Big Tablets Are the Next Big Thing

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Pictured above is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 in the 32gB flavor. It is swagged out with a Zagg keyboard case and a Samsung bluetooth mouse. The new Pro series of Galaxy tablets come with Retina level displays and this one just pops colors and details. What really wins me over is the speed which when you run single windowed apps, runs very well on the quad core chip this comes with. Several on line reviews snipe about lag when you run four windows simultaneously -this is a Samsung TapWhiz junky trick that is best avoided. With a keyboard and mouse, it turns the 12 inch tablet into a laptop replacement. Easily going over ten hours of battery time, you don’t have to worry about extra power when you travel internationally or go to work with no cable in your bag. It is pricey and won’t win over bargain hunters -the Google Nexus 7 fills this category, and I think that Google hasn’t released a Nexus 10 II or a Nexus 12, because it wants its clients to have a chance in this world. It kills iPad Air in the screen category -the 10 inch screen on the iPad seems listless and dull in comparison, and I am a certified Apple fan having read the Steve Jobs tome and bought every generation of iPad, including two when the first one came out. I fight daily with my 5 year old who is transfixed by the huge TV like screen. Plus, when I try to work on an iPad, I dream of having a mouse. In Android, when you pair a bluetooth mouse, you get a screen cursor. iOS 8 really really needs to support this. Where Android wins for me right now is it has an edge of future now that Apple is losing as it caters to the extremely young and extremely old and the bulge in the middle. Android, because of its near app parity, means for the most part I don’t have to be tethered to the Apple ecosystem. Even iTunes music can be worked around as your library will be sucked up by Google’s music player on your desktop and made available on Android devices and the Chrome browser. Sure, you can’t play your iTunes movie library, but Google is making that less important by offering the same movies, often for cheaper. Also, the Play app is nimble where the Video app on iPad is ponderous and constantly buffering -maybe Google’s pipes are fatter through some payola -who knows. It’s all good.

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Not like -Best Buy features a Samsung Experience store, where the even cooler penbased Galaxy Pro is displayed but available only by ordering and picking up a few days later. Also, the 64gB version of this tablet was unavailable for immediate pickup and walkout. I get that the iPad’s aren’t available in every flavor, but I don’t understand why every iteration of offered Samsung Tablet isn’t available for immediate pickup and walkout at these store within a stores. Being impatient, I went ahead and purchased with the plan to return if I was disappointed (I am not) and ordering the right tablet from Amazon. Worried -Samsung notoriously ditches its hardware after a year or two, offering maybe one long delayed upgrade in OS or a patch to its Samsung apps here or there (which I just don’t use). I have a bricked Samsung Tablet 2 7.0 in a drawer that won’t power up but I’m afraid of throwing out because of the data in its chips -it died after about three years of steady use. Not Like -while premium pricing implies premium materials, I just see a lot of shiny plastic. Aluminum may bring charges of Apple copying, but they could have gone for a real leather option instead of the plastic leather grain molded back with fake stitching.

The large tablet is a real thing and brings work productivity together with media and fun consumption in a way that Microsoft could only dream of. They so badly want this, but can’t seem to get their act together. My Windows 8.1 tablet from Dell lies unused and powered off because it has a crappy screen and has lost its ability to reset to factory condition which I had to do twice after it got junked up with usual Windows crap -detritus of hacky updater files, streamed media and who knows what rapidly filled up the 32gB SSD and made it unstable and unusable. Despite attractive offerings from ASUS and HP and Dell with super sized tablets -basically detachable 18-21 inch all in ones with 4 hour batteries, I ran away. Microsoft has been revealed for what it has long been apparent to me -an enabler of the “Help Desk” in corporate IT who must have problems arise in computers to exist, and a non-thinking agglomeration of hackers who jumble together whatever works -who uses all the features in Word? While I might use Office for Android when it inevitably limps in in 2015, I will still curse it for stupid things like selecting the whole word instead of part of a word without changing an setting.

Hi Resolution Display, All Day Battery Life -Windows Can’t Get There

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I just picked up a Nexus 7 (2013) tablet. I got tired of waiting for the iPad Mini to come out with a Retina display, and I bit when this gem came out. It confirmed for me this fact -iOS is way, way behind when it comes to interface for mobile devices. But as much as it knocks Apple for the time being, at least until iOS 7 comes out and the inevitable iPad Mini with Retina display, this device illustrates the basic problem afflicting Microsoft in their journey through the thickets. 

They don’t get it when it comes to what is now an absolute for me -high resolution displays are now a given and I can’t work on a pixelated “HD” display that Windows laptops come with. I just can’t see straight after working on a non-Retina display, and am working to ditch any non-high resolution display out of my life. 

But the other cardinal sin committed by Microsoft and Intel is the willful disregard for battery life. The Surface Pro comes with 4 hours touted, meaning 2-3 hours in real life. Most Windows laptops feature 6-7 hours at best meaning 3-5 hours in real life. The solution -extended batteries that add bulge and thickness to already thick devices. These aren’t solutions -they are hacks. 

The Nexus 7 shows that you don’t have to be Apple to hit these considerations -high resolution display and >6 hours of battery life with an easy to use interface that requires no instructions or manuals. It shows how to succeed (they are sold out now everywhere) where Microsoft Windows 8 laptops and tablets languish. I don’t like good enough solutions offered by PC makers to IT admins who have never traveled intercontinental flights -carry your adaptor they say only that PC adaptors weight as much as the computer and take up irregular space, and the 6 hour battery life is really only good for 3 and then you are done.

Microsoft is basically done in the consumer space. Done. 

What Good is a Stinkin’ iPad?

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My good friend SY wrote me yesterday asking basically, “what good is a stinkin’ iPad?”

Hi Mike!

How are you??
My husband and I bought an iPad for my dad, but he decided he didn’t really have use for it (i.e. he uses his laptop and his phone and can’t get Java to work on the iPad so he can’t play ba-dook on it).

So now we are deciding whether to take it back or keep it for us–How useful is it really? You can’t edit documents or talks on it can you? Is it good for taking notes at conferences? Isn’t the wireless plan expensive on it? I pretty much bring my Mac everywhere with me, but I’m not sure it’s more than an indulgent toy for us.

SYP

I wrote back.

Hi Sung Yun. I have been asked this same question many times and can answer in the affirmative that tablets are overall great for reading and looking at stuff on. For editing and taking notes, it depends on what you are used to. And for portability, tablets>laptops. Tablets in general get a lot done, and of the tablet choices that you have, the iPad is still, for now, the best tablet a lot of money can buy.

I went all in when the first iPad came out, buying not one but two iPads. It occurred to me from the start that the pain of lugging my 15 inch Macbook Pro was soon to be relieved by the magic iPad, but I was worried that I would not be able to multitask. I normally keep several desktops and multiple windows going at the same time on my laptop, and to get a similar functionality from tablets, I feel you have to have multiple tablets. I also figured two iPads were still more portable than a single Macbook Pro (2007 issue).

