Saturday, January 22, 2011


Aaron Chusid’s blog post a while back about the impact of smartphones in general, and his iPhone in particular, got me to thinking about my Android smartphone. It’s an HTC Desire from U. S. Cellular. I’m still learning how to use it. 

Although I’ve had cell phones for years, the HTC Desire is the first smartphone I’ve ever had. Years ago, In 2005, I opted Instead for a PDA, a Hewlett Packard iPAQ (sans phone) which has a pretty good calendar and to-do list, so-so document generation using Windows Mobile, clumsy synching with my PC, mediocre email functionality, and clunky internet access. Solitaire’s pretty good on it though. I used the PDA daily until I got the Android, and I just about wore it out.  Its screen is now as faded as a twenty-year-old TV.

I can’t tell you that I did an exhaustive analysis of features before I settled on an Android phone, but I considered all the possibilities for several months. I looked at and admired the iPhone, but I didn’t want to switch cell phone carriers. I also considered a Windows phone, but I didn’t want any of the older versions of Windows Mobile, and I didn’t want to wait several months for a phone equipped with the latest Windows Mobile. I was also pretty bummed out about the clumsiness of Windows Mobile on my PDA. I like Google products and iGoogle is my home page on my home desktop.  That tipped the balance toward a Google Android phone.

Since this is a personal phone, I rarely use it for business calls. Almost all of my phone usage is personal. Probably 95% of my overall usage is for time management, email, Internet browsing, news, weather, etc.  I have downloaded many apps, discarding some and retaining others.

So here are the strengths and weaknesses of this Android smartphone as I see them:

  • Phone calls:  Works well.  No dropped calls. Speaker phone works great.  Easy, intuitive screen for dialing.   
  • Email:  Excellent.  I use it to access my work email, personal gmail, and home email.  Attachments come through fine.
  • Messaging:  Excellent.  Makes it easy to send and receive messages. 
  • Internet:  A great experience.  Easy to navigate, fast, visually stunning screen.  HTC’s built-in bookmarks don’t work, though, so I downloaded an app called ChromeMarksLite which gathered the hundreds of bookmarks I’ve accumulated over the years.  The quality of the Internet experience on this device has made me even more of an Internet junkie than I was before.
  • Calendar/Time Management:  Pretty good, but not as good as my old PDA. I’m determined to integrate my to-do lists with my Google calendar.  I just downloaded an app called Shuffle to help with this and I will learn how to use it soon.
  • Typing:  Tiny keys on the HTC Desire's virtual keyboard make typing laborious.  The predictive text and my occasional failure to correct the Android when it assumes the wrong word, result in some hilariously incorrect words.  I almost wish I had waited for a device with a slide-out physical keyboard.
  • File Management:  I’m still struggling to understand file management on this thing.  I downloaded Astro on the recommendation of a colleague at work, and I’ve been too busy or distracted to sit down and learn how to use it.  I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time managing the apps to “clear data” and “clear cache” so incoming messages don’t get blocked.  Maybe I’m just lazy, but it seems to me that this should be automatic. 
  • Battery Usage:  The Achilles heel of the Android. I use this thing constantly, and it will rarely go more than 14 or 16 hours without a charge even when most of that time is just standby. I downloaded and use an “app-killer” to turn off the apps when the phone is on standby, but even so, I’m constantly checking to see how much juice is left.  Blog commenters seem to be saying that some of the battery use problem is also due to Google and the app developers constantly turning apps on to data-mine users’ location and Internet activity for purposes of targeting advertising.
  • Document Generation (Writing):  Decidedly worse on the Android than the HP iPAQ, which has a virtual keyboard and a stylus.  I had hoped that the Android would work well with Google Docs, but alas, it doesn’t.  I’m using Google Docs and QuickOffice, which are both clumsy, and together with file management issues, have me rather frustrated.
  • Camera:  Still camera is excellent, and works well with Google’s Picasa.  Video recorder is mediocre.
  • Blogging:  Haven’t tried posting to my blog with the Android yet, but that’s on my to-do list. 
  • GPS Navigation:  I attach the phone to a cell phone mount on the car’s dashboard. Maps, graphics and directions are crystal clear for a driver’s viewing, but the audio directions are kind of wimpy and hard to hear even with the audio all the way up.  Directions are pretty reliable except when the destination is in a strip mall or on a side street the GPS doesn’t recognize.
Bottom Line:  I’ve had the HTC Desire Android phone for about five months now and I give it a B-.

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