To know me, is to know how much I love technology. I have been a sucker for electronics ever since I was a kid, loitering for hours in the stereo section Highland Appliance store on South Westnedge in Portage, MI, or in Shack Electronics in downtown Kalamazoo. I will skip over the part about taking apart televisions and trying to rebuild them. That didn’t work out so well. I discovered that I am a much better connoisseur than technician. As computers evolved, I fell in love with them, too. Again, my focus was equally, if not more, on the design, fit & finish, materials, and build quality, than what the device could actually do when you hit the power button. I loved Marantz and Denon receivers because they looked just as good as they performed. Aesthetics are important.
Perhaps I am saying all this to provide some context, or lay a back story, for the the changes I experience with my mobile phone in 2012.
I entered 2012 with the tank-like, and frequently glitchy, Motorola Droid X.
As I mentioned above, I am interested in technology, and even learning how things work. I am not, however, all that interested in getting my full geek on and learning programming code. Most Android phones are “rootable,” meaning that you can fiddle with the code and install various operating systems (ROMs). If you have the time and patience, you can create a highly customized device that suits your needs. As compelling as the end result may be, I am just not that dude. I feel like making a compelling user experience should fall on the hands of the manufacturer. My only “job” should be to learn about all of the various features, and take good care of the device. This is one area where I differ greatly with most Android enthusiasts.
After suffering through a number of problems with the Droid X, the device received a not-so-accidental beat down from a quartz countertop.
I thought that it might have been time to take a break from smartphones, so I thought about trying an old, but slim, LG flip phone that I had in my house.
That non-data experiment only lasted a couple of days.
I was not quite sure that I was going to do about a “new” phone, but knowing that I wanted access to email, at least, I decided to activate my wife’s old BlackBerry 8830.
I could only stand using that BlackBerry for an evening.
I jumped on Craigslist and found someone selling a very clean Droid Incredible for $90. Somehow, I was back where I started with smartphones. The Droid Incredible was my first, non-work smartphone.
Interestingly, after using the bulky Droid X for nearly 18 months, the Droid Incredible seems small. Considering that I don’t like stuff in my pockets, this is not a bad thing.
As much as I liked the small footprint (or pocket print — get your mind out of the gutter), I missed the larger 4.3″ screen of the Droid X. (The Droid Incredible’s screen is 3.7″) I went on Craigslist and eBay, and eventually came across someone selling a Droid Incredible 2.
Though it looks nearly identical to the original Incredible, the Droid Incredible 2 has a 4″ screen and a front-facing camera. This change was purely incremental, and I knew that the Incredible 2 would the last used device that I would pick up before deciding on what would be my next major smartphone upgrade.
This is where my quandary began. I have been using Android devices for three full years, and I was fully prepared to stay in the Android ecosystem. For as little as I am drawn to the nerdy, tinkering side of Android, I appreciate the many things that operating system offers. Even with out rooting, Android devices are highly customizable, allowing users to make devices uniquely their own. Contrary to what some people (iPhone users that have never touched an Android device) may say, customizing an Android device is not rocket science.
Even with three years invested on Android, I was always open to moving to another device. I was particularly interested in the release of the iPhone 5. There was speculation that the physical shape would change a bit, and Apple is one of the best when it comes to design of consumer electronics and computers. When the veil was finally lifted on the iPhone 5, I was underwhelmed.
Not really wowed by Apple, I turned my sights back to Android — with a slight side-eye on Windows Phone 8. Rumors has been flying around all summer about a new Nexus (Google’s designated flagship device). The release was expected in the fall, and sure enough the Nexus 4 was announced. It is made by LG (chortle). It has glass on the front and the back (sound familiar?). It lacked 4G/LTE. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeech!
To refresh a dying expression — Oh…hell to the nah!
Feeling let down by Google and the Nexus 4, I thought about getting a Samsung Galaxy SIII. My wife has one, and has been pretty happy. However, I read some rumors about a new phone by HTC that was headed to Verizon. I was to be called the Droid DNA. After quite a bit of hand-wringing, and talking to my friend Francis…
This phone is pretty amazing. It has a 5″ screen, with an insade 1080p resolution. Think of having an HD, 1080p flat-screen television in your pocket. The screen is amazing. Surprisingly, the Droid DNA is quite light for its size. It has a fast processor, 4G/LTE, a great camera, and is running the latest (well…sorta) version of Android. There was a lot of concern about the phone not having great battery life, but in two weeks, I never had a problem making it through an entire day on a charge. Note: It has inductive wireless charging capability built in, so if you have a Qi charging mat, all you have to do is set the phone down on the mat and boom, it’s charging. Pretty cool stuff.