The first great use of the iPad was as a reader. I own several Kindles and while I love reading books on my Kindle Paper White 3G, I equally enjoy reading them on the larger screen of my iPad. The skeuomorphic iBooks with their faux page turns are fun, but the iPad Kindle App with an Amazon Prime Account is reading heaven. Toss in FreeBooks app that feature everything out of copyright, and you have a public library in portable form. Overdrive reader app lets you access your local public library -you can look up and check out eBooks from your library! If you read magazines, most magazines feature an iPad App. Harder to find magazines can be found in newsstands like Zinio, but the killer app for magazines is Next Issue which for a monthly 8 to 15 dollars features hundreds of magazines like Esquire, Time, and People. I can’t live without my New Yorker magazine, and now rather than a mess of magazines around the house, they are all in my iPad.

The next use of the iPad is as a portable widescreen TV. While iTunes lets you purchase and then download movies and TV shows from iCloud onto your Mac, AppleTV, or iOS device (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone), the streaming app trio of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime gives you access to thousands of current and vintage movies and television shows. Hulu Plus, a monthly subscription, gives me access to every episode of South Park, the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Community, and The New Girl. It also features the Criterion Collection of critically acclaimed but difficult to find foreign films -I am in the midst of watching Riso Amaro (Bitter Rice), an Italian post war film of lust and crime in the Italian rice paddies. Movies-Riso_AmaroNetflix has a great selection of movies and TV shows as well, and the ability to have DVD’s mailed to you. Amazon Prime’s video player also features many recently released films for streaming, and beats iTunes by letting you stream rather than download then watch rental movies. Amazon also has every Ken Burns documentary, if that is your thing.

These two features are the core of how the adults in the house use the iPad. Jen enjoys watching Downton Abbey in the bed while I read the NY Times and listen to Paloma Faith on Spotify. The NPR app, by the way, lets you listen to all the NPR that you missed during your busy day. The boys love watching their shows anywhere, anytime. The funny thing is, because we watch shows on our terms, the TV goes the whole week without being turned on except for family movie night or when dad watches sports. During baseball season, by the way, I buy an MLB season ticket to watch major league baseball games -usually as a ten minute summary of outs and hits the next morning, but often I stream the live radio broadcast just to hear John Sterling howl, “Yaaaaaaankeeeees Winnn!”

The third feature is up to you to decide if you want in the house. The iPad is a great gaming platform. While not as immersive or complicated as an XBox, Wii, or Playstation, games on the iPad are no less fun or addictive. Words with Friends pops on a larger screen. Pinball is a great stress reducer. My boys play all manner of games -most of which are free or cost 99 cents which is a lot cheaper than the average XBox game.

The utility of tablets is that eliminating the keyboard frees you to interact with the computer in a far more natural way. Drawing and music creation are two ways I put mileage on the iPad. My favorite art app, Paper, was the App Store’s App of the Year last year, and I doodle constantly. The Brushes app is used by David Hockney and other artists to create serious art. I frequently use Adobe Ideas to sketch on top of CT scans for patient consultations.

For note taking, there are innumerable apps for taking freehand notes and the better ones allow you to record the presenter’s audio synced to your notes. My favorite second brain app is Evernote which lets me data dump important files, notes, and ideas for access across all my gadgets. If you type fast, you probably aren’t going to change note taking tasks but I have to mention that it’s less intrusive to write notes on iPad than click clack away on a keyboard.

This brings me to the last part -work. I composed this blog entry on an iPad using the Logitech Slim Keyboard Case, which I recently reviewed. It turns the iPad into basically what the Microsoft Surface wants to be, a post-laptop work device. While Office for iOS isn’t out in the wild yet and probably never will be, there are many options for writing and editing. Pages is a good word processor, but Word is more universal and more importantly has collaborative editing and version control that is superior to anything on iOS. That said, Pages is unmatched in its ability to layout documents. That’s how I use it -after composing the content in a simple text processor like iA Writer, I open up and prettify it in Pages and save it as a Word file for sending out.

For presentations, Keynote is how I make all my presentations. I can make them on the fly during and after cases to present complex operations to patients and their families. You can export into Powerpoint or PDF, but equally powerful is the ability to present directly off your iPad, either via a cable or wirelessly to an AppleTV (an unpromoted feature). The usual way I create presentations is I upload all the pictures and graphics to a Dropbox folder and then compose the presentation on my iPad after taking intraop photos with my iPod Touch or iPhone. I’ve uploaded a sample presentation SFA-POP-Tibioperoneal Trunk EndoRE that I created right after a case for explaining what I did for a patient’s family.

The wireless plan is pricey if you’re not needing it, but I find it indispensable because my iPad 3 with Verizon 4G has a hotspot function which will allow me to tether other devices like a Macbook Pro or iPod Touch at high speeds. The typical use scenario is on long car trips where the iPad is the hotspot for streaming video to the boy’s tablets and I listen to This American Life episodes (every episode ever is available on their app). In a pinch, the iPad can act as a ridiculously large phone via the Line 2 app, which gives me a phone number (in Manhattan no less) for non-work use.

Now here is the last tip -I suggest you trade in your iPad for an iPad Mini with Verizon Wireless. The big screen is great, but impossible to carry around the hospital in a white coat. The 8 inch size fits perfectly. I’m holding out for the retina display iPad Mini which hopefully is next. For now, my Android Tablets fulfill this in the pocket function, and match the iPad largely feature for feature except for speed (they are older single processor devices) and ease of use. I think if you are adventuresome, the Nexus 7 is probably hits the sweetspot of price (about 200 bucks) and size (fits white coat pocket), but for cheaper, you don’t get the cellular wireless or nifty form factor, and you have to geek out on Android.

Hope that helps.

Mike

Samsung Galaxy Tablet 2 7.0 -brief review

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The annoyingly named Samsung Galaxy Tablet 2 7.0 came out last month and I couldn’t hold off picking it up because my other 7 inch Android tablet has been appropriated by my 3 year old for video watching. Turns out, while traveling, the 7inch tablet is easier to hold than an iPad. I have become a fan of the 7 inch form factor, and because most of my work is done in email, Evernote, and Dropbox, across multiple platforms, it really doesn’t matter what gadget I’m on, as long as these cloud services and apps are available.

