The Case for Carrying Two Smartphones

Are you satisfied with just one smartphone? Maybe you just haven't given two a chance. If you're anything like CIO.com's mobile maestro Al Sacco, you may not only boost productivity with two devices, but improve your quality of life. Seriously.

I'm a two-smartphone man. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Why, you ask, would I want to carry two smartphones in a day and age when modern handhelds are more powerful than some high-end PCs of recent years--and when pockets, and wallets, are only getting smaller? (Bye-bye cargo pants, hello skinny jeans.) A single smartphone can wake you up in the morning, start your car and open your locked office doors, you say. So why carry two?

BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Motorola DROID 4
BlackBerry Bold 9900 and Motorola DROID 4

I admit it, I get a lot of strange looks when I place two handhelds on top of each other on a conference room table or bar top. Truth be told, CIO.com Managing Editor Shane O'Neill often pokes fun at me due to my tendency to tote two devices. But two smartphones are simply better than one--especially if you plan a strict usage strategy for each device and stick to it.

It's rare these days that I leave my home with just one smartphone, and when I do I inevitably regret the decision not to bring along the second device. Here's why.

Why Two Smartphones are Better Than One

I currently carry an AT&T BlackBerry Bold 9900 and a Verizon Wireless DROID 4, two smartphones that really could not be more different. And that's why they work so well together.

My BlackBerry Bold is a messaging powerhouse. It's sturdily built. The keyboard is the best you'll find on a mobile device today. Its battery life is stellar, especially if you drop the network mode down to "2G" or EDGE, which I do because I really don't need a faster connection on my BlackBerry. And the BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) offer a level of security that's not available on other platforms, so I know any data I store on my Bold device is as secure as it would be on any other smartphone.

The DROID 4 is a master of multimedia. Its 1.2GHZ dual-core processor makes it one of the most powerful devices available today. Its qHD display is great for watching TV and movies. The 8-megapixel camera captures 1080p HD video, and the device has a frontfacing shooter for video chat. A ton of quality apps exist for Android. And the DROID 4's 4G/LTE Verizon wireless connectivity is consistently speedy.

Back to my Bold: To be honest, the device stinks when it comes to multimedia. The screen is too small, its 3G (or faux G) connection is too slow for streaming high quality video. The 5-megapixel camera has focus issues, among other things. No front-facing camera. And the selection of high-quality BlackBerry apps is lacking when compared to iOS or Android, to say the least.

The DROID 4 "physical" keyboard is okay, but I need to use two hands and it's still a bit awkward due to the device's size and weight. The touch-screen keyboard is a nightmare to type on rapidly. Android's message-notification system is a mess. Battery life is weak. And Android is probably the mobile platform with the most security risks right now.

See a pattern here? I have identified two of the best handhelds on the market, with nearly opposite strengths and weaknesses. And, therefore, I get the best of both worlds, while filling in each device's respective gaps. And because the devices are on two different wireless carriers, I frequently have coverage on one handheld when the other drops out or the signal gets weak.

I use my BlackBerry mostly for work, though I do message with friends and family and take the occasional personal phone call. My Android phone is for apps, listening to music, watching movies on Netflix and streaming live baseball games via the MLB At Bat app, among other "fun" things. And I can quickly put work aside, by discarding my BlackBerry--though I admit, this rarely happens.

To sum this up, I strategically use each device only for what it's best for, and in the end, I'm better for it.

Downsides of Carrying Two Smartphones--and How to Overcome Them

The number one downside to carrying two smartphones is that purchasing two devices and paying for monthly data plans can add up to a big chunk of change. I understand completely how this might be prohibitive for many modern smartphone users. But I'm also sure a good subsection of the smartphone market is in a situation like mine: You can probably justify a work-funded phone and afford to pay for a personal phone on the side.

My company foots the bill for my work phone, and I pay for my personal device. And I end up using less data on both devices; I only use my BlackBerry for work purposes for the most part and my Android device is for play. IT is also happy because I never put corporate data at risk or degrade BlackBerry performance downloading random apps.

As for the awkwardness of carrying two devices at once, you get used to it quickly. The positives of carrying two phones, including better battery life, stronger wireless coverage in more areas and everything else mentioned above, easily outweigh the negatives. And most modern handhelds are also generally small enough so you dont need to become a Holster Master to carry two of them. (And you'll never catch me in a pair of skinny jeans, anyway. No how, no way.)

Sure, the chance of losing a device increases if you carry two of them, but it doesn't take long for it to become second nature to keep track of a second device. You also need to remember to charge both devices, instead of just one, but that quickly becomes routine, as well.

So, if you can swing it, two phones are clearly better than one. As for three phones: Hmm, that seems like a bit much. Then again...I could be convinced. Apple should announce a new iPhone fairly soon, after all.

AS

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Al at asacco@cio.com

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