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Five Days with a Droid

It’s an open device. Yay!

Wireless Technology Magazine

I got my Droid about five days ago, and immediately took it on the road with me, which meant I didn’t have the quality time I wanted to settle into a nook and read Persian love poetry to it. But, I did get a sense of how it looks to a a rushed n00b. Also, I come to it from a Blackberry 8830, not from an iPhone, so my expectationshave been set rather low in some ways. Here’s an initial report. (And here’s an initial report from Dave Winer, whose new Droidie.com site I’m enjoying. And here’s an initial report from Bijan Sabet.)

Positives:

It’s an open device. Yay!

It’s great for browsing. Fast. Clear screen.

The built-in gmail client is pretty good. In fact, if you’re livin’ the Google lifestyle (gMail, gCalendar, gReader, gMaps, gMacrame, gAutoclave,, etc.) it feels like a seamless environment.

The turn-by-turn navigation with Google Maps is far better than what I was paying Verizon $10/month for on my Blackberry. The Bberry version was too frequently disastrously off by a couple of blocks.

The on-screen keyboard’s autocomplete function works well. (I have little to compare it to, though.)

Five megapixel camera. I haven’t done much of anything with it, but the few snaps I took seemed pretty good. It has a little flash built in too.

The physical keyboard is ok. The 4-way browsy button is a little small for my thumb but is sometimes useful to have.

The arrangement of the desktop seems good.

16gb!

You can run multiple apps and have multiple browser windows open.

There’s a unified notification screen you can always pull down from the very topmost menu bar.

Finding and installing apps is dead simple, at least through the Apps Market. Buying them is easy too.

Speaking your desired location into your phone and having it plot your destination is still pretty cool. And speaking queries to Google not only it works, it often generates amusing guesses , especially lower down on the list. (”How to install Droid themes” became, in guess #5, “How to install troy reed queens”) (When the future arrives, it usually looks like a gimmick.)

Negatives and questions:

I’m getting less than a day of use out of the battery, using it almost entirely for email and surfing, and almost not at all for phoning. I have the wifi and bluetooth turned off. The Droid reports that about 40% of my battery’s power is going to the display; I am using the default times for putting the thing to sleep. (At the moment, it tells me 80% has gone to the display, but it also tells me that it’s been 17mins since I plugged it in, when in fact it’s been 10 hours.)

This is a Stupid User issue, but when setting it up, I gave it one of my gmail addresses, which it took as the default address. I added my other one, but then wanted to switch the new one to be the default. That cannot be done without doing a complete wipe down of the machine. On the other hand, the wipe-down and re-activation were easy.

The slidey-dots pin code entry screen is easier than typing in the numbers. But there is no way (according to Motorola’s support line) to put in a “Please call this number if you find this phone” notice that can be seen without entering the PIN. So, if you lose your phone, the person who finds it won’t know how to contact you. I sure hope someone comes up with an alternative PIN screen.

It supports a handful of gestures (so to speak), but not enough.

The text system needs an autotype utility. I haven’t found one yet. Opening up the existing autocomplete vocabulary would help, but even that only works when you’re using the onscreen keyboard, not the hardware keyboard.

When using the soft keyboard, there’s no way to move the text cursor except by stabbing the entry screen with where you want it to be. Since your index finger is probably at least 4opts wide and you may be using what looks to be about 4pt type, the accuracy is pretty random. (When using the hard keyboard, the 4-way rocker moves the cursor within text.)

It’s not a world phone. I’m going to have to take my Blackberry to Europe, and ask Verizon to temporarily activate it.

I haven’t found a way of foldering apps yet. The pullout screen that shows you what you have installed is arranged alphabetically, but at some point I’m going to want it to be arranged hierarchically.

The default background is a hideous, depressing, semi-corroded, dark gray slab of metal. What were they thinking?
I want more apps! (I could use a good, free or cheap, solo Texas holdem game.)

But…

…Notice how many of the negatives could be — and very likely will be — fixed by some clever developer.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By David Weinberger

David is the author of JOHO the blog (www.hyperorg.com/blogger). He is an independent marketing consultant and a frequent speaker at various conferences. "All I can promise is that I will be honest with you and never write something I don't believe in because someone is paying me as part of a relationship you don't know about. Put differently: All I'll hide are the irrelevancies."

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