Saturday December 19, 2009



Four days ago, I traded in my aged Palm OS 4-based Kyocera smart phone for a new Motorola DROID (through Verizon.) I really like it so far.

It's more net-savvy and connected than my Palm phone was. I don’t have to “turn on the phone” to use an Internetworked app. It’s always on, always connected (although I can turn it completely off if I wish).

It’s got a modern web browser, far better email capability and a MUCH nicer screen. Plus, its actually going to be cheaper to operate. I’ll save $15/month on my data plan with Verizon. That was a nice surprise!

There are a few things I wish were different:

I really wish I could use a random stylus (or my fingernail). That's my biggest peeve with all of these capacitive touchscreen devices. I want the CHOICE of handwriting vs "typing". I want the choice of whether and when to use my fingers.

Maybe in a future rev (I mutter as I once again clean the smudges from the screen).

I also wish that the keys on the slide-out hardware keyboard were a smidge wider and just a bit less flat. They seem like little bits of paper. So I use my fingernail on those and my fingertip on the soft keys. Weird.

I don’t care for the “sleep/lock/off” button. It’s (intentionally?) difficult to press. It also annoys me that there’s apparently no way to “lock” the device in software.

Peeves and annoyances for sure... but none big enough to be a showstopper for me.

Why The DROID?

I wanted a PDA device and I didn’t want Microsoft. I already had phones with Verizon on a family plan. That meant a choice between the HTC DROID ERIS and the Motorola DROID.

I asked for advice from a techie mailing list. Everyone recommended the DROID. A quick comparison explains why.

Both phones include a 5 MP camera, USB connection to my desktop computer, SD card slot, WiFi & Bluetooth, and capacitive touchscreen.

Three major differences stood out as selling points for me:

  • The DROID includes a slide-out hardware keyboard. I may not use this all the time but it’s nice to have more flexibility for some operations.

  • The DROID has a 3.7" 480 x 854 WVGA screen. (wow)
    The ERIS has a 3.2” 320 x 480 HVGA screen

  • The DROID comes with Android OS 2.0 (“Eclair”) upgraded to 2.0.1
    The ERIS runs OS 1.6 (“Cupcake”)

    (I love that Android releases have bakeshop names. Cupcake?! :-)

(DROID specs) (ERIS specs)

New Ways to Think

I'm still getting used to movement being reversed from what I'm expecting. I don't want to slide the scrollbar down; I need to slide the screen up. I'm not moving my focus to the left (as with a cursor); I'm sliding the desktop to the right.

There’s “touch” and “long hold” instead of tap and double tap. The “back” key is contextual to each app and is often used where I would expect a “Save” or “Close” button. Menu items come up from the bottom; the bar thing at the top of the screen is a task bar.


Android OS includes email, a web browser, SMS messaging, photo/image viewing & editing tools, music and video players, calendar, calculator, alarm clock, and address book.

Lots of additional software is available through Android Market (accessible from the phone). You can also search for apps and read descriptions and reviews at

My must-have app requirements included IM access (AIM, GoogleTalk, and Y!IM), Twitter, a good notepad, and a way to read text files transferred from my desktop computer. A task list application is also nice to have, as are various utilities, (e.g. weather forecast, battery usage meter, daily “journal”), and maybe a game or two.

Here’s what I’ve installed so far:

Sync Manager

    Missing Sync for Android (from Mark/Space) - This is a must-have for use on a Mac; it lets me sync my Address book as well as photos, random folders, videos, ... (Missing Sync for Android OS 2.0 is currently in Beta but I’ve seen no problems so far.)


  • Twidroid Pro — Twitter client.
  • Meebo IM — IM client (Note: a GoogleTalk app is included with the Android software.)

Notes & Documents

  • AK Notepad — a nice notepad. I tried several and settled on this one.
  • 3banana — for really quick notes; from the folks who make AK Notepad
  • Mobisle Notes — checklists, with a cute UI.
  • ColorNotes — stickies for the “desktop”. (deleted when it went all wonky on me.
  • Text Edit — simple text file editor/reader.
  • Documents to Go — read Word, Excel, and PDF documents.