I was first struck by this device as being more business oriented than previous tablets, having charcoal grays that would look good in a boardroom. The front is Gorilla glass, the back is a high quality plastic that feels good in the hands. There are front and back cameras and Instagram works fine from either sides. It is thin enough. The 7 inch tablets work well for me in the hospital because it fits in my pocket. All the medical apps work, and in a pinch, Citrix is usable for accessing the hospital and office data. I can also read my Kindle books and watch Netflix and Hulu, listen to Pandora and Spotify, and via Google Play can cloud base my iTunes for my Android devices, or as I have done, park the non-DRM files on a 64 gigabyte microSD card with room left for over 25 feature length films.

It runs well, has between 6-8 hrs of battery life. It is much more user friendly that it used to be, but really, if you can’t set up your own email account, you shouldn’t be given a computer. Amazon sells a faux leather book cover which works and keeps things corporate.

It will run Amazon media via Flash, but who has time to watch Downtown Abbey when you have four seasons of Mad Men to catch up on? Flash kills your battery life (we know, we know), but there are times that it is convenient although every year it is less so as Apple and Microsoft have abandoned Flash.

Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is much more touch friendly than Honeycomb which killed the 10inch Android Tablet in the crib. The Tablet 2 designation is correct in that Samsung is positioning itself as an Apple alternative in the post PC world. I like ICS because you can customize. The problems Android had when I had my Droid 2 from Motorola/Verizon are note apparent -contacts come up fast on emails, and Facebook and Twitter are laced into the OS. It doesn’t crash. Individual apps may but the whole OS no longer dies. I see no need for a task killer so far.

Why did Steve Jobs hate the 7 inch form factor? It didn’t jibe with his four square grids on his keynote presentation. As he said, you’d have to file your fingers down to nubbins to reach the right size – this is not true. I think it was a mistake on his part. The fact is that industrial gadgetry is market begging to be filled by the void being left by BlackBerry. Doctors want a tablet, but one that doesn’t need a murse or a satchel to carry.

This tablet at 249.99 at Best Buy is more expensive than the Fire, but I think it does more. Even if you are wed to iOS, the fact that most of the big apps like Instagram and Angry Birds are available means that it doesn’t matter which one you have. I am preferring subscription services like Netflix and Spotify because of their ubiquity on multiple devices. Subscriptions make more sense because you don’t need to take up precious storage space for media when you can have it in the cloud -the tradeoff being the need for a broadband connection.

Other neat stuff -it features a universal remote and IR blaster, letting you turn it into a very cool feature rich remote. The app also tells what’s on TV -it would be wonderfully convenient if it just displayed the TV as well, no?

It’s a good time to be into tech. You have options. When Apple does come it with a 7inch iPad, you’ll have even more.

The HTC Flyer -Review (a Kindle Fire alternative) -updated with Honeycomb!

Jan 24- okay Hulu works but Netflix does not (but I did get update last night so don’t judge yet). The annoying thing is I have shortcuts to three apps -medscape, epocrates, and dolphin browser, whose icons revert to a generic android app icon. This is a small but really annoying bug affecting just those apps.

Battery life seems better, but not hard numbers. Amazon runs fine for video over Flash but the tablet gets hot. Will try the updated Netflix app and will report.

ADDENDUM 1-4-2012 -

HTC has sent an over the air update of the Flyer to full Android 3.2 Honeycomb. Visually it’s great and appears to be working without a hitch. The only complaint that I have so far is that Hulu is broken (as of 1-18-2012 -Hulu now works fine but netflix still does not), and Netflix app runs with significant asynchrony between the sound and video. I haven’t had a chance to try Netflix via Flash, but other Flash runs well.

Will update as I use it more, but the great thing is that HTC actually supports their device beyond sale! That is a surprise for me.

Addendum 1-5-2012 -

I will be frank -I was dubious of any great improvement with Honeycomb, but I like it. It is Honeycomb 3.2, which is far more evolved and stable than Honeycomb 3.0 or 3.1 pushed by Motorola when they prematurely released the Xoom to disaster during the holidays of 2010. It is as stable as the Gingerbread 2.3 was (and will be when you buy the Flyer). I keep hearing differing reports about the appeal of Ice Cream Sandwich, and I can assure you, 4.0 and 4.1 will be the beta for 4.2 which will be about late 2012 or early 2013. For most people, that means buying phones that occasionally (or frequently) crash and waiting for the small chance that their manufacturer will update it. Don’t hold your breath if you purchase Motorola. I don’t have any experience with Samsung, but the business model just does not support upgrading the operating system for phones and tablets that have already sold because the manufacturers have no skin in the App Market game. The only exceptions are Amazon and Apple. Google will eventually realize with increased pressure from Windows and the churn out from Android to iOS that it really has to go to a OS support model where they dictate upgrades. The other option, which HTC appears to have opened their phones up to, is the official yet unsupported and warranty killing jailbreak. Rooting your phone or tablet will give you access to the great open source community – I enjoy the XDA developers forums because I like hacking old hardware.

That is the final point -in this era, THERE IS NO OLD HARDWARE, only unsupported software. Every manufacturer aside from Apple has no incentive to upgrade their software because they don’t own it. Apple will to make sure the Apps sell and their devices keep their intrinsic value.

I just upgraded a Compaq Presario V2000 with the latest Ubuntu and with another 2GB RAM, it runs Chrome FAST. This is a 6 year old laptop! If you stuck with HP’s software, you would be stuck at Windows XP SP2 with no upgrade path as they have abandoned support of their 64bit Athlon processored laptops. While I understand why they do it, it breaks my heart to think about all the computers that end up in landfills just because the software is no longer supported.

HTC Flyer with Honeycomb is a tasty treat. It hasn’t crashed yet in over 2 days of continuous use. I am disappointed with the lack of Hulu, and the curious asynchrony of video and sound with Netflix is annoying, but it is trumped by the new tablet level utility of Honeycomb. The functional notifications scheme is worth it alone to upgrade -you can now cancel out notifications rather than launch every facebook update and app update to clear the notice out.

Addendum 1-8-2012

I created this doodle with Sketch by Autodesk using the stylus. The stylus works throughout the tablet and not just in the context of a screen capture or Evernote entry. This is a big deal because I’ve always hated the meat stylus associated with the iPad for painting. This is very very cool.

Original Post from Summer, 2011

After leaving my iPad 2 in the hospital for the 3rd time -and tracking it down and having it returned -there are great benefits to living and working in Iowa, I decided to look into the 7 inch tablets. Apple famously does not make or plan to make a 7 inch tablet. That is unfortunate because for physicians, the 7 inch tablet is the perfect balance between screen size -big enough to show patients and families pictures, and portability. The 7 inch tablet fits the doctor’s white coat pocket.

