Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Android (Dream) Phone

So I received a new Android Dream phone for Christmas. Here are some initial thoughts after using it for about 3.5 weeks.

  • It's very neat.
  • The accelerometer still amazes me. I have a bubble level app which makes the phone into a bubble level that really works.
  • The GPS support is very neat, especially in conjunction with Google Maps while driving. The little blue dot tracked my wife and I right into the shopping center where we parked, into the very parking spot. The updates were very fast with high precision.
  • The downside is that GPS really sucks out a lot of power from the battery.
  • A major minus is that the battery barely lasts a day. If you use the phone much, a charge doesn't last a day. With only occasional use, it will barely make it to the end of the day.
Another minus is: Making calls is really hard. I'd say that making a call while driving is sort of like trying to change clothes while driving. Okay, I've never actually changed more than removing a sweater while driving, but I can imagine what it would be like. If I use this phone much in the car, I seriously doubt I'll live much longer. Granted, there's a voice dialing feature which has come and gone from various Android releases, and it's due in a coming release.

That said, I really miss being able to flip open my Razr and press a quick-dial key, basically by feel.

  • Having to constantly swipe the pattern to unlock the phone is annoying. I finally turned off screen blanking so that I have to blank/lock it manually with the red hang-up key. Okay, given I can swip the pattern with one hand whereas the Blackberry Curve requires two hands to key in the unlock password.
  • Voice quality while holding it is good.
  • The Bluetooth integration works well.
  • I had zero problem with WiFi so far. I was able to put it on my home net easily.
  • PacMan is a really neat game. BUT, I couldn't download it until I put in my T-Mobile SIM card and subcribed to the data service.
  • Data service is too expensive! 8-(
Overall I like reading on the Android phone less than on the Blackberry. On the Blackberry I've forced a serifed font which is beautiful on it's screen and perfectly readable. I can use the space bar to page down while reading.

On the Android, the pages are almost universally in a sans-serif font (i.e., in the native page font). I can zoom in by pressing the zoom button but this usually takes more than one try. For some reason, one finger will stop working and I have to use my other hand. I suppose it has to do with my hands being too cold or fingers too dry or something. So, using the touchscreen is sometimes wonderful and sometimes highly annoying.

Scrolling the touchscreen however is nearly always annoying when reading. Finger scrolling takes a lot of work and movement. Also, though the browser nicely reformats the text to fit the screen after zooming, scrolling with the finger will cause the column to slip left or right so you have to work to keep it centered. Arg. Scrolling with the track ball also works but it's never the right speed or sensitivity.

It's probably telling that, after all of that, I'm still using the Android and not the Blackberry to read. We'll see where I am after say six months or so.

Also, I think there are other browsers that I haven't looked into yet. It should be noted that most of my complaints about reading are related to the browser software and not the phone or Android itself. I think.

  • Having YouTube is really great and it works pretty well.
  • Having to flip out the keyboard for landscape is annoying. I've heard about improvements so that merely turning the phone will switch it, a la iPhone.
  • ShopSavvy is a pretty and highly useful app though I've only used it once, but it was correct and did help!
  • Gmail works. I am still using and responding to the message notification but I don't like keeping up with email that much. That's like the so-called Blackberry adiction that I've never had. On the Blackberry, the only time I check email is when I log into the Gmail app.
  • Gmail is nicely integrated in to Android and works well. I think I actually like the look and feel and functionality of the Blackberry version, though, especially the brand new one.
I'll add and report more later.