My wife and I picked up new ‘phones’ last week. Penny wanted a phone with a slide out keyboard so she would be able to text more easily. I wanted a Droid.
The Droid is a 4 inch machine running a slim Linux Kernel called Android. The whole thing is orchestrated by Google. The machine comes with 16 gigs of flash memory, a 5 megapixel camera, audio player that plays several different formats of music including MP3s, GPS, 3.7 inch touch screen, slide out keyboard, WiFi, wireless broadband, a very sophisticated (free) software installation framework, and, oh yeah, a phone.
Not wanting to scare her off I dumbed it down a tad. I said something like “This one has a keyboard. And you can log into Pandora and stream your channel 24 hours a day.” She was sold.
When were just about done checking out and I’ve had about 1/2 hour to tell her all about ‘this and that’ I mention that it doesn’t come with a manual. You have to learn how to use it by actually using it. Among other things there is a big search box on the main screen. Instinctively you find your way to Google MTK Droid Tools. Google can answer any question.
We each found cool stuff to show each other over the next 8 hours. ‘TV time’ that night became ‘install-try-uninstall time’. We tried out every free Droid app we could get out hands on.
My current app list includes:
* a dictionary
* an app with information on every country
* another with info on each of the United States
* an app with just about every math and physics formula you can imagine
* a copy of the Constitution
* the periodic table with all the basics on each element
* an interface to play audio versions of just about every influential book that has fallen out of copyright
* a crappy DirecTV app to set my DVR to record (better than nothing but this is weak and I expect something really slick and similar to the same searches that can be done directly on the DirecTV box)
* an LED scroller that shows the message you type in (think “Get me a beer, plz” on a lit up sign)
* a light saber with the sound-FX following the Droid’s movement
* the Bible
* the Quran
* several WiFi tools to not only find hot spots but to see which channels have the least traffic
* a ton of relaxation noise machines
* a Darth Vader soundboard
* headlines from NPR and BBC World
* the weather radar for where I happen to be standing (goooo GPS)
* the 10 day and hour by hour forecast from the Weather Channel for where I happen to be standing (GPS is so abused in Android apps)
* a few tools to automate common Android tasks
* a guitar tuner
* flashlight app that turns the flash on and leaves it on until you turn it off
* copied 5 gigs of music to it – turning it into a USB drive for a desktop computer was a tad strange
I’ve spent probably 72 hours during the past week geeking:
* set up all the various options to my preferred settings
* set up the phone to teach me Spanish using 5 different apps
* set up a rather complex Personal Assistant to remind me of just about everything using 4 apps but I’m adding at least 2 more for specific task lists
* on my regular PC I installed the developer’s tool kit, the java programming libraries, an Android OS emulator, wrote and ran a little BS app so I could see what the developers see
* joined a couple Droid-Fanboy forums
* joined a couple Android-Developer forums
* wormed my way out of xWindows and into the underlying file structure
* tricked the phone into doing a full install of the Perl programming language
I can really see a future for the Android OS. I have no idea what is going on for iPhones and BlackBerry. They will not be able to go where the Android will go unless they are willing to let other people use their OS.