I purchased mine, a 16gB Wifi unit, from Best Buy -$499, along with the pen accessory -$80. The inclusion of a pen accessory is a decidedly retro move, but the way it is implemented, at once brilliant and half baked -more on this later. The Flyer is a little more tall than the iPad 2 is wide. The screen, made of Gorilla glass, is bright and easy to view from multiple angles. It comes in a white box, beautifully packaged inside with white wires -a USB cable and a dedicated charger. Although it uses a proprietary dongle, it will take a micro USB connector, and I recharged it on my Kindle’s USB cable last night. The Flyer is a 7inch homage to the iPad and Apple’s design. It is iPad like in every way. It is sturdy and thin. Battery life is outstanding -there are reports of 12 hours. I went all day on the device and it still had half a charge. The decision to go with a fast single processor was wise, as adding a dual core chip would have resulted in larger battery needs.

It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread -the phone OS, and not 3.1 Honeycomb -the tablet OS, and that suits me fine. I was tortured by Android 2.1 on the Verizon Droid 2 until iPhone on Verizon came out. The combination of middling hardware and deployment of what was basically a beta level OS made the Droid 2 torture to use. That said, Flyer runs Android 2.3.3 which is much more evolved than Honeycomb -the Tablet OS. Running on a fast single processor, the Flyer really does fly, and is stable. Much more stable than Honeycomb, based on my perusal of the tablet display at Best Buy (a showcase of how NOT to sell stuff) where I got the Galaxy tab to stall on a Flash page, the Xoom to freeze by swiping too fast, and never got the HP’s tablet to get out of its sales screen. In 4 straight days of heavy use, Flyer has yet to crash, freeze, stutter or otherwise misbehave. I will know more after a month, because the Droid 2 had the problem of gumming up its works unless you actively cleaned up the junk every few days (including hard resets every few weeks).

The OS is stock, enhanced by HTC’s Sense UI. Of all the manufacturer add ons, HTC’s Sense works the best in my experience. Motorola’s support people suggested I turn off their custom interface (called Motoblur) to make their device work! HTC’s widgets and apps work well and are beautiful to look at. While the phone based software does cause small text, in the readers -the Kindle app, the Google Books app, and others, the text is nicely resizable. Flash support is there. I am Flash agnostic, but it is convenient for running sites that are Flash heavy like ESPN and Golf Channel. Flash does appear to slow down the web pages, and reportedly will shorten battery life.

It works well with my workflow -my scheduling and email are done through an Exchange server and everything just works. Citrix runs well and the hospital side software including the labs and PACS shows up fine. Our EMR should work, but I have had trouble getting it to work. Notably, my MobileMe email won’t sent email, and I downloaded the open source K-9 email client and now it runs fine. Amazon app store runs great. I am hopeful that Amazon will release its Kindle media software in conjunction with its own tablet, allow the full Amazon experience on all Android hardware. Most of my iPad apps have their Android equivalent. Notably missing are Hulu and Netflix players, but Amazon should make up for it.

This is a great device, and will stay in my pocket for a while.

7-28-2011
This device is glued to me. While I love my iPad, its nonpocketability relegated it to my bag along with the stethoscope and macbook air -coincidentally all three now get used about once a day. It really hasn’t frozen or crashed, and goes all day without hitting empty. If I were Apple, I would rethink the idea of a 7 inch tablet.

And speaking of sasquatch and unicorns, I would pay full price for a keyboarded iPhone.

July 31, 2011
Just got this faux leather cover from an Amazon hosted merchant. It copies the iPad 2 cover in having the tri-fold cover that acts as a stand, and a magnetic clasp. It has a two tone theme that makes it look like one of those leather Piel Frama cases. The case also copies the iPad 1 case in that the Flyer sits in a pocket with a leather flap that tucks in around it. There are cutouts for all the camera and controls and speakers.

Using this, it really is a perfect portal to Evernote. It also is a great reader, and is a portent of how the color Kindle tablet will look. The screen is near retina scale with beautifully saturated colors.

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August 21, 2011
Just had a thought. Amazon will release its tablet into this 7 inch tablet space and not directly confront Apple, all the while updating its Kindle App to include media -music and video and make it universally available. It fills in all the gaps that Apple left in its current offerings. How awesome would that be.

Also, after a month of use, I find Flyer to be stable and quick. This was a pleasant surprise because my first experience with Android was with the Motorola Droid 2 which was a textbook case of why Android would not win. Flyer is the textbook case of why Android could win over iOS. It marries the OS to the hardware perfectly like a well blended wine. The 12 hours plus of battery life could only be achieved by avoiding dual core processing, but speed was maintained by over clocking an already speedy single core processor. By using Gingerbread (2.3.3), it accesses many more apps than by going with Honeycomb (3.1). Gingerbread is more evolved than Honeycomb, and it shows in the stability of Flyer compared to my Droid 2 which ran 2.1. While Droid 2 got slower with use, Flyer has maintained its speed without the need for task k

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illers which I consider to be an egregious hack that highlights the flaws of the underlying software. I added a 10x 32gigabyte miniSD card for loading movies that I burned from DVD -a luxury, but definitely not a need as the device was working fine.

The cloud combined with fast network access trumps the need for large storage capacity. Rhapsody, which I have used for a while, and Pandora, fulfills any music needs.

But I’m waiting for Amazon!

August 31, 2011

I have gone more than a month and have not had to hard reset this device. This is amazing because I went through two Droid 2′s -replacing and hard resets as recommended by Motorola support failed to correct the increasing instability of that device that occurred with continued internet access and use of contacts and scheduling -basic functions! Writing a person’s contact into the outgoing address field instantly brings up a list winnowed from my contacts list of over 2000 people. Only iOS and Palm devices did this consistently well in my experience. My friends who own other non-HTC smartphones relay similar difficulties -I think this has to do with Android 2.1. I have to comment on this fact: that carriers and maybe some manufacturers seem to avoid updates of their smartphone OS’s simply for the desire on their part to have customers buy new devices rather than update. I even see this with my iPhone where Verizon mysteriously does not have iOS 4.3.x for its iPhone which would allow cloud access of prior purchased iTunes tracks among other upgrades. Android’s problems have less to do with bad programming than to do with Google’s ability to herd cats.

Flyer next to its analog ancestor

Mission Critical -this is a term I use personally to describe the need for a device to function perfectly. While no gadget can reach this standard, medical devices, space satellites, and Mars Rovers have a need for their operating systems to be bulletproof. Psion’s EPOC OS, was in my mind, written with mission criticality. On my 1998 Psion Series 5, I could have over ten open programs without a freeze or a crash. The monitors in the ICU all boot up and run without fail -mission critical. Flyer is beginning to edge into that space of mission critical in my mind -I have yet to perform any administering to memory, any supplication to the support desk, nor any return to factory settings after a month of nearly daily use in my hands. Mission Critical!

