Tag: android


HTC Droid Incredible first impressions

My HTC Incredible came in the mail today from Verizon. After ripping the package open like a kid on Christmas, I ran into the good and bad of the device very quickly. I don’t have time to do a full writeup on the Incredible right now, but here are my impressions from the first few hours:

(for some perspective, I have been on an original iPhone for two and a half years, and I tested the Motorola Droid for a month after its release before deciding it wasn’t for me.)


  • HTC’s Sense UI is nothing short of amazing. I wasn’t surprised to see Android have a clunky default UI, seeing as Google is such an engineering-centric company, but HTC really put a lot of thought into streamlining the whole user experience. Sense has a much better keyboard and autocorrection system, which has me typing at almost the speed I type on my iPhone, on which I’ve had two and a half years’ practice. Also, the UI is fully multi-touch, and does so very well.
  • Performance wise, this phone screams. Nothing seems to choke it up.
  • I’m still getting used to the “optical trackball” at the bottom of the phone. I want to use it like an inertial scroll, similar to a finger swipe on the screen. It’s a pain to try and scroll with just the nub of my thumb, but once I swipe the whole length of my finger across the trackpad, it becomes a lot more useful.
  • Speaker quality is very good for both the earpiece and the speakerphone.
  • So far I am impressed with the quality of the camera and its dual-LED flash. The autofocus works very well. I’m disturbed that my phone captures images at 8 megapixels while my high-end point-and-shoot has six.
  • Complaints about the Incredible’s quality of materials are highly exaggerated. I prefer metal phones myself, but this hardware is very solid and have no doubts that it’ll last me through a 2-year contract. (I couldn’t say the same about the Motorola Droid, which had a loosely seated headphone jack and battery cover that was constantly falling off.) The soft touch plastic back feels great, and its unique angular design on the back is a lot more subdued than it looks in pictures- once you feel how thin the device is, it’s a lot less of a problem.
  • Likewise with the display- people say AMOLED displays like those on the Incredible and Nexus One are terrible in sunlight. Yes, it is not very good, but it only becomes a serious problem with the sun beating straight down on it from overhead. (Want a display that deserves a bad rap? Try a Palm IIIc.)
  • Verizon sent a free 2GB microSD card in the box that wasn’t advertised in the pre-order contents. My guess is that this is Verizon’s quick fix for existing compatibility issues for apps that don’t recognize the device’s 8GB of internal flash memory, which is a first for an Android device. Yes, it’s small, but it’s free and unexpected. My bet is that these phones will start coming with microSD cards preinstalled.


  • The display is quite good, but doesn’t blow me away quite like the Motorola Droid did.
  • Cell reception is noticeably worse than that of the Motorola Droid. I haven’t tested this enough to know if it’s a serious issue or not.
  • The Incredible comes loaded with HTC’s version of Flash Light, which works with some stuff and doesn’t work with other stuff. It’s an imperfect solution, and becoming irrelevant as Apple forces the web towards HTML5, but Android 2.2 will have full-powered Flash anyways.
  • The USB port on the device plugs in on the bottom left side in portrait orientation- right where you want your left palm to rest while typing with both thumbs in portrait orientation. You can mangle your fingers around it in an effort to avoid it, but basically you’re going to want to use this puppy in landscape mode all the time while charging.
  • There are without a doubt some growing pains for a brand new device launching just today on Verizon. My data connection didn’t work at first, and Verizon’s technical rep told me it was likely a problem with HTC and Verizon’s initial network setup for this phone. They got it working for me eventually. (The problem was server-end.) Also, some things that could be fixed in a firmware update include an oversensitive ambient light sensor – it seems to make tiny adjustments when lighting conditions barely change – and navigation button LEDs that occasionally turn off when they shouldn’t.
  • Motorola preloaded a lot more interesting ringtones on the Droid than HTC did on this phone. That’s a matter of taste, but I found myself rushing to make my own ringtone ASAP on this thing.