Of course, if you remember the title of the post, you know that there is one more device to go. So you’re likely wondering what was wrong with the DNA. It is a simple as this — it was just too big (dimensions). Again, the phone is incredibly light and quite sleek. I just found that the dimensions of the phone didn’t work with the way that I normally carry my phone, and that is in my front pocket. I don’t like having anything bulky in my pockets, so I have a super thin wallet, and I want a phone that I don’t really feel. As much as I loved the Droid DNA, it just didn’t fit with my physical needs/requirements. Let me just add this…if you take or view a lot of pictures, watch videos or movies, or need to read easily on your smartphone, you really can’t do better than the Droid DNA. The only hitch is that you have to be comfortable with a tall phone. It’s quite thin and very light, but just know going in that it will take up your entire pocket.
Just as my two weeks exchange period was coming to an end, I walked into the Verizon store with the Droid DNA neatly repackaged. Was this my change to try another operating system? HTC also make a Windows Phone 8 device for Verizon. The operating system is a bit of a dark horse, but it looks interesting. Nope.
Lucky phone number seven is a device that I had no intention of buying just a few months prior.
You know, I was going to title this post “I finally gave in,” but that wouldn’t be accurate. I have been using Android devices for three full years and I don’t see the iPhone or iOS operating system as superior to the Android operating system and some Android devices. My thought of “giving in” was resisting the idea of picking up an iPhone because so many user are completely biased and incapable of objectivity. I didn’t, and still don’t, want to become “one of them!” Funnily enough, I had the same resistance before buying two Apple computers. My wife help me completely the complete Apple ring of fire by giving me an iPad for Christmas. Am I becoming happily encamped or naïvely enslaved? That remains to be seen. After nearly a month with the iPhone 5, here’s my experience.
The iPhone 5 is beautifully crafted. The design is not revolutionary, as Apple is prone to saying, but it is clean and industrial. I love minimalist design, so the iPhone 5 is right on the money for my taste. For years, I have been nauseated by the Apple mantra “It just works.” I actually think that notion is bullshit, because if you haven’t used an Apple computer or phone before, you won’t be able to pick it up and become a master. It takes time and practice. I think the only reason so many people know how to use iPhones and IPads is because every commercial you see for them is a tutorial. Android is criticized, and sometimes rightfully so, for having too many controls and options buried in menus. Since using the iPHone, coming from Android, I have been no less confused, initially, about how to perform certain functions. Add to that, I find that Apple’s on-screen buttons take up precious screen real estate, while Android devices save that space for the apps. It is really a matter of preference. I don’t think one is inherently better than the other. However, if you’re switching to the iPhone from an Android device, there is definitely a learning curve.
One thing that I absolutely love about the iPhone is how it works with just about everything else. Devices sync quite easily with the iPhone. Android devices didn’t have a problem syncing, necessarily, but it is clear that the bulk of third-party devices, including audio systems in cars, were designed to play nice with the iPhone. Here’s an example. When I had phones 1, 4, 5 & 6, I could stream music to my wife’s Bluetooth audio system in her car. When I synced the iPhone 5 to the car, all the track information shows up on the screen. This may seem minor, but I really appreciate these little things.
Aside from the difference in the number of apps available for iPhones versus Android devices, there are subtle differences in the apps on either operating system. The differences benefit iPhone. It is pretty clear that developers design apps for iPhones and iPads first, and then port them over to Android, if at all. Again, the differences are often minor aesthetics, but it’s enough to notice and alter one’s experience.