Update: 11-11-2011
I felt the need to make a comment about Flyer not that Kindle Fire is out. If I didn’t have the Flyer, I would probably get the Fire, but now that I have it, I am very pleased overall. It gets Hulu and Netflix streams via apps, and Amazon Prime Videos are available via Flash on the Browser. I recently picked up a leftover WebOS tablet bluetooth keyboard which is basically a black, plastic, nearly flawless copy of the Apple Wireless keyboard for the clearance price of $22, and pairing with the Fire, it behaves admirably as a a text input device.

That is the other thing -Evernote access is built into the DNA of the Fire. When you scribble a note on the note app, it goes to the Evernote servers, and I think get processed so they can be searched. I know pictures of text that I take certainly become searchable on Evernote. This means that Flyer is a reasonable stand-in for the spiral bound notebook.

The Kindle app works great on the Flyer. While I prefer to read on the physical Kindle e-reader which is easier on my eyes, in a pinch, the Flyer is a fine e-Reader. Zinio, on which I have a MacUser and Field and Stream subscriptions works well on Flyer (as it does on my iPad2).

The current price of Flyer is 299 at Best Buy, which annoys me because I paid the early adopter price. I think it is worth thinking about the $100 price differential when considering Fire versus Flyer. I personally like the flexibility of being outside Amazon’s cage and the killer app for this device is the Evernote capabilities. The average potential consumer of Amazon based media will be fine with Fire, but the more computer savvy will be looking to root Fire and open up the Android capabilities. I’m perfectly happy with my Flyer.

HTC recently sent an OTA (over the air) update of the OS. It’s not Honeycomb, but rather an update of Gingerbread which again works perfectly fine for a 7 inch tablet. I hear that the dual core tablets running Honeycomb are susceptible to lag -there is absolutely no lag on this machine and I only rarely get a reboot due to an instability in Sense -at the rate of once every two to three weeks. I used to reboot my Motorola Droid2 every day!

BTW, I typed this whole update with the keyboard on the WordPress app.

Paper Camera brings some fun to Android

 

 

The picture above is processed from an iPhone picture of the 9th hole at Wakonda Club seen from the driving range. It was processed using an Android app called Paper Camera (available on Android Market). It brings a bit of iPhon-ish fun to Android. It has a packet of desktop quality photo filters that it can run live on your view screen (there is a delay between shutter and access, so kids will not look as they were framed).

The filters are not all black and white, but of the initial shots I’ve taken, the black and white ones have come out the best. For a $1.99 , it turns my Android tablet into a very fun camera, something usually reserved for iPhone.

The camera is an unsung feature of smart phones that iOS has basically covered in terms of quality, convenience, and access with its wonderful pictures and Photostream. But Google is competing with built-in Picasa exporting from its Gallery app. Unfortunately Gallery is a mess as it offers up not just your pictures but also every jpeg available in the drives including those associated with icons and cached web pages. It’s for geeks, but it’s also getting better and more iOS-ish every day.

 

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Golfshot- Golf GPS and Golfplan -a belated review

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Wakonda #2 from the tee

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The distance from the tee to mid green with about 20 feet of elevation -an 8 iron

Several years ago, after I got my first iPhone, among the first and most useful programs was View Ti Golf, which I reviewed a while back. It was after several overly confusing updates and broken functionality, that I stopped using View Ti, and moved to Golfshot GPS.

While I had meant to review Golfshot GPS, I was too busy actually using it to put a good review together -I did comment on it a couple of years ago, but it is the addition of analytics and instruction from Paul Azinger via Golfplan that make this sing.

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What they achieved is they’ve simplified the geekiest part of tracking statistics. The simplest method has always been keeping track of Fairways, GIR, Strokes from 150 yards, and Putts on a score card. Golfshot has made it even simpler by making the input of strokes, fairways, and putts, along with sand and penalty strokes mere flips of menu dials.

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You can use the program solely for getting distances on all the golf courses in the US (and supposedly the planet). This will cost you 29.99. There is a lite version for free which offers scoring and the analytics. To tell you the truth, the GPS is nice, but I try to set up my shots with sight and local knowledge -its the statistics which make it worth using this program.

All the data is stored in the cloud and so you can use this app on multiple devices even on a GPS-less ipod touch or Wifi-iPad. The program works very well on Android as well (though readers of this blog know my feelings about Android).

The scorecard shows the parts of the game that I have to concentrate on -GIR -meaning my mid irons to pitching wedge, and sand -avoiding them and getting out of them.

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The complementary half of this is Golfplan which is currently at a promotional price of 0.99. Mr. Azinger is a great communicator and passes along in 1 to 2 minute videos perfectly executable knowledge to the average golfer. I think the best results can be had for the advanced beginner to 10 handicapper and this appears to be the target audience.

The stats are analyzed and a customized lesson plan is created for drills and instructions. Given the cost of private golf lessons, this is beyond cheap at just under a buck.
The problem with golf instruction is that most golfers take a band aid approach to lessons -thinking one or two lessons to straighten out the ball is enough.

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That’s like going to the doctor once to start treatment for a serious condition and then treating it yourself. Finding a good professional isn’t hard -every golf course has a PGA professional dedicated to improving play. It’s committing to a series of lessons over years that is tough -in terms of time and cash.
Gofshot GPS and Golfplan both get 4.5 stars on the App store which is basically a perfect score. I agree and outside of signing on with a golf instructor for a year’s worth of weekly lessons, this is the best thing since sliced cheese. I will update everyone on my progress.

Sent from my iPad

Droid Does and Doesn’t -my Verizon Motorola Droid 2 Review -updated

The Verizon Motorola Droid 2

Update 2/25/2011

I have ordered an iPhone 4 on Verizon. While I was happy to wait until Droid 2′s contract ran out, I am not with its recent behavior. It has been 5 months since I got it and after about 2 months of regular intensive use, it get gunked up and requires a factory reset and reloading of apps. I refuse to do this as  a regular activity. On my iPod Touch, I have over a hundred applications and keep over a 1000 contacts, and there is no lagging, no freezing as I look up contacts and compose emails. You can only upgrade Android OS by purchasing a new device, and you load apps at your own risk. My job is too important to risk it with a dodgy phone.

UPDATE 2-22-2011

posted to Droid2 User Support Forum

My Droid2 has been a big disappointment. I tried very hard to live with it. Specifically:

It has been lagging and freezing consistently despite reboots which used to solve the problem. Looking up a contact takes 5-10 seconds and then dialing the number by pressing the number takes another 5-10 seconds of waiting.

I have been told to reboot and reload programs one at a time to identify the problem. I have identified the problem. It is the Android operating system and Motorola’s disinterest in upgrading the OS. In fact, to upgrade any Android device, you have to get a new Android device.

The final straw came this weekend when while on call, the phone decided to lock up and not receive calls -very dangerous for a surgeon on call -luckily, people were able to reach me via my land line.

This is not a mission critical device and I’m going back to the safety of an iPhone. I have put a call into our Verizon rep.