So basically, this phone addresses almost all of the concerns that kept me from keeping the Motorola Droid. Sense UI is a joy to use, performance is increased, and the build quality seems much more solid to me (albeit not metal). I feel like I’m much more likely to choose to keep this and move my contract over to Verizon. The only holdout I have in my mind as of now is the quality of cell reception, which I’ll have to test some more outside of my signal-killing brick house.


iPhone Dual Boot with Android Working

David Wong, better known as “planetbeing” of the iPhone Dev Team which produces jailbreak after jailbreak, uploaded this video detailing his rather mature port of Android OS to dual boot natively on the original iPhone:


Video link

This port, while not mature enough for most people to start relying upon it for their everyday use, is an incredible achievement that has the potential to tangibly change the face of tomorrow’s smartphone market.

Don’t get me wrong: dual booting iPhone OS and Android offers pretty much nothing to the everyday consumer. Even for gadget geeks like myself, its added utility will be nothing more than a cheap trick for showing  people 2 OSes, 1 Phone. (Sorry.) But what makes this important is that soon, developers will only have to have one device to develop for both iPhone and Android platforms. And many developers already own the device needed to do so.

This might possibly be a catalyst for even more development on the Android platform, as it will become available to millions of devices that are already in users’ hands. If it catches on, I think we’ll start seeing a much more mature Android Marketplace and a lot more small shops developing dual-platform applications.

This still has a good ways to go before it’s a useful solution:

  • This port isn’t of the recent Android 2.0 or even 2.1 releases- rather a 9-month old one.
  • It only runs on the original iPhone, with a small user base. planetbeing says porting to the much more popular 3G should be easier, and the 3GS with more work.
  • It isn’t a fully-customized port; button functions have funky mappings and it needs to be better integrated to the hardware to become useful.

Overall, planetbeing has done an incredibly impressive job with his port, and I’m surprised this was even remotely possible, much less such a functional port.

planetbeing has hosted the initial pre-built images and source here. Check out his post for more information, and give him a donation if you’re someone who stands to find this port useful.


What iPhone OS 4 means to everyone

Today Apple announced their latest revision to iPhone OS, the mobile computing platform behind the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. iPhone OS is running on over 85 million devices, so it’s a pretty big deal. I don’t want to waste my breath repeating every announced feature, so I’ll just refer you over to Engadget’s excellent summary of it all.

This will be the fourth major release in four years for Apple. But for the first time, this release seems to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. Overall, I think Apple is trying to keep up in feature parity with this year’s huge new threat from Android devices. That competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing; Apple has a long history of waiting to enter a market and then turn it upside down and shake all the customers out of the competition’s pockets. (See: iPod, iPhone, possibly iPad.) But I think OS 4 in specific brings up some new issues for everyone who has a reason to care about mobile computing.

Innovators & Developers

What worries me most is Apple’s approach to allowing background tasks to run. Instead of implementing real multitasking in the same way desktop computers do, where every program stays running and can request CPU resources at any time, they have created seven services to allow specific actions to run in the background: audio, VoIP, geolocation, push notifications, local notifications, task completion, and fast app switching (which isn’t really a service, but the new behavior of “sleeping” rather than quitting an application.) Yes, this allows for a lot more functionality in apps while addressing a lot of the problems inherent in allowing multitasking on a mobile device. But why it’s interesting, and in my opinion not so great, is because it limits ways developers can innovate and make the next “killer app.” It’s like Apple said, “What can’t people do without multitasking?” (Or more likely, “What is Android doing now that we can’t?”) and then put out specific fixes for those existing use cases. Yes, users will soon be able to leave Pandora or Skype running in the background. But guess what? You don’t work for Pandora or Skype, and you probably don’t want to compete with them. This is a stop-gap reaction to current iPhone deficiencies instead of a new platform upon which innovators can make the Next Big Thing. I’m not saying iPhone OS multitasking itself is a bad feature; I’m saying that the platform is restricted to moving in directions chosen by Apple instead of letting developers take the helm. My bet is that we’ll see killer apps continue to be more functional on Android before they get “backported” to iPhone versions.