A few quibbles. I hope Apple changes about the operating system include a better notification panel. Android has this function nailed, and it keeps getting better. Apple is clearly the novice in this arena. If anything, it would be nice to have some quick toggles for sounds, wifi, and bluetooth. I also like that I could swipe the notification panel down in the lock screen on Android. It provides a quick way to check notifications without having to have the badges on the screen. Another thing that I hope gets improved in the next release of iOS is the sharing options. Currently, Apple has the ecosystem so locked down that you can’t share things on your phone (pictures, web pages, etc) with apps of your chosing. This is wide open on Android, and creates a much better sharing and productivity experience. For instance. if I’m looking at something on the browser on an Android device, I can long press on the URL and the option to share the link with apps pops up. From there, I have a laundry list of apps to send this link, including Springpad or Evernote. You cannot do that on the iPhone without copying the link, going to the other app and pasting. That’s not an example of “It just works!” to me. One thing about the packaging for the phone that just makes no sense to me are the white cords with a black device. I suppose it’s a brand recognition issue, but I don’t want a white charge cable and earphones with a black phone.
So, there you have it. My odyssey with smartphones in 2012. In spite of my reluctance to go all Apple, I’m in — for the time being. Google and Motorola are rumored to be working on a really nice Android device that will be released sometime this year. I’ll stick with the iPhone for my two-year contract, and hope that Apple improves iOS. If not, I will have no reservations to moving back to Android. For me, it’s more about usability than visibility.
Unless you just stepped out of a time machine, it’s pretty likely you aware that Apple officially lifted the veil on the iPhone 5 yesterday.
I may be coming down too hard on Apple, but throughout the announcement I had a very distinct feeling. Yawn! I was underwhelmed.
Perhaps part of the blame falls on my nerdiness. I read a lot of tech blogs, and iPhone 5 photos and specs were leaked left-and-right. When Apple revealed the iPhone 5 on stage yesterday in San Francisco, there were no surprises. It became clear, from the leaks, that Apple was going to stick with the iPhone 4/4S design and merely stretch it out to make room for a four inch screen.
I think the other part of my frustration with the iPhone 5, in my opinion, falls squarely on Apple. It’s clear to me that Apple opted for safe over daring with the design. I have long admired Jony Ives, and the beautiful industrial design that he’s brought to Apple. (Mind you, a lot of Apple’s designs seem to draw “inspiration” from Braun.) In fairness, I can’t say that I really blame Apple for how they treated the iPhone 5. As much as daring, out-there design has its place, Apple is still a business with strong customer base. Paraphrasing Ives, in a new video, he didn’t think that Apple should mess the design. Ives said that the iPhone 4 and 4S were so popular that he thought the best thing to do was improve upon a good thing, not upturn the Apple cart. There’s merit in that, and I thought about how certain designs become iconic, such as a Porsche 911. I just don’t think the iterations of the iPhone 4, over time, will prove iconic on that level. Check out this interesting piece on TechCrunch that addresses the issue of Apple not reinventing the wheel.
Of course, all of this could change when I get my hands on the iPhone 5. From the photos and hands-on videos I’ve seen, the device — particularly the black model — looks beautiful and well-crafted. I guess that I was just hoping/expecting Apple to take the slab smartphone to another level. I have been exhausted by all of the lawsuits between Apple and, seemingly, every manufacturer that makes Android devices. I was willing to put all of that to the side, for the moment, and bask in the glory of Apple’s design prowess. It’s worth adding that aside from revolutionary (Apple’s favorite superlative) hardware innovation, Apple would have created much more buzz if they overhauled it’s mobile operating system iOS. It’s looking rather long in the tooth, particularly when compared to updates to Android and the Windows Phone operating systems.
To be perfectly candid, I was hoping that the iPhone 5 would end months of hand-wringing about my next phone. I don’t often rely on sports analogies, but…I wanted Apple to knock it out of the park, but they merely hit a sacrifice fly to advance a runner.
I am not wed to one platform, and will more than willing to move from Android to iOS if the iPhone design proved to be compelling. Apple didn’t help as much as I had hoped. The recently announced Nokia Lumia 920 builds on a very interesting design. (I see a trend developing here.) In about a month, if rumors hold up, Google will announce that it has expanded its Nexus program (Google’s flagship Android device) to allow several manufacturers to introduce new Nexus devices this fall (usually in November). Here is a chart comparing the iPhone 5, Galaxy SIII, and the upcoming Lumia 920. My wife recently upgraded from a Motorola Droid X to the Samsung Galaxy SIII, and she seems to love it.
One thing that is rather interesting to me is seeing the devoted iPhone camp do their best to mask their disappointment. I think that a good amount Apple loyalists released heavy sighs yesterday. I checked out a number of Apple blogs, and the mood seems to be rather reserved. People are doing their best to put a positive spin on yesterday’s reveal. Like me, I suspect that a majority of people were hoping that the leaked photos were a slight of hand by Apple’s PR shop. What happened to Apple “doubling down” on security? Fail!
