Android Does For Real Estate
As a “managing assistant” to my wife, Kathleen West (Realtor), I help in selecting technology tools and administering the operations for her business. Let me just preface this by briefly explaining what goes into these tech decisions for us. First, every technology and equipment decision is made based upon the technology as tools to doing business and we look for the equipment to satisfy the following 3 criteria:
- Mobility – She should be able to perform many (if not all) of the same functions away from the office.
- Improves efficiencies and services to customers – For me this is accomplished by observation in the field, understanding the processes, and listening to gripes as issues come up and how she would like things to work. I’m still working on the solution for beaming herself and the customers from home to home for tours. I’ll get back to you all on that.
- Provides a return on investment – The equipment should pay for itself usually with the first year and then some each year.
Second, I look for equipment that is easy-to-use since her main focus needs to be working with buyers and sellers with little or no complications with equipment. When we were seeking to replace her Treo last year (which turned into more of expense rather than an investment, but you live and learning right?), we were eagerly waiting for the release of the Droid line of phones from Verizon. As a big iPod Touch user as a PDA and a Google user, I saw huge benefits in Real Estate with the iPhone and knew I could make that device work pretty easily within her business and it would fit into ALL the above criteria. What I wasn’t pleased with was the AT&T plans and the lack of choice. Naturally, I was very interested when Verizon announced the coming line of Droid phones. So we waited and I have to say that I am glad we did.
So let’s take a look at the Top 5 Reasons Android Smartphones Work Very Well In Real Estate:
- Seamless integration with Google Products and services. Whether you are a Gmail user or a Google Apps (which I highly recommend for Real Estate agents) user, Android requires a simple sign on to your account and that’s it. All your contacts, calendar entries, email, and Picasa stored photos are imported. You can integrate a Gmail or your Google Apps account with an iPhone, but it is a multi-step process that can be confusing for some. The thing my wife particularly loves about this is that her database of contacts and calendar appointments is always up-to-date in both spots without dealing with cumbersome hookups or software for syncing. Add a contact on your PC/Mac under your Google account (or Outlook if you have Google Apps Premiere with contact syncing) and the information is automatically available on your phone and vice versa. We also share calendars so she can easily see my work schedule and I can see her appointments to help keep her on track no matter where we enter the information. No, I do not have a GPS tracking chip installed under my skin so she can track me. . . I think.
- Great voice command integration. Google has been incorporating voice into their services in some very interesting and amazingly reliable ways. Google Voice, for example, can actually transcribe voice mails and send them via a text message in a few seconds. On the Android phones there is the now common voice search from Google and voice texting, but go up to Android 2.2 version (Froyo) and you get Voice Actions. This amazing service actually allows you to dictate emails and text messages unleashing you from the keyboard.
- Good lineup of apps. One of the most powerful features of today’s smartphones (and credit needs to go to Apple’s iPhone here) has been apps. I say ‘good’ here with the Android apps because Apple does have richer looking apps in their store since developers have been heavily focused there. The Android lineup is improving everyday with the massive growth in the Android device market. These little targeted programs allow agents to have almost every real estate tool and important information available to them at their fingertips. This includes social networking apps for Facebook and Twitter (Tweetcaster & Hootsuite are great on Android phones). Plus you get valuable information such as Google mapping, mortgage calculators, local information, flashlights (ever visit a house in the evening that doesn’t have power?), a level, and the list goes on.
- Reduce the amount of equipment you carry. Most of these phones come equipped with 5.0 megapixel cameras that even allow you to do minor editing right on the phone. For most Real Estate photos, 5.0 megpixels is a good quality for property photos. The Samsung Fascinate phone even incorporates in a very nice 9 photo panoramic image maker. This feature automatically guides the user through and lines up the photos and processes the image in no time. For anyone who has done panoramics for virtual tours such as VisualTours (which is a great service by the way), you know the hassle it can be. Likewise, photos you take can be easily saved to Picasa online and shared with a customer. We’ve been using Picasa for several years to share requested photos with customers. No cumbersome attachments, simply send them the link. In addition these phones have great GPS navigation capability, calculator functions, local information access, so forth and so on.
- More choice. Since technology purchases are an investment in your business, choice means better pricing and the ability to find a device and plan that best suits your individual needs. The iPhone exists only with AT&T (and I’m not into the jalibreaking thing for the proponents of that) which is no choice obviously. Android phones exist with multiple carriers such as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc . You get to choose a phone and a plan that better suits you. With the iPhone you get the choice of . . . an iPhone and an AT&T plan which has limit on data usage.
I do recommend taking your time selecting an Android phone and do the research. They are NOT all the same. You’ll find that the lower-priced Android phones often cannot upgrade to the current versions of the Android OS which adds some really nice features in. And quite frankly, why buy something that is blocked out right out of the box? We just got the Samsung Fascinate (Galaxy S line of Samsung phones) from Verizon and are really pleased with them. Lightweight, great display, and upgradeable to future Android versions.
Stay tuned for . . . my Android Apps Lineup for Real Estate: What’s in Your Apps Wallet?