Posted by: wrmcnutt | February 8, 2010

The Motorola Droid

Okay, after having used a Droid for a couple of weeks, I’ve got a few things to say about this latest generation smartphone.

In the first place, cell phone designers listen up! Your cell phone utilities must smoothly integrate with Microsoft Outlook. I know . . .  I know . . .   Outlook is an inherently inferior product.  Even it if were not tainted by the given evil of being a Microsoft product, it’s awkward, poorly organized, and buggy.  I’ll concede that your approach to an e-mail client, calendering, notes, contents, and task management all all superior in every way. I’ll even throw in admitting that Bill Gates eats babies in public if it will get you to listen to one ugly, brutal fact of life in this world you live in.

Here it is:  over fifty percent of your potential clients work for large companies that use Outlook.  And those people to not want to learn a new interface to check their e-mail at home, so they use it for their personal e-mail, too.  This means that HALF (50%) of your potential clients are already familiar with this interface and use it a LOT in their daily lives, both personally and professionally.  No matter how good your new ideas are, no matter how much you want to turn the world on its ear with breakthrough design, if your smartphone does not integrate smoothly with Outlook and all it’s features, you will PISS HALF OF YOUR USER BASE OFF.

In the second place, people want to operate their cell phones hands free.  This technology is five years old. You don’t need a smartphone to do it.  Old “dumb” phones can be operated via bluetooth in a hands-free manner.  Omitting the control command protocols from the bluetooth stack is bad design and whoever made the decision no to include them is guilty of bad management. Whoever is responsible for this decision chain should be fired because they are incompetent.

Battery life:  Hey Motorola – look into it.  Actively using the ‘Droids features means that the battery lasts for two days.  Part of this is due to an interface issue.  Many of the applications for the Droid do not have an intuitive “I’m done now” button that will allow you to close the application.  So when you return to the home menu, they continue to run in the background.  It’s fairly easy to end up with a dozen programs running at the same time, merrily clogging the network, eating processor cycles, and sucking down your battery to no point.  This can be ameliorated by installing any one of several clean up applications that close all running applications.  But even then, Droid users will be keeping their phones plugged in whenever they are in the car or at home.  While I don’t expect a smart phone to run two weeks like my old flip-phone, two days is a little brief.  I’m told that this performance is on par with the iPhone, but my old Treo could go a week before running down.  I know there’s a strong pressure on designers to make phones as thin as razor blades these days, but I could have easily stood a 50% increase in the weight and thickness of my Droid to have a battery that would last through my vacation.

As you can probably tell, I find the Droid to have a couple of shortcomings.  For all of that, I am mostly happy with it.  I’m making some adjustments in how I manage my personal and professional lives to accommodate how it interacts (or doesn’t) with Outlook, and with the car charger and USB charger at home, I mostly keep it charged.

On the plus side:  it both charges and links with my desktop PC using a standard USB cable. Oh the years I have been howling about this.  Need an extra connector for work? You do not have to go to the Verizon store and pay thirty bucks for a proprietary cable. A standard USB-B cable will work just fine.  Thus far, the hardware is reliable and rugged.  Casual drops on wooden floors, carpets, and even parking lots have not damaged the the guts, and the exterior has only gotten one chip.  Despite carrying it in my pocket with my keys, the screen has not accumulated a bunch of scratches.  There is a large base of developers churning out applications for the Droid at an amazing rate.  Applications are cheap, running between $1.99 and $35.00, and meeting needs across the spectrum.  Games, calorie counters, maps, you name it.   Both the operating system and the applications update in a transparent and low-impact manner.

To sum up:  I like my Droid.  It’s a functional phone and lifetstyle management device.  It’s got a couple of glaring flaws that are entirely correctable via software updates, if the Motorola team gets off their collective asses and makes them a priority.

Oh, it’s got one other feature, and it’s the main one I bought it for.  It worked when I bought it, it works today, and it will still be working the day I leave it for another platform:  It’s NOT an Apple product, so Steve Jobs didn’t get a dime of my money.

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  1. I meant to test this at Midwinter A&S. Is it true that your skin will actually smoke and blacken like a classic vampire touched by a cross if you are touched with an Apple product?

    • Not really – I just hiss and retreat from the room.

  2. 😛

    • That’s supposed to be a mean tongue stuck out face…let me touch you with my Ipod…

      • I have a Touch AND and IPhone, now. We should terrorize Bill with our nasty Apple germs the next time we’re all in proximity!

      • It burns us it does.

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