Of course, Android fans were doing back flips. (rolling my eyes) I wrote a comment on an Android site, imploring people to keep it classy and be a fan of tech.
I am a fan of technology…period. I use an Android device, but I also own and use Apple products. I kinda like the division of labor, if you will. With that, I refuse to allow myself to become so entrenched in one camp, or another, that I start to take things in this arena personally. I get appreciating your favorite brand or system. What I don’t get are people who take their preference (allegiance?) to a device or brand so far as to run anything else into the ditch.
Sure, I get the whole Apple vs. Android thing. You’d have be to blind not to. I question whether Apple was run by a megalomaniac, and everyone — even subsequent to his death — appears committed to that same bullshit “everyone is out to get us” paranoid path. Maybe this has cause Android camp to develop a pretty large chip on our collective shoulders, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Calling out Apple for it’s practices would be a lot more convincing if Android OEMs didn’t blatantly copy (Yeah…I know the reverse arguments, so please don’t recite them.) and fans of the OS and ecosystem didn’t mirror the same myopia that sadly shackles so many fans of Apple.
Objectivity is the key word for me. I want all tech to be cool and interesting. This means that I can applaud and acknowledge when Apple makes something compelling, be that the hardware or the software that runs the device. It means that love of great design is not exclusive to Android and the OEMs that produce Android devices. If that were the case, I’d have a lot of pent-up self-loathing for the shiggity products Motorola keeps pumping out. (Sorry Moto fans.) Interestingly, if all of the leaks and rumors about the iPhone 5 are true, I think there will be a rather tangible sigh release from people, even the most ardent fans of Apple, who were hoping for something more…ummm…intriguing. Merely stretching out a phone doesn’t equal innovative design. I’ve come to expect more from Jonny Ives.
Look…we all (Android, Apple, Windows fans) need to come up for air, and just following the mantra of “Do you.” Let people do their thing. Stop trying to beat someone/something down in order to elevate yourself or your “thing.” Perhaps, the most important thing, in my estimation, is to stop personalizing all of this stuff. It’s just not that deep. It really isn’t.
The whole Apple vs Android debate is too much like the Hatfields vs. McCoys for my taste. It’s ridiculous. There’s just too much vitriol over “stuff.”
Ok…enough belly-aching that the present under the tree was not exactly what I wanted. The iPhone 5 is a nice looking device. It’s just not a game-changer.
It has been six months since making the decision to ‘cut the cord’ in our house. In that time, I think that we have all pretty much adjusted to life without cable. I suspect that it’s a lot easier for Noah and Carla because they both spend most of their time elsewhere with full-blown cable — Noah at his mom’s house, and Carla in her apartment in New York. I, however, am the one who has been functioning daily without cable. For the most part, all is well. The one thing that has been driving me nuts, though, is the less-than-stellar (read: shitty) reception. The primary issue, as I’ve discussed, is that the reception will either become pixelated or completely go out. Initially, I thought the problem was only when freight trains passed by the house, but I have discovered that poor reception is not exclusive to CSX interference. Poor reception has become a rather regular, and quite annoying, thing.
I am unwilling to put a big ass antena on top of the house, or some huge wire contraption in the attic. Honestly, for the sake of receiving a handful of stations, connecting anything more than small, unobtrusive antennas is out of the question. What to do? I must admit that one night when reception get blinking out, I came about —>this<— close to calling up RCN to get the mack-daddy cable package. Fortunately, fiscal restraint took over and just kept moving the antenna around until I could get a steady signal. The channel was clear (full HD to all of those who have been making jokes about the quality of over-the-air broadcasts), but I could no longer focus on the show because I sat, pissed, looking at the antenna jerry-rigged over the top of one of the pocket doors. Terms like: Janky, Ghetto, and FAIL! came to mind when I looked at what I had to do just to watch Jeopardy.
Perhaps it was time to rethink the whole “cutting the cord” thing.
Sidebar: Let me make something clear. Just because I post on my blog about traveling in one direction, doesn’t mean that I won’t, or can’t, change my mind. Even with that said, though, I did wonder what people would say if I went back to cable. Oh well…who cares? I have do what’s right for me (and my family).
