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Smartphone Primer

David Lindeman, 57, recently bought a mobile phone so powerful that it’s really more of a computer than a phone. Now he can’t imagine living without it. Like his wife, two sons and millions of other people, Lindeman has adopted a smartphone, a hand-held computer designed to make mobile telephone calls, exchange e-mail, access the Internet, watch movies, listen to music and run umpteen software applications that can make life easier and more fun.

“Smartphone use is growing exponentially among older adults,” says Lindeman, a gerontologist who is director of the Center for Technology and Aging in Oakland, Calif.

Apple, BlackBerry, HTC, Nokia, Samsung and a number of other manufacturers make smartphones. Many of these mega-multitasking devices have bright, high-resolution touchscreens with large numeric and QWERTY keypads. Smartphones typically range in price from $29 to $300 depending on the features of the device and the discount the service provider offers. The cost of call usage varies by region and plan, and there is typically a $20 to $40 additional monthly service charge.

While smartphones themselves are technical marvels of miniaturization, what make them truly “smart” and useful are the thousands of smartphone software applications, or “apps,” that can be loaded on them. Simply stated, an app is a piece of software that runs on a computer and performs a unique function. The computer it runs on can be a desktop, laptop, netbook or a smartphone.

Most smartphones come preloaded with applications for e-mail, sending and receiving text messages and accessing the Internet, along with maps, an MP3 player, calculator, calendar, address book and some type of photo sorting. You’ll even find a voice-control app on the iPhone 3GS, which enables hands-free calling and song selection on the audio player.

Finding and buying new applications is fairly simple—either connect the device to your home computer and purchase them on the Internet through your provider or do it wirelessly on the smartphone itself. Either way, new applications are ready to use in a few moments.

“Not only have the devices become more powerful and easier to use, but more important, most applications make it easier for people to organize their lives, keep in touch with family, stay informed and active,” Lindeman says.

Indeed, making calls and exchanging e-mail barely touches a smartphone’s capabilities. To do that, tap into the rapidly expanding universe of inexpensive—and often free—applications designed to organize, simplify, remind, educate, entertain and sometimes even tickle your brain.

Where to start? Right here.

Your Guide to Smartphone Applications

Key: Cost; Available for Android (AN), Blackberry (BB), iPhone (IP), Palm Pre (PP), Windows Mobile (WM), Yelp Mobile (YM)

News, Information and Organization

• DailyFinance

Stay on top of your investments with an array of business news and tracking tools that report on and analyze global markets for stocks, funds, currencies and commodities. Input your holdings and track your own portfolio with real-time updates, after-hours developments and tools to easily view and analyze investment performance.

Free; IP, BB

• Yelp

Whether you’re at home or far from it, find a restaurant, a clean hotel, a reliable plumber or a good haircut with local recommendations. Yelp utilizes GPS technology to filter yellow-pages info enhanced with customer ratings.

Free; IP, BB, PP, YM

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