Incredible Droid

image It’s pretty easy for me to gush wildly about Android phones as I’m a bit of a mobile technology geek.  From my first mobile device the Apple Newton 130 to Microsoft Palm sized PC based competitors to the Palm Pilot, to my current favorite of Android based devices I’ve mostly kept on top of the current state of the art.

Of course I couldn’t always afford the latest and greatest, so like any geek worth their statistical prowess I’d read & re-read any materials I could find on my favorite mobile devices.  Nowadays, that fascination and passion has turned to social media (sorry folks, you’re stuck with me), but mobile is one of the key technologies in our mobile lives and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check out new things.

So when an opportunity to check out a new Smartphone or other piece of mobile tackle comes along, I’m all over it.  Such is the case with Verizon’s Droid Incredible (by HTC).

Android

The Incredible is an Android based Smartphone with host of great features.  I’ll knock out some of the top items a techy geek like me thinks are important.  It’s got a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 3.7” 480×800 AMOLED display, 8 megapixel camera with flash, and 1xEVDO rev. A 3G from Verizon.  Things I’m taking for granted are here too: Wi-Fi b/g, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, Android 2.1 (Eclair), microSD (up to 32GB), push mail (Gmail/Exchange), and Micro USB connection/charger.

Personally I’m on my 2nd Android phone (the Nexus One), and have had the opportunity to use many others (Droid, Droid Eris, Hero, Cliq, MyTouch 3G, G1) so I felt pretty comfortable with the device.  The phone is a “candy bar” style, meaning it’s basically a slab, and doesn’t have any flip-out or slide-out parts – and that’s a darn good thing in my book.  Less stuff to break.

Front View with Optical Joystick The large screen dominating the face of the phone is fantastic brightly lit and crystal clear, with flush touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Settings, Home, and Search built into the lower edge.  An “optical joystick” is a nice alternative to the standard Android trackball, works well, and is intuitive in function.

Performance of this phone is excellent, matched only by the Nexus One, and probably by other phones based on the 1GHz Snapdragon processor.  This alone makes Android exceptionally snappy and fun to use.  Video streams play without stutters, and audio quality is flawless – either from the included 8GB microSD card, or streamed over a variety of wireless options.

Back View Since this is an HTC device, sold by Verizon, it carries the signature HTC Sense UI.  This enhanced interface that rides on top of Android, provides a bit more consumer-centric interface than the default one designed by Google.  It also brings a uniformity of usability when you compare your Incredible to your friends Droid, Eris, or Hero and other HTC phones on other networks.

I didn’t use the camera too much, but it worked as expected and I thought the quality of the pictures was perhaps a bit better than on my Nexus One.  This is probably due to the 8MP camera in the Incredible, and the ability to upload directly to Picasa was flawless. Below is a sample picture I took out the window.

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That brings up another aspect of Android that folks like me take for granted.  All Android phones, the Incredible included, are closely tied to Google online services.  That’s not to say that you can’t use other services, and tools, but the integration of Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Talk, Voice, and Picasa is impressive.  This is what you’d expect from well planned online integration – something that each of these online services were not originally designed for but have developed into over time.  The HTC Sense UI doesn’t break this as much as enhance it.

Here’s a few pics to show how the Incredible stacks up with a few Android phones I had lying around.  (From left to right: T-Mobile G1, T-Mobile/Motorola Cliq XT, Google Nexus One, Verizon/HTC DROID Incredible)

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Stacked up to show thickness.

(From top to bottom: T-Mobile G1, T-Mobile/Motorola Cliq XT, Google Nexus One, Verizon/HTC DROID Incredible)

Left Side View

Right Side View

Bottom View

Top View

There are a couple of personal opinions I want to share,  One about the phone and one about Verizon & Skype.

  • First, the case on this particular phone is as creaky as an old guy’s knee (I should know, I’m developing one).  It’s probably because this is a promotional unit that’s seen several different people over the past couple weeks for review purposes – exactly why I have this one.  But if the case gets this loose and “creaky” in few weeks use, what will it be like in year?  Like I said, it could simply be this unit.
  • Second, the relationship of Skype and Verizon – and my point is directed more at Skype than the big V.  I really want to thank Skype for signing up with Verizon to only allow the Skype Android Client to be offered to Verizon customers only – what a bunch of bullshit.  There are millions of Skype customers on Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and pre-paid networks too – thanks for leaving us out in the cold.

