Droid X Day II: The Droidinationing
Posted on July 27, 2010 Posted by John Scalzi 30 Comments
Because I’m getting lots of e-mail from people who want to know more about the Droid X, presumably because they are in the market for a new cell phone themselves, some more thoughts on the thing. Note that some of these thoughts will be about the Android platform in general, not just about the Droid X.
1. First, the coolest damn thing ever: Google Goggles, which (for those of you who like me a day ago and hadn’t really heard of this thing) does a creditable job identifying things when you take a picture of them with your phone and send it along to Google’s server farm. I spent a fair amount of time today wandering about the house to see what things Goggles recognized and what it didn’t. Art posters on the wall? Got the artist and the original picture. Book covers? No problem. The cats? Well, apparently Ghlaghghee isn’t famous enough for the Google servers. But two out of three isn’t bad.
2. Second thing I like: The Droid X has mobile hotspot capability, which I paid for, and which is paying off right this very moment because my broadband is down for some unfathomable reason, and I’m using the mobile hotspot to be online. The hotspot has a bandwidth cap of 2GB per billing cycle; since I don’t really plan on downloading lots of data-intensive stuff on it I suspect that will be just fine. I travel enough at this point that having a mobile hotspot to call my own will be worth it; I’m looking forward to not paying for hotel Internet anymore.
3. The Android interface and apps are nice but also generally a shade less slick than their Apple counterparts. That said, they’re slick enough and miles ahead of the apps on the Storm, so I don’t think of this as much of a problem, actually. I also notice that a lot of apps in the Android market are priced a couple of dollars higher than their counterparts in the Apple app store, and I do find this a bit annoying.
4. I’ve found the Droid X actually very comfortable to hold and use. The reviewer whining about the size seems even more non-sensical to me two days in; the thing fits well in my hand and the ridge in the back (where the camera juts out a bit) gives it a secure feel in the hand whether one is holding it vertically or horizontally. The screen looks great and things are easy to read on it and my ability to handle it with a single hand continues unabated. Basically I think the size complaints are bunk.
5. Some things I don’t like so far: I think the physical buttons on the phone are a little wonky, although part of that is me used to a slightly different function configuration on the Storm. I also notice the browser takes a while to access and load sites, even when wifi is on. Some of the apps could use better internal navigation. The camera is adequate but not great. I’ve played with the Swype keyboard and am a bit underwhelmed with it; I can type faster the old-fashioned way. The Droid X does not make me either smarter or more attractive.
But in all so far a very worthwhile investment and something I suspect will fit my needs for a smartphone very well. If you’re in the market for a new phone and are a Verizon customer, I’d say it’s worth checking out.
If I didn’t already have a Droid, the Droid X would be my choice of phone. Very nice machine.
The Droid X does not make me either smarter or more attractive.
That is a setup for the worlds most obvious burn. Or for the corniest compliment ever. But since either one might end up tripping the failure state of clever, I’m just going to leave them both alone while simultaneously claiming credit for thinking of them.
I concur with your thoughts on the size. I played with one in the Verizon store, and it was like “Yay! More screen!”
Does it have Android 2.2 (Froyo) on it? I don’t think it does, right? I have a Nexus 1, and when it upgraded to 2.2, my browser got a lot snappier, so hopefully you’ve got that to look forward to.
My best Droid story: We have a review unit in the office. Last week, it was living on my desk, and every time it got an incoming message, it would do that “Droooid” notification it does by default. Scaring everyone within a five-foot radius.
This prompted the tech writer, who is a gadgethead and snagged us the review unit, to tell his story of swinging by a Verizon store last week. A lady was checking out with two Droid Xs, full accessory lineup, the works. She seemed not that techie but knew this was the Hot Thing her husband wanted, a Well-Reviewed Smartphone, all that. The sales guy had configured it to show her all the cool features, so it was active, and as she’s paying for her $500+ haul, it gets an incoming message. And does its “Drooooid” thing.
Customer, suddenly freezing: “I don’t want it.”
Sales guy: “!?!”
Customer: “That’s creepy. I don’t want it.”
Sales guy: “Oh, that’s just a default sound, here let me change it …”
Customer: “No. That’s totally creepy. Take it away!”
And thus a Droid X sale was lost. But I agree — it’s a pretty nifty phone. I’d get one if I weren’t holding out for the Droid 2.
Keep up with the Swype. It’s a bit of a learning curve, but something will click (at least it did for me) and it will be much faster than typing. The hardest thing for me was trusting that it will figure out the word I want. I kept swyping and waiting to see if it was correct. Once I overcame that “gag reflex” so to speak, I have pretty much stopped using my original Droid’s slide-out keyboard
Did you have to reach inside a floating chunk of metal and turn your arm into something ripped off of a Terminator? Because I think that’s too high a price for me to pay, kthx.
