Android Adventures–Part 2

I’ve been living with my Droid X phone for a couple weeks now. It’s definitely a big change from my Blackberry. As I think about what to you tell about it, it’s hard to separate the phone from the software from the usefulness, but I’ll try to share thoughts on all.

The phone itself seems well made and sturdy. The display is big and terrific. I read reviews that it wasn’t as good as as the iPhone 4 and that may be, but it’s crisp and very usable. The form factor seems fine, it’s a longer display than the iPhone and I like the space, and it’s not heavy, comfortable to hold. Battery life so far has been fine, though GPS does seem to takes it’s toll, but that’s easy enough to turn on and off.

The OS isn’t hard to use, but it does take a little figuring out. For example, to remove a shortcut from the desktop you press and hold, then drag to a garbage can that wasn’t visible until you did the press and hold. There is no “X” button to close windows, in general things keep running in the background and it’s up to the OS to manage them. That’s a little different than Windows on the desktop, where we close things to manage resource consumption.

It’s got the standard how much power left feature, but it also shows what is/has been consuming power, a great way to figure out which apps behave well and which don’t. The Droid X has a desktop of 7 panels, you can easily swipe back and forth and customize as needed, a very nice UI feature.

The application market is integrated and easy to use, and there is a good variety of apps, and many of them are free. I’ve got Angry Birds loaded, PDANet so I can tether to my laptop, Nimbuzz for instant messaging, TweetDeck, K9 Email, and a few more, and still a few that I want to try out.

The single biggest pain point has been email and contacts. I use Outlook, but not connected to an Exchange server. There’s no built-in sync for that, and the free stuff I tried doesn’t work either. Right now I’m on the 14 day trial of CompanionLink which seems to work nicely, though it requires the free DejaOffice tools on the phone. It should not be hard, and should not cost me $40 to get this done! Clearly the emphasis is on driving people to GMail which is seamless, but I don’t want to move, I use Outlook and for now it does what I need done.

I loaded the K9 email app and I like it. I switched over to IMAP after talking about it with Steve Jones, and K9 handled it fine. Outlook though, not so good. It retrieves the mail ok, but it won’t let you direct it to a common inbox or set up a unified view that I could figure out. I don’t need or want two inboxes, so I’m back to POP3. Outlook retrieves messages and deletes them, the phone retrieves them and leaves on the server. Deletes on the phone get mirrored back to the server. Not perfect, but workable, and similar to what I did on the Blackberry.

Built in navigation is good if close to great. Easy to read, turn by turn announcements (that can be muted). A car mode. A places app to find food, gas, coffee near your current location. Lot’s of nice easy to use stuff.

I’ve set up Google Voice with the intent of using that as my “work” number, giving me the ability to hit do not disturb for work while on vacation and still get personal calls. The integration with the phone is elegant, I’ve got it set so that when I dial out I can show the GV number or my personal number. Google Voice voicemail gets transcribed and emailed to me along with an MP3 of the recording.

The voice recognition software is pretty good. I’ve used it a few times for searches and calls, works well.

As I think about it right now, if I could have synced contacts, calendar, and the rest right of the box, I’d have nothing to complain about. Everything works, no crashes, no problems. Battery life remains to be seen, but I’m comfortable that I’ve got to do my part on managing power usage on the fancier apps. It is, after all, more than just a phone. I’ve made a note to revisit my application usage in a month or two to share the winners. For an OS that isn’t that old and on v2, not bad at all.

I’m still curious to try to the Win7 phones. The trick is imaging Win7 on this phone, would I like it? No way to know yet, but there’s definitely an opportunity to make it a lot easier for those of using Outlook than Droid/Android does, and that right there could win them a lot of business.