Dallas Bar Association

Tech Toys for Lawyers – 2011 Edition

by Tom Mighell

What, the holiday season already? It seems such a short time ago that I last shared my favorite tech toy holiday recommendations. This year, my picks may sound like a broken record, but one thing is certain: just like last year, lawyers are clamoring over mobile technology. Phones, tablet computers and e-readers are expected to be the hot sellers again this year, and in this article I’ll cover a few of my favorites.

Let’s start with tablets, which I think are poised to be a runaway holiday hit. And they aren’t just toys, either; lawyers increasingly are using tablets as part of their practice, as a supplemental tool to a laptop or desktop. The top device in this category is Apple’s iPad 2 ($499-$829, depending on memory); it has more apps, including more apps for lawyers, and like most Apple devices, it “just works.” But where last year the iPad was the only game in town, this year there are a number of challengers to Apple’s tablet dominance. The top Android tablets include the Samsung Galaxy Tab ($500), Sony Tablet S ($500-$600) and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer ($400). Blackberry’s contribution to the tablet market, the Playbook ($350-$500), just hasn’t taken off as a contender to the others—it has too few apps to be useful, and you can only access your email on the tablet when it is paired with your Blackberry device.

If you want some advice on which tablet to choose, watch this short video from CNet (http://cnet.co/fomrIh), which might help narrow down your options.

Back when the iPad was first introduced, people predicted the end of the Kindle and Nook e-readers. But these devices have survived and thrived, in a niche of their own. Amazon’s Kindle ($79-$199) is still the gold standard for e-readers; the company recently released an all-new collection of Kindles, now with a touchscreen. Even better, Amazon debuted the Kindle Fire ($199), an Android tablet device that looks to capture the tablet market for those who think the iPad is too expensive. It’s not as powerful as the iPad, but for $199, you might not care—it’s a great e-reader and digital media consumption device. Not to be outdone, Barnes & Noble has rolled out the Nook Tablet ($249), which offers twice the storage of the Kindle Fire. Either of these devices are great as gifts for the reader in your family.

When you think smartphone, the “big three” still predominate: iPhone, Android and Blackberry (sorry Windows, your phone just isn’t that popular right now). Apple recently released the iPhone 4S (starting at $199), which features improved speed and an 8 mega-pixel camera—with the new iPhone, you can almost kiss your point-and-shoot camera goodbye. The most interesting new iPhone feature, however, is Siri, an “intelligent assistant” who can help you out—a lot. Just speak a command into the phone (“Send a text to Bob that I’m on my way,” “On May 20th remind me it’s Dad’s birthday,” “tell me how to get to the Stockyards from here”), and Siri will do it. It’s a really amazing advance in voice-recognition technology.

Apple’s competitors have not been idle, however—the Android market boasts many more users than iPhone, and for good reason; there are literally dozens of Android phones from which to choose, which can be both a good and bad thing. To see all of the Android phones currently on the market, head over to the Google Phone Market (www.google.com/phone/), which now lists 68 Android devices (nearly triple the number available last year). The latest Androids to hit the market include the Motorola Droid Razr ($110), Samsung Galaxy X ($199), Motorola Droid Bionic ($249) and HTC Sensation ($99-$549).

Blackberry’s reputation has suffered over the past year with service outages and losing market share to Apple and Android, but it still offers the most robust email system of any phone. If you’re still a Crackberry addict, try the Bold 9900 ($299).

Finally, my favorite new music find over the past year—the Sonos Wireless HiFi System ($299 and up). Connect one of these devices to your wireless network, and you can stream music from your computer, Pandora, or just about any music source that can be found online. Because it’s wireless, you can buy a separate unit for just about any room in the house, creating your own home stereo system at a fraction of the hassle.

If you’re interested in being the lucky recipient of a tech toy this holiday season, I’d suggest leaving this article where a loved one can read it. Happy holidays to all—see you next year!

Tom Mighell is a Senior Consultant with Contoural, Inc., and currently serves as Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section. He can be reached at tmighell@gmail.com.

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