Have you ever thought about getting a PA? A personal assistant could take care of all the little admin jobs that fill up your day, freeing you up to do your real work or just give you some breathing space.
A good PA could go further - he or she could take care of things you haven't even thought of and make your life easier without you having to concern yourself with the boring minutiae.
You might not be in a position to hire a Person Friday, but if you have a Samsung GALAXY Note II, you might still be able to get some of the benefits. Can your Note II replace a PA? We think it might. Here's how.
Talk is cheap, time is money
The Note II works very well as a mobile phone, but actually talking to people and responding to SMS messages can seriously eat into your time. Your Note II can take care of that for you in a couple of ways. Firstly, voice mail.
The voice mail provided by your mobile network is fine, but it can be tricky to manage, particularly if they use a complicated menu system. HulloMail Smart Voicemail (free ad-supported version / £5.99 full version) is a complete 'visual voicemail' system for your Note II that will show you each message on your Note II’s 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display, with an optional avatar pic for the sender.
HulloMail will actually contact your mobile network and get it to route all your missed calls to its servers, completely replacing your operator’s voicemail service. You can also use it to record individual greetings for calls from selected contacts and the paid version will automatically send an MP3 of each voicemail to your email inbox, for you to listen on your PC or to file for later.
Successfully screening calls
Secondly, you can use a variety of decent, Note II-friendly apps to automatically screen calls or respond to messages. The dialler app on your phone will let you quickly fire off an "I'm busy, call back later," SMS instead of picking up a call, while an app such as Auto SMS (£1.26) can send custom SMS replies automatically based on several criteria. Spam texts can be quickly binned and you can get back to your contacts instantly even while doing something else.
Another useful app to help you keep in touch with your contacts is Nextcall. Simply tag important work or personal contacts (there are categories for both) and Nextcall will keep an eye on how often you contact them.
You can set threshold for each category or for individuals so you don't have to worry about remembering to touch base once a month with a colleague or call your mum every week - your Note II-based PA will remind you.
“Note II, take this down…”
Any PA worth their salt should be able to take dictation and the GALAXY Note II is no exception. Tap the microphone at the bottom of your keyboard and you will start voice typing.
Using this handy feature effectively can take a little practice at first, as it can struggle with rapid speakers or those with particularly strong regional accents. Nevertheless, once you’ve got the hang of it, voice-to-text on the Note II works surprisingly well and is certainly good enough to dictate texts, tweets and other short notes.
The Note II's aptitude for voice control means that it can also take full advantage of the growing number of apps that let you speak directly to your phone. One of the best of the current crop is Maluuba, which doesn't 'talk back' like some of its rivals, but is incredibly adept at finding information.
By tapping the Mic icon in Maluuba you can add events to your calendar, make short notes, find out the weather and place a call with a simple instruction to "Call Dave!" (or whoever else on your contacts list you wish to speak with).
You can also ask your pocket PA questions like, "Who is the president of the European Union?" or "How far is it to the Moon?" and it will do its best to answer using numerous sources, including Wikipedia and Wolfram Alpha.
Takes the slog out of taking minutes
Taking minutes in a meeting is another excellent use of your PA's time. Now, we can't really expect the Note II to sit in a meeting, somehow using its own S Pen to take notes, but Minutes Of Meeting Pro (£1.24) is an app that can make it a lot easier for you to quickly take those minutes yourself.
Minutes Of Meeting Pro lets you set up templates for the kind of meeting you usually have and you can add a new minute with just a few taps. It also supports voice typing, plus action points can be recorded and entered into your Note II’s Calendar automatically. Those actions, as well as the minutes from all your meetings, are fully searchable using the app or can be exported as HTML documents.
For the final piece of the PA puzzle, Locale (£7.99) is a clever app that will figure out where you are via GPS and do... stuff. The kind of second-guessing you might rely on a good PA to do such as muting your phone when you are in work, automatically sending a text when you are on your way home or even swapping your wallpaper for something sober and businesslike when you get to the office.
There are many plug-ins for Locale including ones for To-Do List apps such as Astrid (£0.93) that will remind you to do things when you reach a particular location.
If you download and use any or all of the handy apps listed above, you’ll soon realise that, with the help of your GALAXY Note II, it really is like having a helpful person living in your pocket and sweating the small stuff so you don't have to!
Note: Some of the apps recommended above may not be available in selected territories.