After struggling along with my old mobile phone for several years, I finally took the plunge and purchased a Droid Incredible by HTC, and I am DELIGHTED with the result.
To be honest, I used to be the sort of person who said "All I want from my mobile phone is the ability to make a phone call." So what changed my mind? Well, several things actually. Earlier this summer, for example, my wife (Gina the Gorgeous) booked a condo in Destin, Florida for us to have a week's vacation. When we still about 20 miles away from our destination, the GPS in her car failed, and it ended up taking us another one and a half hours to find the place.
Gina doesn’t like to suffer quietly or alone (grin), so there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garb towards the end of our journey, let me tell you. At that time, I started to think that if I'd had GPS on my cell phone, my life would have been somewhat easier and happier that day.
Later in the summer, I was obliged to travel on business on a couple of occasions. While sitting in airports, it's useful for me to be able to access the Internet to research stuff and post articles and suchlike. For some reason, this seems to be getting harder rather than easier, and it's also a pain having to connect into Wi-Fi networks that purport to be free but somehow require you to pay.
Then a friend with an older Android phone told me he had a free application that allowed him to plug his phone into his PC via USB, and to then use his phone as an air-card to provide Internet access wherever he was, irrespective of whether or not there was a Wi-Fi network available. "Hmmm," I thought to myself...
This all came to a head around the middle of last week as I pen these words. At the weekend, my son was going to be in a JROTC competition, which was to be held at a high school near Montgomery, Alabama. I was travelling down there as a passenger, so I had 3.5 hours in the car each way to which I could look forward. Normally I'm quite happy to just read a book, but I have a lot of work projects on the go at the moment, which meant that having Internet access in the car would be jolly useful.
I did a bit of research, and it seemed to me that the best option with my service provider (Verizon) was the Droid Incredible by HTC, which scored really well in all of the comparisons and reviews I saw. So I bounced over to my local Verizon store and within 30 minutes was the proud owner of what I now think of as "My Precious!" In addition to the cost of the phone itself (greatly reduced because I was long overdue for an upgrade), I added the "Unlimited Data Package" to my account, which costs a tad under $30 a month.
As an aside, do you recall my Don't re-cycle, free-cycle
blog? As I mentioned in that column, I recently joined my local FreeCycle group. Well, the day after I purchased my Droid Incredible, someone posted a message to the group saying they had dropped their Verizon cell phone in the river and asking if anyone had a spare... so my old phone found a new home almost immediately (this was a much better option than the desk drawer where it was otherwise destined to reside for the next few decades).
But we digress... I have to tell you that I am totally amazed and impressed by new phone – I can’t believe that I took so long to upgrade – and now I cannot imagine life without my little beauty. Of course there was a bit of a learning curve; for example, it did take me quite a while to work out how to actually instigate a telephone call (grin). Also, it was non-obvious as to how to delete things like records for contacts and photos and suchlike, but eventually I blundered into the secret, which is that if you press-and-hold an item you get a pop-up menu with a variety of options, one of which is to delete the entry.
But the amazing thing to me is the applications you can download onto your phone, many of which are free. On the main screen there's a Market app; activating this app takes you to a "candy store" of goodies, of which I've only skimmed the surface. Let me briefly summarize some of these little scamps as follows:
Google Sky Map (Free):
When you activate this app and hold your Droid up to the night sky, you see the same stars and planets and suchlike as in the real world, but annotated with names and lines showing the constellations. You can also query the location of something – say the planet Mars – and the application will use arrows to guide you to the correct location in the sky.
Google Goggles (Free):
This is amazing. Once you start this app, the phone's camera becomes active. You point the camera at an object of interest, click the "Go" button, and the image is uploaded to the Google servers, which determine what the image is and return appropriate information. If you took a picture of a book cover, for example, you are presented with reviews, stores where you can purchase that book, and so forth. If the picture was of a landmark, you are presented with information about that landmark. If the picture was of text in a foreign language, you are provided with a translation ... and the list goes on...
Google Maps (Free):
This provides you with a complete GPS navigation capability. One of the great things about this is that the maps are always up to date. Another really cool thing is that you can display the current traffic situation for your route – roads with traffic slowdowns are shown in orange and roads with traffic jams are displayed in red – if you want, you can ask the system to recalculate an alternate route around any jams (Click Here
to see a demo).
Google Voice Search (Free):
OMG, this is like adding cream to the cake. Basically you just say what you want to find or what you are interested in doing and Voice Search does the rest. If you say "Navigate to xyz,"
for example, it automatically launches Google Maps and takes you there.
But Voice Search does much more than that. Suppose you know that there's a Vincent van Gogh exhibition in town, but you aren’t sure where it's being held. In this case you could say something like "Navigate to the van Gogh art exhibition."
Google already knows where you are from the GPS in your phone (I know, it's very "big brother" but I really don’t care because I have nothing to hide ... at least, nothing I'm going to tell you about :-) so it will display a suite of results starting with the location closest to your current position. All you have to do is select the appropriate item and off you go.
As a real-world example, when we were returning from our trip to Montgomery on Saturday, we were concerned about the traffic due to the Alabama-Florida football game, because we didn’t know where the game was to be played (Birmingham Alabama or Tuscaloosa Alabama). So I activated the Voice Search app and said "Where is the Alabama football game being held this evening?"
The system responded with a link to a webpage showing that the game was to be played in Tuscaloosa. This really is incredible!
Thus far, I've never bothered associating special ring-tones with individual people; it all seemed a bit childish and pointless... until now... The thing is that I downloaded the Zedge app in order to play around, and I discovered some really great ring-tones. For example, I now have the theme from The Godfather
linked to my father-in-law. Meanwhile, if I hear the song "Someone is going to get a whipping..."
I immediately know that my wife wishes to communicate some vital piece of information with me (grin).
I could waffle on about this for ages. For example the Retro Camera
app (free) makes any pictures I take with my Droid look as though they are from yesteryear. The Daily Strip
app (free) lets me select all of my favorite comic strips from a plethora of choices. The Easy Tether
app allows me to connect my Droid to my PC and use the phone as an air-card, and so forth.
In fact, the only app I've paid for thus far (for around $2) is called Night Vision Goggles
, which activates the Droid's camera and displays the resulting image in shades of fluorescent green. This may not sound tremendously interesting, but it looks really cool, especially around dusk when the light is fading. The best thing is that it's allowed me to convince my son that my phone has infrared night-vision capability (it doesn’t of course), so he thinks I'm amazingly cool (grin).
I could waffle on about this for hours, but I hear my phone's siren song calling me. One thing I don’t yet know how to do is to upload pictures from my Droid to my PC (if you know, please share this information with me). The other thing I don’t know is... well... all of the things I don’t know about my Droid's capabilities, so if you are aware of any cool stuff, once again it would be great if you could share it with me (just attach a comment to this article).
Last but not least, there are so many apps out there that there's no chance of my wading through them all, so if you have any recommendations for the coolest, most interesting, and/or most useful apps... I would love to hear from you. And now I must away to my precious...