Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: The Motorola Droid X [Nerd Reviews] Jul30

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Kicking Back With Jersey Joe: The Motorola Droid X [Nerd Reviews]

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a blogumn by Jersey Joe

So, Verizon Wireless has decided to challenge Apple’s domination of the smartphone market by rolling out their super-duper new phone, the Droid X from Motorola.  With my last cell phone dying and my contract up, I decided to go all high-tech and pick up this phone.  So, can it give the iPhone a run for their money, and do we really need all these high-tech apps, and most importantly, can it actually make a call?  I put the Droid X to the test.

The Droid X officially went on sale at all Verizon Wireless stores on Thursday, July 15th.  My previous phone was the LG Env 2 and it was just over two years old.  For the last six months, the phone was basically a piece of junk.  It would drop calls even if I turned my head just a little, the speaker was hard to hear from the start, and the internet was something out of the late 90s.  Some recent events in my life required that I have a reliable phone, which my old one was not.  My two-year contract with Verizon was up the Saturday before the Droid release, so I gave it some serious thought.

I checked out the demonstration on Verizon’s website and I also looked up some early reviews online.  I really couldn’t find any negative articles about it.  Several people I know have the iPhone and love all the apps and the web browsing.  The Droid seemed to offer this as well.  I have been a Verizon Wireless customer for years and had no desire to switch carriers.  It was then that I decided, I would go for the Droid X.

The Verizon Wireless store near New York City’s Herald Square opens at 8:30am in the morning.  Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see if there was going to be a major demand for this phone.  The store is only seconds away from the subway station where I change trains on my way to work, so I decided to take a look.

What I found was a line of people entering the store at exactly 8:30.  The woman at the door was handing out numbers.  They were already in the 30s and the place was jammed.  There was no way I was going to be able to wait, since I had to be at work in less than 30 minutes.

I didn’t care about being the first to have the phone, so I went on my way.  There is another store near where I work, so I decided to stop by during my lunch.  I walked in right around noon and not a single person was waiting to purchase the phone.  There were several other customers at the counter, including a senior citizen who had a Blackberry-type phone and couldn’t get the radio turned off.  She was arguing with the very patient clerk to have that feature removed.  After what seemed forever, he finally told her not to push the button that turned on that function on and she was finally on her way.

I waited less than 10 minutes and then was waited on.  They had a small pyramid of what looked to be over 30 Droid X’s stacked up behind the counter.  After taking some general information from me, the clerk grabbed mine.  Of course, he tried the obvious accessories upsale.  I did need a new headphone jack, since my old one would not work since the ear phone plug on the Droid is a little bigger than on most phones.  That was $22.49.  He also suggested screen covers (which I am glad he did) and those ran $11.24.  He also suggested a case (which I also agree was a good purchase) and that ran $14.99.

With Verizon’s “new every two” promotion, I was able to save $50 off the cost of the phone, bringing the official cost for the Droid X unit to $249.99.  There is also a $100 rebate that comes in the form of a Visa gift card.  With all the accessories, the grand total came to $325.25.  (that’s without the $100 rebate, since it’s not an instant rebate and it will arrive via mail later.)

As soon as I left the store, I immediately made a call.  I instantly noticed the improved sound and clarity over my old phone.  A quick look at the unit and you can see the larger speaker located in the top center of the phone.  It’s a small rectangle, probably around a centimeter.  I was walking down a busy New York street and I was able to hear and carry on my conversation just fine, a definite improvement over my old phone.  It’s also nice, not to have to slam the unit against my head to be able to hear.

I also quickly noticed the large screen.  I found that it was slim enough to fit easily in my pocket and was not too heavy.  Also, this is one of the first phones that adjust to light.  I was able to read what was on the screen in near direct sunlight.  (I’ve since been able to give it a try on a sunny beach and was able to see the screen as well.)  The unit does get a little hot after prolonged use, but it’s not so hot that it becomes a non-issue.

As the afternoon went on, I began to explore all the apps.  My downloaded apps are easy to access by pressing the circular triangle icon in the center of the main screen.  To download new ones, simply press the Market icon and begin to search.  I was blown away by the number of freebies on here.

Here’s a quick look at some of the better apps that I’ve downloaded so far:

A Bar and Clubs app that gives me directions to the closest one by using my current GPS location.

A Fast Food app, which was featured on one of the Droid commercials, where by just clicking on the name of the chain I am craving, again using GPS, it points me in the direction of the nearest chair restaurant.  This one works for the most part.  Some of the smaller national chains, such as Little Caesar’s Pizza, actually points me to local restaurants with a similar name.

I’ve also enjoyed a Flashlight app, which is just that, a flashlight.

The NYCMate, which give you tons of information on New York.  Everything from subways to restaurants.  The subway schedule is also a great tool.  I can head to the nearest station, which it gives me directions to, and it will tell me what time the train will arrive.  This is not 100% accurate, however since the schedule is set by the MTA.  These trains are not always on time.  But, it does work for the most part.  It also provides bus and Long Island Railroad schedules as well.

Shazam is a music finding app that most of my iPhone friends love.  Simply press the button and the program can identify and song that is playing near you.  It’s very accurate, but the new version has a major drawback.  In the past, you could identify as many songs as you wanted.  Now, without a subscription, you can only check on 5 songs a month.  That’s weak.  This app is designed to give you the name of the song for a possible purchase.  I’m not subscribing just to find the name of the song I can google at home later.

ShopSavvy is another fun app that can help identify how much a product costs and where to buy it.  Just press the button and the Droid’s camera will turn on.  Hold up a product to the camera and scan the barcode just like they do in the store.  The app will identify it, tell you how much it should cost, and where to buy it both online and in the nearest store.