To conclude, the Verizon Droid Incredible is a great phone, it’s Highly recommended for Verizon offers.  It’s a sister to the much-vaunted and desired Google Nexus One, and is available and supported through Verizon.  You can order the phone now, but don’t expect it to ship until May 14th – though I’ll tell you it’ll be worth the wait.

Notes about the G1 as a MID

image It’s surprising that something as portable as the T-Mobile G1 and powerful a platform as Android can be so useful.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but I’ve been using my G1 as a mobile internet device more and more often.

The biggest issue as many will point out is power, and the G1 is worse at power consumption and management than any other device.  On the other hand, the abilities simply outweigh the power disadvantages that it has.  Besides, keeping a charger (AC, USB, and auto) at hand eliminates that issue for the most part… minimizes it really.

Since jumping from the Windows Mobile camp to Android, I’ve noticed that my phone is fun & easy to use again.  It’s more powerful, simply because I use it for everything rather than explain how useful it can be as I did with Windows Mobile.  The software is fun too – many more new ideas and attempts to do different things than the staid, boring software selection that WinMo had when I last looked (it’s changing I know).

Anyway, just wanted to drop a note about how much I’ve come to depend on the G1, much more than my MDA that stayed by my side for 3 years.  Even though I believed that to be a powerful, useful device, Windows Mobile can’t hold a candle to Android (or the iPhone) at this time.  The phone is fun again.

😉

Dumbphone

Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Ok, in a moment of weakness (or brilliance… you decide) I jumped at the change to go back to a simple feature phone rather than a smartphone.  So my trusty T-Mobile MDA (my MDA Page is here) has been replaced with the phone you see to the right – a Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. I’d been planning on waiting it out for the US version of the HTC Touch Diamond that would leverage T-Mobile’s 3G network. Or biting the bullet and jumping from T-Mobile to AT&T just for the 3G iPhone this summer.

Instead, I found something that I hadn’t been looking for. Simplicity at a price that I couldn’t pass up. While talking with Amy about phone and such, it dawned on me that the one function of my phone that I use more than anything is… voice calls!?! Yep, turns out all the fancy ‘why? because I can stuff’ just doesn’t count for much when all I really used all my smartphones for over the years is voice calls.

Sure, I’ve used weather apps, email apps, feed aggregators, note taking apps, the new fancy touch-scrolling “today” apps, and many, many, many others.  But in the last year, they’ve really not been of use to me. Probably because of having a laptop with me more often than not, and the proliferation of WiFi.

Still there where two items that I couldn’t live without. Tethering of my laptop and the ability to receive email. Tethering and using the phone’s EDGE service works fine, but alas, email simply sux. I’m working on a solution to that, but it’s not a show stopper. A nifty feature is the ability to sync music with Windows Media Player & Rhapsody’s 4+ million tracks. Kicks ass as a media player, something I hadn’t planned on but was drawn to in the end. I happened to capture a speedtest while connected via EDGE and testing that out.

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Then nice thing is that for the first time in about 5 years (probably longer) I’ve got a sexy little phone rather than a big brick hanging off my belt. The fact that it was uber affordable in comparison to a smartphone that’d not use 1/10th of the features helps too.

Being a IT guy, and a technologist at heart, I still long for the big-buck devices… I just don’t have a real use for them at this time. We’ll see if this lasts.

Life-hacking the T-Mobile MDA

T-Mobile MDA So for all you T-Mobile owners out there, I’ve found a few fun ways to give your device a new lease on life.  It’s true that we are all getting tired of the lack of 3G service by T-Mobile, or maybe the “long in the tooth” look & feel of Windows Mobile 5 and the ridiculous T-Mobile theme that shipped with the MDA.

It’s a good thing too, because right now there is simply too much turmoil in the mobile market to pick a good successor to our trusty little devices.  What are the options?  Go back to a “dumb” phone?  Switch to a non-touch screen Smartphone? Go the Nokia N-series route? Spend upwards of $800 on an HTC unlocked device?  Bite the bullet and jump to AT&T and the iPhone?

Well I’ve got some great ideas and news for you that will help pass the time waiting for new devices, and answers to some questions that will make that aging phone more productive and fun.

