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Android’s a viable option for real estate pros

Realtor Notebook

Realtors are supposed to have iPhones, but there are more than a few who use phones with the Android operating systems.

Why would anyone use an Android when they can have an iPhone? I am not sure how to answer that, but devices that run on the Android operating system have a bigger share of the smartphone market than iPhones do.

Android phones are a little different, but they offer touch screens and cameras and operate on 3G and 4G networks. 4G beats 3G on any mobile platform. If there is no 4G where you live, move.

Unlike the iPhone, which has basically one model unless you count last year’s model, there are many different smartphones that run on the Android OS — which means more choices, options, prices and flexibility.

Some have full QWERTY keyboards and all have removable batteries, which means I can charge up a spare and take it with me for those days when I may not have the option of stopping to charge. There are a variety of colors and screen sizes too.

The biggest disadvantage to the Android phones is that they are not iPhones, and iPhone users will make fun of them or view you with suspicion for using one. So keep it in your handbag or pocket. I am not afraid to break the rules or make new rules, and am so secure in who I am that I can use any phone and look good doing it.

Cloud computing has made it easy to sync data across multiple platforms, which is good because I use an iMac, HP laptop, Apple iPads and an LG Android. We no longer have to limit ourselves to one platform or let it define us.

Here are some of the apps I use on my Android phone on a regular basis.

1. The app for our MLS (NorthstarMLS), which I absolutely love.

2. Evernote — My business runs on Evernote, and so does my life. I have it on all my computers and mobile devices.

3. Skitch — for annotating, editing, and sharing screenshots and photos.

4. Dropbox — cloud storage for documents, including real estate contracts, that can be accessed from most any device.

5. Instagram– the current fad in photo sharing and a few other camera apps.

6. Social apps — Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Yelp, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Path.

7. WordPress — mainly for moderating comments on my websites and blogs.

8. Chat apps, including Google Chat, Skype and Kick.

9. eKey — the app that opens GE Supra electronic key lockboxes.

A screen shot of Teresa Boardman’s Android smartphone.

The most popular real estate apps and business apps are available for the Android, but they rarely work exactly the same as they do on the iPhone. Check Google Play or the app store to see if your favorite apps are available.

The killer apps for me are email, text messaging, Internet access and the ability to make an occasional phone call. The QR code reader doesn’t get used often. Neither does the bar code reader, but I have them both just in case.

I could use the Netflix app and the Kindle app, but I have absolutely no desire to watch a movie or read a book on the little phone screen when I can use the bigger iPad screen. I never use my phone for listening to music so there is no music on it, and even though I can watch TV on it I don’t.

The Android OS is a Google product and integrates very well with all things Google.

The calendar and contacts on the Android synchronize wirelessly with the Google calendar and contacts, which makes it easy to synchronize with the iPad and Macintosh computer. Photographs taken with the Android can be automatically uploaded to Picasa or automatically put in a Dropbox folder, or I can manually transfer files to my computer via Bluetooth.

There is a built-in navigation app that turns the phone into a GPS that gives turn-by-turn directions and traffic alerts.

As a bonus an Android can become a wireless hot spot that can provide Internet access for a computer or an iPad or any number of electronic devices that run on Wi-Fi. There is no extra charge on some plans, and no tethering or jail breaking for the service. It takes about 10 seconds to set up.

My Android can be voice-activated. I can ask it to dial a number or send a text message and dictate the message. I can ask it where the nearest coffee shop is and then ask for directions. Sadly I don’t do any of those things, but I have tested each and they work just fine. It is nice to know I can drive and legally send and receive text messages.

I can easily print from my Android to the wireless Epson printer I already had in my office. There is a free app for that.

Shopping for an Android-type phone is a lot more work than purchasing an iPhone. There are so many models to choose from — it seems overwhelming. Going to a phone store is risky without doing a lot of research ahead of time because the phone companies always have some dog of a phone they are trying to sell, and they like it when women real estate agents walk in.

The iPhone is so popular that there are numerous articles on how to make your Android run like an iPhone. In my humble opinion, anyone who needs a phone that works like an iPhone has only one option, and that is an iPhone.

Android keeps getting better as it competes head-to-head with Apple’s iOS for market share. The competition will make both of them better, and already has. Right now even a real estate agent can get by with a phone that runs on the Android OS. It is a great way to let your inner geek come out and play.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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