Experiences with the Motorola DroidFriday, April 30, 2010 12:57
For the longest time, I walked around with three devices. I had my trusty Motorola V710 cell phone, a SanDisk Sansa mp3 player (a m200 then a c240) and a Palm Zire 31 PDA. For more than 5 years, I was quite content.
After 5 faithful years of service, my cell phone started to show its age and its unwillingness to work reliably with my cell phone service, Verizon Wireless. Being that I’d made my cell phone last as long as it did, my wife and I decided to move to smart phones.
I upgraded to the HTC Touch Pro2 and I convinced my wife she should get the Motorola Droid. Within two weeks of our purchase, I’d traded my HTC in for a Motorola Droid of my own. I’m an avid Windows user and I’ve worked with a few Windows Mobile devices. But the features in the Droid were too compelling.
It’s been four months and I couldn’t be happier.
The Motorola Droid has successfully replaced all the gadgets I’d walked around with. It performs it’s primary function as a cell phone very well. The intuitive interface made it easy to work with right from the get go.
Of course, phone functionality isn’t it’s only feature. The multimedia experience it present made it very easy to move from my Sansa mp3 player to the Droid. I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s no Apple iPod. But, it does cover the basics and I’m able to play music as well as work with playlists. When it comes to media, it’s not music that I’m centered around. It’s podcasts. Using the Android Marketplace, I quickly found an application that suited my podcast needs, ACast. I’m able to easily manage and listen to my favorite podcast producers.
The Droid also easily took the place of my PDA. (Of course, that wasn’t too hard since I lost my Palm Zire about the same time that I picked up the Droid.) The contacts and calendar portions of this phone hook right into Google’s Gmail and Calendar applications. I can manage my contacts and calendar from my phone or from my computer using a web browser. If you’re inputting contacts into your brand new Droid, using the web interface will speed up the process.
Consolidating three devices down to one was great. But, the most liberating feature was that I wasn’t tied to my desktop anymore. With my PDA and my mp3 player, I was constantly connecting them to my computer to synchronize everything. Now, the synchronization happens over the air via my data plan. No matter where I am, my contacts, calendar, podcasts and music are all current. Syncing my podcasts was a daily ritual I followed religiously. Now, my podcasts just appear on my Droid as they get released.
I still consider Google Android to be an enthusiast platform. It’s been around for a year and a half and it’s already up to version 2.1 (soon to be 2.2). But Apple’s iPhone is coming up on its third anniversary.Â The iPhone has obviously gone through many iterations producing an efficient, user-friendly interface. The Android is functional, but more utilitarian. It’s pretty, but not polished.
The potential that Google Android contains is its biggest advantage over the iPhone. Android is an open platform with a large group of developers flying the Google flag. Google is viewed as less restrictive and less tied to the DRM mindset. Each new Android phone I see seems to outshine it’s predecessor. Most importantly, the platform is not limited to a single manufacturer or carrier. Companies such as Motorola, HTC, LG and Samsung can be found on various carriers, such as AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint and Verizon. Competition not only drives innovation, it also promotes incentives and reduced retail prices.
Google Maps was another feature that quickly drew my attention. Google coupled this with a GPS and turn by turn navigation. Not only could I get a bird’s eye view of traffic conditions for the commute to and from work, but it’s also helped me concentrate on the road when I’ve needed to travel to a location I’ve never been to before.
Just as the iPhone has iTunes, Google Android has it’s own Application Marketplace. Once again, it’s not as polished as Apple’s software, but it does the basics. You can search for applications, read reviews and see how often an application has been downloaded. I’ve easily found an application for each of my needs and there’s always something new in the marketplace to fiddle with.
Motorola and Google are partners. Google can give suggestions to Motorola in designing the handset and Motorola can make suggestions to Google about functionality in Android. But, they don’t have direct control over one another. Rather than discussing what I’d like to see in the Droid, I’d rather break it into what I’d like to see from each team.
- Improve the camera. A smart phone with this much storage should replace the standard point and shoot. That means greatly improved reaction time and better quality pictures.
- Physical keyboard. I like the on screen keyboard, but I also like the real estate that a pop out keyboard gives me. The Droid keyboard was usable, until a put a protective case around the Droid’s exterior. The top row of keys became too awkward to use.
- Keep the updates coming. I’m a feature freak and the worst thing someone can do is sell me a device and stop releasing updates for it before the end of its life. I re-upped my contract for two years for this phone and I expect to get more than two years out of my phone. As new versions of Google Android get released, I’d like to see them come to my Droid.
- The media player needs an update. It needs to turn into a polished media player which can complete with the iPod as a consumer device.
- Add more Gmail features to the Gmail application. Contact management should be friendlier and intuitive. (I’d also like to be able to use the same “send as” features on my phone as I do in Gmail… but that might be too much to ask for.)
- Variety for the navigation voice. People need more options when it comes to the voice that delivers the turn by turn navigation. I find it abrasive and a bit difficult to understand at time. I also can’t figure out how to get it to repeat it’s last instruction.
Overall, I’m quite happy with the decision to move to the Motorola Droid. The flexibility and ease of use has made life a little easier for my wife and me. For the first time in a decade, I can see the true emergence of the true smart phone and the role it will play in our lives. Our monthly cost may have risen, but not significantly. (Check to see if you’re employer has special deals with your cell phone carrier.) While it’s still higher than I feel it should be, I’m also gambling that cell phone services plans will eventually come to their senses… or to their knees… whichever comes first.