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a stripped down cable and Internet package on RCN’s New York page while I was looking at some options for Carla. (She is fed up with Time Warner, and we talked about her switching to RCN.) I looked on RCN’s DC website, and didn’t see that package. Having reached the point where I just couldn’t live with the terrible reception in the house, I reluctantly started to peruse RCN’s website to see what was the most inexpensive bundle package. While on the site, I just happened to click on “Special Offers.” Well looky here.
For the same price I am paying now for 50Mbps cable Internet service, I could be connected to a steady signal for local stations. I see this as a way to still “cut the cord;” because, essentially, I am just using RCN as my antenna. Semantics? Perhaps. You know what? You can call it what you want to, but I this move as a win-win. I still have my high speed Internet, needed for streaming services and multiple users, and I get crystal clear reception of all the local channels I was using my antennas to receive. Nothing more. The total difference is cost per month? $3 (taxes)
One other thing worth noting in this update is a channel that I added to my Roku account. If you have cut the cable, and would like to add some streaming of online content, you should seriously consider adding Plex.
Plex works on a number of devices. Note: You will need to install Plex’s Media Server software on your computer to make it all work. The process is really easy, and I’ve been able to enjoy content from ESPN3, ABC, CBS, and YouTube. Most recently, I was able to watch all of the NBA playoffs that aired on ESPN3 on my TV, instead of sitting at my computer, watching on my laptop, or trying to run and HDMI cable between the laptop and the TV. You can also use the media server to stream photos and videos from your computer to your Plex channel or app. Speaking of apps, you can pick up the Plex app for Android and iOS devices, which, I think, runs around $5. Here is a video by Janko Roettgers of GigaOm’s Cord Cutters demonstrating Plex.
Thanks to my friend Carol leaving a comment on this post, I was prompted me to come back to add a note about our home phone. Part of the cord cutting experience included porting our home phone number over to an extra Verizon Wireless line I had on my account. That line was set to come off contract in April, so I sat patiently, waiting for the contract to expire. Sure, I could have paid the pro-rated early termination fee (about $40), but why? I set a reminder on my Google Apps calendar. On April 30th, I signed into Google Voice, and went through the steps for porting the home number over from Verizon Wireless.
I already have a Google Voice number, but that number is associated with my fledgling photography business. My wife uses two Google Voice numbers for her business. I assigned the home number to my personal email (run with Google Apps). A while back, I had given up on Google Voice as my daily mobile number, principally because it lacks MMS (image and video) messaging. As a home number, though, Google Voice is perfect.
Here’s how we make having a Google Voice number work in our house. I bought a Panasonic cordless phone system, with Bluetooth integration, off a guy on Craigslist.
The key to this system is Bluetooth. I can connect two bluetooth mobile phones to the Panasonic system — essentially creating a home phone. As soon as I walk into the house, my phone automatically connects to the Panasonic base. I can receive and place calls through the three headsets, as if calling from my cell. With the Google Voice app on my phone, any calls that come into the “home phone” number ring through my cell and all of the Panasonic handsets. I have the app set to show the Google Voice number so that anyone in the house will know whether it’s a call to the home number or my cell number. I lose Caller ID with configuration, but I don’t mind giving that up for the convenience of having both my cell and Google Voice numbers ring through the phone. I can always set the Google Voice app to show the incoming number if it really became important. When Carla is home, she can also have her phone ring through the Panasonic system. I have developed the habit of putting my smartphone down by the base to charge when I come into the house.
If you have any questions about cutting the cord, or life without cable, please ask them in the comments.
How things begin is often how they end.
Well, that may be a bit dramatic. Maybe it’s simply life coming full circle. Either way, after [forcefully] introducing my malfunctioning Droid X into my quartz countertop, I had to move on to replacement phone until I make up my mind about what will be my next major smartphone purchase (iPhone 5? Galaxy Nexus? Galaxy SIII?)
I first thought that I would stop using a smartphone altogether, and use my old, but very slim, LG flip phone that I had in a drawer in my house. That non-data experience only lasted a couple of days. After that, I activated my wife’s old BlackBerry 8830. I could only stand using that BlackBerry for an evening. I jumped on Craigslist and found someone selling a very clean Droid Incredible for $90. After a little email back-and-forth with the seller, I picked it up last night. The Droid Incredible is nice, slim phone. Interestingly, though, after using the Droid X for nearly 18 months, the Incredible seems small. Considering that I don’t like stuff in my pockets, this is not a bad thing.
