Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Enter: The Droid

So, I've had the Droid for little over a week now, and because of my week long bow hunting vacation I have been able to spend some quality time with the device. Some history, my previous phone was a Verizon Voyager, which is a decked out touch screen phone, but not a smart phone. I had recently become more and more envious of Iphone users; however, never enough to make the jump from Verizon. I was really excited when I heard that Verizon would be releasing a phone that could compete with the Iphones, Palm Pres, and Blackberries of the world. I'll go through some pro's and cons, although I don't even want to call them cons. They are more like small subtle annoyances that are easier to remember when writing a review then it is to remember how awesome everything else is.

The physical Pros:

The screen is gorgeous, with a high enough resolution (480x854) that I can often view a website in it's entirety. The brightness, quality, and size of the display is also a thing of dreams. I haven't put any movies on it yet but I would like to see how it holds up against my ipod nano. The heavier weight feels solid in your palm and the slideout keyboard is also smooth, firm and durable. My Voyager felt like if I put a little too much pressure on the flip, it would break off, this is not the case with the Droid. It feels like a rock. Battery life is great, The only time the battery drains faster then you would like is when you have the display on bright and constantly. You can regulate the devices which use most battery life, such as wifi, bluetooth, GPS, display brightness, and account syncing. The 2 LED flash for the camera is pretty sweet. Unless you are taking pictures of animals, then they just look like our cyborg overlords, watching, waiting...

The physical Cons:

I was very comfortable with my Voyager QWERTY keyboard, with it's individual character keys. The shift to the Droid was allllright. I can't speed type without seeing many typos, but I imagine that will come with time. The lip on the right pushes my right hand farther from the keys then I am used to, which results in me pressing "/" instead of the spacebar A LOT. The alt key + delete will combine to delete a whole row instead of a character. This is a nice shortcut, I guess, but all it has done to me is result in frustrating lengthy IM's getting blown away to be rewritten again. Also, the d-pad on the right is not 4 directional buttons surrounded by an OK button like on the Voyager. It resembles a Ipod where the pad is 1 continuous button surrounding the OK. This makes me nervous when entering forms and texts because if I want to navigate with the d-pad I risk thumbing the inner OK button and sending off my data prematurely. And nobody wants that.

The bottom of the touchscreen has 4 physical links, all extensions of the touchscreen. One for back, settings, home, and search. The bevel around the phone is very small, small enough so that my static electricity from how I hold the phone constantly sets off the google search app. Not a huge problem, a quick back fixes it. Similarly, the volume buttons on the opposite side are easy to bump. I can't tell you the amount of times I unknowingly sent the volume from vibrate to silent. There's a game I like to play called put the phone in your pocket without changing the volume. It's a lot like Operation.

This is more of a like-to-have, but with all the candid opportunities to take a video or a picture in life, the camera should be a little more agile. If you hold down the camera button you have to wait several seconds for the app to load, then if you actually want to take a picture you have to hold down the button for about 3 seconds longer then when you think it took the picture. That's the actual equation, thus making you always lose. If I see Molly Malaney and Jason Mesnik walking around downtown Milwaukee I should be able to be the paparazzi that I am and press the camera button once and have a picture taken. No matter what I am doing with the phone.

The Software pros:

First, without any mention of apps, the phone is able to merge my gmail account and contacts with the contacts from my old phone. Then on top of that a facebook account can be merged in and combined with your contacts, (or you can even add your fb friends as contacts) It will take the numbers or email friends provide via facebook and populate your existing phone contacts with more information. Contacts can now direct you to the facebook profile, and all contact images are updated with status and profile pictures. So when a friend calls you see their facebook image. Also, The phone has a notification bar on the top, it shows which apps are running and the time, battery life, signal, and volume. When you receive a notification (Text message, new email, facebook invite, anything from any app) it flashes on the taskbar, then gets nested in a pile of unchecked notifications which can be viewed by pulling the taskbar down. You can then individually click on your notifications or clear all.

Second thing to mention before apps, Google maps. For anyone who doesn't know, Google released turn by turn navigation with their maps app. For free. This will make anyone hard pressed to find a reason to buy an expensive GPS device for your car if all cell phones have Google maps in the future. Not only is it free, but it also gets it's maps directly from the internet, always up to date, which you can't say for all the other GPS manufacturers.

Ok, so now, Apps. Wow. Definitely the key selling point of any smart phone. It seems like they have them for everything. Some are for fun, some are for productivity and information. I'm a big multitasker, and having multiple apps able to be run simultaneously is something I wouldn't know how to live without. I can run Pandora in the background for music as I run through other tasks. Just earlier today I was adding friends to a Xbox Live app by alt-tabbing between a browser of my xbox friends and the app. The widgets are also cool. Now instead of just having a home screen shortcut to an application, you can have a widget. A widget is usually a link to the application, but also a dynamic feed to display data quickly to the user. The weather channel has a small and large widget, both showing the temperature and weather image populated by your location. The Handcent (handles all my text messages) widget looks just like the shortcut except a small number on the bottom right of the icon shows you the amount of unread texts. Widgets also get as complex as the SportsTap sports ticker reading my favorite sports team schedules and scores, a time and date widget, or the pandora music player.

My current list of must have apps:
  • TasKiller (Manage resources)
  • Meebo IM (AIM, Facebook, Gtalk, etc..)
  • Pandora ( Music, duh!)
  • Handcent (Text messaging)
  • Robo Defense (Tower defense game)
  • Shazam (Get's songs by listening to it)
  • SportsTap (Good hub for all things sports)
The Software cons:

Having apps run simultaneously can be a downfall too. Everything runs fast and smoothly... that is until you have a bunch of them open at once. My TasKiller app says anything over 5 apps is too much, but I don't think I ran across issues until I was closer to 10+ apps. The main menu takes awhile to load, the screen taps don't register immediately, etc. The TasKiller app is great because you can tap it's widget and clear all but a few chosen apps.

Searching the apps marketplace could use more google magic. When I search 'weather' I should be returned the most downloaded highest rated weather reporting applications. Instead I am returned apps which match closely to the word 'weather'. Therefore weatherchannel and accuweather, which I believe are the 2 most downloaded weather apps, are around 10th and 20th in position. Not too user friendly.


All that being said, it's a great phone and I am very happy with my purchase. I realize it may look like there's a ton wrong with it, but it's just easier to nitpick something then to praise it. If you are someone that likes staying connected, social networks, taking pictures/video on the go, and just being a dork in general, this phone is a must have. And I'm sure an Iphone would do the job too, I don't want to sound like I'm saying the droid is better then any other smartphone. I haven't tried them all so I don't know. I do know that the Droid brings my expectations of a cell phone to new heights.


Gregor said...

I don't think you have to worry about snapping pics of Molly anytime soon. Sad.

Good review, though. The App search sounds terrible, but being an early adopter has it's price.

Assailant.9 said...

I'll stick with my Motorola Razer, thank you very much.

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