Bye Bye Droid, Hello EVO

moneyAfter 18 months my Droid died. The front touch screen stopped working. It was very frustrating to not be able to answer incoming phone calls. I was also frustrated by Verizon. With my original contract long expired and the fact that I had three phones with them, they would not give me any kind of deals for a new phone. Verizon wanted me to spend more than $150 on the phone itself and enter into a 2 year contract that would cost me $180 per month.  Plus the current deal they were offering only provided one phone with data and had a 5Gb limit on the data plan.  Verizon wanted $60 to add a second phone to the data plan.

I had the complete opposite experience with Sprint.  First, they converted all three lines from Verizon to Sprint and provided for free new smart phones for all of us.  Second, the family plan they put us on provided unlimited data, messaging and mobile-to-mobile for all three phones. We also had a 1500 minute per month call usage when not dialing mobile-to-mobile.  With our current dialing usage for all three phones, it is a very heavy month when we use 1000 minutes a month, with most of the usage coming from me.  Third, they bought back my broken Droid and MJ’s cell phone.  Cathy’s cell phone was so obsolete, for a moment, I thought they might pay me to dispose of the phone myself.

Between the conversion credit for moving the three lines, plus the buy back of the old phones, we essentially get three months of service for free.  Total cost per month for all three phones to have the data plan, including taxes….$160 per month.

Talk about a no-brainer.

I ended up with the HTC EVO 4G.  MJ went with the EVO Shift.  Cathy was dragged into the 21st century, getting a Samsung EPIC.

Bluetooth Headsets

I’ve been wanting to get a blue tooth stereo headset to complement the Droid.  I really like the sound quality the Droid has, but hated the dangling wires that came with the ear buds.  Wired headsets were worse, because they would slide off my head when I was in a middle of an activity.

Last month for my birthday the kids bought me the Motorola S9 headsets.  I have to say it was a great birthday present.  They work great, they sound great and they are very light weight.  There are three buttons on each side of the headphones to control music play, volume and to answer incoming calls.

When I go jogging, biking or hiking, the head set stays firmly in place.  Ever try jogging with ear buds?  Forget it, they were constantly falling out.  These headphones stay in place.  If your looking for a new toy to add to your Droid, this headset is definitely worth the money.

Droid Apps

After two months of using the Droid, I thought I would review the apps that I find the most helpful and fun.  First and foremost it is a phone, I’m very happy with the quality of calls and the quality of the built-in speaker.  I configured the contacts app when I first got the phone and haven’t thought twice about it.  The voice dial app took a little bit of trial and error to find the right phrases to use to quickly get the phone numbers to come up.  Of course the voice dial app provides all sorts of examples to help you quickly figure it out, but that would require reading on my part.  RTFM – No Way!  The messaging and email apps are used through out the day.  Occasionally (once per week) I find the email app will stop communicating with Comcast.  The quick solution is the Advance Task Killer app.  This app will kill off processes running in the background that are consuming battery life while offering nothing in return.  As it kills off these background processes, it also causes the email app to fully reload the next time I open it.  This is an ok temporary solution until an update is available for the email app.  The other two apps I have residing on the middle screen is the Facebook app and The Weather Channel.  The Weather Channel app is a must have.  I’ve got five different cities entered so with three taps on the screen I can have the current weather for anyone of the cities.  One more tap and I have the 10 day forecast.

On my left screen I have music and imusic app to help organize my playlists.  I find that I use the built in music app for playback.  I also have Google Sky.  This app allows you to hold up your phone to see what stars you are looking at.  I like to take the Google Sky app at night and point it to the ground to show the kids where the Sun is currently.  I also have Astro, which provides a file manager type of screen to access the memory card.  I would have thought an app like Astro would have been included as a base app to manage the data on the phone.  To round out the left screen I also installed 10001 Cocktails.  Of course the database doesn’t include 100001 cocktails, but it has the majority of mixed drinks and cocktails one would order.  Now why would I have this app when I always just rely on the bartender?  I don’t know, but it is a fun app to have.

On the right hand screen I have the app Where.  This is a pretty cool app, but I find I don’t use it as much as I thought I would have.  I also have my prime decision making tool, “Magic Eight-ball” app installed.  The original Magic Eight-ball was undoubtedly the best decision support tool and arguably the most accurate decision support tool ever made.  I also have a quirky tech app called tricorder.  This app provides you with information like your current GPS location, the nearest cell tower and all the wifi access points that are reachable.  It also analysis the surrounding sound levels.   Usefulness of this app – none.  Fun factor – priceless.  I also have Newspaper on the right hand screen.  This app allows me to pull up news from several dozen different newspapers from around the country.

The one app that I thought had great potential, but never lived up to it….Key Ring.  This app allows you to scan all those annoying customer shopping cards.  In theory you are suppose to be able to bring the card up and just scan the phone.  In reality the food store scanners don’t like the back lit glass screens.

The one piece of functionality that I don’t use – the camera.  It takes ok pictures, but whenever the need arises for taking photos, usually I have one of the digital cameras handy.

Droid Performance

Now that I’ve been using the Droid for a week, an update is in order.  My love affair with this device is still strong as ever.  I’ve got my contacts fully organized, loaded a few GB’s worth of music and found a few apps that are really great.

I have found that using the “glass” keyboard is just as easy as using the slide out keyboard.  In fact it is easier to some degree to use the touch screen keyboard for some of the applications.  The touch screen keyboard is readily able to determine which letter I wanted, even with my big fingers covering multiple letters.