I also downloaded a Metal Detector app that really works.  Just place your phone near something metal and it will vibrate just like a real metal detector.  I’m not totally sure how this one works, but it’s quite surprising and a ton of fun.  It’s not 100% accurate and more of a novelty.

These are all the major apps that I’ve downloaded and tried in the last week and a half since I’ve had this phone.  But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I am sincerely happy, I signed up for the unlimited data plan.  The cost is $29.99 a month, but without it, you seriously risk getting slapped with a big data fee while using this phone.  Most of the apps connect to the internet or GPS.  You really need an unlimited plan to get the most out of this phone.  I would never consider purchasing this without it.

The internet browsing is quite fast as well.  Web pages pop up rather quick with Verizon’s 3G network.  At times, it does slow down to 1x, but it still gets the job done.  It’s nowhere near as bad as my first internet dial-up connection, but it’s no high speed home internet either.  I love being able to zoom in and out on websites as I need.  The only drawback so far is you really can’t play most video from websites.  I hope they will fix this with the next software update.

I find the 8 megapixel HD camera to be of excellent quality.  The photos will get a little pixeled when you zoom way in, but most people aren’t going to do that on their photos.  The phone can connect to your HDTV via an HDMI cable to view your videos on the big screen.

To take a still photo, just click the camera app, and you’re ready to go.  The phone will automatically store the photos in folders on the phone or you can tell them where to go.  You can also embed your GPS coordinates and even the nearest town as part of your photos.  I took a few test shots on the Atlantic City Boardwalk last week.  When I view one of those photos, I can click on the Atlantic City text on my screen, and it will produce a GPS map of my location.  There is also a built in flash, that when set to automatic, can wash out the image in really dark surroundings.  It works great most of the time, but there have been a few photos where the flash got in the way.

Another handy tool of the GPS maps is the real time traffic.  I was stuck in a major jam on Interstate 80 last week.  I took out my Droid X and clicked on the Google map.  It zoomed right to my location and indicated that I would be stuck in heavy traffic for another 5 miles and then more slow traffic for a few more after that.  I was shocked how dead on the reading was.  The traffic jam broke up at the exact curve on the interstate the phone indicated.  That was extremely helpful.  Google is heavily integrated into the operation of the phone and in this case, nothing could be better.

Verizon also provides you with a Gmail account upon purchase.  You can use your current Gmail email during purchase if you have one, or create a free account.  When you receive an email, the phone will give you an alert.  You can also use Yahoo mail by downloading their app.  You can pretty much use any email carrier, just by going to their webpage as you would do at home on your normal desktop computer.  There is no support for Microsoft Outlook as of yet.

Facebook can also be a big part of this phone.  When I first signed into my Facebook account using the phone, my contact list imported into my existing contacts that were originally stored on my old phone.  Your friends profile pics become their icons in your phone.  When they change it on Facebook, it changes on your phone.  There is a special tab where you can update your status right from your phone and view what your friends have wrote.  Most of the features on the Facebook wall work well, including pics and messages.  However, you cannot view any videos that have been uploaded.  Again, I hope they fix this in the next software update.

This phone is also great for hands free talking while driving.  The Droid features voice recognition software that is great for dialing numbers without taking your hands off the wheel.  You can also speak text messages and it will type and send.  This works for the most part, but there are some words it just can’t get right.  I had a hard time telling it to call: MOM HOME.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what this phone can do.  One big beef I have with Verizon and Motorola is the lack of an instruction manual.  Only a small pamphlet is included in the original box.  It did take some trial and error, with a bit of searching around the phone, to get familiar with it.  A more detailed manual might have been a little easier in the beginning.

The unit also can drain the battery quite fast.  I usually drain about 70% of the battery on a normal day.  Now, I am using the apps, texting, talking, and surfing the internet.  Friends have said they face the same problem with the iPhone.  It just sucks the battery down.  Hopefully, we can come up with something that will store more juice.

The Droid X definitely gives the iPhone, and even the new iPhone 4, a run for it’s money.  I’ve read all the news stories about the new iPhone dropping calls, but of the friends that have one, they don’t have that problem.  At times, they cannot get online or send text messages either when the network becomes overloaded, but I haven’t had that problem with the Droid.  Verizon simply has a better network than AT&T.  I’m also a little less inclined to purchase the iPhone because many of the users have the whole “Mac snob” mentality.  I do not need to run out every time there is a new version of the phone, because Steve Jobs says I do.  I know a few iPhone users that were counting down the milliseconds to the iPhone 4’s release.  Their version 3 phone was fine and version 4 wasn’t that major of an update, yet they had to have it.  I thought that’s a bit much, maybe I’m missing something.  When the Droid X 2 comes out, if the one now I have isn’t broken, then I’ll stick with it.

THE 411

DROID X

What: Smartphone available to Verizon Wireless customers

Manufacturer: Motorola

Cost: my total was $325.25, not counting the $100 Visa card rebate, with a 2 year service contract

JERSEY JOE RECCOMMENDS: If you want more than just the standard cell phone, absolutely take a look at the Droid X.   However, you will pay big bucks in the long run if you don’t go for the unlimited data plan.  This phone is made to surf the net and it’s definitely more than just a phone.  It certainly is Verizon’s answer to the iPhone and is quite similar in many ways.  I noticed a great deal of the apps are available for both phones.  I say, go with Verizon and the Droid X, simply because they have a better network.  It is rumored that Verizon will be offering the iPhone soon.  Even if that happens, the Droid is still a good alternative and has simply been a great phone.  It’s a little pricy, but you get what you pay for.  Just watch out for the apps that have a monthly fee or an initial upfront fee.  You don’t want to be getting a surprise on your bill.  Also, just like on the internet, watch what you are downloading, and you should have a happy experience with the great piece of 21st century technology.