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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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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