Living a multi-screen lifestyle

Image: zmags
Things have changed over the past few years with regards to how we go about using technology in our daily lives. Before the age of smartphones, our computers and laptops were entirely separate entities from our dumbphones. What we did on our computers stayed on our computers, and what we did with our phones stayed on our phones. Of course, with the exception of certain business-minded individuals whose BlackBerrys were at the time, considered smart due to their ability to handle e-mail. Things have changed now. What we used to only be able to do on a computer can now also be done on a smartphone, and what we have on our phones can also be accessed from our computers. The barriers between desktop computers and the mobile computers we carry in our pockets have been knocked down. We now live in a multi-screen environment, and that doesn't seem like slowing down anytime soon.

Google are one of the many corporations that have embraced this change, as reflected in their efforts to make their apps and services as multi-screen friendly as possible, syncing data and information between devices, as well as designing a consistent experience between them. Many other corporations are aware of this trend to, with multiple cloud storage services available to make all your content available from any device, device manufacturers are selling phones and tablets of different sizes to accommodate everyone's needs, and many commercial sites now have a mobile version of their site in addition to a desktop site. Samsung's tagline for the launch of the S4 was more accurate that many may think; Life Companion. That doesn't represent just the S4, but mobile technology in general. Smartphones and tablets have become so deeply ingrained into our lifestyle, that to suddenly stop using them would be almost impossible. So how do we get the most out of all our devices? Here are some examples.

Google Maps is probably the most popular online mapping service in the world. With the wealth of information Google have amassed over the years, it's simply too good to pass up. Google make using Maps on multiple devices so easy it's just fun to use. Say you search for a new restaurant on your desktop, and look up the directions in Maps. Once you are in your car and pull your phone out of your pocket, the directions are there waiting for you in your notification shade. You didn't have to search for the directions again, since Google Now pulled the information from your desktop and pushed it to your phone. How convenient is that? But lets say that you don't want to go to the restaurant the same day you look it up on your desktop. Say you only decide to go after a few days. Opening up the Google Maps app on your phone will display a list of recently searched locations, pulled from all your devices, including your desktop. So you don't need to search for the restaurant again. Just click on the recent search in your history, and you're good to go. I've benefited from Google Maps so much, I can't wait for Waze to be further integrated into it. It'll put other mapping services to shame.

Google recently put a huge emphasis on Android gaming with the release of Google Play game services and the Google Play Games app. Similar to other services like Apple's Game Center or BlackBerry's subsidiary Scoreloop, Google's service aims to unite mobile gaming on multiple devices (and multiple platforms) into one cohesive experience. By playing under your Google+ account, you can save game progress in the cloud, making it possible to play the same game on multiple devices and not have different game progress on each device. Play until level 10 on your phone, continue at level 11 on your tablet. One gaming experience on multiple devices.
Saving game progress to the cloud makes gaming on multiple devices worthwhile.
There are many browsers that offer cross-device (and cross platform) sync, which is why anybody with multiple devices should really make use of this convenient feature. Tabs, auto-fill data, passwords, bookmarks and history can all be synced across your devices, providing a unified browsing experience across all your devices. Start browsing your favourite sites on your desktop, and pick-up where you left off on your phone on the way to work. Come across an interesting article while browsing on your phone, but want to read it later on your desktop? Save it to Pocket and read it on your desktop later. With synced bookmarks, your favourite sites are never hard to find when browsing on your mobile device, and with synced passwords and auto-fill info, registration and signing-in are no longer redundant occurrences.

Photo sharing
Smartphone photography is really picking up pace nowadays. With Nokia's Lumia 1020 and it's 41-megapixel camera, and the rumoured Sony Xperia Z1 and it's 20.7-megapixel camera, you can tell how serious smartphone photography really is. Many people have stopped carrying - or even buying - dedicated point-and-shoot digital cameras and instead make do with a smartphone that has a decent camera, and there are plenty of those in the market. But what good is a great smartphone camera, if you can't share the pictures with friends and family? Showing people photos on your phone isn't really fun. The screen is small (relatively) and a lot of detail in the shots can go unnoticed. Sharing photos on a larger screen like a tablet or a computer monitor would be much more enjoyable. This is where having photos sync between your devices can come in handy. Store photos in a cloud like Dropbox or Google+, and show off the pictures you took with your phone to friends and family from a tablet or desktop, instead of cramming around a tiny smartphone screen. 

Document management
Living a multi-screen life isn't all fun and games. It can really help increase productivity as well. For people who work from multiple computers, like in multiple offices, or from an office and from home, keeping all your documents up-to-date and preventing redundancies can be a bit of a hassle. Copying files in flash drives, e-mailing yourself updated versions of documents and what not. With a service like Google Drive, you can work on a document from the office, save it to the cloud, and continue working on the exact same document from home. No copying of files required. For me as a student conducting lab research, I record results from my experiments on my phone or tablet, and later in the day process those results from my laptop. Easy. I also keep the procedures for my experiments in Google Drive as well, so while I'm in the lab if I forget a step or two, all I need to do is refer to my notes from my phone, instead of carrying around or looking for the manual.

The same documents on all
your devices. Image: Google Drive
Those are just a few examples of how we can benefit from using multiple devices in our daily lives. I'm sure everyone has their own stories of how they use the smartphones, tablets and computers in their lives. So feel free to share in the comments!

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