Ahoy there! Ahead be some discussion of reading, but mostly my impressions of my new phone. For those who come here for romance, nothing but romance, and a side order of man-titty, this entry will be not so much of that, unless I download some man-porn apps, which I can do because I’m outside the limitations of the Apple App Store. Heh. I have, yes, already searched “porn” in the Droid Marketplace, aka, Droid App Store.
If you know me, or have been around me, or read what I say on Twitter every now and again, you know that I hate, loathe, abhor, and despise very few things. I hate emptying the sink trip while I’m cooking. I loathe clothing that itches and the feeling of foam against my skin (EW. JIBBLIES.). And I abhor AT&T Wireless. Two years ago I signed a two-year contract with AT&T and got the iPhone 3G. The iPhone is a wonderful device for texting and email and all kinds of activities and whatnot, but as a phone, it sucks out loud, long, strong, and forever. It is a horrible phone because AT&T in the NY Metro area (which includes New York City, southern Connecticut, Westchester, and northern New Jersey where I live) is so God-awful bad I can’t even begin to tell you. Hubby and I have a friend who lives in Pittsburgh who loves his iPhone, has no trouble, and thought we were exaggerating with our AT&T-complaints.
Then he came to New York. And I quote, “Wow. You were right. This sucks!”
I paid for 3G network access but rarely used it, because while I could get internet on 3G, voicemail messages and alerts would arrive hours, if not days, late. Calls would connect but my phone would not ring, and I’d experience dropped calls every 2-5 minutes. One 20 minute call with Hubby disconnected 6 times.
The problem is twofold: one, there are too many iPhones, which I believe from colloquial evidence occupies a unique area of the AT&T wireless spectrum and therefore is oversaturated, and not enough bandwidth. Two, neither party will really admit there’s a problem, and have now sold even more iPhones. I could buy some signal enhancer for my house and pay MORE for that plus an additional monthly fee, but my offense at paying extra for crap service was too great to even consider keeping the iPhone.
So a month before our contract was up, Hubby did a ton of research (he was switching from a BlackBerry, not an iPhone) and realized the Droid X from Verizon would probably be awesome.
And awesome it is. It’s big. VERY big. Here’s a comparison article that shows both dimensions and resolution compared to the iPhone 4.
Now before I get going on what I think, I want to be clear about one thing. Too many tech articles comparing phones presume that There Can Only Be One. It’s a phone, for God’s sake. It’s not the Highlander.
It’s like the ebook vs. paper crap: it’s another option for people, not The One Option To Rule Them All and Bind Them Forever. I like the Droid X because it works for me. Supremely well for me. So I’m not here to smack the iPhone (although I freely admit I’m here to smack AT&T upside the head for a shitty phone service) and proclaim the Droid X The Winner Of All and Sundry. I’m just saying I like it, and since this is a sizable investment of money and time (it’s a 2-year contract), I’ll tell you why in case you’re curious. Ok? Ok.
So the screen is big honking big huge mondo-big. That means it’s longer and while the iPhone fit in my pocket, the Droid X sticks out a bit above the pocket hem of my shorts. This doesn’t bother me, as most of the time I’d carry it in a jacket pocket or in a purse anyway. Hubby says the deeper pants pockets he wears are just fine with the Droid X. It’s not like trying to stuff a Zagats guide in your pants or anything. It’s just longer than the iPhone, which I’ve been carrying for 2 years.
Bigger for me is better because I have craptastic eyesight, and the large screen gives me more room to focus on. This is important because I’m cross-eyed and my eyes have to work a little harder muscularly to focus on stuff. The muscles around my eyes get very tired if I have to focus on a small space, and the size of the Droid X screen is wonnnnnderfully easier on my eyes. It’s easier for me to read, see email messages, scan web pages, and read the apps from arm’s length away. Love that.
The Droid X screen is not as clear or crispy fresh as the iPhone 4 screen, and I’ve seen them both. The new pixel-mania on the iPhone 4 is a beautiful thing. But the AT&T phone service? Hell to the no thank you. I didn’t even consider the iPhone 4 so long as it was connected to AT&T.
The Droid X also has a butt. The Droid X has back. Much back. It has a camera at the top which creates a bump at the top. The bump does not make it top-heavy at all, and it’s not going to tip back out of my hand when I hold it, but it is not a smooth and uniform back like other phones.
This took a little getting used to but it doesn’t bother me. It’s a phone. It’s not like it’s designer shoes or some other article I presume people are paying attention to design-wise. You can see a whole mess of photos of the Droid X from every angle at the Motorola website.
So what do I use my phone for? Reading, email, Twitter, web, amusing my children in line at the store, weather, and occasionally avoiding traffic, finding restaurants, and mad shopping.
To start with the Reading apps, there are a few that I’ve found. First is the obvious Amazon Kindle for Android. It’s a near replica of Kindle for iPhone, iPad, the dishwasher, etc. It works exactly the same, and it syncs wirelessly across all the Kindle places, including the dishwasher (what? My forks like erotica!). It features the same text options as the other Kindle apps, including sepia which I STILL haven’t figured out a reason for its use. The syncing across devices is excellent – I find myself wondering as I ponder where to purchase an ebook, “Am I going to want to read this on my phone sometimes, or just on the Kindle when I have more reading time?” If I want it everywhere possible, I buy it from Amazon, knowing that if the book is so great I can’t stop reading it, I will be able to read it on my phone in line or whenever I’m waiting for something. I don’t always carry my Kindle with me.
