Friday, October 29, 2010

Phones: First Impressions of My New Android Phone

First off, this was an open box purchase of a Motorola XT701 from Newegg. As far as purchasing open-box and refurbished gear (Thinkpads and iPods, mainly) goes, I've always had good experiences. This is the first open-box item that I have purchased from Newegg, but I've always had good experiences with them.

There wasn't much in the box: the phone, a wall charger and adapter for US outlets, a USB to mini-USB cable, the battery, the battery cover and a couple of small pamphlets/manuals. There was a 8 GB SD card already in the phone. Removing it to insert my own 8 GB SD card seemed more trouble than it was worth, so I'll be transferring my old files over via USB. The box seemed like it had been tossed around a little bit, but nothing seemed to be damaged in any way.

The phones' screen is easily bigger and has better image quality than my old Nokia E71.

Initially, I had problems getting the phone to take my Gmail and GAFYD credentials. I was chalking this up to being an "open box purchase" issue, but this seems to be a fairly common problem. Googling found that the issue is generally solved by doing a "hard-reset" of the phone, which wipes all of your data and returns the phone to its' factory defaults.

Resetting the phone lead me to my biggest "uh-oh" moment. It happened when I powered the phone up after the hard reset. Everything was in Chinese! (I believe that the main market for this phone is in China, so this makes some sense.) After some blind poking around by using the "Settings" page, I found that lower right button on the initial, power-up "home" page allows for changing the phone to other languages, including US English.

After getting through that, I could enter credentials for both my personal and corporate (GAFYD) accounts without any further problem.

I've been toying with the phone for a couple of hours. I've never even tried an Android for a significant period of time before now and I'm still feeling my way around. It is like going from Windows to MacOS or Ubuntu. I know what I want to do, but I'm not quite sure how to do it, or if I am doing it in the best or most efficient way. I'm not sure what options are open to me; I need to check out some articles for newbs and maybe subscribe to some Android blogs.

I don't think that functions are as discoverable on Android as I would like. Some items are touchable/clickable, others are simply display-only items. I don’t know which is which until I finger them, and even then I might not get a response because my fingers are too fat. I can't say that iOS, WP7 or WebOS are any better or worse in this, but I do have a new respect for the ability to hover a cursor over a control on my Windows laptop and get a ToolTip-style hint.

My open questions/issues are:
  • My calendar items have a few Chinese characters in the header. I don't know why.
  • I have Android version 2.1 on the phone. I don't know if 2.2 is available (or even appropriate) for my phone. Since I have an unlocked phone, I presume that ATTs' network isn't going to prompt me to update the OS.
  • I haven't even tried the camera yet. The phone has linked up with my stuff on Picasa, though.
  • I like to use my wifi network when I am at home, even though I have decent 3G coverage there. I don't know how to tell if the XT701 is sending data over the wifi or 3G networks. My old E71 made this very easy.
  • I still need to identify apps would be useful to me. Other than calendaring and email, which seem to be adequately covered with what is shipped in the phone, I'm primarily interested in to-do lists, punch lists, and grocery lists, which are often scribbled on scraps of paper. Everyone seems to love Evernote, but I don't want to have to learn a new product if I can make do with what I have. It is also possible that something specific (a grocery list management app) might be better than something more free form (like Evernote, or even just a Word or gDoc file) would be.
  • I would like a countdown/timer app. Which one is best for me?
  • I need to choose better alarm and ring tones. Waking up this morning was a little too exciting, with the default alarm noise.
  • I need to decide if I want to add Evernote to my repertoire and what I would do about OneNote in that case.
  • I'm disappointed that I can't directly edit Google Docs files (yet). I had hoped to upload the few tiny Word files that I update with any frequency to gDocs and edit them there, via the phone or via any web browser. Since the phone can't edit gDocs yet, I will need to stick my Word files on the SD card and use QuickOffice, or migrate the data to something else, like Evernote.

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