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Android / Droid X impressions

This little draft has been sitting unfinished becuase, well, life happened, so I thought I’d just throw it on up to get it out of the bin. These are somewhat organized thoughts about getting a Not-iPhone

So I posted this bit of a rant a couple of weeks ago about how Android just didn’t float my boat and etc. Well, not long after that I finally decided to stop waiting on a Verizon iPhone, and I ordered myself a Droid X.

Yes, the one described by David Pogue as like talking into a frozen waffle.

So how is it? Well, it is large, but it doesn’t feel like talking into a toaster pastry. I actually like the finish and feel a lot. The volume rocker is a little small, and the hard camera button is sloppy feeling. But the rubberized feel to the back of the phone is nice to hold, the ridge for the camera is a good contour, and the device overall feels quite thin.

Now that I’ve had some time to get used to the four hard buttons (menu, home, back and search), I’m pretty efficient at using the Droid X. I quite like the way the back button in some contexts returns to the prior application — for example, after visiting a link clicked in the twitter client, the back button returns you from the browser back to twitter. Search is application context-sensitive, and at the home screens it searches applications, contacts, and google. It also remembers prior searches, so it’s a handy way to launch applications or make calls, too.

However, the menu button can cause some complication, because applications don’t always use it consistently — worse, some create a soft button of their own that might or might not invoke a context menu. Here the iOS model definitely wins.

Keyboard: Text edit views often obscure UI elements, and small text boxes often are rendered as multiline text areas, taking up space rather unnecessarily. Fortunately, I have learned how to hide the keyboard after typing: since the Droid X keyboard doesn’t have a “hide” button like that on the iOS (and as I understand Android offers standard), swipe down from the top of the keyboard. That will re-hide it and give you back the rest of your UI. (That’s an undocumented Pro Tip, right there.)

Horizontal coverflow like display of bookmarks and images in gallery is awful. Really, it’s bad. Hold the phone vertically for a standard thumbnail-style view. (The same holds for the bookmarks view in the browser. In the faux coverflow style, bookmarks are entirely, entirely unusable.)

Lack of bookmarklets is regrettable. I hear there are workarounds that involve chanting and offerings to Shiva, so I’ve delayed exploring them.

Battery life: I have heard bad things about smart/app phones in general, including the Androids. It’s easy to imagine that Android’s true multitasking could be a big battery liability. This is where the fanboys go ZOMG APPLE SUXORS, but the presence or lack of multitasking hasn’t been an issue for me yet, in terms of functionality. I have observed that Android runs a lot of applications that i have not once, ever, run on my own — Amazon mp3 store and the car dock, for example — and this strikes me as a pretty inefficient thing to do.

So does it matter for battery? Who knows? After a handful of days I stopped using Advanced Task Killer every twenty minutes and just relaxed. While I reserve the right to revise and amend my statement, for now I’m very happy with my Droid X’s battery life: I routinely finish the day with 50 percent of battery life left on the meter after a day of pretty heavy use.

Apps I like (The range of Android applications seems … adequate if not impressive. The Android market badly needs some kind of curation.):

  • My Tracks: nice tracker app for biking in the hills. Integrates well with google maps.
  • Twitter app: Clean, works well, nothing extraneous.
  • Vignette: Much better than the built-in camera app, with a bunch of creative filters. I’m taking more pictures with the Droid X than in the past several weeks with my DSLR. Really good photo application a la the Hipstamatic app for iOS.
  • K-9 Email: This is a powerful email client with IMAP support. On the Droid X, there are lots of problem reports about the stock client not correctly refreshing, and while I am loath to solve a defect with an app, K-9 syncs properly and offers a bundle more features than the stock client.

It’s a good device with very nice hardware and some software feature that I really like — and some hitches.

More later?