use creativity;

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Motorola Droid: The Honeymoon is Over.

It has been a couple of months since Motorola Droid. I have come to know the little device pretty well and any time one comes to know something intimately, that things faults begin to become more glaringly obvious. Before I continue I want you to know that I still love this little device and I would buy it again given the chance. The display is still one of the best on the market, the number of free apps is impressive, the integration with Google’s service is awesome, and the device itself is still solid and looking good even after a couple of rather high falls off of an elliptical trainer (note to self, get bluetooth headphones). Here are some things that I don’t like about the device.

The Physical stuff

The Back Cover falls off of my phone.

A lot. I find it in my pocket loose fairly regularly. I am not a phone holster sort of dude, so this might not be an issue for most people but it drives me batty. Fortunately my battery hasn’t fallen out too many times.

The Camera flash is tinged blue.

This makes the pictures you take in poor light pretty much suck. I initially heralded the flash as one of the nice points of the phone, and it still is if you are using it as a flashlight. Just don’t use it to take pictures unless you have to, or unless of course you want to blind your subject for a couple of minutes. It feels like staring into the sun if the sun were made of blue LEDs.

One handed use is difficult due the location of the hot keys.

Before you get all grossed out about this, remember that I have two children and one of my arms is almost constantly in use scooping one of them up, or moving something out of their way, or trying to extract something from their hands and/or mouths so I do a fair amount of legitimate 1 hand browsing. If one is left handed (or sinister as I like to call it),this might not be much of a problem, but as I am a righty and i have freakishly large meat mittens my palm is always hitting one of the menu buttons (usually the back button) thus kicking me out of whatever I was just doing.

Also I question having the back button and the menu button right next to each other. They are pretty much the exact opposite of each other and I seem to hit the one I don’t want to hit about 32% of the time. Remember,. 98.7% of all statistics are fabricated!

The Android Platform.

The Droid runs the 2.0 version of the Android platform. What confuses me most about this version of the platform is that there was at least one major release before it which lacks one feature that I personally believe is very critical.

The very noticeably absent spell check

In the outline I had worked up in writing this I had this listed three time, I will avoid beating you over the head with that particular literary device and just tell you that I think not including a spell checker is positively stone age. Other phones do it so I don’t think that it is a huge technical hurdle. I follow the bug/feature request on the Android developer site and it is sometime comical to see what people write (often misspelled horribly) about this missing feature. I have not seen any offical response to this complaint from Google other than the fact that this “enhancment” is listed at Medium severity.

Medium, huh? It may not stop you from shipping it, but I bet it will stop people from buying it.

A nice middle ground might be to at least include the predictive text feature that pops up when you use soft keyboard. At least that might be helpful for some commonly misspelled words.

App Shopping is hard to do.

Another thing I am not terribly fond of it the fact that you need to use the phone to browse for apps. Firefox has ruined me. I can no longer browse linearly. When I am shopping for things I scroll down a list of items and open a tab for each one and then I read them one by one eliminating items I am not interested in until I am left with the best candidates. I am not able to do with the Market app. To further complicate things there is no way to sort things making searching for something difficult and makes browsing almost worthless unless you have lots of time to kill.

The Stock browser is boring.

I won’t dwell on it much, but it’s true. I use the Dolphin Browser, which has its own quirks, but is mostly awesome with pinch zooming, gestures and nicer tabbing (not the iPhone style of the stock browser).

There are a couple of other minor annoyances that I have, like not being able to figure out how to not get two status bar notification for ever text I get because I like to use Handcent SMS instead of the stock messaging program and the fact that when I am playing music I have to unlock the phone to see what is playing if it goes to sleep. It would be nice if there was some functionality to have the music player or some other selected app update the lock screen with that info. There are apps to Scrobble to last.fm whatever you are playing in the music player, I can’t imagine it would be that hard to update the lock screen.

Having noted all this in a public forum I fully expect Google to have all of these items fixed by this time on Monday.

Have a nice weekend.

posted by Matthew at 4:01 pm  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The iPad. Another third device.

Unless you have been living under a rock that blocks WiFi signals, you have probably already heard that Apple has announced with a throbbing intensity that it will be releasing a Tablet like device called the iPad to the public in the next couple of months. The announcement will finally end the wild-ass speculation has been clogging up the Intertubes over the past couple of weeks and instead has already begun clogging up the Intertubes with wild-ass conjecture about how this device will alter the very fabric of our society.

I am not so sure about all that.

As a modern user of technology, I have two devices that I use daily. My workstation, and my handheld. My workstation is optimized for me getting things done. It has a large display to assist in multitasking and a full two handed qwerty keyboard for quick data entry. It is good for watching movies and listening to music. There are a multitude of methods for getting data on and off it as well as a near limitless amount of options to process and manipulate that data. The workstation is pretty much the best at doing everything except moving.

And making phone calls, but that isn’t as important at home, or is it?

The mobile on the other hand by definition is great at moving. If it does any subset of the features the workstation does in a usable manner then that is icing on the cake. Mobility here is the key to this sort of devices success. Also, the mobile is great at making phone calls as well. So good that in some cases it has eliminated the need to have a phone that doesn’t go with you everywhere. In this respect mobile devices have become revolutionary because they have changed the fundamental way in which we do things.

