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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

After a very long flight across country sitting next to a pair of chatty and gossipy old ladies I'm now in San Francisco. As an experiment I left my laptop at home to see if I could exist solely on my Droid smart phone. To cut right to the conclusion, let me state that I'm writing this on a friend's desktop computer.

The phone is both amazing in what it does, and disappointing in what it doesn't. On all three of my accounts email is a breeze. Messaging is good with the proviso that I have yet to train my thumbs to deal with the tiny keyboard effectively. It has a touch screen keyboard with predictive word selection that is handy.

As a phone it is the clearest, with the best reception, of any of the half dozn phones I've owned so far. The speaker phone function is great and even works in the car while I'm driving.

The web browser is what disappoints. This is partly the fault of the Droid and mostly the fault of the websites that have not learned how to make the user experience productive. It's a trade off between trying to fit too many things on the tiny screen while leaving enough space so that you click on what you want rather than the one next to it. Fingers make a poor mouse. The screen is so sensitive that I'm always touching the wrong thing and sending it off to the wrong place. The go-back button gets used a lot!

One feature I use over and over is the built in gps. Select someone your contact list or type in an address and it will give you turn by turn instructions to the destination. I wish I could switch the voice to something less mechanical but it's a free function from Google so who am I to complain?

A special feature is the way the browser is linked to the gps. If I need to find an atm I can use the browser to query my bank for the nearest location. Then I just use my finger to click on the address and it automatically switches to the gps and starts giving me directions on how to get there. I even get to select whether I want to go by car, bicycle, public transportation, or walking! Finally, a good use for all this technology.

Should a call come in while it's directing me I can decide to take the call and the gps continues to keep track of where I am. It will override the call to tell me to turn at the next corner when necessary.

Things I'd like to see improved:
  • Be able to browse two pages at once and cut & paste between them.
  • Be able to put a call on hold and look up something in my memos or contact list.
  • Clean up some of the menus for better navigation. It seems that more than one team was working on this because sometimes I only need one stop to complete a chore and other times I need three to do the samt thing.
  • Make the App Market more user friendly
  • Make a way to link the Droid to my home computer so that I could use the big screen and keyboard to enter data and sync between the two.
Still, this is the best phone I've ever owned. And it's on the Verizon network which is by far the best in the US. Maybe what I should do is write apps to address the problems above and become a millionaire. Then I could spend more time riding around the world.

Note: Tomorrow is another travel day and then I'll be riding a dirt bike with the Trans Sierra Motorcycle Club for a couple of days. I'll take pictures and post them as soon as I can.