The Incredible was my first smartphone (for personal use). For nostalgia’s sake, here is the write up I posted on my blog when I first got the Incredible in May of 2010. It’s crazy to think that was almost two years ago. Time in the technology world should be measured like dog years.
A Little Background
As some of you know, I took the plunge and picked up the HTC ADR6300…better known as the Verizon Droid Incredible. Until a few weeks ago, I was patiently waiting for the Google Nexus One to show up on Verizon’s network. Something told me that there was a chance that this phone may never see the light of day on Verizon, and this was proven true this past Friday (Google Announcement).
I have been toying with the idea of upgrading from my LG flip phone to a smartphone. Just as with any self-respecting tech nerd/geek, I have been reading all the technology and mobile tech blogs to get the most current information about devices on the market, or ones expected to release soon. I have a number of friends and colleagues that own the iPhone, and have been bending my ear for years about picking one up for myself. I entertained the idea, but moving to AT&T wasn’t appealing, and I, in all candor, was not that enamored with the iPhone. Before anyone makes claims of me being an Apple hater, let me clarify that I am very fond of Apple products and design. In the case of the iPhone, I just wanted something better.
What that “better” was, I didn’t know. In the last year, there has been increasing talk about the development of devices running with Google’s operating system called Android. Last fall, the Android device that made the most noise is the Motorola Droid. Though the Droid enticed me, I was interested in a phone being developed by Google called the Nexus One. The Nexus One was released on T-Mobile at the beginning of the year. At the time of it’s release, Google shared that it Verizon would carry the Nexus One by the spring. Subsequent to the announcement, word started to spread about a new Android OS device for Verizon. The specs for this Verizon Android device were, surprisingly, better than the Nexus One. So, my deliberation on what road to travel really boiled down to 1) wondering whether I would wait to see if the rumors about a CDMA version of the new iPhone 4G coming to Verizon were true; 2) contemplating jumping networks to get the HTC EVO-4G debuting on Sprint in early June; 3) hold out for the Nexus One; or 4) stay on Verizon and get the Incredible. A fifth option that I’ve taken off the table for now is the Windows Phone 7, expected to debut this fall.
As much as the EVO-4G was (and somewhat still is) calling my name, I decided that I would go with the Nexus One or the Incredible—really whichever one came out first. On April 12, Verizon announced the Droid Incredible would be available on April 29. Pre-orders started on April 19. I was reluctant to pre-order the Incredible because some of the sneak-peek reviews commented that the body felt “plasticky.” This was a little unsettling, since the Nexus One has a good deal of metal in its body. After a good deal of last minute hand-wringing, I took my lunch break from a training class for work to run to the Verizon store on April 29 to pick up the Incredible. The first store I went to was sold out. My first thought was “Damn!” I was told that another store a short Metro ride away had them in stock. I thought, “Hmmm. Maybe this is a sign that I need to think a little longer about this.” However, by the time I hit the door of the store I decided to dash to the other Verizon store. Score! I returned to the last day of my training class (a tad late) with the Incredible sitting on the table charging. It was done. I joined the Android family. Ok, now onto the phone.
Basic Tour of the Incredible
Once you get beyond the standard HTC and Verizon splash screens upon startup, you reach the lock screen. (Note: The Incredible runs on Android OS 2.1, dressed up with HTC’s user interface – Sense. Here’s a peek at the “stock” Android lock screen.)
The Incredible comes with seven adjustable screens, as opposed to the three screens that come with the Motorola Droid or Nexus One. You can quickly add or delete widgets and programs/apps to any page. You can swipe left or right to reach the different screens (a little bar — just above the phone tab in this picture — moves to let you know where you are in the order of screens) or you can use HTC’s feature called “Leap” that allow you to reduce the screen to a thumbnail view so you can see all seven screens at once. To reach this view, you can either pinch the screen or press the home button.
From this Leap view, you can touch any of the thumbnails to immediately go to a particular screen. I like the Leap feature, because at times I get tired of the swiping gesture and want to get a screen quickly. The other way to get to programs or apps quickly is to press the up arrow — to the left of the phone tab in the picture below.
