April 27, 2009

24 Hours with Android

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:40 am by dgcombs

Lucky me. I bought a cell phone in 2007 called a Sprint Touch, also known as the HTC Vogue. It came with Windows Mobile 6.0 and a few months after buying it, HTC offered an upgrade to version 6.1 of Windows Mobile. This is a touch-screen only device. There’s no keyboard. Recently some fabulous hackers around the world crafted a version of Google’s phone software, Android, that would run on the Vogue. Katie gave me a Touch Diamond, an upgrade to the Touch for my birthday. It’s a capable phone. But I’ve had my eye on the Palm Pre. The reviews of Android indicate that it’s almost as good as sliced bagels. With Android in the mix, I have a choice: Touch Diamond with Windows Mobile 6.5, Palm Pre or Touch Diamond with Android.

So I thought I should try Android myself.

On Thursday afternoon, I cleverly followed the instructions and behold! Android runs! I enabled voice and data on the Vogue, pulled the battery out of the Diamond and took my “new” phone home. All that evening I played with the phone. I connected it to my Gmail account. I ran the browser. I got used to the buttons. I had plans for Friday. I thought I’d use Android just for a few hours. But I kind of got to like it. So I thought I’d use it at least part way through Friday. Anyway, I had a backup plan. The only way to run Android on these devices is using Haret. This effectively sets up your WinMo phone as dual boot. If I got in over my head on Friday, I could always reboot and end up back in Windows Mobile.

First task Friday was to meet a co-worker at the Atlanta Inforum where some of our servers are located. I wanted to map out the network using a Fluke OptiView. How was traffic in downtown Atlanta? I used Android’s Google Maps to choose my route to the Inforum and validate the most traffic-free path. Ok – so where in the world IS this Inforum anyway? Well, of course it’s at 250 Williams Street in Atlanta. Thanks, Android/Google Maps!

But where was Bobby? He was late. I parked in “Visitors” and was limited to two hours. I waited. And waited. Finally I figured I should email or call or something! But Android didn’t have any of my contacts on it. I wasn’t able to transfer my Windows Mobile contacts (or my Google contacts) to Android. I finally settled on emailing him. I used the Android web browser to connect to the Outlook Web Access and send a message. It worked like a charm and Bobby arrived thirty minutes later.

After finishing up at the Inforum, I had an hour to kill. I’d like to find a Cariboo Coffee near by. They have Chai and free WiFi. So I used Google SMS (text message) to search for a Cariboo Coffee near the Inforum’s zip code, 30303. The nearest one was at Peachtree Center. I made a wrong turn on the way and decided to have lunch at another famous Atlanta landmark, the Varsity. It’s hard to find a cholesterol-friendly lunch there. But they do use canola oil for their onion rings. I figured that had to count for something!

I thought I’d use the WiFi at The Varsity to re-enable my Touch Diamond. But their WiFi was on the blink and I couldn’t get an IP address on my laptop. So I was left with Android for the afternoon. My next appointment was … what? Back to Outlook Web Access on Android. One o’clock meeting with ISACA-Atlanta at the Loudermilk Center. Where is that? Android/Google Maps again.

I got to the Center in plenty of time despite having a hard time finding the parking lot. Then I noticed ISACA provided lunch. I guess I should have read the email better. No onion rings though. During the meeting I didn’t want my phone making too much racket. Silence is an easy setting to find. Apparently other ISACA certified folks have a harder time finding the same setting on their iPhones and Blackberry’s.

Tyler had soccer practice at five that evening. He sent me a silent text message to let me know he’d had a rough day at school. Asking me if practice was on. Checking to see if I would be coaching the practice. I was able to respond rapid fire to these messages quietly. The on-screen keyboard is hard to hit just right. The Android code is designed for a capacitative touch screen but the Vogue has a resistive touch screen. As a result the touch often hits two or three keys or none. Fortunately, the keyboard that comes with the Cupcake version of Android makes backspace an easy key to hit… a lot.

After practice, Tyler and I headed home to pan seared salmon filets.

During the evening I decided to leave Android on the phone until Saturday. Tyler’s soccer game didn’t start until 10:30 so I could sleep in. I spent a few minutes setting the alarm on Android and choosing the wake-up call. I decided against Reveille and rooster. I picked a less irritating Claire de Lune. Precisely at 7:30am I woke up to the strains of deBussy, refreshed and ready to watch soccer! But first, I switched off Android and reverted to Windows Mobile on the Touch Diamond.

Things I liked about Android:

  • It works. Yeah, it just plain works. No reboots, no runs no errors. That’s what you need in a phone. Phone’s shouldn’t stop working. I could do everything I needed to get done.
  • Menus make sense. There are two ways to run a program. There is an upside window shade that scrolls UP. It has program icons on it. The other is to drag and drop these icons on the “desktop.” The desktop is three screens wide and you get from one to the other with a sideways swish of your finger.
  • Best ever integration with Gmail. I’ve not seen anything that works with Gmail better than this. It’s outstanding.
  • Excellent web browser. I had no trouble with any web page. The only thing that doesn’t work is Adobe Flash, not uncommon. It doesn’t work on iPhone or Windows Mobile either. 
  • Multiwindow browser. One of the neat feature of the browser is its ability to show you multiple windows. You choose which one you want or even which one to close or open a new one.
  • Easy to get used to.  I anticipated having problems getting used to the software. It was… well, different. But moving from one function to another was about as easy as it gets.
  • Multitasking works. I found I could cut and paste between applications without any problem!

Things that I’d like improved about Android:

  • I need more applications. Yeah, there’s an Android App Market. But not many apps. And I couldn’t figure out how to download any of them to my Vogue. I was off Twitter, couldn’t update my blog, had no way to read Word documents, couldn’t sync my Gmail contacts or Outlook/Exchange contacts, couldn’t check my RSS Feeds or listen to podcasts or VPN to work. Worst of all, I couldn’t sync my tasks with Remember the Milk! I’m moving to a cloud-based computing. All my information is in a cloud somewhere. But on the hand held side, I need access to that information. There just weren’t enough applications on Android to allow me to do everything I wanted to.
  • The keyboard/screen integration didn’t work well. Of course, it doesn’t work well on most touch systems. But with no hand writing recognition to fall back on, it’s more important.

All in all, Android is much better than I thought it would be. If development continues to progress, choosing between Android and WebOS and Windows Mobile may be tougher than I expected.

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1 Comment »

  1. Mom said,

    Very concise overview – almost you persuade me to update from my ‘cheap’ phone. You are really ‘connected’. Your loving Mom!


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