I mean, maybe I’m naive, but I thought the point of these enormously expensive commercials was that people would buy the product advertised. Watching the commercials for the Droid X only made me question the sanity of the people making them.
I’m much more likely to be persuaded by things like this blog post, which is to say, testimonials based on actual use by actual people whom I actually trust.
Have you tried using Goggles on Ghlaghghee after taping bacon to her? That might be the trick.
Of course, the obvious question is: Did Scalzi Google Goggle himself?
Glad you like Goggles… take a picture of some text and it will OCR it and offer to translate it for you. Endlessly handy when traveling.
Wait!! Iphone!! I know you might have had to change to old Ma Bell, but Really??!! Enough with the Noid. Get an Iphone! It’s what all the cool kids are using. Or at least us over 30’s. And aps. We have created a new word. It means cool stuff you can’t get enough of!! Or pay enough for??
Did you link all your contacts to their Facebook account yet? I was surprised by the way my phone went and fetched the FB icon picture for its own use. What’s caught you off guard so far (besides google goggles)?
Also, check it out:
W00t. This will upgrade the video camera to HD, and will make the phone more efficient in general.
One thing you didn’t mention yet is an app killer app? There’s free ones and for pay ones (I have the free Advanced Task Killer), and it’s a major plus in keeping your phone’s OS running lean and mean (because I haven’t noticed my browser running slowly). Also required is a file manager to access your sd card.
re: using google goggles around the house. Oh, my dear, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Wait til you take it *outside* the house, and point it at a store or restaurant. GPS tells it where you are, and bingo you have all the info you need on that business. http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/#text
Also nifty cool are things like Google Shopper, Geodelic, Goby, Where, Yelp. Zillow, if you’re curious what your neighbors are paying for their real estate…
And! If you get the Useless Facts app, the Droid can in fact make you smarter!
Oo! Speaking of get off my lawn, I remember when television was black and white, three networks plus one PBS and one independent, and the TV repairman came to your house in a big truck that carried vacuum tubes.
Now that we live in the future, you can get a Slingbox, and, with a $30 app, you can watch everything from your cablebox on your phone.
It’s no flying car, but it’s pretty mind-boggling nonetheless.
John, try Opera Mini for browsing. It pre-caches the pages so is a ton faster than the default browser on any mobile device. I have used it on a Blackberry and now a HTC and the difference is noticeable. Tis free on the Android market.
For me, the combination of great voice recognition and Navigation have changed my life (okay – in a very small way, but still…) My favorite demo with my Droid is to hold down the search button until it goes into voice recognition mode and then say something like “Navigate to the museum with the storms exhibit”. (I’m in Chicago where the Museum of Science and Industry has an exhibit on the science of storms). It works every time and blows people away.
Oh, and don’t bother with Task Killers or Managers. The phone does fine managing tasks itself. I’ve found they can hurt performance more than they help.
Google Goggles? Sure, it’s cool. But the not the coolest thing ever. That is Google Sky Map.
Go outside on a starry night and hold your phone in front of you as you look at the sky for a live map of all the objects you can see, that automatically adjusts as you move the phone around.
Swype doesn’t do it for me – mainly because the version I have on my Droid disables speech recognition when texting – which I use a lot.
so why pick a droid x over an iphone? Price? I don’t have either.
I recently got my wife & son the Evo on Sprint (happy to leave ATT behind, thanksverymuch! I am, unfortunately, stuck on ATT for a while – my corporate plan keeps me there with a winmobile phone… bleaech!).
Son has already mangled his beyond recognition with about a bazillion apps. My wife’s is still pretty much vanilla ‘SenseUI’ (but she got a very bling hardshell – chrome & white leather – very Chanel!). They both love it.
The point: my wife assures me that the browser on the Evo (on 3G) is faster than firefox on her laptop (on 803.11G). Admittedly, laptop is a 1.6GHz Celeron of ancient vintage, so…
(My devoted S.O. also loves the kickstand with a passion — it’s her “let me set the phone on the table here while I text” stand)
Oh – and the HotSpot on Sprint… is UNLIMITED! Bwahahahaha! My son says he’ll be testing the bandwidth capacity on our next roadtrip — Netflix on his Laptop via his phone! As 4G rolls out – w00t!!!
AT&T’s network coverage is just about nonexistent where I live, which means the iPhone is not an option for me.
Guess@17: What John said.
And it’s not just rural Ohio. The AT&T/Verizon coverage gap is driving a further wedge between the east and west coast. AT&T coverage sucks in NYC, with a horrible record of dropped calls. However, Verizon is very dependable there.
