Thursday, 14 March 2013

A smartphone: don't leave home without it

I've been blogging about podcasting for the last month or so.

All my work on the subject is based on the fact that it provides a voice to everybody on the planet. That is does not require much moolah to start up and that you can do it without very sophisticated technology.

While the term 'sophisticated technology' may not agree with what I am about to mention next, one of your best devices is a smartphone. 

Smartphones are the norm in today's information explosion-centric world and as my ten-year-old cousin once said, the most important characteristic in a phone today is a camera. 

He's right...and then some.

When you are podcasting or just 'journalising' in general, it is not uncommon for you to go out and do an interview. Instead of carrying around a (slightly) cumbersome recorder, why not just take your smartphone, record your interview on it and then snap a few shots of the person you are interviewing to add to your piece. If you want to record a video interview, that's fine too.

There are several sound recorder apps out there that will cater to your needs.

The reason I am playing up the smartphone is because it works far better than any other phone. My previous phone wasn't smart (it wasn't daft either) but it had horrible playback and a camera I would describe grainy at best.

The Concept

Using my smartphone, I planned to interview six interviewees and photograph their achievements. I would then make a multimedia project around the same, which in this case was an audio slideshow.

The Idea

I had planned on covering the topic of bridge, because while several card games, including the likes of Blackjack, Poker and Baccarat are given sufficient coverage, little is provided to Bridge, which is one of the oldest card games in today's world.

Additionally, few people know that there is a very active bridge circuit in Oman. I know that because my father plays Bridge and nobody shows him any recognition for it whatsoever.

I had also arranged to take snaps of the players' trophies and had previously arranged for newspaper clippings and Polaroid photographs which had chronicled their achievements.

The Process

I wanted to keep a diverse base of people to show that individuals from several countries play bridge and share common ground at the bridge table. 

For this purpose, I interviewed six people:

1.) Dr. Nasser Mohammed Al Lamki, an Omani doctor who has been playing bridge for over 50 years.

2.) Mr. Mohammed Ashraf from Pakistan, who started playing Bridge in the 1960s and has now founded the Khurshid Cup, an annual bridge tournament named after his son.

3.) Mr. Lindsay Herbert from the UK, who only came to Oman last September and is already an active member of the Muscat bridge circuit, having being introduced to the game at the age of seven.

4.) Mr. Gautam Mukherjee, from India, a former Chairman of the Muscat Bridge League who has been playing bridge for the last 20 years

5.) Mr. Abdi and Mrs. Yasmin Naffer, a married couple from India who play Bridge nearly every week.

All of them were contacts my dad knew, so getting in touch with them was rather easy. I had taken ten-minute interviews with every one of my interviewees and prepared my questions well in advance as I knew what I needed to ask them. 

Although what I have made a two and a half minute video compilation of audio and images of just one of the six questions I asked them - how were you introduced to bridge - the rest of the interviews have been uploaded onto SoundCloud and have been embedded below.

The video itself is here. I'd like to thank Jon Chan and Zee Anna on Flickr for their images.


Your smart phone provides you with the option of recording your interview and then sending to a computer for further editing. Some apps even have built-in editing functions. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, n.d.)

It's not just pictures and interviews that you can take with a smart phone. You want a video interview? That's possible. You want a video overlay with sound. You want a hybrid of pictures and video with sound. All of that is possible. (Thomas, 2012)

You can - like with a conventional recorder - control the recording at any time. (Yuan, 2005)

Your smartphone is easy to carry and is several times more convenient than lugging around a camera or a microphone and assorted paraphernalia. The cost of actually buying the phone aside, there is little one has to spend on investing in the phone itself.

The quality of audio and video is very good, but obviously depends from phone to phone.


The audio recording range of a smartphone is rather low and long-distance recording may not be possible. In addition, it is virtually impossible to eliminate background noise which means location scouting is important.

The amount of footage you can capture is dependent on the amount of memory your phone contains. (Yuan. 2005)


The tools I used for this was the Apple iPhone 4. Had I a better phone, I would have had a better end product.

MS Paint was used to crop the newspaper clippings and Windows Live Movie Maker was used to make the video. Adobe Audition was used to normalise and edit all audio. 

The raw interviews were uploaded onto SoundCloud.

Technical Issues

Make sure your phone is adequately charged as these apps do take up a lot of battery life.

Ensure that your sound is turned on and your phone is not muted.

