The iPhone is not the only smartphone for real estate agents

Broker Notebook

I just upgraded my phone. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I chose the Samsung Galaxy S4 over the iPhone 5.

I have the latest model of iPad, but I don’t think I need to limit my options to iOS devices because of it. I’ve learned how to share most everything across multiple platforms.

Screen shot of graphic promoting Android's Jelly Bean operating system from android.com.
Screen shot of graphic promoting Android's Jelly Bean operating system from android.com.

My Samsung Galaxy runs on the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system. I have about 60 Android apps on my new phone, and I use 10 of them on a daily basis, including Twitter and Facebook.

I love everything about my Samsung Galaxy, from the pattern recognition I put on the lock screen for security, to the amazing camera and SwiftKey keyboard that anticipates my next word and lets me select it. It’s surprisingly lightweight and fast, and has an almost overwhelming number of features.

Articles that are written for real estate agents about “must have” apps and “must have” phones rarely mention anything but the iPhone.

I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution for real estate agents, because we don’t all work the same way. Real estate is local, which means forms, business processes and software aren’t the same in every market.

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If a real estate agent asks me which phone or which apps are the best for real estate, I’ll have to answer honestly and say: “It depends.”

Agents looking for their first smartphone, or who already have an iPhone and want to upgrade, are probably better off choosing the iPhone.

The iPhone offers fewer choices and options, but it is easier to learn. The iPhone offers more than enough technology for most agents, and most will be able to use at least some of the features.

There are Facebook groups for real estate agents who use iPhones, but I cannot find any for Android phones. Solutions to most any problem with the Samsung Galaxy S4 can be found in the 397-page owners manual, or by asking Google, which isn’t for everyone.

Here are my reasons for choosing the Galaxy s4 over the iPhone 5:

1. Expandable storage up to an extra 64 gigabytes with an SD (Secure Digital) memory card.

2. 13-megapixel camera (no need to take pictures that are that large with my phone, but I can).

3. Front- and rear-facing cameras can take a photo at the same time, which will revolutionize “selfies” (self-portraits).

4. A larger, easier-to-read screen.

5. Longer battery life.

6. Removable battery (battery charger and extra battery sold separately, and apparently not in any stores near me).

7. No weird expensive special cables. Car and wall chargers are standard micro-to-USB cables, and they even come in white.

8. Responds to motions — I can flip my phone over to silence it when it rings at a funeral, and when I move it away from my face after a phone call it ends the call for me.

The S4 is loaded with sensors — an accelerometer, geomagnetic, gyro, RGB light, barometer, proximity, gesture, temperature and humidity, and hall sensors (detection of magnetic fields).

The features I use the most often on my mobile phone for business are phone calls, text messages, email and the camera.

Here are my must-have apps for business, at least when I am out with clients:

1. MLS app

2. eKey – unlocks electronic lock boxes

3. Evernote

4. Dropbox

5. Navigation with Google maps

6. Chrome Web browser

7. WordPress (used mostly for managing and responding to comments)

8. Visual voice mail (feature provided by carrier)

I use my iPad a lot when I am out with clients because it is easier to share with my clients and I have most of my real estate apps on it. I also use it to write offers and to show sellers the local housing market. I can run my business from mobile devices, but I don’t see the point of doing that when I have access to the computer in my office most days.

There are 800,000 Android apps and iPhone apps and I seem to have everything I need and want — and a lot of apps that I don’t want, as companies make branded apps just because they can. I have found apps that don’t work very well for both platforms.

When I upgrade again in 18 months to two years, I may choose an Android or maybe an iPhone. Or maybe there will be something new that I’ll like better than either.

New apps arrive every day and, a year from now, I may have a new list of mission-critical apps for my business. Technology is always changing, and so is business.

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


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