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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. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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