Sunday, November 15, 2009

Droid and Verizon, oh my.

My last entry was a scathing rant against AT&T and, to a lesser extent, Verizon in which I concluded that I would suffer through AT&T's shortcomings and purchase a microcell. Days later I visited a local AT&T store where I received deplorable service.  It was then that I realized I should not be paying a company additional money for sub-par service - doing so gives them my permission to continue on this pathetic path.

Days later I began seeing advertisements for the Motorola Droid offered by Verizon. I was excited to see an Android device on Verizon's network and my interest was peaked yet again. I decided to give Verizon another try and purchased the Droid the morning it was released.

Physical Design
For me, the physical design of the Droid is a welcome change. The phone has straight edges and a wonderful weight. The display is absolutely brilliant, responsive to touch, and a pleasure to use. Overall the hardware feels far superior to its plastic brethren.

I was glad to see a physical keyboard yet I was worried that the design would be lacking. The slide mechanism feels solid although it has opened slightly in my pocket on a few occasions. The number keys were removed and several meta keys are re-arranged in comparison to my HTC Dream Dev 1. My typing started painfully slow but improved after a few short hours. I still find the key layout to be somewhat disappointing. The keys are vertically aligned, unlike a normal qwerty keyboards that are slightly angled, which may be attributing to my annoyance. I have found that I prefer to use the on screen keyboard since the display functions so well.

I have read several complaints about the battery door and I have to agree that this is a terrible design flaw. If you are removing the phone from a tight pocket or awkward position you will are likely to detach the door too. I have done this several times, mostly in the car where the battery door went flying under my seat.

The battery life has been fine so far; however, I already have a habit of keeping a charger in my backpack and charging every night. I have put the phone through some serious use and it seems to last throughout the day.

Many people were excited to see a 5MP camera on the phone - I am not one of these people. I will always prefer a real camera (especially my D-SLR). It is fun to see a phone that has a higher resolution camera but it's still a camera phone. The optics seem sub-par and the software compression adds a great deal of noise. This camera will work fine for scanning barcodes or uploading quick images to Twitter but that's about it.

Android 2.0
The latest release of the Android operating system, eclair, is a pleasure to use. This release continues to polish the user interface and provide a consistent feel throughout the phone. Many software packages were added, or updated, and pack a ton of usability.

My phone is tied to my personal account but I have a plethora of data associated to my work account as well. My favorite change to the operating system is the ability to sync multiple accounts. The multiple account sync allows you to sync contacts and mail from numerous accounts but you're still limited to a single calendar which must be the primary account for the device. This really bothers me because I want to use my personal account for everything but my calendar. Why not share it? Well, my work account has a restriction that I may not share my calendar to another domain. Why not use your work account as the primary? I would but there are too many features (such as latitude) that use the primary account and cannot be changed.

One of the biggest features added to eclair is Google Navigate. The few times I have used the application the experience far surpassed my Garmin GPS unit. Sadly I still have to keep my GPS unit since Google Navigate requires a working data connection which I have been without on numerous occasions.

The browser has also been improved greatly. By default you are now presented with a full view of the page and you may tap to zoom. The open windows interface was also cleaned and allows for easy access and closing. Bookmarks now allows you to see a thumbnail view of your sites but I am very disappointed that you still cannot re-arrange them (without downloading an app).

Overall I am extremely happy with the Droid and Verizon's service. I am impressed with the improvements made to Android but the community still amazes me. It's not surprising that many applications broke with the new hardware and operating system; however, every popular application had a note regarding the issues and were fixed within days of the release. Most of these applications are free and maintained in someone's free time. The passion and commitment of the developers it what makes this operating system truly special.


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