Pressing the arrow pulls up your program/apps launcher. This screen scrolls up and down. You can look at the programs and apps in a grid or list view. I prefer the grid view because your list can get pretty long if you start adding a bunch of apps. You may have noticed an “M” in the stop left corner of the screen in the pictures above. This is the notifications area of the screen. This is the area of the phone that will give you information about new e-mail, text messages, and updates coming in to your apps. (Multitasking) For instance, the “M” in the notifications bar on my phone indicates a new e-mail. To learn more about the notifications, I simply swipe down from the top of the screen to reveal the notifications window.
From the notifications window, you can touch the particular notification, and it will take you to the program. If you want to ignore the notifications, you just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to close the notification window.
I am pretty comfortable with different operating systems, so the transition from a basic cellphone to the Incredible and Android OS was pretty easy. Though I use a Blackberry for work, the operating system is nothing like what you’re used to. I think anyone that’s accustomed to an iPhone or iPod Touch will move around the phone pretty intuitively. There are certain things that act differently from the iPhone, such as the screens swipe left and right more than up and down. Minor differences, though, in the scheme of things. Basic set up is reallyeasy, especially if you use Gmail. Once you type in your Gmail username and password, the phone will populate with your e-mail, calendar and contacts from Google. If you use Yahoo, Hotmail or any other service for e-mail, including Microsoft Exchange, you can add the accounts easily in the HTC mail client. Here are a couple of things worth noting about the way things work with HTC Sense.
There are a ton of videos and articles that can give you more information on the Sense and general Android features, so I won’t drone on about them here. Android Central has a great round up of articles and information (including videos, and tips and tricks) about the Incredible on its site and forum.
Let me touch on the fit and finish of the devices body, which initially gave me pause. Though the front part of the phone is made of a shiny black plastic, it doesn’t feel or look cheap. I analogized it to my Zune. It’s plastic, but if feels substantial. The back of the phone is contoured.
The material used on the back of the Incredible feels somewhat rubberized. Though a bit unusual, the contoured back doesn’t affect the feel of the phone, and, in my opinion, adds a little bit of a unique design flare to the Incredible.
The Incredible is very light. Not cheap-feeling light, but light. I probably would have preferred something a little more substantial in my hand, but the light weight is great when you have this phone in your pocket. Additionally, the Incredible doesn’t feel flimsy in your hand. I was just surprised that a device with all these capabilities would only weight a touch more than my flip phone.
I will write another installment to go over some of the apps—both native and those downloaded from the Android Market, but I want to talk about just a few other things really quick.
If you’re moving from a basic mobile phone or a smartphone, such as the Blackberry, with a physical keyboard, to a touch screen-only device, it can be an adjustment. Most iPhone users I know say, “You get used to it.” That may be true, there is something to be said about a physical keyboard. Even after a few weeks with the Incredible, I find that I type much faster on my Blackberry. The Incredible does give you feedback when you touch letters on the screen, which helps.If you like the Android OS, but want a physical keyboard, you need to look at the Droid, CLIQ, Ally, or the new MyTouch3G slider that’s coming out soon.
Like most people, I find that the keyboard is much easier to use in landscape mode (holding the Incredible sideways) than in portrait mode. Perhaps because I have larger fingers, but the most accurate way to type in portrait mode is one finger tapping. Using two thumbs in portrait mode, for me, caused me to hit the wrong keys too often. In either orientation, I appreciate — well most of the time — the auto=correct or suggestion feature. As you type the Incredible intuitively tries to figure out what you’re typing. It’s particularly helpful on long words because as you type, words appear above and you simply tap the word to replace what you started. The problem comes when you have words that you know are right and the auto-correct replaces the word for you. The simple, but somewhat annoying way to deal with that is to tap the word you typed on the suggested word list. When you do this, the word you typed is added to the phone’s dictionary for future use. It’s a nice feature, but I’ve found that having to add words here and there through an e-mail slows down my typing. The up-side, I don’t know if it’s unintended, of the auto-correct is that it forces me to proof what I’ve written. (Though I usually do that anyway.)
Oh, if you make errors while you’re typing, you can tap the screen to move the cursor back to the area you need to correct. There’s also an optical track pad at the bottom of the Incredible that allows you to move through elements on the screen. I’ve found the optical track pad to be quite responsive. You just have to get accustomed to the amount of finger movement required to get around the screen accurately.
