Personal Review of Motorola Droid

On Thanksgiving Day I accidentally put my MotoRazr cell phone through the washing machine. Granted the screen had slowly collected lint over the last year and a half, but in hindsight this probably wasn’t the best way to clean it out. Sadly this wasn’t the first time I’ve sent my phone through the wash, though I am hoping it will be the last. Anyway, after a very short and unmotivated diagnosis I declared the Razr dead and bought the new Droid on Black Friday.

Unlike most of the initial reviews, I’ve actually had a couple weeks to use it and see how it holds up in day-to-day life. Here are the notes I’ve made along the way:

  • The touch screen is very fast and responsive; it never lags!
  • Multi-touch would be a welcomed addition, particularly for zooming. The “double tap to zoom” feature isn’t awesome, though it’s not frustratingly horrible either.
  • Occasionally it scrolls down the page when you just try to tap something. I haven’t had this problem much lately, so I think it was just a matter of getting used to how it responds to your tap.
  • Android (the phone’s operating system) is VERY impressive! The innovation behind Google is something I already endorse every day via Gmail, Maps, Calendar, etc… Knowing they are behind my phone’s interface is very reassuring.
  • I love the way it syncs with my contacts from Gmail and Facebook. All of my Gmail contacts were showing up in the phone when I left the Verizon store.
  • Contact grouping minimizes repetition in your list. If you have multiple entries or email addresses for someone it will automatically combine them into a single contact. However, it did get rather confused when it saw that I have an uncle named Steve Elliot…
  • Until the most recent firmware (or Android) update on December 11th it had recurring problems syncing with google. The remedy linked above wasn’t working for me, and it kept giving me the error message. Fortunately it has worked flawlessly since the update. (This makes me VERY happy!)
  • The Android Market is abundant, though not as plentiful as the iPhone App Store.
  • There are three keyboards:
  1. Virtual Vertical: A bit too small for my fingers. I’ve gotten better with it, but I still can’t type as fast as I would like. It is however great for one-handed use.
  2. Virtual Horizontal: my personal favorite. I can access the buttons easily and the keys keep up with my typing as fast as I can go.
  3. Slide-out QWERTY: it’s all right, though not spectacular. I frequently hit multiple keys at a time (on accident) when typing on it. I do love the multi-directional arrow pad though. I will often slide the keyboard out just to use it. It makes it much easier to reposition the cursor wherever you need it.
  • The keyboards disappear when changing orientation, so you have to tap the text field to get it to pop up again.  This is mildly annoying.
  • Auto-complete is excellent and doesn’t get in the way. Ninety-five percent of the time it gives me exactly the word I meant to type. I don’t have to waste time correcting the idiocy of auto-complete.
  • The Body Glove case (optional accessory) is the perfect balance between a rubbery grip and a hard case. It’s nice that you can still slide out the keyboard, but it makes the top row of keys a bit harder to hit (for my big fingers). It makes the overall size of the phone appear much bigger than it really is. (I will be using the phone without the case for the next week to see which I prefer.)
  • Slide out keyboard means moving parts, which means more places for dust to creep in.
  • Dedicated “Back” button makes everything better.
  • Multiple windows in Browser is revolutionary! It works just like tabs in Firefox. It’s one of the best examples of Android’s ability to run multiple tasks/apps simultaneously.
  • Perfect response time for switching orientation to/from vertical to horizontal. No waiting and shaking like the iPhone.
  • The built-in LED flash is fantastic. I don’t care for the direct flash in my photos, but it can be used as a flashlight with some of the apps. It’s much brighter than a screen whiteout.
  • I wish it would allow one more row of icons on the home screen. There is a lot of wasted space –particularly if you use Widgets.
  • Names and info from your contacts are automatically added to the user dictionary. Makes life easier.
  • Speaker volume almost seems inconsistent. Sometimes it’s too loud and other times it’s not loud enough. (I guess there are a lot of variables to consider though –ambient noise, connection strength, recorded volume, etc…)
  • Screen resolution is very impressive. Sharp detail and easy readability. Bright enough to see clearly outside on a sunny day.
  • There needs to be an option to disable the camera sound. Unless you put the Media Volume on silent the camera’s “shutter” sound is loud and annoying.
  • Accelerated scrolling is very well weighted. Makes it very easy to get through a long list or page without a lot of finger flicks.
  • The Facebook app leaves much to be desired. It’s not intuitive at all. Just opens the browser for most commands.
  • I can “Bump” with iPhones, thus making me a part of the cool kids club.
  • The Chipotle app is not currently available for the Droid. …That is almost a deal breaker for me. =)

The obvious comparison: If the iPhone has taught us anything it’s that cell phones aren’t just for making calls any more. Ultimately it comes down to the various apps available, and currently Apple has a better offering.

