Smartphones on the Farm: Part I Review of Samsung’s Omnia i910
Do smartphones/PDAs such as this one have a place on the farm? Absolutely. The number of farmers I know that carry a Blackberry, or similar device, are growing. As such, I thought I would review my Samsung Omnia i910 (Verizon) and specifically focus on agricultural application.
Out of the box the fist thing that you’ll notice is that the device is clearly not ‘ruggedized’. This could be a problem on the farm, but I’ll come back to that later. My Swiss Army Knife measures 3 1/2″ x 7/8″ wide x 5/8″ deep. The i910 is not quite as thick as the pocketknife.
This phone is loaded with gadgets, starting with Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional which gives you threaded text messaging among other features. I won’t go through all the features on this phone, rather, I’ll focus on those that have some applicability to agricultural applications.
Communications: The screenshot above shows the start screen. At the top you see call log, SMS, and email. Text messages and your email can both be handled seamlessly with smartphones, and no, you do not have to create a separate email account. I have linked the Omnia i910 phone with my master gmail account and I can view and reply to email from anywhere I can get a cell signal. I can see where this would be a HUGE advantage for time-strapped farmers during those critical farming periods when 12+ hour days are the norm.
Information: The above screenshot from my phone is from the March 16, 2009 CORN Newsletter. I have not editied or modified this crystal-clear screenshot in any way. This is where a full-screen smartphone has an advantage over a small-screen flip phone. The i910 uses Opera Mobile 9.5 as the web browser which is different from Internet Explorer or Firefox, but does a great job bringing the internet to the mobile screen.
Weather Analysis: Farmers rely on numerous sources for weather, but many times have to rely on their own experiences and skills for weather assessment. Imagine the scenario: trying to get the last 10 acres of that long and narrow 80 acre corn field planted; you’ve just filled the boxes and the front is coming in, but where exactly is it? Do you stop, or chance it and get started on that last 10 acres? Now, pull up your full-screen smartphone and get a better idea of where that front may be headed. Better information = better decision making.
Phone and Device Protection: Ultimately, we need the smartphone to be . . . well, it needs to be an actual phone. The keys work well with my small/medium hands. The buttons are responsive and I do not often hit keys that I do not intend to hit. The i910 does not have a hardpad keyboard, the keyboard is integrated into the touchpad screen. This leads to the issue of protection and protecting that screen from repeated use as well as rattling around in your pocket. There are numerous aftermarket cases and plastic ‘skins’ that are available and I highly recommend you purchase an aftermarket product to protect your Omnia i910 if you are using it on the farm.
Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. I reserve the right to modify this review at any time. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of The Ohio State University, Ohio State University Extension or of any other individual university employee. This review is provided for educational purposes only and not an endorsement of any product mentioned.