Saturday, November 28, 2009

Motorola Droid Phone

Thursday on Thanksgiving my brother came over with his new cell phone, a Motorola Droid on Verizon.  I caught a bad case of geek envy and wound up getting one of my own on Black Friday.

Although I've been happy with my Verizon BlackBerry 8330 I've been interested in something better.  Apple's iPhone was interesting but I have zero desire to switch to AT&T, whose 3G network is not nearly as widespread as Verizon's.  I also don't like the idea of a non-swappable battery.

Aside from a better wireless network, the Android has a slide out QWERTY keyboard which you can use instead of the touchscreen keyboard.  The keys are small but usable, at least for me.  It would be better if the keys weren't flat, i.e., if there was a more pronounced edge or space between adjacent keys.  There's also a square trackpad/scroll thingy on the keyboard for screen navigation.

The 3.7" screen is very nice, clear and sharp.  This is the first phone I've seen with virtual desktops, three total.

Of course, the Droid has a camera.  Resolution is good at 5 MP.  It also takes video.  I haven't done much with either yet but if I plan on taking pics I'll be grabbing my Nikon S560, not my phone.

The hardware seems like it has plenty of power.  When connected to my home WiFi network browsing, checking email, and downloading applications all go very fast.  Browsing on Verizon's 3G network is a bit faster than it was on my BlackBerry; it appears that pages render faster on the Droid.

I've only made a couple phone calls but quality seems fine.

The Droid uses the new Micro USB connector for charging or connections to a computer.  This is good in that it's a new standard across cell phone brands but bad for me in that I had to shell out for a new car charger.  C'est la vie.

Overall, the hardware feels very solid and well made.

So far I've mostly been using the Droid like a pocket computer, at which it is quite a bit more advanced than my BlackBerry.  The applications which I've installed are:

- Dolphin browser.  (Supports multi-touch like an iPhone.)
- Google Finance. (So I can watch my portfolio crater.)
- GPS App. (Gives you a compass and other stuff.)
- My Verizon. (Basically a shortcut to my online VZW account.)
- Weather Channel.
- OneKey Terminator. (Provides one touch killing of all open apps, in case your phone gets sluggish due to having too many open.)
- ScanLife barcode scanner. (Allows you to scan bar codes and look them up online. In the case of books takes you to the Google Books entry.)
- OI File Manager. (File manager for your SD card. The Droid comes with a 16 GB card.)
- Wardrive. (Scans for and detects wifi networks then stores them in a map database.)
- Wifi Toggle Widget. (Adds a one touch widget to the home screen to enable/disable WiFi.  This is handy because leaving WiFi on when you're not using it eats battery life.)
- Star Wars Sounds & Ringtones. (I'm in tech. Being a Star Wars nerd is pretty much required.)
- CIDR Calculator. (For calculating subnets and masks.)
- AK Notepad.
- ConnectBot. (SSH and Telnet client.)
- Tricorder. (Displays gravitation and magnetic field, environmental and geographic information, including a compass.  Also has a WiFi monitoring mode. The GUI is styled after the tricorders in ST:TNG.)

All of the above apps can be found in the Android Market, accessible through on Android phone.

I've also also using the included email, Gmail, Facebook, Google Maps, and YouTube apps, all of which work smoothly.  The Google Maps Navigation feature turns the phone into a car GPS.  If I was Garmin, Magellan, or a similar company I'd be concerned.

Like the iPhone, tethering is not yet supported on the Droid.  As I understand it, Verizon will be supporting tethering sometime in the Spring.  While I occasionally used tethering on my BlackBerry I doubt I'll spring for it with the Droid, saving myself about $15/month.

Since getting the Droid yesterday it's been hard to put down.  For gadget freaks this thing will be like crack.  For computer geeks like myself it's simply amazing.  Jerry Pournelle has said that his iPhone is almost the manifestation of the pocket computers from The Mote in God's Eye.   The Droid is another version of the same thing.

Edit 11/29/09: Thanks to a Facebook friend, I now can tether my Droid to my MacBook Pro or Hobbit (my MSI Wind netbook) using PDANet, even though Verizon does not yet officially support tethering the Droid.   PDANet supports only Bluetooth tethering on Mac and Linux, while Windows users can install a desktop client and use USB tethering.  Speeds on the Mac were slow, around 100k to 300k.  On Hobbit, though, it's around a 1 Mb connection, which is very usable.  Best part?  No monthly fee.


EgregiousCharles said...

I have Garmin Mobile for my Blackberry, and it seems to me to be a really superior GPS app. Much better than the built-in GPS in my Volvo or the Nextar stand-alone unit I had.

Condor said...

I couldn't get pda net to work with my macbook pro. I paired it but when i tried to connect my macbook would just say something about an error connecting with the PPP or something like that.

Any ideas?

(otherwise, i love my droid as well)

Darryl said...

Just got my droid (late to the party). Installed connectbot as well. Any idea how to increase the font size? It is too tiny when I log into my server.

Like I said, I just got my droid so this may be stupid simple question