T-Mobile First, lets start with the one thing that we simply can’t change: 3G.  No, there is no way at all to fix that.  But there are workarounds: T-Mobile Internet & WiFi HotSpots.  I’ve had the full unfiltered Internet & HotSpot service from T-Mobile for nearly two years and have used it extensively.  Mostly I’ve used the WiFi with my laptop and really like knowing that I can hit any Starbucks Coffee location and enjoy decent connectivity.  It used to be $30/mo. but they changed the pricing on that a few months ago to $20/mo. for customers with a voice plan.  If you combine that, T-Mobiles GPRS/EDGEand some free WiFi spots, it’ll cover a lot of a person’s daily stomping ground.

SPB Mobile Shell Second, we’ll talk a bit about the user interface.  It’s tired, it’s old, it’s boring.  The iPhone sure has a great UI.  But have you noticed the various 3rd party solutions to this problem?  There is the PointUI Home interface, HTC’s “Touch Cube” interface for select HTC devices only, and recently SPB Software House’s Mobile Shell.  I’ve chosen this piece of software because of the simple elegance of it, the functionality, and the fact that it’s really darn stable and doesn’t slow down the device.  In addition I’ve picked up SPB Pocket Plus which, among other things, adds a touch-based scrolling action to the native applications in Windows Mobile.  Too cool!  These simple additions make the device much easier to use, easier to look at and FUN!

Rhapsody Online Third on the list has to be tunes.  For this I was recently surprised that the Rhapsody Music Service recognizes Windows Mobile devices as “Play’s For Sure” devices.  That means that it can sync any of their DRM’d content to the phone.  Sure.. I’ve been an advocate of non-DRM for years – still am actually.  However, I’m just not willing to part with the thousands of dollars that I’d have to spend to get all the music I want to choose from.  With Rhapsody, I can spend $15(US) and be able to sync any track from their over 4 million strong selection to my MDA.  Slip in a larger 2GB (maybe a 4GB…?) miniSD card and I’m pretty darn happy on this front.

So, no it’s not a new phone, nor does it bring a ton of new functionality.  But with these hacks, tweaks, and upgrades, it doesn’t compare badly with newer phones.  After all, it’s really the services and experiences we’re after.  And these darn things aren’t cheap!  I made a $400(US) investment in this phone over two years ago – and to think that I still am getting value from it is amazing.  What’s more, I keep finding ways to answer my immediate needs demonstrates that the HTC Wizard will long be remembered as one of the most flexible and adaptable phones in mobile device history.

Come on! Share some of your hacks and upgrades in the comments below.  What else makes this device still viable in the face of recent competition?

T-Mobile 3G: When?

mobility You know, I’m a fairly patient guy.  However, I’m just about at my wit’s end with the constant delays in T-Mobile rolling out 3G data services.  I use mobile data services, and really need to have a faster connection than the ~150kbps that my current T-Mobile EDGE service allows.

Sure, I’ve got the plan that includes all their WiFi Hostspots, which is nice, but trying to use EDGE when in motion gets a bit old.  Quickly.  The only “nice” thing I can say about it right now is that it’s reasonably “cheap” compared to the pricing all-you-can-eat data plans from AT&T and Verizon (sorry – Sprint doesn’t count in my book).

The shitty thing is that I like the phone service and the company.  Customer service has been great.  Coverage for me in my area has been great.  Coverage for me when traveling has been great.  Other customers may have had a different experience, but overall, I’ve been very satisfied with T-Mobile – even with EDGE.

tmobile-logoHowever, now that it’s 2008, and knowing that the spectrum they licensed in 2005 has yet to be opened to their customers in two years, I’m growing tired.  Yet, it’s not all T-Mobile’s fault.  The biggest problem for T-Mobile and their customers is that the spectrum they licensed is still in use by government agencies in many cases.  And there may be up to 4 years in some cases before that spectrum is vacated by these agencies.  They’ve been slow to roll out 3G, sure, mainly because they know that value and service is what’s going to win them customers.  If they could’ve been the first horse out of the gate 3-4 years ago with 3G, they could’ve been the speed/tech leader.  But, instead, they’ve become the value leader.  Yeah, that “you get what you pay for” phrase does come to mind.

So, what should I do?  Wait for the 3G service to launch, or skip on over to AT&T or Verizon and pay at least double for the unlimited data I have today?  The other part is nearly all of my family, and a number of friends, are on T-Mobile making efficient use of my unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes and allows me to have a lower-minute (lower cost) plan.

Frustrated.

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