Tech Talk: How Smart Is Your Phone?

February 1, 2012 12:41 AM

By Dino Giacomazzi

Dave: "Hello, HAL. Do you read me, HAL?"
HAL: "Affirmative, Dave. I read you."
Dave: "Open the pod bay doors, HAL."
HAL: "I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that."

In 1968, in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, director Stanley Kubrick brought to life a future in which HAL, a computer, believed itself to be alive.

While 2011 passed without humans traveling to Jupiter, 2012 is starting to look a lot like a science fiction movie. Smartphones have put powerful computing capabilities into the hands of regular people, and dairy producers are no exception.

A smartphone is a device that combines the features of a cell phone with those of a personal digital assistant (PDA). I used to carry around a cell phone and a Palm Pilot. It was a great day in 2002 when Handspring combined the two into the Palm Treo.

Then, Apple revolutionized the smartphone in 2007 with the touch-screen iPhone. Recently Google has taken the lead with the Android operating system.

So which smartphone is best for you? Androids and iPhones are very similar devices. They have touch screens, run apps, play music and video, and take pictures—and yes, you can make phone calls too. The difference comes down to simplicity versus choice.

Apple produces both the hardware and the operating system for its phones. This gives it total control over the device, which generally results in a more stable environment and user-friendly experience. Apple’s focus is simplicity and consistency. The downside of Apple’s system is lack of handset choice and price.

Android is an open-source operating system that Google has made available to hardware manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and HTC that produce a wide range of phones.

The advantage of this system is choice. You can buy an Android-enabled phone with a variety of shapes, sizes, colors and price points. While Android software is very customizable, the downside is that Androids are not always as stable or easy to use.

My recommendation is this: If you want a simple system that is easy to learn and fairly error-free, spend the extra money and get an iPhone. If you want a larger screen and/or prefer Google’s online apps like Gmail and Google Calendar, shop around to find the right Android-enabled phone for you.

Once you discover all the amazing things you can do with a smartphone, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. I guarantee it will make you more productive on the dairy and farm.
If you ask Siri, the talking digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, to "open the pod bay doors," her response may make you laugh. But remember, humans in Cupertino, Calif., programmed her responses. She doesn’t really mean it—yet!

smartphone chart

Dairy-Specific App

One of the most compelling reasons for a dairy producer to choose an Android phone is for the Pocket Cow Card app, Android’s companion to Valley Agricultural Software’s DairyComp 305.

My suspicion is that most dairy and agricultural software developers will be writing for Android in the future because it is open-source.

Dairy Today red dot

Reviews of smartphones:


Dino Giacomazzi is the fourth genera-tion to manage his family’s dairy farm near Hanford, Calif. Contact him at

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