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Buyers' Guide: The mobile office

Agriculture.com Staff Updated: 07/12/2010 @ 3:32pm

Laurie Potter
Successful Farming magazine Deputy Machinery Editor


Shopping tips

Mobile phones -- including one of the latest innovations, the smartphone -- have transformed the way we communicate. Because these devices can be equipped with so many applications, tasks that previously tied you to a desktop computer can now be accessed on these minicomputers.

As the technology has evolved, so have the users, including those in agriculture. According to the Economic Research Service, about 60,000 farmers used handheld devices to connect to the Internet in 2008. Armed with information at their fingertips, producers are able to tap into weather forecasts, find nitrogen recommendations, monitor how much water is in the soil, or market grain from the seat of a truck or tractor.

"The tea leaves are very strongly pointed to mobile computing as the future of data management, communication, and so forth," says Andy Kleinschmidt, Ohio State University Extension educator. "A smartphone is a great way to dip your toes into the world of mobile computing."


8 shopping tips

Sorting through the various models of smartphones as well as the different service plans available may be mind-boggling, but it's necessary for matching your needs with the right device.

Following are eight key points to keep in mind when shopping for a smartphone.


Service provider

While most of us are tempted to pick the cool gadget first and then worry about the particulars later, Kleinschmidt suggests doing the exact opposite. "My advice would be to pick a carrier first and a device second. If you go with a carrier that has great coverage, you will be in a better position to enjoy the full services of a smartphone. If you pick a carrier based on the device, you may be left with a neat phone that has limited functionality," he notes.

With several different options and service levels, where should you start? If you already have a service provider, check to see what it can offer you. If it's not quite what you're looking for, then you may want to consider the competition.


Operating system

The operating system (OS) determines the functionality of your smartphone -- its capabilities, for instance, and ease of use -- and shouldn't be ignored. Each OS has its own character and varies widely in the number of applications available.


There are two types of memory to pay attention to: RAM and overall storage for files. A minimum of 256 MB of RAM is a good place to start. As for file storage, a minimum of 8 GB is recommended. Another important consideration when it comes to memory is whether the smartphone supports memory cards and the type of card it supports.

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