I’m no stranger to smart phones. I’ve had a Blackberry for several years now for work. Not being tied to a computer just to get e-mail seems normal now, and as it should be. However, it has it’s good and bad points. I’ve started referring to the device as my “leash” since it keeps me tied to the office where ever I go. Even though it would be useful while I’m out and about exploring, I’ve to where I leave it at home when I’m not on duty. To me, it represents work, and occasionally I’d like to escape. Laura had wanted to get me a new smart phone of my own at Christmas, but that didn’t work out. I recently got a bit of cash from a singing gig, and decided that now might be the time before we start some summer traveling.
After some debate and research, I decided upon the HTC Incredible. Since we are on Verizon the iPhone wasn’t an option. At first I was intrigued by the Palm Pre. I liked its ability to act as a WiFi hub for multiple devices. However, I wasn’t as sure about the availability of apps for Palm. That narrowed it to either the Motorola Droid or the brand new HTC Incredible. While I really liked the Droid’s physical keyboard, the speed and overall specs of the Incredible won out, especially since they were the same price.
I won’t go into a detailed review of the Incredible. Others have done a much better job. However, these are my impressions so far, and my impressions about smart phones in general.
One of the reasons I picked an Android OS based device was the number of location aware applications available. There are lots of apps that let you search for items nearby. For example, you can get a barcode scanner app that uses the phone’s camera to read the code, then search for best pricing in nearby stores. Google Goggles is an experimental app that will let you a photo, will geotag it, then try to find information about items in that photo online. Powerful stuff.
My Blackberry also has GPS, and probably could have done some of these things, However, apart from screen real estate, one of the biggest differences between my Blackberry and the HTC is the accelerometer. The device is not just location aware, but position and orientation aware.
Google Sky Map will pull up a map of stars and constellations based on your location. But it goes beyond that. Hold the HTC up the sky and you will see a labeled map of that section of sky (assuming you’re not in a light polluted area like we are.) If you point the device at a different bit of sky, the map rotates accordingly. Laura pointed it down at the ground, and it showed southern hemisphere stars, including the Southern Cross.
I’ve had an iPod Touch for about a year now, so I’m familiar with an accelerometer’s potential for gaming. but this ability to combine position, location, orientation, and immediate access to Internet data really opens up more possibilities.
That’s just a tiny sample of what this thing can do. Here’s a few more things I’ve used the new phone for in the past six days since I’ve had it…
- Police scanner
- Internet radio (Pandora in my car!)
- Carpenter’s level
- Google Earth
- Take photos (8 megapixals with panorama and other cool effects)
- video camera
- barcode reader
- pitch pipe
- Internet browser
- weather station
- remote control for iTunes
- media player (I watched the Kentucky Derby on it backstage at the Peace Center while waiting for my concert to start)
- organize contacts
- and, oh yeah, I’ve made a few phone calls on it.
Devices such as this almost surpass the old Star Trek tricorder. And, yes, you can get a tricorder app.
With all this pizzazz there are a few downsides. The device EATS battery power. That’s the biggest problem. I have a problem with the on-screen virtual keyboard, and I absolutely hate the predictive typing. When I get a chance I’m going to turn that off. The camera is superior to any phone camera I’ve had, but 8 megapixels don’t compensate for slow auto-focus and lack of a physical zoom. Since Android apps are more open than iPhone apps, I’ve gotten some surprising advertising on a few that I’ve downloaded. And finally, the device is bulkier than my old phone.
There is something to be said for a tool that does one thing and does it very well. The Kindle is an excellent example as an e-reader. If I want very accurate GPS readings I’ll use one of those devices. If I want better photos, I’ll use one of my Nikons. I don’t see this as a replacement, but as a complement to those devices I already own.
I’m happy with the new phone. I’m sure I’ll discover even more fun things to do with it.