I’ve been some what surprised by the battery life.  Especially after hearing about the iPhone 3G’s dismal battery performance.  If I use the Droid as a mini-PC, entering contact data, heavily browsing the web, loading and running a lot of different applications, the battery lasts me about a 24-hour day.  The screen depletes the battery faster than anything else that I do.  In a typical day where I use the phone for about an hour, the music player for 3 hours and perform a few searches with the browser, the battery life would last me about 2 days before needing a recharge.

I found the easiest way to load music onto the device is to plug it into the USB port and mount the device as a drive on my PC.  The SD card is fully accessible as a mounted device.  The one snafu I found is that earlier versions of the Droid had thier music directory on the root of the SD card.  The current verision expects the music directory to be in the \DCIM directory.  The snafu is not with the Droid device itself, but with all the personal websites that exist that provide directions.  Once I had the correct directory it was an easy process to drag-n-drop the music files.  The music application itself takes a few minutes to index the first time you run the application after every time new music is loaded.  I noticed when music is added I have to be patient and give the software a minute or two before I look for the new titles.

The one application that is a must load for everyone is aptly titled “Where”.  This app allows you to search for just about anything based on where you’re currently located.  It will pull up news, weather and even gas prices in proximity to you.  I’m heading to Chicago tomorrow and am looking forward to a real world opportunity to try out the application.

The one draw back to the device is the quality of the speaker during cell phone usage.  The speaker is on par with the everyday cell phone, but is no where near the quality you get with the bluetooth headset.  In hands free mode the speaker is serviceable.  But overall quality is worse than when used as a traditional phone brought up to your ear.  99% of the time I use a bluetooth headset, so this isn’t really an issue for me.

Overall, I’m very happy with my purchase.

The Droid

220px-Motorola-milestone-wikipediaAfter 5 years using a LG flip cell phone, I’ve upgrade to the Droid.  The LG phone has been great and has done well by me, but it was really way overdue to upgrade to the 21st century.

Here’s my review of the phone on the first real day of usage.

Activating the phone you need a Gmail account.  At first I was scratching my head to understand why a Gmail account is needed just to activate the phone.  After a second the light bulb went on, hey this is using Android, the Google OS. So it just makes sense that Google would want to drive usage back to their applications.  The reason they gave at the store is the Gmail account unlocks some features.  Outside of being able to view the email in my new Gmail account, I haven’t found anything that really ties back to Google.

The touch screen took about an hour to get comfortable with the feel and how much pressure to use.  It is fun to use the flick feature to quickly scroll through lists.  (Its the simple things that I like!)

The keypad is totally flat.  Like the touch screen is takes some time to get used to the feel.  I’ve been on the phone for a few hours and it’s getting more comfortable to type.  I’ve heard from a few women that their nails give them trouble with the keypad.

Interestingly the desktop does not utilize the motion sensor to detect the phone’s orientation.  If the keyboard is closed, the desktop will display long ways.  When the keyboard is open, then the desktop will display sideways, like what is shown in the picture.  Within applications, the motion sensor works and the application will display accordingly to the orientation of the phone regardless if the keyboard is open or not.

Configuring my Comcast email addresses were a snap.  I entered the email address and password.  The phone figured out all the server and port settings.  By default the phone will ring every time an email arrives to notify you.  Through the night we would hear the phone ring out the default metallic sounding “Droid”.  First thing this morning I reconfigured the phone to vibrate for inbound emails.

Configuring the Facebook application was interesting.  After I configured the application and logged in, I was able to select whether or not I wanted to sync my local contacts with my friends in Facebook.  I choose to sync and only show the contacts who had phone numbers.  Its quick and easy to change the display to show all my friends in the contacts.  Now if only I can get my Facebook friends to add their phone numbers to their profiles.  It would eliminate the need for me to add phone numbers.

I set up the bluetooth headset to work with both the Droid and my company’s Blackberry.  Fortunately the headset was new enough to allow pairing with two devices.  The Droid plays nice with the Blackberry over which device has the link.  When making a call on the Droid it takes over the link to the headset for the duration of the call.  The headset is relinquished back to the Blackberry after the call is done.  If I have a call on the blackberry with the headset in use and a call comes in from the Droid, the Droid doesn’t interfere with the existing connection.

Over the course of this weekend, I’ll finish setting up my contacts and entering phone numbers.  I purposely didn’t want to port my contacts over from my old phone.  There are a lot of numbers that are no longer valid and the organization of the contacts needs to be redone.  I’m more than happy to enter the numbers manually and start fresh.

Call quality of the phone is good.  I notice a very slight hollow echo, but it is not annoying at all.  I haven’t had enough calls from different locations to determine if it is due to the phone or the connection I’m getting. Comparing the quality to my old cell phone, the Droid is way above that phone.  The call quality is comparable to the Blackberry.  You can mark certain contacts to be part of your favorites list by highlighting the “star” for that contact.  If you have a large contact list, this is a must use feature.  The phone app also tracks your frequently called numbers making callbacks a snap.

Battery life is another feature that I will be keeping a close eye on over the next few days.  I have heard from a few people that they easily get a full day plus on a single charge.  If the phone is not being heavily used, the charge can last an entire weekend.  This is a lot better than the 6 hours of battery life you get with heavy usage on the iPhone.

I’m very happy to have waited in replacing the old phone.  The Android operating system is going to give Apple a run for it’s money.  The one feature I have yet to test is the music playback.   Also I will be looking into the Droid Apps to see what is interesting.