I would love an iPhone, but first and foremost a cell phone must be a phone, and that’s simply not the situation with AT&T in New York.
FYI: There are tethering apps that you can use to let your laptop leach off your phone for Internet through a USB cable that don’t require a monthly charge.
PdaNet is the one I use. This does *NOT* requiring “rooting your phone, though I am sure your phone company doesn’t like it.
The Droid I got in June is my first smartphone, and I’m still grateful to the friend who recommended it and talked me out of an HTC2. I don’t object to virtual keyboards on principle, but I prefer typing without giving up 2/3 of my screen space.
Seconding Steve @21’s PdaNet decision – I tethered my Droid to a netbook for a cross-country trip in June, which circumvented hotel wi-fi charges nicely. (Though after a brief trial period, you have to buy the full version if you want to access https:// sites. It’s a one-time fee.) For what it’s worth, coverage-wise, the only places I lacked connectivity were in remote parts of Arizona, NM, and southeast Colorado.
The “Drooooid” sound? I love it. I only wish that without rooting the machine I could change it to the old Cylon “By Your Command” at startup. I’ve had to settle for using that one as a ringtone…
Finally – I highly recommend Google Sky Map (free!) – It’s a lot of fun, especially in a rural setting where you get those fantastic, unpolluted night skies.
Thanks for the review, Scalzi. My fiancee and I both ordered Droid Xs, and they’ll be our first smartphones. Hearing some actual feedback from someone who owns one is tremendously valuable!
my decision to up-grade my D-X was just confirmed by J.S. I agree that some of the apps are not as slick as they could be, but then, I’m pretty happy with basic tricorder functionality (loves the weather maps! Storm is right about here!).
Guess@17: so why pick a droid x over an iphone? Price? I don’t have either.
First question is coverage. The map. Got good coverage with Verizon and lousy coverage with ATT? go witha droid.
Otherwise, it’s probably less about specific features and apps and more about direction of the product and company.
iPhone is proprietary Apple.
Droid is open source linux.
If that doesn’t make a difference to you, then remind me to refer you to this in about ten years.
Functionality wise, I don’t know of any major differences between droid versus iphone.
I think the new iPhone lets you simultaneously talk while surfing the net and the current droids do not. To do that, you need to be on a 4G network though, and even fi your iPhone has 4G transceiver, that doesn’t mean you’re in an area that has 4G coverage. And if it’s really important, I believe there is a droid scheduled for the end of this year (or maybe this summer) that will have 4G capability.
My hunch is that both carriers will have widespread 4G in six months, maybe a year, and then it won’t make a difference again.
Then you’re left with basically proprietary versus opensource.
I got mine yesterday, and so far I’m in love with it, with two minor caveats: battery life (this will probably improve once I stop searching for and downloading new apps every five minutes) and the fact that I can’t take a picture and immediately use it as a background without cropping. Seriously, Droid? I’ve had dumbphones that could pull that off. Why can’t you?
Greg – Despite being the iPhone 4, it is actually a 3G device – it does not have 4G. The “can’t talk and surf at the same time” thing is because of the different technology platforms CDMA (Verizon) vs GSM (AT&T). However, I believe you’re right that when 4G get’s rolled out shortly, it has the potential for good coverage, blazing speed, and simultaneous voice and data. My Droid 1 is feeling so old ;-(
How smart are the Goggles? If you take a picture of a leaf will it tell you what kind of tree?
@Greg, you kinda hit it on the head for me. I’ve been out of contract with AT&T since November, because I wanted to be ready to pick up the newest iPhone that was sure to come out in the summer (which it did) but due to ordering issues, I never got it hot off the line. So, I’m actually still using my BB Bold, and still debating. With no contract, I can switch to Verizon if I want, and being in LA, we get coverage from both carriers pretty fine. It really comes down to phone itself, and data plan.
At least with Apple, the iphone is the one phone, so I know it won’t be overtaken by a new model in a couple months; perhaps next year, yes. But the droid army?? Forget it! It’s like deciding on a computer or camera or whatever. I can just see myself picking up the Droid X (or actually, the Droid Incredible, which is what I would get) now but like you say, new models will be out by the end of the year. If the damn carriers opted for single year contracts, or at the very least better subsidies for upgrades to handsets at 12 months, I would be less anxious about which to get.
The ease of the iphone with beautiful screen, front facing camera and gobs of apps is still so tempting. But I do like the idea of how customizable the droids are, versus the rigidity of the iphone. Argh! *runs around in circles again*
Does anyone have a good website they could recommend for all-things-droid? (or maybe just droidX?)
Like I saw this app in the store and wondered what kind of reviews it got before I pay money for it. Or how the heck do I find out the charge left on my battery?
There’s a bunch of them out there…