Another disturbing revelation is Apple’s banning of tools that allow applications to be developed with other platforms and then cross-compiled to run as native iPhone apps. MonoTouch allows iPhone apps to be written in .NET, and later this month Flash CS5 will add iPhone support as well. The new terms:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

I believe this crosses the line and is textbook anticompetitive behavior. It’s one thing to say your OS will only run Objective-C apps. It’s another thing to say that your Objective-C can’t have been created by certain tools. I’ll leave it at that because John Gruber already has a thorough analysis of this issue.


Customers can look forward to yet another great evolution in one of the best – if not the best – mobile platforms. The new features keep up to par with all the new Android phones while still beating them on ease of use. If Apple’s track record continues this year, there will be a whole lot more for consumers to be excited about when new iPhones are announced this summer.

The Competition

  • Android (Google): Android’s key differentiators are gone, except for Google integration and the open development model. Google had better hope the iPhone stays exclusive to AT&T. If Android doesn’t keep up on performance and improve the user experience, fighting the iPhone will get a lot harder this year. Potential game changer: open app marketplace yields a killer app unavailable on the iPhone.
  • Windows Phone 7: iPhone OS adds better and better enterprise features with every release. Trying to convert to the same business model as the iPhone is a fatal mistake. Microsoft needs to kill WinMo 7 and buy RIM or Palm if they have any will to survive in this space.

Cell Phone Carriers

Skype has an amazing iPhone app. It will soon be running all the time and will let people make and receive unlimited calls for free. AT&T has already changed its mind and decided to allow unlimited VoIP traffic on their cellular data networks. The days of bundling tiered voice plans to smartphones are numbered.


This just further intensifies the smartphone identity crisis I’ve been going through all year. As a consumer, I feel like I’ll be very happy buying an Android phone or a new iPhone later this year, as both serve my needs so well. Apple still creates a better holistic product due to their vertical control of the whole experience. But at the same time, my long bet is on Android’s success as an open platform. The feature parity is so ridiculous now that I’ll be mostly considering non-OS aspects to make my purchase, like network providers, hardware features and build quality.


Follow-up: This isn’t the DROID I’m looking for.

Last week I posted an article about my thoughts on Verizon’s Motorola DROID after using it for a week. Here’s where I stand after over two weeks now:

I’m not going to keep it. I love its superior functionality. I can overlook the young OS’s shortcomings. The hardware just isn’t resilient enough. There’s no way that it will hold up under my usage patterns for two years.  I have already exchanged one Droid for another unit due to shorts in the loosely-seated headphone jack. The battery cover loves to fall off without user modification. And the keyboard seems to be made of one contiguous sheet of plastic, so I can’t imagine that holding up well over time. For comparison, my original iPhone is still in excellent condition, and no parts have worn out at all.

The OS itself is pretty good overall, but it has some bugs that kill me. Were it on better hardware, I wouldn’t switch devices solely because of them. Most annoying is how I can’t ever stream a long podcast without it dying halfway through – and this happens with any app, it must be an OS problem. Today, the whole screen refused to turn on and I had to remove the battery to force reboot it.

Today, when I came to the point of telling myself, “I couldn’t keep using this for two years, I have to send it back,” it really pained me. Despite the crappy build quality and occasional software problem, I am loving the crap out of Verizon’s network and 3G speed. I love having constant background applications so I have persistent and bug-free connections to Gmail, IM and Twitter. Integration with Google Talk is great, and I’d love to work on actually developing software for this phone. So naturally, I didn’t like the idea of having to return to AT&T and my nice, but albeit feature-limited iPhone.

I may not have to go back to AT&T after all. I’ve been trying to figure out all of the rumors going around about the HTC Bravo / Passion / Dragon. It may prove to be the Google Nexus One, which so far only is known to exist in a GSM variety. But it looks like the Passion is also slated for a Verizon release in January. I think HTC does a much better job at making great hardware, so I would jump at the opportunity to use a 1GHz, keyboard-free Android phone on Verizon.

So I have until January 13 before my “worry-free guarantee” on my contract expires. If the Passion comes out on Verizon, I’ll exchange my Droid for that. If it doesn’t, I’ll be back to AT&T or T-Mobile and my reliable old iPhone until something better comes along on Verizon.