I have to say, the people on the forum here have been wonderful, but I don’t have the time and inclination to sit for several hours trouble shooting a device that wants to run like a Windows ME PC.

UPDATE 2-6-2011

I originally wrote this review last fall. Since I wrote it, I have been tweaking and fiddling with the Droid2 and finally feel that it is working well for me. Initially, I used Launcher Pro to turn off Motoblur, but found increasingly that the device was freezing. I have since turned off Launcher Pro and found the initial troubles I had with Motoblur not to be an issue: bad battery life, processes run astray, and lagging. The slowness and freezing still occurs, but it only requires a reboot and this is only necessary every few days if I don’t swap out the batteries. The batteries are now available on Amazon for very cheap -because the Droid 2 batteries are compatible with the original Droid, the batteries are cheap enough to buy a bunch and a separate battery charger. This allows me to keep the Droid 2 always handy and automatically reboots the Droid 2. Battery now goes about 6-8 hours of regular usage. With three extra batteries -I can go several days -the length of a business trip.

The announcement of iPhone on Verizon has me excited, but only for iPhone 5. Truthfully, it will have to be awfully compelling. While the keyboard on Droid 2 could be a lot better -it’s not tactile enough and the top row is tough to hit because there is very little space between it and the screen, Motorola or Verizon appears to have secretly upgraded the OS from launch and it runs better. What really is compelling is many of my iOS apps run on Android and in some instances, the Android versions are better. For example, Huffington Post always crashes on my iPod Touch, but runs smooth as silk on the Droid2. Drop Box and Evernote work very well, where Mobileme only works on my Apple devices.

Cloud computing and cross platform apps make the OS less relevant and hardware has becomes more important as a differentiating factor. Frankly, despite my love of Apple devices, I’m getting a bit of Apple fatigue. Some Steve Jobs weirdness about buttons (he hates) and keyboards on smartphones (he hates) is making Android the underdog.

What doesn’t work well: compared to iOS, the pinch to zoom and pan is crude, the browser is clearly inferior to Safari in terms of readability (Retina Display is not a gimmick), and Flash is a good news/bad news proposition.

The camera -I’m taking more pictures with this camera and find it takes much better pictures than my Samsung NV10 which I use for OR shots of pathology. The only hassle is that the circulating nurse can’t just pick up and take pictures with this which they can easily with the Samsung. For macro to face shots at decent lighting, the camera is good. The iPhone still is a better all around smartphone-camera for landscapes, but I’m graduating to a better camera as soon as the Olympus ZX-1 is released.

My biggest complaint: Verizon’s VZ Navigator app stopped working and I have only Google’s Navigator which still feels raw and beta-ish works.

Updated review: Very functional device which has improved with time -probably due to some update from Motorola or Verizon.

Original Review from November, 2010

After patiently waiting almost a year for iPhone to show up on Verizon, I decided to give into the hype and picked up a Droid 2 smartphone by Motorola. I had been using an HTC Touch Pro 2, which ran Windows Mobile 6.5. Like every prior WinMo device I had owned, it ran great for the first few weeks then began to require reboots in increasing frequency until it finally required a hard reboot which points to a consistency across the Windows product spectrum. Because i am a vascular surgeon for whom the telephone is “mission critical” I decided to turn in the HTC Touch Pro 2 for a Motorola Droid 2.

The Droid 2 comes at a time when Android based smartphones are released almost weekly. This febrile activity among smartphone manufacturers reflects the volatility of this still relatively new market and product category. Everyone hopes that Apple’s early lead out of the gate is just a replay of the mid 1980‘s when Apple owned the personal and educational computer space. There is a pressure among the smartphone makers to be at once cool but at the same time enterprise (corporate) ready.

Hardware -the nuts and bolts

The Droid 2 is a solid, heavy device with a metallic plastic bezel and a slip resistant coating on the back plate. It has a generous, clear screen which responds well to touch. The hardware keyboard slides out with a tactile click, and the keyboard which on last year’s Droid was panned as one of the worst ever has been improved by elimination of the cheesy looking gold plated D-pad for an inverted T arrangement of arrows freeing up space for a 10% enlargement of the keys. The keys are slightly domed for tactile feedback, another improvement as last year’s Droid’s keys were flat. The keys are also backlit.

Despite these improvements, I find the keys to be stiff and difficult to reach on the top row, much like on the Nokia N810. The HTC TP2, despite being handicapped by Windows, did have an excellent keyboard that was a pleasure to use. I don’t see the Droid 2′s keyboard being useful for composing anything longer than an email because of the effort involved in finding and pressing down the keys firmly.

The backplate holds a removable battery which is rated at 1300mAh -more on this later. The battery has to be removed to access the 8gB microSD card that comes with the device. The OS when it was first released required that all the apps were stored on the onboard memory which was limited to 512mB, but now it appears that the apps live freely on a combination of onboard and user exchangeable memory. You can purchase up to a 32gB memory card. The charging is done through a microUSB port, not a miniUSB port. Micro USB is the same kind used for the Kindle and many newer devices. Beats me why this is better than the miniUSB -just more stuff to buy. The charging port is on the side of the device.

The telephone is excellent in sound quality -I’ve never had a bad Motorola telephone call. My wife refuses to give up her Razor even through it is over five years old because it works well, but like all smartphones, the phone function is one among many primary functions built into the device. Motorola, I believe, does emphasize the phone more than other manufacturers for whom the primary purpose of the device varies.

Most people now use their smartphones rather than carry separate cameras. The camera on the iPhone was superb as it was matched for the screen but it was lacking in MACRO capabilities, at least in the 3G version that I own. The Droid 2’s camera is fine for day to day shooting, and more importantly -it shoots MACRO -focusing down to several centimeters. This is critical in my practice as I take pictures of surgical findings and disease frequently. The video camera is touted to take 720p HD video (though not at 1040p). For myself, I don’t particularly care as long as the video looks good on Youtube or my iPhone. The video is sufficiently good enough that I won’t carry my aging (2 year old) Flip camcorder.

Software -the best and the worst and where Android 2.2 fits

Software is the glue that holds this phone together. The best mobile OS I have ever used was the EPOC operating system designed for the Psion series of PDA’s. It had a miniscule footprint yet was powerful and stable. It allowed for true muiltithreaded multitasking and had was so sparing in power consumption that two AA cells would last up to thirty hours. I routinely ran over ten apps simultaneously with no lag or instability -programs that crashed did not bring the whole device down. The word processing module which allowed for cutting and pasting of media and spreadsheet elements took up all of 22k of memory. EPOC lives on as Symbian within Nokia’s devices and is still by reports stable and simple to use.