The iPad straddles the functionality of these two devices. The screen sure is bigger and prettier than my current mobile devices is, but it doesn’t provide nearly the experience of the 22″ monitors I use on my workstation. Additionally the device cannot replace my current mobile because it doesn’t have the ability to make phone calls, which is honestly the primary function of my mobile device. Besides I am pretty sure that it will also be harder to get data on and off of this device, given Apple’s syncing track record.

So what it comes down to, getting this device is adding a third device to your life. This is an additional item to keep up with, complicating instead of simplifying life. There is nothing revolutionary about it. It is a big iPod touch with (eventually) available 3G. Don’t get me wrong, I have long been a huge fan of the iPod Touch as a huge leap forward in hand held devices, but I still think of it primarily as a toy. So my as my logic follows, the iPad is just a bigger toy.

What would be revolutionary is if the iPad could replace your existing mobile device and act as a sort of traveling user profile holding your personal programs and data with very low level integration with a workstation transforming into more of a landing pad for your one device instead of being though of as the primary device itself. The iPad may be headed in that direction and if so, I will prepare my Kool Aide cup, but until then I will stick with my current paradigm.

posted by Matthew at 1:55 pm  

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Freak-a-droids, Robots! Please report to the dance floor.

I have undertaken my second attempt to become a smart phone user with purchase of a new Motorola Droid. My first attempt ended in ruin, and by ruin I mean with a cracked screen due to riding around in my pants pocket. I was out with my family and I knelt down to tie my shoe and it was all over. I had only had the thing for 3 months but I had really found much use for the thing. The screen was too small to do anything really productive on and the flip out keyboard was nice but kind of goofy. Only the ability to mount memory cars without removing the battery still stands out as the most useful feature of that phone. At the time I didn’t even think that this was that big of a deal, but almost 5 years later I have still never had a phone with that feature.

I feel that I must confess before we continue that every other cell phone I have ever owned, with the additional exception of my second phone which was a particularly crappy Samsung, has been made by Motorola. This may graduate me into the ranks of the raving fanboys. This criticism may be fair but I still believe I have purchased the best phone my budget and network would allow with the possible exception of my first phone, a Motorola Timeport, which I bought solely because it looked like a Star Trek communication. I have grown up a lot since then, and frankly so has Motorola.

Without getting into the details of each phone I have owned and why I liked it specifically I will say that as a general rule I have bought Motorola phones because they are sturdy (and the need to be to live through a 2 year contract commitment with me), they usually use standard USB ports for data and charging, and more often than not that have made phones that are not unattractive. You will remember that I previously stated that I bought the first phone for its Star Trek like qualities and take that last point with the grain of salt it deserves. These items of my adoration remain
strong points when talking about the Droid.

The thing feels study. An iphone feels sturdy as well, true but it is easy to make something with no moving parts feel sturdy. When you slide the keyboard out on the Droid it feels substantial. It snaps in to place and it feels robotic. I doesn’t feel cheap as some sliders do. And on the keyboard, it looks how I would think people from the future would think we citizens of the past would think an everymans keyboard of the future would look like. The copper accents almost add an element of steampunk to the device. As far as the usability of the keyboard is concerned, I am still quite new to using it but I think that you actually get a little more haptic feedback when using the navigation buttons (which are part of the touchscreen) than you do with the keyboard. It feels almost too smooth and I have had some difficulty getting my fat thumbs to type accurately. This has brought to my attention another problem with the device and that is that the browser lacks a spellchecker in text fields, which is a feature I dearly rely on. There are other browsers available, but I haven’t looked into them yet. This is not a game changer, but it is something I certain would rather not do without.

Back to the physical, the screen on this thing is amazing. At 480 by 854 it totally smoked the iPhone even though the screen real estate is about the same. It is hands down the sexiest part of this phone. Granted, the Droid itself really isn’t really sexy. It is certainly not as sexy as an iPhone. The lines aren’t as sleek. It isn’t as thin. There aren’t any color choices. But to me, that’s all okay because I am not looking for a sexy phone. I am not really Apple target demographic. Besides, I really wasn’t looking for a useful accessory. I am looking for a tool. One to help keep me organized and make my life a little bit easier. The Droid started doing that as soon as it came out of the box.

Upon activation, one of the first thing the phone does is ask you for is your Google account credentials. Now, this will not seem like big whoop to some of you, but as a user of Gmail and Google Calender it was awesome to see that the contacts I had set up in Gmail were already populated to my phone, and my calendar was already set up. It was then easy to log into Gmail from my PC and update the rest of my contacts instead of having to enter them into my phone individually. It’s nice to be able to add contacts without having to touch the phone. Additionally there is a App for Google Voice with is pretty sweet and allows you to use your Google voice number to place calls and send SMS. I am sure if you think about that you can figure out a way to use that to your Cell Carriers disadvantage.

All in all I have to say I am very pleased with my purchase so far, but I haven’t even had it a week yet. I will try to write something a little more in depth after I have had further time to play with this awesome little device.

posted by Matthew at 11:12 pm  

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