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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finally Grabbed the DroidX!

I am very lucky. My wife was having a hard time finding for a Christmas present for me and finally gave up and asked me what I wanted. I asked for a card, but then I also stated that a DroidX would be nice, as well.

Well, for the 2nd year in a row, my wife hasn't gotten me a card (for Christmas, Valentine's Day, either of Our Anniversary dates, or my birthday). But this year she actually did get me a present, a present so good it pretty much makes up for all those years when she didn't get me anything... she actually got me the DroidX!

We wound-up getting a couple of DroidX's at the local Verizon store just down the street on 41st Street (here in Sioux Falls, across from Shopko) just before Christmas. We talked deals with the guys down there and walked out with a couple of DroidX smartphones using a BOGO offer and a $20.00 discount.

I have been busy with mine, as well as configuring other electronic Christmas gifts for others. My son got an iPad, my mom got a new laptop and Maria bought herself a new laptop just before Christmas when hers died. So I have really been busy installing software and synchronizing account data since well before Christmas.

I can't believe how useful these little devices are. I used to use one of those little make believe smartphones with Tracfone, but there was no way to get the photos off that thing. It worked as my phone and alarm clock, but that's all. We gave that one to my son since it was still activated for another year and had minutes on it, but he is only going to use it for emergencies and will use the speaker phone (held away from his head & face) or a wired handset, just in case.

So while I am glad that I used Tracfone for a while, when I found out from Tracfone support that I couldn't get my 200+ photos off of the thing (the SMS/MMS picture messaging function never worked and since it doesn't do email or file transfers there is absolutely no other way to get the photos off the Tracfone LG phone), I was extremely disenchanted. I had some great snapshots of my son growing up on that phone.

So what if that pay-as-you go phone had some cool stuff. I used it for all sorts of things besides a phone; SMS messenging, camera, remedial web surfing, as a calculator, clock, alarm clock & calendar (which the Tracfone could also do). But as I can't get the damn photos off the thing, it had become not only hopelessly worthless, but a complete waste of time for me. I have actually lost years of photos and memories from the thing.

But my little DroidX is phenomenal. The DroidX can also do... email, real web surfing, call blocking, voice recording, mp3 playing, bluetooth/USB media & file transfers, file & data synchronization, business card digitization, OCR, coding cheat sheets, reference material, magazines, books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, foreign language education & translation, local movie times guide, local TV times guide, voice search, talk to text, text to speech, spell checking, doodling, simple image adjustments, ftp (it can even become an FTP server), blogging, social networks, media sharing, networking, maps, routes & alternate routes, a turn-by-turn GPS, a compass, a level, tip calculation, currency conversion, measurement conversion, it can even be a flashlight, a credit card swiper, a best deal discount/coupon shopper, it can even act as a PlayStation 3 or PC remote control!

And it can do all that above for free! Sure, the iPhone has more applications available, but I don't think that they have near as many free apps. Plus, when my wife and I were shopping, iPhones weren't available in our state. AT&T's coverage is so just bad here (in South Dakota) that it is notorious for dropped calls and internet connectivity interuptions. AT&T recently bought Alltel, but the state of South Dakota didn't allow AT&T to acquire all of Alltel's cell towers, which is actually the reason that AT&T bought Alltel for in the first place, better coverage. So even now, AT&T's coverage, through Alltel, is still spotty at best.

Of course, after Christmas it was announced that Verizon would finally get the iPhone. I think that made Maria wonder if she had done the right thing, or not. After all, you could video chat in real time on an iPhone. But real time video chat requires a 4G network.

Unfortunately, it will probably be another couple of years before Sioux Falls gets any 4G coverage from the national carriers. Local internet carriers such as Redwood Wireless and Bridgemaxx have already had 4G connectivity in town for some time, now. But Sprint and Verizon have very few cities offering 4G availability, and these are large metropolitan markets.

To top that off, of the two, only Sprint has a 4G phone ready, the Evo. And although that one does have a forward facing camera for video chat, like the iPhone, it will probably be a long time before Sprint makes 4G internet access available here. As it is, the standard Sprint cell towers only cover the parts of the state that are close to the interstate, leaving the rest of the state without true Sprint coverage. This was always a problem whenever I visited Yankton (one of South Dakota's largest cities) when we were on Virgin Mobile (and confined to the Sprint network towers), originally.

So, when we look at the networks, Verizon has the best wireless network coverage, statewide. Sprint mostly uses Verizon's towers throughout the state to cover gaps in their own towers, by agreement. AT&T's coverage of South Dakota has improved from nothing to pathetic. Tracfone has no real smartphones and no real network, they have licensing agreements with Verizon & Sprint. And although T-mobile has emerged offering cool 4G video calling phones, I believe that they don't have their own network either, they also seem rely on the major network carriers for coverage and therefore will rely on them for 4G, as well. And Virgin Mobile only has agreements with Sprint to use their towers, so coverage in Yankton, Vermilion and any small town off the beaten path just plain doesn't exist.

Certainly, when we look at the phones I might have gone with the Sprint Evo. But the Evo's forward facing camera for video chatting feature probably won't be available to us for a few years, until we get 4G. Verizon has a new DroidX coming out that will have a forward facing camera, but that one isn't ready, yet. It should be released soon, though. The iPhone is cool, but Apple gets a cut of everything from calls to apps, which I find especially greedy. And the Verizon iPhone will lack the ability to be used as a world phone in other countries.

But I always have preferred an open platform as opposed to the closed proprietary platform model of companies such as Apple and Windows. Which is why I still like to play with Linux and my old Amigas.

But when we take into account the network, no one took South Dakota's wireless network as seriously as Verizon, and it will require a major push just to match it. Verizon's push to 4G LE seems a bit more active and on-target for faster nationwide coverage, which seems to give us a better shot at 4G sooner, in the future. If I did get an Evo, I would probably wind-up waiting for 4G coverage much longer. And the forward facing camera would be more of a reminder of what my phone can't do (video conference with others who are capable of it).

I always knew I would get a Droid, which is why I started this blog so long ago. I am very enthusiastic about the Android OS platform. It allows great opportunity for those of us who see it and can harness it and take advantage of it.

Now that I have a DroidX, I'll try and keep this blog updated regularly. I hope to share with the Android community at large what I consider to be the best apps and widgets available on the Android market. Maybe share some tips and life experiences with my DroidX, too.

I certainly love the 8 megapixel camera, it has come in very handy while mine and Maria's cameras turned-up missing this Christmas. ;)