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Techology Untangled: The Android alternative to the iPhone

Stephen Bour
December 8, 2010
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Technology UntangledI bought a new smartphone recently. Since I wanted to stay with Verizon, I was unable to consider an iPhone (although Verizon says that iPhones may be available in several months). Instead, I chose a phone with the competing Android operating system. Today’s review will discuss the latest Droid phones by Motorola and their Android software.

Two of the newest Droid phones released by Motorola are the Droid X and the Droid 2. The main difference between the two is that the Droid X is a touch screen only phone, while the Droid 2 has a slide-out keyboard for texting. I have never been a big fan of touch screen virtual keyboards, so the choice was easy for me. The Droid X is wider and slimmer than the Droid 2, and very similar in form to the iPhone. Both phones have an expansive list of features and a seemingly unlimited menu of additional applications available for download.

While there are many, many applications available for download at several dollars a pop, there are many free apps, too; in fact, a lot more than I expected. One free application I enjoy is the scanner radio app that lets me to listen in on police and emergency radio calls locally, or from places all over the world. Another is the Lookout security app (mylookout.com) that can remotely turn on the phone GPS to help find my lost phone on a map and activate a loud alarm.

The navigation app that came with the phone and works with Google maps has been very useful and is beginning to replace my standalone car GPS. This application allows me to simply speak a destination such as “Starbucks” or “grocery store” and then receive spoken instructions with maps and actual street level photographs to guide me to the destination of my choice. Google owns the Android operating system, so you get all the benefits of Google’s databases when using it.

Aside from the fun applications, my more important business need for this new Droid 2 phone was its usefulness for e-mail and Web browsing. The e-mail works very well and the Web browsing is much faster than I expected. I guess I am starting to believe some of Verizon’s hype about its fast 3G data network. The browsing works even faster when you set up the phone to work with a Wi-Fi network instead of the 3G when a connection is available.

Here is a tip for even more efficient smartphone Web browsing. Check if the websites you visit regularly offer an Android application. For example, I found that the Android application for my local television news site had a cleaner, faster, and more efficient interface that simply worked and looked better than the “standard computer” page or the “mobile device” Web page.

Labeling a device like the Droid as a “smartphone” really isn’t descriptive enough. A better description for my Droid 2 is a computer that happens to include a phone app. And as a computer, it has many of the foibles of every other computer I’ve owned. For example, sometimes it will spontaneously lock up, and the only solution is to power down and reboot (at least it doesn’t take as long as rebooting a Windows computer). It struggles with certain applications for no specifically identifiable reason. Usually the expedient solution is to uninstall the offending application. This may simply be the nature of Android application market, where new apps are likely rushed to market without thorough testing.

A smartphone like this Droid has so many features and so much capability that actual phone calls almost become an interruption to my working with the applications! For example, I have had the verbal driving directions of the navigation app interrupted by a phone call right when I was at a critical turn. I have also had the directional instructions speak up and distract me while I was in the middle of an important phone call. These types of problems make me almost wish that I instead had a simple, standalone cell phone for communication, and a separate device to run all the intriguing apps. Well, isn’t that precisely the niche of the iPad?

I never understood the need for non-phone, non-computer devices like the iPad. I reasoned that a computer and a smartphone would pretty well cover all my needs. But I now better understand the appeal and see the utility of a device that acts neither as a phone or as a full-blown computer. Verizon does now offer the iPad, but I’ve taken a liking to the Android operating system, so the next Android device that I plan to consider is the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet computer.•

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Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD, and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.

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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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