Monday, November 9, 2009

Droid: My Experience So Far

So I went ahead and bought a Droid this past Friday. I haven't had a huge amount of time to play with it yet, but I thought I'd share some of my experiences so far:

  • I'm not sold on the physical keyboard yet. The keys are very close together, so if you have decent-sized thumbs like I do, you have to really focus on your typing to avoid hitting two keys at once. Having said that, I have gotten better at it since my first day.

  • I like the on-screen keyboards. The haptic feedback (the slight vibration when you hit a key) is nice, and I like the row of word suggestions that's displayed under the typing area as you type. I prefer it over the virtual keyboard of my iPod Touch.

  • The screen is beautiful. I haven't had a chance to play any videos on it, but the application icons on the screen make the iPod icons look "soft" in comparison.

  • The web browser is on par with the Safari browser on the iPod (no real surprise, as they both employ the webkit engine). The Android browser does not have multi-touch, so you can't pinch the web pages, but it lets you double-tap on the page to magnify it and I find that sufficent. Web pages load about as quickly as I expected (a bit slower over 3G, obviously).

  • The new Google Maps Navigation with turn-by-turn directions is as cool as reported. I used it twice just to see how it worked, and it gave me perfect directions and was quick to recalculate the route when I went a different direction.

  • I like having the ability to have widgets on my screen for things like the weather and Twitter, but because the default UI for Android only gives you three screens to work with, you have to be judicious about which widgets you want to display (though it's easy to add and remove widgets).

  • I really like the notification system. If the Droid is "on" (i.e. the screen is lit), the notification/status bar at the top of the screen will denote if you have any new Gmail messages or Twitter updates with icons, and you can drag down the notification window to see a summary of what's going on. If the Droid screen is off/dark, and there are updates, an LED light in the upper right corner will flash. It even flashes different colors for different applications:  green if there's a new Gmail message, blue if Twidroid (my main Twitter app) has received new tweets.

  • Android phones do not have a set media management programs like iTunes, so you have two options for copying your media files onto your phone: you can simply mount the phone's SD card as a hard drive via USB and copy the files manually, or you can download a program like doubleTwist (Windows only) or Salling Media Sync (Windows/Mac) that inspects your iTunes library and playlists and copies any non-DRM media over to the Droid. I couldn't get doubleTwist to synch my files (I suspect it just needs to be updated to handle the Droid), but Salling Media Sync was able to copy over the iTunes playlists I selected.

  • Some Droid users have reported problems with the auto-focus on the camera for still shots.  I personally haven't experienced that problem. I was surprised that there was no way to specify what it was you wanted the lens to focus on within the shot: double-tapping on the screen causes it to zoom in rather than select the subject. Despite that, the few pictures I've taken look pretty good to me. There are one or two camera apps in the Android Marketplace, so I imagine that better camera applications will be developed for the Droid eventually.

  • Speaking of the Android Marketplace, it's easily accessible via the Marketplace app on the Droid. You can find apps by category or via the search bar, and each application is listed with a price (quite a few are free or donation-ware) and a rating. It's easy to download an app, try it out, and then uninstall/delete it if it's not to your liking.

  • The battery seems sufficient to me, though I probably haven't used it as heavily as some folks would. Since every app you turn on (and some apps start up automatically) stays on unless you explicitly kill it, having a program that can selectively turn off running apps like Advanced Task Killer if you don't want to waste power.  I also downloaded a widget that lets me selectively turn off the different radios/receivers on the Droid (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS) if I'm not using them.

  • The ability to multitask is sweet. I had the music player on while I drove to work this morning when it occurred to me that I hadn't shut off the WiFi radio on the Droid. So while I was stopped at a traffic light, I hit the Home button, swiped over to the right screen where my radio manager widget was, turned off the WiFi, and went back to the music player, all without missing a note of the song.

If anyone has any questions about the Droid, feel free to ask, and I'll answer them if I can.