The iPhone has proven that consumers are willing to put up with a second-rate carrier (AT&T) to get the bells and whistles of the hardware. Verizon finally has an impressive phone on their great network, but I don’t think anybody expects it to actually replace the iPhone. At least there is now a comparable alternative.

Conclusion: I LOVE the Droid! It’s been a remarkable tool for me, and has drastically increased my productivity. At the end of the day, it depends on what you’re looking for in a phone. I personally wanted to be able to check email, surf the web, and have GPS for local searches. I haven’t downloaded a single game, song, or movie on my Droid even though I can. It’s just not important to me right now.

If all of your friends have iPhones and you want to be like them, get an iPhone. If you’re on Verizon and want a great phone, get a Droid.

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ICE! at Gaylord National

Okay so I’ve tweeted a few times about this “ICE!” thing, and everybody keeps asking me what exactly it is.  Here’s how I understand it…

Jump for Gaylord ICE!Each year all of the Gaylord Hotels do a thing they call ICE! (all caps with the exclamation point, if you wanna be picky).  Basically they setup a tent, chill it down to nine degrees Fahrenheit, bring in two million pounds of ice, and then sculpt it into a totally awesome winter wonderland.

But, you may be asking, how do you keep the temperature at nine degrees in a tent?!  And why does it have to be nine degrees if water freezes at 32?…  Honestly, I don’t have a clue.  What I do know, however, is that it’s worth checking out!  It would be an understatement to say that it’s impressive.

Aside from the amazingly detailed sculptures and the sheer volume of the work involved there are four slides made entirely of ice.  Just to make sure it was safe for kids I decided to test it out myself.  …five times to be exact.  =)

Ice Slide

I was pleasantly surprised at how non-miserable the temperature was.  Don’t get me wrong, nine degrees is butt cold!  However, it is certainly bearable.  The wonderful thing is that there is virtually no wind.  Your toes will inevitably freeze stiff if you don’t keep walking –I did a little running man dance action to keep the blood circulating to my toes; now I just wish I had video of this…

Anyway, I’m rambling.

Gaylord National ICEMoral of the story, if you’re near one of the four Gaylord Hotels this Christmas season, be sure to check out ICE!  You’ll be glad you did!

P.S.  I heard that one of the hotels is doing a Charlie Brown Christmas theme this year for ICE!  Needless to say, I’m SOOO jealous!  Hmm…  Hey Gaylord, do you need someone to photograph that ICE!?  I know a guy… =)

Why Not Now?

I’ve lived in D.C. for over seven years, yet I’ve never been to New York City.  It’s a mere four hours away, but there has always been some reason for not going.  I’ve always said that my inaugural trip to the Big Apple should be by myself, camera in hand, moleskine in pocket, and no agenda to speak of.  I just want to explore the city on my own and see what I find there.

NYC RetreatTomorrow I’m finally making that happen.  In 7 hours I’ll be getting on a bus headed to New York with little more than my camera and moleskine.  Life is too short to keep putting it off.  Can’t wait to see what happens…

I gotta say a big thanks to my friends Rodney and Lacey for subtly encouraging me to pursue this simple dream.  I’m so thankful to have friends who inspire me!

Movie Review: GI Joe

I don’t think this review will spoil anything, but it probably will color your perception with a little bias.  Either way, here’s my short review… Continue reading

Movie Review: 500 Days of Summer

Two nights in a row I have successfully made it to the theater without having heard a word about either film I was about to see.  In keeping with this “unpoisoned well” mentality I will refrain from commenting.  …until after the link below.

SPOILER ALERT!! For realz, if you haven’t seen the movie then you shouldn’t read this one yet. Continue reading

who needs twitter anyway

Everyone already knows about the twitter outage today, but even since it came back online I haven’t been able to post anything. Thus, I have decided to log my day here in tweetlike fashion.

around 11:30 AM –  “Um, BOTH twitter and facebook aren’t loading for me. …maybe that’s really not so bad after all.”

12:38 – “Wedditing like a boss today.”

2:17 – “Twitter simply refuses to update from the web today.” (I actually started typing that one on my phone until I got distracted by gchat)

3:24 – “Just posted new photos on flickr and facebook! Russell Family Photos http://tinyurl.com/mcapqe

5:22 – “Sweet action! I got 3 packages today! Refurb’d flash, removable hard drive trays, and a sample album.”

