When I made the decision to move away from the iPhone I didn’t do it lightly. I have had this phone for 2 years, and during that time, it has become my primary means of communication, and audio entertainment. 3 years ago when the iPhone was initially released I saw it as an amazingly breakthrough device, but felt the price tag $799 subsidized was outrageous. At the time I owned a Razor on Verizon, and I wanted to move into the smart phone realm so that I could answer emails while not being attached to my PC. The lineup of phones on the Verizon network was less than stellar, so I accepted a Blackberry 7250 from my company. I carried the Razor and the Blackberry around for a year. Apple and AT&T then cut the prices 6 months later and released the iPhone 3G in 2008. This was both affordable and appealing as the phone had 3G capabilities.
So I took the leap to AT&T and purchased an iPhone. My experience with the iPhone can best be described this way;
I love the interface and the design, and truly believe the people who designed it are some of the best in the Software and Hardware industry. They should be commended for completely changing the Smart Phone game. Their lead designer Johnny Ive is a master, the likes of which you do not often run into. Game changers by the mere meaning of the word are few and far between, and Mr. Ive is a game changer. Without these breakthroughs, I don’t believe we would have ever heard about the Android operating system, or found ourselves choosing between different phones within the Android lineup.
With all that said.. The AT&T network is just horrible. I am often surprised when a carrier’s network is strong in rural out of the way places like the middle of North Dakota, or in the mountains of Wyoming, but when it drops calls in major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, NYC, Philly, Milwaukee, Minneapolis etc, I get a bit miffed. I have seen the iPhone drop calls in all of those places which is very frustrating. Lately the iPhone was having a small problem with echoing my callers voice back to them.
It’s pretty annoying to find that all my conversations turned into “why is my voice echoing”, “I dunno, maybe it’s my iPhone”, “you need a new device, call me when you get home.”
So I purchased a Droid X last week and received it on Friday.
My initial impressions
The device is gorgeous. The interface is as good as, if not better than the iPhone. The phone seems as if it was designed for multimedia from day one. The camera takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s fully integrated with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. The video recorder works well.. and it’s easy to switch from camera to video recorder with just the push of a simple on screen button. I am not sold on the MotoBlur interface in that it comes with a lot of Widgets that I don’t need while also forcing the Blockbuster app onto your phone. There are ways to delete these applications, but I wouldn’t recommend that for the faint at heart. I have only four widgets on my screen, one is a Google search widget, one is a Calendar reminder widget, a fast contact widget, and a multimedia widget that lets me cycle through pictures or videos. For those of you not familiar with Widgets, these are small programs that stay resident on your desktop for fast access. Things like calendar, notes, digital clocks, RSS reader etc. There are widgets for Windows, Mac, Linux and now Android.
All of my contacts were already being synced with Google Contacts, so it was really easy moving over to Android. I also instructed it to pull all of my contacts from Facebook as well. There are a few instances now of multiple entries in my contact list, but that’s no big deal. I will probably write an application for clearing that out, and release it to the world for free someday.
The battery life on this thing is horrible. Not as bad as the HTC EVO but bad enough. I recommend that when you get your Droid.. allow the juice to run completely out of the device to the point where it shuts down, then charge it back up. My experience doing this really improved the battery life.
Update: I think this was a result of me running the GPS and WiFi while trail running yesterday morning. In normal operations it doesn’t seem that bad.
Things the Phone Has To Do Well
Your smart phone has to do the following things well to be even considered useful these days. It has to be able to make and receive calls, send text messages, read and write email, surf the net, work with the social web, maintain your contacts, and schedule and track appointments.
In these areas the Droid X excels. You can setup multiple GMail accounts with ease. You can set up Yahoo, Exchange, and other email accounts directly on your phone as well. Typing Emails & Text Messages is a pleasure as you can move back and forth between portrait and landscape mode easily. The keyboard is also very responsive. When you get an email, and the sender is not in your contacts you can easily add them. You can setup your calendar to sync with your gCal which means you can move between your PC and your phone without losing the appointment information.
This phone is on the Verizon network, so you get all the goodness of amazing coverage and good call quality.
All in all it does the Smart Things extremely well.
Most people use iTunes or Windows Media these days to manage their multimedia files and to sync to their phones. I don’t like either one of these apps because of the bloatware that comes with them. Most of the time, I just simply want to cut and paste a music file, or a music folder to my device and call it a day. Well iPhone limited me from doing this because of some Apple don’t trust the users mantra. I am not sure about Windows Mobile 7, or WebOS but Android completely opens the important folders to your windows explorer. You can do the copy and paste thing or you can use an app like doubleTwist. It’s a public beta so be warned. I have had a few crashes with this app and the sync seems unbearably slow, but it does import your iTunes playlist allow you to subscribe and download podcasts, and it does sync with the Droid X. iTunes version 1 had a few snags too so this is to be expected.
As I have mentioned before, the camera and video recorder are pretty slick with a few scene type features and the ability to edit your photo’s. The Zoom works as expected which is not great on most Smart Phones.. though the focus action could do a better job. It’s okay to force the user to have to touch the screen to focus, but the software should immediately focus at that point rather than waiting for you you half press the picture button. A software update in the future will most likely fix this.
If your moving from an iPhone there is not a 1-1 correlation between iPhone apps and Droid apps.. however I have found many viable alternatives that I have been able to use instead.
There is of course the Facebook app and TwitDroyd for the socially minded. Yelp is available for those looking for a place to eat or party. Audible is available for those Audio Books you’re into. There is an FM radio embedded in this guy as well.. which works really well!! Kindle is available.. Flikster for movies.. Pandora of course.. and the list goes on and on. Even Zillow can be found in the app store and that integrates well with maps.
To say the least you can always find something that mimics the iPhone apps that your used to and in some cases the apps are actually better.
Over the last week or so, I have used the navigation app to and from work along with my car mount. The Car mount is awesome. It’s basically a suction cup car mount that attaches to your window that acts as a docking station. Once it’s in place, you can plug it into your cigarette lighter (who uses this for cigarette’s anymore) and the mount acts as a charging cradle for the phone. When you plug the Droid X into the mount, the car app immediately engages and your shown a very useful screen that allows you to easily navigate quickly around the phone. The screen is split into 6 regions, Music, My Location, Calling, App, Voice Search, and Close.
The Navigation App though has some kinks to work out. It’s based on the Google Maps Navigation Application, and provides your typical 3-D navigation screen that very clearly represents the streets, how long to go to the next turn, and gives you voice directions. The screen and information is displayed perfectly on the 4.3 inch screen and makes your route very clear to follow. However, it keeps switching from navigation to text directions, without me pressing a button. EDIT: The problem for me had to do with a defective car mount. After replacing the car mount, it worked amazingly well.
The other thing I noticed was that the GPS really makes the phone very hot. I am not sure if this is common with other Droid X’s or just mine.
All in all I do really enjoy the phone. It’s amazing the things you can do with it, and I love the idea it’s so much easier to tweak than the iPhone.