. ($1.99)

Shazam--Recognizes music and provides information about the artist and enables purchasing the song immediately. (free)

Taxi Magic--Sends for a taxi, tracks its arrival, and submits online payment. (free)

Congress-- Offers complete congressional database with photos, political affiliation, and congressional district. ($.99)

You have to be living under a cherry blossom tree to not have a Facebook and/or Twitter account in DC. Rather than exchanging phone numbers on cocktail napkins, Washingtonians go green and commit to finding each other on Facebook, or "I’ll follow you on Twitter." Smartphones allow you to use and update these sites on-the-go through applications like Facebook for iPhone and Tweetie.

In addition to improving the usability of social networking sites, smartphones have also spawned social communities that are managed exclusively though a smartphone. One example is Loopt (paired with Loopt Mix.) The apps combine social networking and GPS with Loopt allowing you to keep up with your friends, what they are doing, and where they are, and Loopt Mix connecting you with new people in your area. My friend Jessie even used this to manage a long distance relationship, saying that Loopt allowed him to feel connected with his significant other and even more practically track the progress of his significant other as he drove to visit him.

The nexus of the smartphone, mobile applications, and social networking sites have ensured that a city of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth but stay connected in new ways. Yes we can.


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