Living with the Droid

I’ve had my Motorola Droid phone for about two weeks now, so I thought
I would go over some things I have observed about the OS and the phone
in general. First of all, I’m a complete noob when it comes to smart
phones. I’ve never used an iPhone or Chocolate Bar or whatever all the
other phones are called. Second of all, I work in technology and I have
a pretty good grasp of operating systems and software. Thirdly, I’m an
Open Source proponent. Not as militant as Cory Doctorow,(Love ‘ya man!)
but still, I have my prejudices.

Look and Feel

The Droid is a man’s phone. In particular, a nerdy man’s
phone. There is nothing pretty, or feminine about it. It’s black and
rectangular and kinda robotic looking. It’s not sleek and sexy like an
iPhone or a Nexus One. So if you require an esthetically pleasing phone,
for whatever reason, this one is not for you. I have started to
appreciate certain things about the Droid’s harware. It’s sturdy and
clean. Nothing about it suggests poor craftsmanship or design. It kinda
reminds me of what the military would issue. Especially when it’s
wrapped up in a ruggedized black cover. It’s the kind of phone the
Terminator would have used, or maybe even Darth Vader.

I used to wonder about the lip on the bottom edge of the phone where the
Verizon logo sits. Why was that even there? But after having used the
phone for a number of tasks, I can appreciate it as a spot to hold the
phone while using it as an e-book reader. More about that later.

I purchased the rubber cover for it as mentioned above and then quickly
abandoned it. The phone does not fit in the charger stand with the cover
on and it’s harder to fit in my pocket. No I’m not happy to see you,
that’s just my Droid.

The screen is big and bright and very impressive. My sons like to watch
movie trailers on it, but watching a movie would be just silly. The
little speaker puts my Macbook’s speakers to shame. How can so much
sound come out of something so small? I don’t use the hard keyboard
much, or the golden curser thingy. (I had to have someone explain that
one to me. I thought it was a finger print ID system or something.) I do
use the keyboard for the shell app that lets me do nerdy terminal things
and the kids use it for some of the games we tried.

The Phone Part

I seriously had the phone for four days before someone
called me on it. I had forgotten it even was a phone. Android uses your
Gmail contacts for the phone contacts and so I had to make sure all my
contacts had numbers in them, but setup was automatic and painless.
Calls sound about the same as any cell phone – like crap compared to my
VHF Ham radios.

Because the phone is an application (app) and not a core feature, like
my old simple cell phone, you have to open the app to make a call. I
find that strange behavior on a “phone”. Seems like there should be a
hard button for placing a call. Again, smart phone noob here, so maybe
everyone finds that normal but me.

The Operating System Part

As a mini-computer, the Droid is actually
quite fun to use. It didn’t take too long for me and my sons to figure
out how to open apps, use them and then open more apps and use them and
so on until at some point the OS said, “Enough is enough” and started
taking back RAM. I guess this is how Android does things but it’s really
strange for me, as I like to be able to chose what programs are running
on my system. I eventually found a process killing app and I love it.

Along the lines of what I said above, when you are using the Music app
and the display goes to black, it can be quite a challenge to find your
song again and pause it. This is very annoying for me at work. When
someone comes up to talk to me and I have to stop my music or podcast so
I can hear them. You have to push on the home button and get the last
running apps menu and chose Music player. You get the album listing and
must scroll down to find your tune and then select it and then hit
pause. That’s about a hundred steps too many for such a simple user
need. Why can’t the Music app take priority and come up automatically to
the song you are playing? Something tells me that the iPhone probably
handles this more gracefully. But I can’t say for sure, as I have never
used one.

Staying on the music function, I love that I can rip CDs on the Macbook
and transfer them over USB to the docked Droid. Very cool and easy. The
second sound related program that I have used a bit is Google’s Listen
app – an RSS feed for podcasts. This app is very hard to understand and
use. I’ve been listening to podcasts this week on it and sometimes, I
just don’t know what the hell its doing. More than one occassion it just
stops playing after about 15 minutes. I thought this was due to the
screen saver coming on and closing down the app, but that was set to
come on after 30 minutes and still the app switched off ten minutes into
the podcast. Of course was commuting and could not fiddle with it.

I absolutely love the messaging feature of Android and have adopted it
easily. Just pull down on the top menu bar and your emails or other
notifications are there. The OS moves smoothly from my home WiFi to 3G
and I love that. Battery life is adequate, considering I can charge it
in my car and at my desk at work.

I installed the Shortcovers app and purchased Rework from Kobo Books. My
first ten dollar e-book. I’ve only read it for an hour at any one time
but have had no eye strain or brain pains. The Droid is now my default
e-book reader, as oppossed to the computer screen. I even read it while
standing in line at the pharmacy, one of the time sink activities where
I always wished I could read to pass the time.

Apps and Stuff

I’ve tried a few different kinds of apps, from games that
look like they were ported from a gaming system, to news readers and
Bible apps. Some of the most useful apps for me are the weather widget,
calander widget, ESPN Browser, CBS News and BBC News apps, Seesmic,
Pandora and Fandango. Your milage may vary, as they say.

One of the most amusing apps is Google Sky. The kids and I were
absolutely fascinated with that for the first week we owned the phone.
But now, it seems the magic is fading. Still, it’s great for debunking
UFO sightings that are actually the planet Venus!

Still, when it gets right down to it I really don’t need 90% of the apps that are available.

Final Thoughts

I’m glad I waited until now to invest in the smart phone
thing. Because truth be told, as fun as the Droid is, I really don’t
need anything it has to offer, other than the phone. What it buys me is
a bit of conveinence. I have instant access to my Gmail and calander
and right now, as Baseball season takes off, I use the hell out of that.
So as long as I’m able to afford it, I will keep my Droid.

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2 thoughts on “Living with the Droid”

  1. Nope, I have not had the time to investigate and experiment with it. Right now I’m listening to the Time Enough For Love audio book on it, using the Music app. Funny side note about that. Yesterday while driving home and listening to said book, I heard the beeping of R2D2 and thought my Droid was wigging out on me, or perhaps adding some flare to the book. Until I realized that the phone was ringing and I had set R2 to be my ringer. It is a Droid after all.

    The phone is an app concept did not occur to me before getting the phone err computer either. But like I said, all smart phone are like that, near as I can tell.

  2. Thanks for the review, I had fun reading it. So, Darth Vader would use it, eh?

    I wouldn’t have the problems with the music or the phone, but I’m glad to see mention of Seesmic working on it. I think that, the emergency alert system I subscribe to, the Sky app, and the texting system will be where I would spend most of my time.

    That last bothers me a bit. You’re saying the phone is an app, implying the Droid is not a phone. That’s interesting and a bit of a concern, I’ll have to check into that.

    Speaking of the Sky app, right now IIRR, you have a good chance of seeing Mercury in the evening, just below and to the right of bright Venus.

    One question…did you ever find out why the podcasts were clamming up on you?

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