Appreciating Technology: iPhone Love in 2013

"You know, I was thinking about it - advancements in technology have been a wonderful thing, and many say it's brought the world closer together, has kept people more connected."    -Janet Kuypers, Technology and Communication 
I have always been behind the pack when it comes to (acquiring) cell phones and technology. My mom wanted to put it off as long as possible, so I didn't get my first cell phone until my junior year of high school (April 2008 to be exact.) Mind you, I am the oldest of four siblings, my brother and I got a phone at the same time with my mom and it made life way easier for our family of six, but there was still a ways to go. That first phone was a red Samsung flip phone - the top swiveled around to utilize a "fancy" 3.0 megapixel camera. WOO! Well, back in 2008 it had a larger resolution than most camera phones at the time, and there were other people who had the same model, so I wasn't completely behind.

Appreciating Technology in 2013, old to new phones

Fast forward to my freshman year of college, December 2009, when I got my second phone as an upgrade, the (also red) LG EnV 3. It had been a popular phone amongst my dance teammates in high school, so this is where I started to fall farther behind. The flip-up keyboard was pretty cool, so I didn't have to use the T9 system like on my first phone. This definitely seemed like a great upgrade to me, but at the time iPhones were becoming more and more popular and the norm. This is where it gets worse.

For the next upgrade, fast forward a whopping THREE YEARS, to Thanksgiving 2012, when I finally bought myself (and my younger sister) an iPhone 4S with my hard-earned job money, since the 5 had just came out and the 4S was discounted to $100. Did you read that correctly? Three years. Three years of college studying, classes, going out, etc... I'm pretty good with keeping my phones intact, never losing or breaking them, but three years was a long time to wait to upgrade a phone that was already leaving its prime right from when I bought it. This was also due to my parents not wanting to upgrade to the data plans that were still pretty expensive, and me not making enough money at my part-time job (and just generally being a poor college student) to support a data plan myself.

Thankfully my parents had gotten better acquainted to the idea of adding a data plan to our service, seeing that technology and life in general was now nearly requiring a smart phone for the older ones in the family. It has now been just over a year since I got my first, beautiful, fantastic iPhone, and I wanted to reflect on really how much it has "changed my life," for lack of a better phrase. I love technology and the ways it has helped improve my life. In no particular order, here are 15 ways upgrading to an iPhone changed my life in 2013:

iPhone screenshots of Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat
Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat
1. Instagram
I loved Instagram from the get-go, when one of my friends who had just upgraded to the new iPhone 4 in April 2011, showed me the app. I had seriously been wanting it ever since then, a year and a half of app lust is a long time to wait. Haha. Instagram has proven to be a fun way to artistically share photos with friends and follow photographers, bloggers, celebrities, or simply people with awesome photos to share. I'm a creative person, so this has been such a cool app to explore.

2. Twitter
I've been a tweeter ever since probably 2007 or so, when it was still in its beginning stages, but I was never able to utilize it much until I had access to it on my phone. Tweeting from your computer isn't always very exciting. Since getting an iPhone, Twitter has become a huge source of news and information for me, I follow everyone from fashion retailers, blogs, career tips and news websites, to the (still limited) list of friends I know in real life. Twitter can be such a cool networking and social tool if used the right way. I'm looking at you, subtweeters..! For everyone else, go sign up for Twitter asap.

3. Snapchat
Snapchat turned out to be a fun, quick communication outlet for me rather than anything else that apparently other people use it for... Being away at college, it helped me stay in contact with my younger sister in high school, always snapping silly faces or small bits of conversation about our days. It worked the same way even with the friends I had in college, being able to snap them throughout the day with our daily happenings since we had such busy schedules that we couldn't hang out as much as we'd like. A great way to communicate even when we didn't have specific things to say that would require a text message.

iPhone screenshots of Facebook, Camera roll, Google Maps
Facebook check-in, Camera roll, Google Maps
4. Facebook Check-Ins
Okay, this might sound silly, but one of the things I was pretty excited for when I got my iPhone was being able to check in at places through the Facebook app! It doesn't seem to be as big a deal anymore, but through the three years I still had my last "dumb phone" Facebook check-ins had been introduced and people were using them like crazy. Maybe it's just one of those FOMO things, but sometimes it's fun to be out having a good time with friends or at a cool place and let the Facebook world know that too. Hah!

5. Digitial Camera
My phone has now become my most-used device for taking photos. It has amazed me how much better a photo it can take even than my 14 megapixel Nikon COOLPIX point and shoot camera. Just the way it can focus better on a subject when you tap on the screen, I've gotten way better concert, low-light and moving-subject photos than I ever could get with my "real" camera. Apparently the regular camera on my iPhone 4S is only 8 megapixels, but the zoom, stabilization and quick capture features make for some clearer photos! My regular camera takes like 5 seconds to "record" the image after I take it, which sometimes can mean missing important moments. I love that my iPhone takes pictures as quick as a tap on the screen.

