As said on the previous post where I recommended Dropbox (click “Tech Tips” above to view all Tech Tip related posts), I intend to write little articles providing tips on the technology and software I use to make my business more efficient. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming posts on Mobile phones: averting disaster with Google Sync, The Best Browsers for Translators, OmegaT and Open Source – HOW to use it and WHY support Open Source, and many more.

Whilst many are already aware of the advantages of BlackBerrys and mobile email, I thought this might help explain why they so are useful to translators and entrepreneurs alike, as well as provide some handy tips on how to use BlackBerrys and BlackBerry apps.

Why email on  your mobile phone is a good idea

Like many translators, I am constantly checking my email. A BlackBerry device, or similar mobile phone service that can be used to constantly check your email, is therefore a great idea. A BlackBerry device offers a translator the following benefits:

  • You are no longer tied to your computer – you can be accessible even when you are in the supermarket, on lunch with friends, or even on holiday (if abroad, subject to arranging/ensuring coverage with your service provider, who may charge you more for internet usage abroad)
  • If your client is up at 4am your time, and likely to want a quick response relating to your current project, you can make sure your phone is on and will play an extra long, extra loud tune to wake you up if an email is received.
  • You can set your device to check all emails, but make different noises for each account – so you know whether to run to the phone to answer a client, or if it’s just Aunt Maude and she can wait.
  • You will never miss out on a job because you took 40 minutes out to eat a meal with your family. You can relax and take your time, rather than rushing back for an email that may never come – okay, you may have to write a quick email from your phone to say you can take the job, but that is certainly quicker than going back to your computer ever so often to check, and THEN replying.
  • Clients love the reliability and “responsiveness” – it’s been complimented by many of mine. They love knowing that if they send a job to you, they can relax – the job is assigned and out the way. PMs otherwise waste lots of time looking for other translators, and may end up settling for the first to respond, rather than going straight to you – a good quality translator from whom they can expect a speedy response.
  • You can even inspect .PDF, .DOC, .XLS, and .TXT files (and many others) directly from your phone.

What phone to choose, does it have to be a BlackBerry?

Put simply, a BlackBerry is probably the best option. The best phones for email on your phone are those with a ‘push email’ service – something BlackBerry has always been known for, although some specific Nokia models and other handsets may offer it. The vast majority of other phones that offer email (such as the iPhone, Nokia, or Sony Ericsson models) work in a different way. BlackBerry phones use ‘push email’, which delivers email to your phone as and when they are received on your email account. I have however noticed that this service is absolutely instantaneous using gmail, but occasionally with a very small delay when using my server-hosted email account.

Other mobile phones with email work differently, they can be set to check for email on the server every half an hour or so, but this method is less efficient than push email. This may be slower, drain the battery quicker, and rack up your internet usage more. With BlackBerry, you don’t have to worry so much, your phone will continue to check and download emails only as and when it knows it to be necessary.

Note that internet usage and/or the BlackBerry service costs extra. On my major UK network (Orange), the BlackBerry service costs £5 per month and is available on both pay-and-go and contract. This also includes 1gb (near enough unlimited for a mobile phone) internet usage, from which the download size of your emails is deducted, as well as any browsing. If you choose a different phone model and set it to check every 5 minutes, you may find your usage dramatically increase. I would generally not recommend using email on a phone unless you have some kind of internet package.

Convenient apps available

BlackBerry allows the installation and use of additional apps. Some of the apps you will find pre-installed or be able to install if you so wish include:

  • Google Maps (handy for knowing where to go for your latest pow-wow or business meeting, as well as great driving, public transport and beta walking directions)
  • Opera Mini (a much better browser than the native BlackBerry browser – allowing you to better interact with certain websites and view content as if it were from a desktop computer)
  • BlackBerry Messenger (convenient secure instant chat with other BlackBerry device owners. re: Secure, BlackBerry has faced government legal action from a certain Middle-Eastern government, determined to get their hands on the BlackBerry customer’s data.)
  • MSN Messenger (handy commonly used instant messaging system)
  • BlaCaDa (handy tool that can be used to access your dial-up numbers for cheaper VOIP-based international calls)
  • (requires internet, but is a lot speedier than the German <> English dictionary site)
  • Twitter (though I rarely use it on my phone)
  • Facebook (ditto)
  • Google Sync (I will be writing another post on this sometime in the near future, in short, it can be used to synchronise most BlackBerry data with a Google account)

PLEASE NOTE: Some may not work on your BlackBerry if it has an older OS (operating system), Enterprise Server restriction or Network restriction. The OS may not be upgradeable if you have any of the other restrictions. All of these restrictions however can be removed and/or replaced. But that’s a complicated and potentially process I would not recommend to everyone. I know it can be done, because I have done it myself… On that subject…

My personal mobile phone situation

PLEASE NOTE: I am a bit of a geek, and by no means recommend some of the geeky methods described below to your average mobile phone user. It’s just how I like to do things.

I have two BlackBerry phones, one for everyday use, and one as a back-up, if the first should fail. I deliberately bought an older but quite functional model, the 8800, twice. The 8800 can be upgraded to a OS 4.5, which is more than adequate. I bought both from ebay and manually upgraded both to OS 4.5, which is required to run most of the above applications. As stated previously, that can be a lengthy and complicated process. I like the 8800 because it is very good value for what it offers, without unnecessary excesses like the ability to watch YouTube videos or a camera.

I bought my own because I prefer 30-day sim-only contracts, as I hate having to rely on networks to fix my phone if it breaks. It takes ages, they may end up ripping you off, and they invalidate your warranty if you so much as undo a screw. It might be better for others to have the assurance, but as I prefer to mend my phones myself, I also prefer a 30-day contract and all the additional benefits that brings (MUCH better value on calls and can be cancelled at any time).

I recently had to switch BlackBerry devices, and an app called Google sync saved the day. I’ll be posting more about that sometime soon.

What do you use?

I am also interested in what you use, as either translators, linguists, employed (by companies) or self-employed professionals. Let us know how you ensure you can be reached by and make contact with your colleagues, clients and employees!