One of the biggest knocks I’ve seen on the phone is it’s relatively weak battery life. I’m sure the multiple programs/apps running have a lot to do with battery performance. There are programs you can download to control or “kill” background apps to save battery life. You can also adjust the default syncing option for the phone to control what programs and apps draw data automatically.
I was a bit concerned about battery life in the first week with the phone. I was, admittedly, playing with the phone a lot, so I couldn’t really judge whether the battery was weak or if I was abnormally taxing the phone. In the past week, I’ve noticed much better battery life, but “better” still means I only get less than full day’s use with a charge. Unlike standard cell phones and Blackberries, you will need to charge the Incredible daily unless you have almost no apps running on the phone.
There are other batteries available that fit into the phone, and extended batteries are on the way. I may consider the higher capacity battery that fits into the phone, but I don’t like extended batteries because they alter the dimensions of the phone—pushing out the back with a different cover.
I am a photographer, so my scrutiny of the quality of images is probably more exacting than others. While I don’t expect the Incredible to replace my DSLRs, I have been curious to see if the 8 megapixel camera could stand in place of my point-and-shoot for daily snapshots and video. Right up front, I will say that I am disappointed that the video camera does not record in 720p high definition format. This is particularly curious, given that the Sprint EVO-4G has the same camera and records in 720p. If you spend anytime looking at video on YouTube, Vimeo, or other sites, you will appreciate the quality of HD video. Setting that annoyance aside, I found that the camera takes pretty decent images. The camera has selective focus, meaning you can touch different areas of the screen to shift the focus, but so far I’ve found that the focus system is not as accurate as I’d like. Here are some examples I grabbed for this piece.
Notice that Carla’s picture is not quite in focus. I touched the focus area on her face several times before snapping the picture. I even reduced the resolution of the images from 8MP to 1MP in the hopes that it would write faster, and, thus, reduce any affects of camera shake.
Again, notice in the second video that the rose is not in focus, though it’s closest to the camera. I selected the focus area on the rose, and made sure I was a sufficient distance from the rose so it was not too close to focus. I suspect that spending more time with the camera will result in better image and video quality.
The Incredible has a great screen with vibrant colors and deep, rich blacks. The response to touch, which is critical on a device with no keyboard, is fast and precise. I like the haptic feedback (it vibrates a little) when you make particular touch inputs. Speaking of touch…if you anywhere near the OCD issues I have, the fingerprints and smudges on the screen will just about drive you batty–even with a screen protector. I keep a soft lens cloth with me at all times. I guess this just comes with the territory with touch screen devices. It is worth noting that one of the drawbacks of AMOLED (Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) screens is that they suffer from significant washout in direct sunlight.
I don’t know how many of you are walking around using your phone in direct sunlight. However, if you spend a lot of time in the sun, you might want to think twice about this phone and look at the Droid, instead. In the couple of weeks that I’ve had the phone, screen glare has not been a problem.
I love the Incredible. If you’re looking to upgrade from a standard phone or an existing smartphone, I don’t think you can go wrong. As with any smartphone on the market, there are pros and cons that you should weigh, but the Incredible has far more pros and cons. If you’re on Verizon, or open to changing networks, I would strongly recommend this device. In all candor, more than a couple of times, I’ve wondered whether I should return the phone and move to Sprint to get the EVO-4G, because (among other things) it’s larger, has HD video recording, and can act as a mobile hotspot for up to eight devices. The thing that would likely keep me at home on Verizon with my Incredible is that I don’t like bulk and can’t imagine having the EVO in my pocket. Stay tuned for another piece, or two, on some of the programs and apps, as well as some tips for using the Incredible. Please let me know if you have specific questions. I’d be happy to add them to my next piece, or create a Q&A sheet.
One too many force closes, random restarts, and screen freezes, led me to completely snap on my Droid X tonight.
In one swift and decisive action, I destroyed my Droid X. Well, destroyed is not quite accurate. In spite of a terribly cracked screen, the phone still works. Nevertheless, it’s dead to me. I felt bad for not controlling my [mounting] frustration. That sorrow, however, lasted for about 12 whole seconds, but I’m over it…and the Droid X.
Clearly, I wouldn’t recommend that you smash your smartphone, screen down, into a quartz countertop; but I wouldn’t judge you if you did. I have no idea what I am going to do about replacing my phone. For the time being, I am going to port my number to an old Blackberry that I have in the house.