Compare this to Windows Mobile which through the weight of its parent, squashed EPOC and eventually Palm OS because of the preponderance of support in corporate IT. To this day (Windows Phone 7 has yet to be released), WinMo devices routinely freeze and eat up system memory and resources requiring regular reboots. This is the opposite of mission critical, and was disconcerting for me when the phone would freeze and stop working while on call (I’m a vascular surgeon). The solution offered by Verizon support for these issues was a clean reload/hard reboot of the OS wiping out all the settings and files I had spent some time to make the device usable. Geeks still love this device because with the right skills, WinMo devices can be made to do just about anything, but to do so requires the kind of sweaty patience that most average users just do not have.

The iPhone changed all this because it addressed this question: how can easy, rich, and portable access to the internet change my life? I have read elsewhere that the iPhone should be placed among the stone cutting edge and the wheel among human inventions. While I don’t run so purply passionate about the iPhone, I was among its early adopters and still run my iPhone as a portable computer off of AT&T. I dropped AT&T because it kept dropping calls where I live, in an suburb of Des Moines, and gave no signal in the small towns that I visit for clinic. That said, the iOS that runs iPhone removes the burden of managing the computer from the user. Because the hardware and software is made by the same company, the device has the feel of craftsmanship found in bespoke suits, handmade golf clubs, and Steinway pianos. The same qualities that make iPhone work so well -simplicity, ease of ownership, and subtle but remarkable power manifest through invention rather than brute processor speed, annoys the Geeks to no end. No cut/paste! they yelled -because all prior implementations of selection was derivative of desktop computers with cursors and mice actions that did not translate well onto a touch device, Apple did not roll out cut/paste until it had developed an elegant and I think best way of selecting text. No multiprocessing? the Geeks cried -but because memory and processor resources used to run and maintain multiple open apps drains both battery power and speed, Apple chose not to offer multitasking until it got the right balance of application switching, processor resource allocation, and hardware to where multitasking, though not true multitasking still yet, does not reduce the efficiency and speed of the iPhone 4. On iPhone 3G, two generations removed, mutlitasking is not offered because it would crush the slower processor.

The Android OS, a multithreaded multitasking operating system derived from Linux, on paper offers just as many of the advantages that iOS does and some that iOS doesn’t, but the whole environment is crippled by too many cooks in the kitchen. Each manufacturer tweaks the screen with widgets and skins -this to give their devices some differentiation as they convince the device to work with different button schemes, form factors, screen sizes, and processors. This approach has several consequences.

Battery life -multitasking on Droid 2 crushes the battery life. By peaking in on the running processes I see that there are up to thirty different processes at any given moment that eat up processor cycles and therefore battery life. Android leaves it up to the user to decide what processes to keep running and which ones to stop -happy times for the Geeks, but for the average user, it’s flummoxing to have to decide if some obscurely named subroutine of a program that has been running for three days is critical or nonessential. Why does the end user have to decide this at all? What’s even worse, it is never clear that when you get out of a program, that you have actually quit running it. You just can’t tell easily.

If you don’t figure out how to run Android down to the rebuild-the-engine knowledge level, your battery life will suffer. My experience with iPhone is that with light browsing, some music listening, average email/web surfing, and usual daily load of phone calls, I can get through a normal work day of 8 hours without trouble but would have to recharge on call. I carry a battery pack just for this (the iPa, a scary big battery from China) for being on call. Even so, on a usual day, I never had to worry about battery life.

The Droid 2’s battery life is miserably short -going about 4 hours of light use before going under 50% and getting critically low before the 8 hours of a usual work day. By busily tracking down and quitting errant processes, by turning off wifi, bluetooth, and GPS, I think I do gain some improvement but at the cost of functionality. There is a 2800mAh extended battery available from Seido, but it requires putting a nonmatching cover on the device, giving it a huge hump and making it even heavier. The solution I’ve taken is purchasing 3 more standard batteries (they cost about 7$ on Amazon as of this writing) and a separate battery charger. This should give me a full 24 hours of charge without having to worry about multitasking and without having to Geek out. That said, to make the machine run well, I do anticipate having to reboot it every day to clear the buffers.

Flash -Android 2.2 comes with a Flash player. Flash is a huge point of contention among Geeks. Even among those who don’t like it, they changed their mind after Apple chose not to support it on iOS. The Flash seems to work okay -the advertisements that still use it are animated, and you can watch some Flash content. The problem here is that these banner ad elements are tiny on a cell phone and worthless when blown up. I suspect that running Flash also causes a serious battery drain.

Motorola Widgets, aka Motoblur -In trying to differentiate itself from other manufacturers, Motorola added a set of apps that are continuously running on the screen -social network updates and weather and the like. The contacts shortcuts are very buggy and don’t work well, but otherwise, it’s nice eye candy. This morning, I picked up my phone and the battery was very warm -some app was running the processor so much as to cause it to heat up, and I think it’s the Motorola apps. You can remove all the widgets and leave the screens bare which I’m favoring.

Android Market -Google’s answer to Apple’s App Store is shiny and full of apps which are direct analogs of iOS apps as well as near copies. Such as it is, it’s cluttered and disorganized just the way the Geek’s like it. There is no way to see sample screens or reviews, and every download comes with a warning about what resources and security issues each app will bring. Compared to Apple’s App Store, there is a bit of the Wild West mentality with regard to security. They might as well slap a big sign -Buyer Beware! on the background of the Android Market. That said, getting Apps is far easier than it was on Windows Mobile.

Google Integration/Microsoft Exchange Support- Naturally, this is a given as one of the first things Android asks for is your Gmail address. The Gmail app works okay, but the menus are not consistent across their messaging applications -the buttons are different for Gmail. Geeks won’t mind, but the average user will. Microsoft exchange support is available out of the box and it works okay -the only problem I’ve had is none of the contact images have come over. Also, the contact application takes an extremely long time to bring up contact data -this may be because it’s looking up the contact on the exchange server rather than caching it on the phone. I say this because the contacts lookups work better on Wifi.

Included Software -Most people will be familiar with the included crapware/trialware that comes with PC’s. They are here as well. Who uses Blockbuster to watch movies? Who knew that Blockbuster was still around? I’ve been steadily deleting these. There is a Navigation app which is a turn by turn navigation software offered by Google that is like all of their products in beta release. It’s free, and that warms my heart because the Verizon navigation app costs $10/month. The Google navigation app is not particularly polished, but who’s going to argue with FREE.

Kindle App -You can download a Kindle App that will sync up with your library of Kindle books on Amazon, and it works very nicely on the sharp screen. The only problem is that you would would burn through the battery while reading for a couple of hours. The only thing more annoying than having the battery give out while reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is to not be able to make phone calls while running through an airport.

Medical Software -The only medical app I found was ePocrates. This works like the iPhone app. Medscape is not available, but there are the usual assortment of medical calculators and references (link: http://www.imedicalapps.com/2010/03/free-android-medical-apps/). Because of the battery life issue, I don’t think I will use this phone much in this way except when it’s all that I’m carrying.

