Android

In February 2011, I gave up on the possibilities of either Verizon getting the iPhone, or any chance of our family ever being able to coordinate a switch to AT&T, so I bought Motorola Droids for Eric and I when Verizon had a “buy one, get one free” deal. I quickly decided that despite being an Apple fan, that I really like my Droid… Several things that I liked right away —

  • The charging and data connection is done using a standard micro-B USB cable, which can be ordered from Monoprice for about a buck a piece, including a 6 foot cable that is actually long enough to reach when using the AC adapter.
  • The Droid can be mounted as an external USB drive on any kind of computer, so I can copy files, pictures, music, etc. to or from the Droid without any extra software.
  • It has a standard micro SD memory card, so if I want to load more apps, music or video later, I can replace the 16Gb memory card with a 32Gb when the prices come down.
  • The battery is removable and replaceable. Eric and I have swapped batteries several times when his was low, but he needed to go somewhere, and couldn’t charge it.

The next two accessories that I picked up after some extra USB cables, were a Griffin PowerJolt dual USB 12v charger for the car, and the Motorola “Car Dock,” which is the suction cup windshield mount. The phone clips into the car dock easily, making perfect for navigating with Google Maps. I also found that the speaker phone mode works well enough that I just use that when driving instead of getting a bluetooth headset. Jeannette had decided that she didn’t want to wait any longer for a Verizon iPhone, and has picked up a Samsung Continuum, which is also an Android-based smartphone. Its slightly smaller than the Droid (mostly thinner) since it lacks the physical keyboard, but has an interesting addition — a small ticker screen at the bottom of the phone, under the 4 dedicated function buttons. Of course, a few weeks after this, Verizon did get the iPhone. We had another phone eligible for update about the same time, so Jeannette passed the Continuum on to Melissa, and used the other upgrade to get an iPhone 4. She has continued to use iPhones, and currently has an iPhone 5. The Continuum then, became Melissa’s phone, and seemed to be plagued with constant problems… Some if it may have been from loading too many junk apps, but it would run slow, lock up, drop calls, etc. We also struggled trying to get it to connect to the Mac as as USB drive. Verizon’s only suggestion was to wipe the phone and start over again from scratch, reformatting the SD card and restoring the original software. We really didn’t want to have to start over again, but it got so bad at one point the Missy decided to go back to my original Motorola Droid after I had upgraded.

In June 2011, I upgraded from the original Droid to a 4G phone. At the time I upgraded, Verizon had three options that were 4G LTE capable — An LG, and HTC, and the Samsung Charge. Even though we hadn’t had a very good experience with the first Samsung we had, I had more confidence in the Samsung than the LG or HTC phones at that time. So I got the Samsung Charge, and had nothing but trouble with it… It was mostly great for the first month that I had it. Then I got the windshield mount car dock… Every time that I tried using the phone in the car dock for GPS/Maps/Navigation, plugged into the 12v charger, the phone would overheat, and turn off the backlight for the display, making it impossible to read or dismiss the warning dialog. After arguing with a Verizon store employee who tried to tell me that I should leave the 12v charger plugged in, I found a manager at another Verizon store that had the same phone, and was able to use it in the car dock without any trouble, so he replaced it with another unit. The second one, while it worked better in the car dock, wouldn’t stay connected to the data network. I went in a couple of times to have the SIM card replaced, to see if that would fix it. On one occasion, the folks in the store couldn’t get it to connect with the new SIM card either, so they replaced it again with another new SIM card before I even left the store… After a couple of round of this, they replaced the phone again. The third one worked in the car dock, and connected to the network, but when I tried using it as an HD camcorder, it would record for a few seconds, then tell me that the SD card wasn’t compatible with the selected resolution. If I closed the dialog, and then hit record again, it would generally work fine for the few minutes that I was recording. It had some other weird problems which I don’t recall exactly, but I think that I had to reboot it every day or two to be able to receive phone calls, or else it wouldn’t ring…