5:28 – “Mad props to Nikon for repairing my flash for free even though the warranty expired two weeks prior. Thing looks brand spankin’ new! #NikonFTW”

6:02 – “Heading out to teach a lighting ‘workshop’ for the folks at Marsden Media!  …although really it’s just a few friends getting together to play with speedlights.”

Movie Review: Away We Go

I had been looking forward to seeing Away We Go since I first saw the trailer a few months back.  It seemed like it would be an enjoyable and simple story; and I fell in love with the song “All My Days” by Alexi Murdoch that is featured in it.  Last night I finally saw the film, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to write down what I gleaned from it.  More thoughts after the jump.

SPOILER ALERT!  I’m just sayin’… Continue reading

New Balance + Social Media = Good Stuff

I’m gonna take a break from writing about photography for a minute because I promised someone that I would write a follow-up to a previous post about my experimental New Balance shoes.  After all, they gave me a free pair of shoes, so the least I can do is share what I think about ’em.  I’ve now had about a month to give them a run for the money (pun fully intended …maybe that’s why it’s not funny) and overall I’m very impressed.

NewBalance-2

Here’s why…

For starters, I have an absurdly wide foot.  I have always had a hard time finding shoes that fit.  Wes, the owner of Tri City New Balance, was able to find a shoe that was a perfect fit on the first try.  In fact, they might very well be the best fitting pair of shoes I’ve ever had.  I was amazed that Wes was able to determine what would be best for me without ever meeting in person.  He clearly knows what he’s talking about.

So far they have held up surprisingly well.  Granted, I’ve only had them for a little over a month, but compared to my last NB experience these new puppies are in a whole new league.  I’ve taken them out for some hiking, walking, biking, and playing some friendly football.

The laces on them are ingenious.  They  appeared to be somewhat lumpy, but when I stopped to consider why I realized that they stayed tied (and tight) better throughout the day because of the bumps in them.  Unlike every other shoe I’ve had, these don’t feel like they gradually loosen by the end of the day.  It’s subtle, but it makes all the difference.

The only thing I don’t like about them is the little plastic “N” on the sides of them.  I think they could have done a better job incorporating it into the design of the shoes, but as it is, it feel like they designed the shoe and then said, “Shoot, we’ve got to put our signature ‘N’ on here somewhere.  …ah, just glue it on the side there.”  After examining it further it’s clear that it was more intentional than that, but it still feels cheap for an otherwise fantastic shoe.

Man!  All this talking about ’em makes me want to just put them on and go run around or something  =)

Thanks again to Wes for reaching out to me and changing my opinion of New Balance!  I’m a fan and I would gladly recommend them to others.  Shameless plug, baby!

Movie Review: Transformers 2

It’s not that there is a shortage of opinions about any given movie (particularly this one), and it’s not that I have any special insight; I just want to make a point to ruminate on the images that flashed before me in hopes that I can learn from them.  Hopefully I will be a better storyteller because of it.

Spoiler Alert! Enter at your own risk. Continue reading

New Balance Knows Customer Service

Less than two weeks ago I was fed up with my New Balance shoes, and I stated that they would be the last pair of NB I would buy.  Today, I am wearing a brand new pair of NB shoes thanks to Andrew, a social media expert, and Wes, the customer-friendly owner of Tri City New Balance.

In a nutshell, Andrew (whom I’ve never met) found my twitter status about NB and followed-up with me via email.  He then put me in touch with Wes.  Wes asked a handful of questions and then offered a solution. … That was the first thing about him/NB that impressed me.  He made a point to connect with a complete stranger, and then took steps toward making me a long-term customer.  No other shoe company has done that.

As it turned out, the shoes I originally purchased (473s) were an admittedly low-grade, generic shoe distributed to large sporting goods stores.  Wes explained all this, and then said, “If you’re willing to give us another shot, I’ll send you a free upgrade, and you can send the old ones back.”  Talk about great customer service!  He went so far above and beyond his job description, it’s almost ridiculous!  =)

So that brings us back to today.  I’ll be trying out the shoes over the next couple weeks, and will write a follow-up post to let you know how they’ve treated me.  In the mean time, if you’re looking for a new pair of shoes be sure to check out tricitynewbalance.com Their prices are great and the customer service is exceptional!  It’s so refreshing to see a company that understands and utilizes social media!  Good work NB!