Wifi hotspot -For around 30 bucks a month, you can press a button on the Droid 2 to turn it into a personal Wifi hotspot. This burns up battery life, but works well. When I go to one of my rural clinics, I have my medical assistant drive, and I hooked up the HTC Touchpro 2 to an app called Walking Hotspot (40 bucks, available at Handango) so that I could surf with my iPad. This is a nice feature, but seriously handicapped by the meager battery life on Droid 2. It’s best used plugged into a power source.

Notifcations: Notifications are alerts that occur when a message comes in. On the iOS, notifications are a pickle because they beep and then pop out a window that pauses whatever it is you are doing and stays there until you decide to press cancel or view. This is not a problem if you were surfing the web, but it’s a downer if you were about to pwn someone on NOVA. Android notifications are wonderful -the bell rings, but rather than stop you in the middle of a game, lets say, it shows up as a mini icon on the top of the screen that you can drag down to view. No one likes the way Apple does notifications, but I’m assuming they’re working on it.

Summary

It doesn’t suck as bad as Windows Mobile 6.5 did. It could be great if they could work harder at integrating all the disparate elements of OS/manufacturer/network provider. If you’ve ever driven a well engineered luxury car, you can appreciate the iPhone’s focus on user experience. The initial limitations put on iOS (most of them resolved except for notifications) and the juried App Store environment reflect Apple’s desire not to cripple the phone with poor speed or battery life. Google takes the opposite tack, leaving it up to the user to define the experience. Unfortunately, for 90% of users, that is meaningless and they end up with a phone tarted up by the phone manufacturers and cellular network providers with crapware (HTC’s Sense and Motorola’s Motoblur) that pay little attention to the consequences like slower speed, poor interaction among programs, and suboptimal battery life as the phones get cluttered up like a hotel room without maid service. I could take the time to eliminate all the Motoblur widgets and to scrupulously police all the processes on the task manager, while rebooting daily, to improve battery life and performance, but I don’t want to. I want to leave my wifi, bluetooth, and GPS radios always on and surf whenever the urge hits me. I really want this to be a portable computer replacement. To go back to the car analogy, there is no balance in the Droid 2. This is a mass market manual shift car that comes with a big engine and a small gas tank. They might as well put flames on the side. Most of the apps available smell of desperate me-tooism. I think that as soon as iPhone becomes available on Verizon, this Droid is gone. In fact, I’ve already ordered a new iPod Touch (with Retina Display and Facetime) to be my regular communicator device, and will keep the Droid along with the three spare batteries I’ve ordered handy as a phone and Wifi hotspot. It probably is the best smartphone on Verizon, but I know there is a better smartphone out there.

UPDATED 11/23/2010

I am still using the Droid 2, but in a very limited way. The device had a serious battery drain issue from running Motoblur, and through the friendly moderators at Motorola’s support site, I was advised to turn off Motoblur by using an app called Launcher Pro. This cuts off Motoblur and returns the device to a sort of pure Android state.

Battery life has improved significantly to where I can go a whole workday.

Disappointments include

  1. Variable performance. On some occasions, looking up contacts is speedy, but usually, it’s unusably slow. For example, in the text messaging app, if I add a contact to send the text to, it may take up to ten seconds if it’s fast, or it just doesn’t at all.
  2. Really bad browsing. The browser works slowly even on a wifi network. If there is Flash, its slows to a crawl. The pinch out to zoom works kinda sorta okay but without the accuracy of iPhone. It’s also so touchy that unlike iphone which guesses your intention with gestures, a pinch to zoom may tap a link on the browser and move you out of the page you were reading. Because it’s slow, it can take forever to get back to the point that you were zooming into.
  3. Photo -the camera works well, but the sharing option crashes frequently. Sharing via email which should be a no brainer is miserable because of incredibly slow contact lookups.
  4. Freezes -using multimedia  -mostly videos and Flash causes the Droid 2 to freeze, requiring a battery removing reboot. This is so Windows Mobile 6.5!

The way I am using this device is primarily as a phone and as an internet access hotspot for my iOS devices. When I am in Wifi at work or home, I prefer looking up contacts via my iPod Touch 4th generation and dialing through Google Voice via GV Mobile + app. Google Voice calls the Droid 2 and then connects me to my intended contact -it’s faster than looking up a contact on the Droid 2. Text messaging as well is much faster via my iPod touch than the Droid 2 because again, contact lookups is so botched up.

The only saving grace is the Wifi hotspot capability, but even here, it’s a pain, because you can’t use Bluetooth and run the hotspot at the same time. If I move to Verizon iPhone (Very Likely when it comes out), I will get a separate Wifi hotspot device on a network with a generous data plan. The only reason I would not do this if Verizon’s iPhone comes too close to the anticipated June 2011 iphone update.

Why I’m Not Going to Get an iPhone 4 on Verizon, Yet

I discuss why I’m not going to get an iPhone 4 when Verizon announces it later this morning.

Windows Mobile 6.5 -too little, too late, but reasonably great

As someone who has suffered from almost a decade of desperately mediocre Window Mobile devices, it was with a specific reason I chose to switch out of iPhone to Verizon’s HTC TouchPro2 last fall. There is a program called Walking Hotspot which turns any WinMo device into a Wifi hotspot and I felt that it would support my iPhone and future devices like the current iPad the best.

The phone turned out to be a load of turd as far as smartphones go, but I blamed it mostly on Microsoft and not HTC. HTC puts a skin called Sense UI on all of its Android devices and a similar skin called TouchFlo on Windows devices, and I turned it off several days ago after finally just being unable to deal with the screen lags and freezes. Lo and behold, underneath all the TouchFlo cosmetics was the outdated and ugly Windows Mobile 6.1, which ran pretty well on this latest and greatest hardware.

So it was a no brainer for me to try the Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade offered by Verizon. I saw several warnings on blogs that it would slow things terribly, but I sensed that it was the TouchFlo skin and not Windows Mobile. The upgrade went well, and lo and behold, turning off the beautiful TouchFlo skin resulted in a spiffy windows 6.5 smartphone that actually works. The screens snap and the device really does alright with Wifi and Bluetooth, things that it was gasping at before. The browser still sucks compared to Safari on iPhone, but borders on usable to where I no longer use iPhone for email so much.

Which leads me to this conclusion: Microsoft spent a decade missing the opportunity to grab and dominate the smartphone market by creating a horrible interface (6.1 and prior) and then allowing third parties to skin up the phone to copy iPhone without regard to performance or battery life. If 6.5 is any indication, Windows Phone 7 will be a formidable entry to the market, more so than Android which is already confusing because of the plethora of skins, form factors, and OS versions.