Eventually, Verizon conceded that the Charge wasn’t working for me, and let me replace it with an iPhone 4 in about August 2011… I was mostly satisfied with the iPhone, but I missed many of the typical Android advantages, like the larger display, the navigation, and the voice recognition. I was anxiously awaiting the introduction of the iPhone 5, since it was rumored to have a larger display, and “improved” maps… As it turned out, of course, the display, while beautiful, was not much larger, and not as suitable for using with maps while driving. The disappointing display size, and the Maps fiasco, convinced me to go back to a Droid… I had learned my lesson with the string of Samsungs, though, and decided that I would only get a Motorola handset, especially since Google has acquired Motorola Mobility by this time.

About the same time as the introduction of the iPhone 5, Motorola introduced the Droid Razr HD in October 2012. It has a larger display, its fast, still slim, and while the battery is now not replaceable, the memory is still expandable. I’ve hardly had any issues with this phone. The only problem that I’ve had was that early on, the touch screen would not respond during or after some software updates. I could wake up the display, and get the unlock screen, but it wouldn’t respond. I would have to hold the volume button and power button for a few seconds to force it to shutdown or restart. This issue has apparently been fixed by one of the software updates, though, as I’m not having this problem any longer…

As of June 2014, I’ve replaced the Motorola Droid Razr HD with a Motorola Droid Maxx. It has a slightly larger screen, faster processor, more memory, higher resolution camera, and a huge battery. Its also running Android KitKat 4.4.4, so its on the latest release, and has the same handsfree Google Now features as the MotoX. Very Nice!

I had later upgraded again, to a Motorola Droid Turbo 2, then have switched to an iPhoneX

I thought that I would list a few of my favorite Android Applications (although some may be old now):

aCar

A nice app for tracking gas mileage and car expenses.

ASE/SL4A

The Android Scripting Environment (ASE), now Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A), allows you to create scripts of various types directly on your Android phone.

Astrid Tasks

A to-do list task manager, which syncs with RememberTheMilk

Barcode Scanner

ZXing (pronounced “zebra crossing”) is an open-source, multi-format 1D/2D barcode image processing library implemented in Java. Its focus is on using the built-in camera on mobile phones to photograph and decode barcodes on the device, without communicating with a server. To complement the decoding software, they have created a web-based QR Code generator which supports contact information, calendar events, URLs, and much more. Barcode Scanner can also be used to share information between phones.

Compass

The #1 compass app for Android, featuring different styles, location display, & Catch Notes integration for easy location notes. In addition to showing your GPS location and compass direction, it can save your favorite places (car, restaurant, etc.) and then navigate back to them later.

c:geo

c:geo is simple yet powerful unofficial geocaching client for Android devices. You can go geocaching with your phone and without any home preparation or worries. Links to GeoCaching.com.

doubleTwist

Manage and sync your iTunes music, photos and videos with doubleTwist on your Android phone.

ConnectBot

ConnectBot is a Secure Shell client for the Android platform.

ConvertPad

ConvertPad is a fully featured unit converter offering various unit conversions on Android. With all of the conversions that ConvertPad can perform, It is especially useful for Scientists, Engineers, and Students or even for around the home.

SpeedView

SpeedView is an advanced speedometer application that uses the phone’s built-in GPS system to show your current, maximum and average speed, as well as direction, total distance and time traveled. Suitable for running, car driving, biking or hiking.

Wardrive

Wi-Fi network Wardriving app. It stores scans in sqlite db on the sdcard and displays found networks in a map. Exportable as a Google Earth KML file.

WordzUp!

Like the “Boggle” word find game. On the grid, trace your finger over letter cubes to spell out words. Choose between 3×3, 4×4, 5×5, or 6×6 grids. Lots of options. Addictive.

WordCube

Find as many words as possible using the 9 letters from the grid. The words must be 4 letters or more, contain the central letter and each letter may not be used more than once. There is at least one word that uses all of the letters in the cube.

WiFi Analyzer

Wifi Analyzer is a handy tool which helps you to choose a better channel for your wireless router. Shows signal strength, channels, etc.