Make sure you have enough free memory to carry out your interview.

Check if the camera and mic are properly calibrated.

In case you are going to use email to send your interview, photos etc make sure you have a good data plan as sending packet data can be expensive, assuming of course there is no wireless internet.

Future Potential

With specialist microphones now being made just for smartphone and the purpose of interviewing (Yuan, 2005) and the relatively inexpensive and convenient nature of using an incredibly versatile smartphone to conduct your interviews shows great potential, in my opinion.

Raw interviews 

Here are the raw interviews of the six interviewees:

Legal and Ethical Considerations

What is it that Ben Parker said to Spider Man? With great Power comes great Responsibility. There are ethical concerns to be observed when you record with a smartphone.

The United Kingdom's Contempt of Court Act (1981) states that no clandestine recording device can be taken into a court to record proceedings that take place inside a court room. (Banks and Hanna, 2009)

That would also extend to children under the age of 16 who cannot be interviewed without the express consent of their parents and/or guardians (Press Complaints Commission, 2012)

While there is no law forbidding the recording of conversations by adults as Hugh Grant (Addley, 2011) demonstrated during the News of the World phone tapping scandal when he secretly recorded a conversation he had with  tabloid journalist Paul McMullan, formerly deputy features editor at the now defunct newspaper, who inadvertently spilled the beans on what had happened behind the scenes, there is an ethical and legal angle to it.

Called the Trojan Horse (Lumsden 2011), the theory is that people will accept the smartphone as a phone, but when in reality it is being secretly used for another purpose, much like the Trojans accepted the Greek 'gift' of the Trojan Horse. In this case, discretion is the better part of valour.

Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights says that:
  • Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence
  • There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society (Banks and Hanna, 2009)
The exceptions to that law are:
  1. In the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country
  2. For the prevention of disorder or crime
  3. For the protection of health or morals
  4. For the protection of the rights and freedoms of others (Banks and Hanna, 2009)
The same is also enshrined in Clause 3 of the Code of Practice for the Society of Editors. (Press Complaints Commission, 2012)

Some might choose to play the Freedom of Free Speech and Expression Card, but as Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Human Resources Index, 1995) says:
  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
In addition, when you are interviewing someone who may be speaking on a confidential topic it is important to know that that interview must be stored securely and then deleted if necessary.

Eg: the psychiatric analysis of a patient (Gask, et al., 2011)

McNae's Essential Handbook for Journalists (Banks and Hanna, 2009) also says that according to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 (UK), there are three elements in a breach of confidence:
  1. The information must have the necessary quality of confidence
  2. The information must have been imparted in circumstances imposing the obligation of confidence
  3. There must be an unauthorised use of that information to the detriment of the party communicating
Clause 14 of the Code of Practice for the Society of Editors says that journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information. (Press Complaints Commission, 2012)

Never ever use an interview for anything other than its intended purpose. This will come back to bite you in a bad way.

And last but not the least, show your interviewee the final product as he might want to make emendations before it is published/aired, and not doing so might lead to further legal faux-pas. (Seidman, 2012)

Therein lies all you need to know about what you can do with your smartphone and the responsibilities you have when you use it for the above purpose.

Until Next Time,



Addley, E., 2011. The Guardian. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 March 2013].

Andro Geek, 2010. Andro [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 13 March 2013].

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, n.d. Recording Audio with a Smartphone. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 13 March 2013].

Banks, D. & Hanna, M., 2009. McNae's Essential Law for Journalists. 20th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gask, L., Coskun, B. & Baron, D. A., 2011. Teaching Psychiatry: Putting Theory into Practice. 1st ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Human Resources Index, 1995. The European Convention on Human Rights. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 March 2013].

Lumsden, J., 2011. Human-Computer Interaction and Innovation in Handheld, Mobile and Wearable Technologies. 1st ed. Hershey: Idea Group Inc..

Press Complaints Commission, 2012. Editors' Code of Practice. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 March 2013].

Seidman, I., 2012. Interviewing As Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. 1st ed. New York: Teachers College Press.

Thomas, M. N., 2012. Personal Productivity Secrets: Do what you never thought possible with your time and attention... and regain control of your life. 1st ed. Indanapolis: John Wiley & Sons.

Yuan, M. J., 2005. Nokia Smartphone Hacks. 2005 ed. Sebastopol: O'Reilly Media.

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