6. Maps and GPS Apps
Oh my god. WHERE would I be without this?!?! I can hardly recall the days of printing out MapQuest and Google Maps pages when I was going somewhere new, yet at the same time, they are fresh in my mind. By my senior year (2012-2013) I knew my small college town of Corvallis pretty well, but when finding friends' houses or new restaurants, it still came in handy. In May of 2013 I went on a choir tour to New York City, and the maps app was literally my best friend. Navigating Midtown and all of Manhattan, really, without a smartphone would have been so difficult! I would have been one of those obvious tourists with a huge map out in front of me, but this way I looked like everyone else on their phones - maybe I was just texting or checking Twitter! Even roaming around downtown Portland by myself, the maps app has helped tremendously since I'm from around here but never spent a ton of time downtown. By the way, from experience, Google Maps has proven much more effective than the recent editions of Apple maps, search this and you'll read horror stories about Apple Maps!

iPhone screenshots of Lose It!, MapMyRun, banking apps
Lose It!, MapMyRun, Banking apps
7. Food Tracking Journal
At the beginning of 2013, I used the app, Lose It! to track all my meals and exercise, because they say that keeping a food log will help you see what you're really consuming and putting into your body on a daily basis. I got into such a great habit that I entered my food intake daily for nearly four months! By that time I had gotten into a good groove and didn't feel like I really needed anymore, but then by summer I was needing it again. A convenient way to track what you eat on the go, anytime!

8. Workout Tracking
There are so many exercise and fitness apps out there that can now help you keep track and improve your workouts. Apps like MapMyRun and Couch to 5K have really helped me get back on track this year! With MapMyRun, it lets you listen to your own music, and alerts you when you hit a mile, your time and pace for the mile and so on. It saves every workout you do, including information on the time, distance, GPS location, speed, and potential calories burned. It really is a great tool that has helped motivate me this year!

9. Mobile Banking
Banking on the go has truly been a life-changer. Most banks now have their own app, and being able to check your balance, transfer funds between accounts and even make deposits takes a lot of the hassle out of traditional banking. I recently signed up for a new "non-bank" called Simple that is built around its app (requires a smart phone to sign up for an account) and helps you save and be in better control of your money by separating funds into goals and Safe-To-Spend categories. They don't even have brick-and-mortar locations, but ATMs are available everywhere at places like Safeway and 7-11. I would highly recommend looking them up if you're tired of your corporate bank! Might even do a post on them in the future because I love it so much...

iPhone screenshots of Safari search, Yahoo! Weather, TriMet Mobile Ticketing
Safari search, Yahoo! Weather, TriMet Mobile Tickets
10. Random Fact Checker
I'm sure everyone can relate here - you're talking with friends and some random fact about a movie or a small dispute on a subject comes up, and it would be so handy to be able to look up the facts real quick. A simple thing many of us with smartphones take for granted, I was always pining for back in the days of my "dumb phone." What other movies was that actor in? I can't remember that character's name in real life! What year did that team win the Superbowl? It will just have to wait until we're home and have access to a computer, I guess... Not anymore!

11. Weather
Maybe not a big deal in more predictable climates, but weather here in the Pacific Northwest, can go from rain to sun to full-force winds to hail all in the same day. I've experienced it - Corvallis seems to be especially crazy. Being able to quickly check the weather for the day or the forecast for the week has come in handy so much while I'm on the go or not near my computer. I especially love the Yahoo! Weather app because it shows a picture from Flickr for the city you're in, and you can have multiple cities bookmarked. Besides Portland and my college town, I always need to be updated on what the weather is like in NYC and Paris - because, obviously.

12. Mobile Coupons & Tickets
These features have come in handy quite a bit! Lots of stores now accept mobile coupons so it's easy to just pull up your email or access the store's app and show the coupon in case you forgot the paper one at home. I've used this a lot with places like Michael's and Joann's. Also for tickets - the light rail system around Portland, the Max, recently released a mobile ticket system where you can purchase tickets through the app and easily have them on hand through your phone. No more racing to the ticket machine and possibly missing the train you want! It has really been useful since I've had to take the Max to get to my design internship a few times every week since September.

iPhone screenshots of Facebook Messenger, iMessage group text, Apple Mail
Facebook Messenger, iMessage group, Apple Mail
13. Facebook Messenger
The perfect tool to communicate with people whose numbers you don't have (or whose numbers you don't want?) Haha! It has definitely come in handy when I've bought or sold textbooks with random people at Oregon State or when a group of friends and I are trying to plan a get-together or event of sorts. Hello, New Years Eve plans! The next best thing to getting together in person with a group.

14. iMessage group texting
Similar to FB Messenger and talking to multiple people at once, iPhone group messages through iMessage have been such a fun thing I've gotten to experience. Also planning an event or simply joking around, a group message with a few close friends is a great way to communicate when you can't physically be together. Although this group message is reserved only for people who have iPhones and iMessage turned on, more and more people now have them so it's becoming even easier to do. My youngest sister and brother finally joined the iPhone family this Christmas, so we have a group iMessage going between all four siblings, and I can already tell it's going to be great fun, especially after we're apart again after the holidays are over.

15. Email
We can't forget email, can we? Since the dawn of smart phone time, (PDAs, the blackberry,) email has been the thing everyone wants to access on the go. Although I don't particularly use it that often, when I was in school it was handy to double check my school email in case class was canceled or there was some other important memo. I've also used it for communicating with professors or bosses on a timely basis when we were meeting up for an appointment, etc. I turned the push notifications off because I mostly get newsletters and advertisements, but when I'm expecting an email, I love to be able to open the Mail app and access it right there, from wherever I happen to be.

♥ ♥ ♥

Well there you have it! The top 15 ways I've really appreciated the way technology has helped me out by upgrading to an iPhone this year. I really couldn't have done any of these things to this capacity with my "dumb phones" that I've had since 2008. What other features do you like about smartphones that are really beneficial to your life? As the year draws to a close, take a few minutes to appreciate what you have! Even if it's not a smart phone. Just think about all the ways technology has improved our lives (if not complicated them a bit,) in just the past ten, even five years! It's an exciting time to be alive.

kayla grace

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