Lining up for the iPhone on release day was akin to lining up for Harry Potter. There was a sense of anxiety-anticipation in the line and an awful lot of people who you’d expect to see immortalised in The Joy of Tech Comic. Myself included.
I knew that the iPhone would become an essential tool in my EdD research. I was using my (very pretty) Motorola flip phone to take photos, videos and record audio, but the iPhone would potentially allow me to upload content directly, and also download information at point of need, quickly. After following iPhone developments in the US for over a year, and having stroked and tapped around a few at PodCamp, of course I was in that line.
So a few months on, what have I discovered? First, I don’t use anywhere near my cap. I went for the $59 Optus Cap Plan because it was by far the best value. But I don’t use the 500mb of data and $350 of calls. It’s nice to know that I could and it’s nice not to fear the bill, but because most places I go have WiFi, I find that I don’t use the 3G network a great deal for data.
Second, there are amazing benefits and also surprising disadvantages. The lack of cut’n'paste and MMS messaging has been well documented and moaned about, as has the battery life. The benefits? The web browsing, intuitive nature, and all-round awesomeness have also been raved about. And I agree.
So what is it I’m actually using? What apps form my research toolkit? A team of students in ICT333 are currently working on a specialised app for me to manage ethnographic fieldwork, but at the moment I use a grab-bag of apps. I also use different ones for my different hats as a Language teacher, as a Gen Y socialiser, and as someone who gets hours of entertainment from bubble-wrap. Here are my faves for research:
This allows me to blog directly from my phone. Whether it’s notes at conferences and seminars, “to do” items, reflections while in the field, or ideas to follow up, my research blog is immediately accessible. And I can’t lose it or leave it on a train.
This is the audio-recorder that I use for interviews. The iPhone’s internal microphone is adequate, but not at podcast quality. For research purposes though? Perfect. I chose this app over others because, months ago, it was the only one that allowed the audio to be downloaded to a computer, and that could be paused during recording. Considering the number of interruptions during interviews, this is important! Now there’s quite a few more on the App Store but I’ve stuck with what I know.
I haven’t used a map book since I got my iPhone. Finding my research sites is so much easier now! This also allows me to account for kilometers to claim back petrol when I’ve forgotten to reset my car’s odometer.
These have potential:
A data collection tool for observations. It’s unclear, though, whether you can have a text input field for extended responses – this could replace my (paper-based) Observation Schedules if it does. Then again, I find that I need to look at the keyboard on the iPhone when I type, unlike a normal keyboard or pen’n'paper. During classroom observations, it’s essential that I observe the class… not my iPhone.
- An app that allows me to upload data directly to my Omeka archive. This would be especially useful for photos, and cut out the step between collecting data in the field and uploading.
- A “to do” list that syncs with iCal.
- USB transfer of data – I can bake a cake in the time it takes to sync if I have a lot of interviews.
I’ll be writing about using the iPhone as Method/s as part of my methodology chapter. Maybe I should write it on my iPhone? Speak it? Photograph it? If only I could video it…