There’s also Aldiko, which allows me to search through free public domain book, O’Reilly books, All Romance eBooks, Smashwords, and High School reading lists. Shopping is easy, and the nice thing about Aldiko is that I can customize the day theme or the night theme to the text, font size, background and link colors that I want. Very spiffy! So big honking white letters on a dark grey background, here I come!
I can also customize the navigation, such as how I turn pages, and I can talk about books I’m reading via Aldiko from within a book – but I can’t mark a specific line and take notes on it, or Tweet a specific line like you can with Stanza for iPhone.
There’s a good number of questions answered in the support pages at Aldiko.com, with screenshots if you would like to learn more. I like Aldiko just fine, and will likely use it as much as, if not more than, Kindle for Android once I get it all set up the way I like.
The Droid X is also recognized by Calibre, which transfers the books to the Droid “Main Memory.” Note: I’m trying to transfer books that either have no DRM (Thanks Carina!) or that I’ve stripped (WOO Sexy!). I had no problems, but I’m also not going to tackle DRM books on the phone because if I can’t get a file type I know how to strip, I buy the book from Amazon and accept the DRM tradeoff for syncing across devices.
My problem with Aldiko and transferring books from Calibre is that Calibre says the books have been transferred to the main memory, but Aldiko won’t look anywhere but the ebooks/import file on the SD Card on the phone – so I can’t find the files I transferred. It seems that the Android defaults for Calibre call for an app called WordPlayer, which I am not using. So off I go to download it.
WordPlayer is free like the others, but it wants to connect to Calibre wirelessly, which I couldn’t successfully do. I couldn’t get WordPlayer to find the files I’d transferred using a USB cable nor could I get Aldiko to locate them either. I actually don’t know where the hell Calibre put them. And I don’t unfortunately have time to struggle with it endlessly. As usual, even DRM free books on multiple readers can give me fits.
My last attempt via Calibre worked in a round-about way. I selected the books I wanted to transfer, then selected “Save to Disk” in the Calibre menu bar. Then I saved the files as Epub documents in the specific ebooks/import files that Aldiko wanted. That seems to have worked. But that represented the better part of 45 minutes to figure out. In terms of ease of use, Kindle is amazing.
There is one other reader I found but I am not going to mention it, as I don’t encourage piracy. This one reader has two databases of books to download from, but it appears that one of them proports to be open source, yet I know that the books within that database are under copyright protection. I was able to download Silhouette books and some JR Ward books as well and was never prompted for a payment method. I’ve alerted some folks about this reader and database but have not yet seen any removal.
That brings up my next point: freedom and risk. The Android Market is not as closely scrutinized as the Apple App Store, so there are porn apps and weird things up in there – and some amazing features, too. So on the one hand, you have to accept some risk. Each app you download will inform you what it is that you’re going to be able to do, and what the app will want to do, such as connect to the internet, share information about your purchases, etc. So as a rule I don’t download things that I haven’t read about online or researched in advance. And I do read the reviews of the apps themselves.
So there’s a pirate-y database of books, which totally blows, and on the other hand, there’s additional mail applications to try. The one I downloaded, K9, allows me to not only set a Send-From address (or, several if I want) but it also lets me customize the color of the LED light notifier at the top of the phone. WORD. If my phone is blinking pink, I know it’s email to a specific account. This degree of customization makes me freaking GIDDY.
Other apps that I adore include Key Ring, which allows you to scan and store all your retail discount cards, so instead of a keyring full of little strips of plastic, they’re all in your phone. This is also available for iPhone, too – woo hoo!
There’s a Gauge Battery Widget that allows me to see what percentage of battery remains, and thanks to Hubby’s thoughtful organization of his phone, I did my home screen layout similarly to his. At the top left I have today’s weather (91F? Are you shitting me?!) the time and date, and the battery meter. The benefit to apps running is that they’re giving me the information at a glance instead of my having to open them to see.
Plus there’s a “drawer” at the top, where if I swipe my finger down, I see what new email has arrived, what apps have downloaded, what new tweets are in, etc.
I do love the multitasking, and the degree to which I can run five apps at once and let them notify me when there’s new stuff. The downside is that they can hog battery life and so I run a free app called Advanced Task Killer, which lets me select which apps I want to stop running.
But the biggest thrill for me, honestly, is that it’s a phone. That works. Consistently. OH HAPPY DAY! COMMENCE SNOOPY DANCE! There’s not much more to say except I make phone calls from inside AND outside my house and don’t drop the calls – it’s just… refreshing, to be able to use the wireless cellular phone service I am paying for. Hear that AT&T? That’s the sound of no more of my money coming to you for wireless cell phone service. Go ahead, cry me a river about it, if you can place the call and get it to go through on the first try.
For me, the Droid X functions much better than the iPhone as a handheld computer for email and Twitter, because I don’t have to keep those apps open and refreshing to let new info come in. They sync faster and easier than my iPhone did – and after the iOS4 upgrade, my iPhone was pretty much unusable due to slowness and crashing. The bigger screen is easier for me to read and interact with visually, and I am reading on it more than I did the iPhone for that reason.
Plus, it’s a phone. That works. Can I say again how much I adore that part?
If you’ve got Droid questions, please let me know – I’m happy to try to answer them.