I am doing research in theoretical physics, and have learned that smartphones can bring in a lot of distractions to your life if you want to focus on your research and study. Like facebook, twitter messages, random news feeds and so on. If I disable all apps, on the other hand, I will loose the benefit of owning a smartphone. In the limited time of using smartphones in my life, I have collected the following list of apps and things to have on a smartphone. I also have some questions marks for better alternatives. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions and recommendations to make the smartphone great for academic life.

  1. There is an arXiv mobile app so that I can read paper anywhere whenever I find a chance (like sitting on a bus for commuting). I am sure you can use smartphones for StackExchange Q&A as well. Any apps that can allow me to read recommended papers based on my interests from all sourced journals as well as arXiv if possible?

  2. Use a PDF scanner--in my case, clearScanner--to transfer a paper/blackboard note to the e-version and synchronize on a cloud (like dropbox or OneDrive) by taking a photo to a black/white-board or paper note. I also use EndNote to put all my notes together in order to edit them on my Thinkpad Yoga or X200 tablet when I get a chance.

  3. Use twitter to only tweet academic content and build a network with researchers in the field. Then connect twitter with facebook to synchronize my content. This way, maybe less spam for me. Any other social network sources I shouldn't block and should cultivate using a smartphone?

  4. I do use open-source version-control ideas for academic writing and coding. But I haven't found a way to get benefit from a smartphone for this purpose as I have a tablet and laptops to handle most of the mobile jobs. For example, I use github to version my bibtex file for bibliography records, but I haven't found a proper app to mobile bibtex on the go. Maybe there are some apps useful on a smartphone.

  5. Use voice record to record my own talks and discussions with people if things are hard to understand and solve in a short time or I want to put the talk online along side with my slides. I haven't found an efficient way to combine the voice and slides seamlessly, though.

  6. Keep the calendar running in the background for scheduling things with notifications. Same to emails.

  7. Smartphones can easily track my physical fitness, but is there any way to track my academic fitness?

  8. I have heard people using smartphones to track experimental equipment remotely and use all kinds of smartphone sensors to demonstrate physical lab experiments, but I really didn't go that far. Let's also keep this thought of train open if you have any recommendations.

  9. Install a bar/QR code scanner, and it could be useful to scan and download a poster on your phone in conferences/workshops nowadays.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Feb 23 '17 at 14:14

We live in an era flooding with information, most of which that seem interesting but are utterly unnecessary to our lives and that could easily be replaced by something else that is both as interesting and more meaningful, but that requires more work than just scrolling Facebook or SE threads. Academia is no different, and if you are exposed to this kind of environment you have to pay attention not to drown, which appears to be what you are trying to accomplish.

The simplest solution is not to expose yourself extensively to this kind of environment (e.g., your phone).

Even if you crowd your twitter feed with important scientists and journals, chances are you will be just as unproductive as if you were browsing a celebrity's instagram. Most of that information will be irrelevant to you. If you can't help but use your phone for something during time you are supposed to do work, it's not crowding it "productivity" apps that will set you forward, it's ultimately your attitude towards it.

This is not to say having a mobile isn't important for research -- I use my tablet for several research-related activities, from reading RSS feeds from journals to writing papers and using SE, and even several of the applications you listed seem interesting --, however, chances are you can be more productive not using it most of the time. I wouldn't be so hesitant in blocking apps (if you really cant help but using them) instead of making them look "sciencey".

Here's my current approach towards using a smartphone/tablet:

I don't block apps or turn them off, but I usually reserve some time to use my tablet during the day for general browsing, which is usually early in the morning and late at night.

I have a Feedly RSS feed where I follow journals and authors that mostly publish in areas related to mine, so I usually don't miss anything new.

I do have an exclusive twitter account which I use to follow research-related feeds and communicate with my peers.

I use OneNote to keep notes and Agenda to keep track of what I have to do during the day.

I have bluetooth keyboard and mouse that I carry with me (I use sharelatex to write), so carrying my laptop with me is unnecessary most of the times.

I use Teamviewer to access my office or home computer if I need to do something that requires a computer (e.g., programming).

I use my tablet during meetings to access papers/figures that I have generated.

My research is in the cloud and accessible through my tablet, phone and computers, and so are my papers (Mendeley), hence I can produce them whenever I need or am requested.

I rarely print papers. I read and annotate them using Mendeley.

I am however concerned about conservation of my notes and research in general, so I keep paper notebooks, which are also regularly scanned, and print important papers/notes that are meaningful and important and store them in binders.

The important thing is that I keep my mobiles with me all the time during work time, but don't use them unless necessary or requested.

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