  • Mahjongg (Solitaire) — one of the few games I sometimes play.
  • Blocked (like Bejeweled). Another game I sometimes play.
  • Puzzle Blox - similar to Bejeweled crossed with Tetris, with Haptic feedback
  • Voxel Fun - 3D blocks!

Techie Tools

  • Better Terminal Emulator Pro — for us *nix command-line types.
  • ConnectBOT — ssh utility. Whee! BTEP 2.12 has ssh!
  • Astro Explorer — File manager. (I liked Astro but Explorer has a much smaller footprint.)

Handy Utilities

  • The Weather Channel — forecast and info with current temp in task bar
  • SimpleWeather — current conditions and forecast.
  • BatteryTime — battery % and statistics.
  • Contact Owner — puts my name and contact info on the lock screen.
  • All-in-1 Calc — the best calculator I found
  • Secret Box — simple utility to keep some information encrypted


  • Locale — configurable settings profiles by time or location.
  • Switch — easy access to my most-used settings.


When I bought the DROID, Verizon offered an accessories bundle. I didn't really need or want a Bluetooth headset so I got a simple stereo headset with earbuds instead. The salesguy says this works better than the bluetooth headsets if you plan to listen to music on the DROID.

I considered getting an additional home charger but realized that the charger we have for our other phones will work. Instead, I got a car charger (which, not coincidentally, will work for our other phones. :-)

I also purchased a snap-on hard cover. I didn't like the slippery feel of the bare DROID in my hand; I don't want to drop it! This cover has a nice feel with just enough friction. It's a black impact resistant plastic cover wrapped in leather (model # MOTA855COVLTHR).

The DROID charges via a micro USB cable. I've ordered a second cable to carry with me between home and remote office.

Capacitive styli are available. :-) I have ordered some to try...

In Summary

I love it! I am not going to miss my Palm PDA one bit.

Techies might find that they prefer Android to iPhone. I've heard several comments to this effect. The Linux underpinnings and Open Source OS are especially appealing.

I've been told that Android is a bit clunkier looking than iPhone. I don't personally see enough aesthetic difference to notice, but then, I care more about the screen and apps than about the case they come in.

The DROID had nearly everything I wanted, out of the box. A few app installations later, it's personalized and configured just for me. I'm very happy.


  • If Verizon isn't your carrier of choice, Android phones are (or will be) available with other providers.)

  • You will need a Gmail account. If you don't already have one, you can set one up at phone activation time.

  • Android discussion forums can be found at and

Many of my co-workers have iPhones and I've been feeling iPhone lust. But now I have an Android and I'm happy. My phone is different... and perfect for me.

Stylus Update (Dec. 23, 2009)

I ordered the Touch Stylus Pen from Regular price is $15.99. They were doing a pre-Xmas sale (ending 12/23) for $3.99.

Problem 1: the tip of the stylus is angled slightly. It only works if you touch the screen at that one precise angle. Unfortunately I found that the cylindrical barrel tended to turn slightly in my fingers so I never had the angle right on the first try.

Problem 2: You need to press pretty hard to get the stylus to work at all, even presuming you have the correct angle.

My conclusion: save your money. These are almost worth $3.99. For $3.99 it's a better way to press the keys on the hardware keyboard. They're not worth a penny more and I won't be using one on the screen.

Updated Jan. 4, 2010

Updated (above) with modified app info.

Updated Jan. 16, 2010

I've been doing mini reviews of some of the new apps I've installed. I'm posting these at " Snibbles ".

  • All-in-1 Calc is a very complete and nice-to-use calculator.

  • Puzzle Blox is a game with elements of Bejeweled, Tetris, and others. It takes advantage of the Droid's touch & tilt features.

  • Tricorder is just for fun - or is it? Tricorder uses the phone's sensors to detect gravity/angle, sounds, GPS position, and more.

DROID ( in category Computerware , Show & Tell ) - posted at Sat, 19 Dec, 13:22 Pacific | «e»

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