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Attack of the Monster Phones

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Posted on Sep 12, 2010
Truthdig

By Peter Z. Scheer

(Page 2)

Despite being bigger than the Evo, the Droid feels lighter, and it’s thinner in places. It also manages to feel solid in the hand and pocket. It feels tougher, too, hard and menacing enough to present itself as something you might throw at the guy who just cut you off, until you thought better of it. Using the Evo, I can feel friction between my finger and the screen, whereas the Droid’s screen feels smooth and cool as I glide around it. The Droid’s screen has slightly more pixels than the Evo’s and it’s brighter, too.

I also prefer the Droid X’s hardware buttons, including a camera shutter button, to the Evo’s touch-sensitive alternative. HTC has kept the bezel of the Evo thin, which I appreciate, but it makes touch buttons a real pain and I often find, as I did with Google’s Nexus One phone, that I inadvertently send myself to the home screen or search menu when I’m in the middle of a long e-mail or text. The Droid’s buttons, by contrast, are clicky, more adult somehow.

Jump to:
Looks
Sense
Droid X Skin
Camera
Wait, It’s a Phone?
4G and WiFi Hotspot
There Can Be Only One (Unless You Can Afford Two)
Photo and Video Samples

The respective general themes extend into the user interfaces of the two devices. Both companies have arrogantly imposed their own user-interface layers or “skins” on what’s called “stock” Android. That is, they’ve taken Google’s mobile operating system, which gets exponentially more polished and useful every few months, and globbed on a kind of theatrical facade. There are added features unique to each brand, but not many worth talking about. All this gunking up the works tends to get in the way. It’s like buying a Malibu beach house and finding that someone has installed argyle curtains over the oceanfront windows. But while these added layers can be a headache, both phones run very similar software.

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Sense

HTC has been working on what it calls “Sense” for years, and it shows. Though the skin is annoying to deal with at times, Sense grew out of a need to bring crucial features to phones, some that HTC made with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, others it built with Google’s Android. Whatever one’s feelings about these skins—and the antipathy is running high among the chattering tech press—Sense at least had a reason to exist, and, in places, it still does.

I mostly dislike the experience of Sense running on the Evo. It’s fat and bloated and the phone’s girth only makes the problem worse. A list of text messages, for example, is turned into a busy mess of text and shading and hackneyed glass effects and rounded corners to the point that I get a little shapesick. It’s like the overdesigned website you’ll never again go to, but, oh wait, it’s your phone.

Sense is not entirely senseless. The phone’s dialer, for instance, makes up for its garishness with a clever trick. When I dial 262 the phone offers a short list of contacts with that combination of numbers and letters, including “Bob,” “Amanda” and any number in my address book with the digits 262.

The thing that really impresses, though—by far the phone’s greatest software feature—is a little innovation that really ought to be on every mobile device ever sold with a Web browser. The Evo, and a few other Sense devices such as the Droid Incredible, will reflow text to fit your screen. Imagine you are reading a website that is not formatted for a mobile phone. You zoom in to get a closer look at the text, but end up having to “tennis-scroll” back and forth as you read. As you zoom in and out, the Evo wraps the sentences to fit your screen. Zoom in to the point where a single word fills the horizontal, and the Evo will give you a column of single words. Pull out, and it instantly adjusts.

Droid X Skin

As with the phone’s exoskeleton, the Droid X’s software is more polished and clean than the Evo’s. That does not make it more functional. Flicking through your contacts, the dialer, menu options and messages will win approving glances from the fashionable. But that’s the trouble with fashion. You’re better off with the Evo’s TJ Maxx looks than trying to get anything done in the Droid’s couture heels. It’s not as feature-rich, there aren’t those little touches like the Evo’s alphanumeric dialer or Web text reflow, and while it looks better, inside and out, it has a most annoying phone “feature” that you can’t get rid of. Android, like the iPhone, supports multiple home screens. Swipe through them, attach widgets and apps and contacts as you like. Some of these devices handle the home screens differently. HTC’s phones, including the Evo, let you zoom out and select the screen you want. Motorola, no doubt looking to up the ante, has inadvertently developed a case of home-screen herpes. When you swipe in either direction, a completely useless navigation bar blisters up, preventing you from accessing the frequently needed buttons below (phone, web, apps) ... for a time. It goes away after a second, but that can be surprisingly frustrating for anyone who expects to be able to use the phone without delay.

What’s especially maddening about this is that it serves no real purpose. Eventually, if you stop swiping, the navbar recedes, letting you make a phone call or access your apps. It’s gone … but not permanently. You can’t eliminate it in settings. You won’t find a hidden menu where you can remove it. The only recourse is either to root your phone (you probably don’t want to if you’ve never heard the term) or download a home replacement such as LauncherPro from the Android Market; it’s the cure for what ails the Droid X. Otherwise Motorola’s little design flourishes, while mostly useless, are attractive and don’t interfere with the phone’s functions.


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By Inherit The Wind, September 15, 2010 at 6:49 pm Link to this comment

moonraven, September 15 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:

You made my point, despite your schmaltzy family goo goo.  You don’t need a high tech phone to call a doctor or to talk with your siblings about your mother’s care.

You’d rather have gadgets and gizmos than get off your butt and DO something about the disaster bearing down on all of us like SUPER Godzilla.

You enormous ecological footprint folks are the problem.  Not the solution.

Into the bargain you are insufferably rude.
**************************

“The person you have dialed is not accepting your calls.  Please try your calls again later.  We suggest after the next millennium.”

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, September 15, 2010 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:

You made my point, despite your schmaltzy family goo goo.  You don’t need a high tech phone to call a doctor or to talk with your siblings about your mother’s care.

You’d rather have gadgets and gizmos than get off your butt and DO something about the disaster bearing down on all of us like SUPER Godzilla.

You enormous ecological footprint folks are the problem.  Not the solution.

Into the bargain you are insufferably rude.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 15, 2010 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

ofersince72:

Then take the battery out.  That absolutely powers down the phone.

PS: That’s one reason I don’t have an iPhone—but even then you can pull out the SIM.

Or wrap it in tin-foil—works better than wrapping your head in tin-foil.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 15, 2010 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

“Not that it’s any of your business.”

If it’s none of my business then DON’T POST IT ON THE INTERNET!  You get what you deserve if you post it for the world to see.

“You probably have an ecological footprint the size of Godzilla’s.  And absolutely nothing to say.”

Yup, that’s me, boring Godzilla.  I should just stop talking to my Mom’s doctors, or using the private time when the kids aren’t around to talk to my wife about private matters.  And I shouldn’t bother talking to my sibs about Mom’s care.

In fact, I should even stop using the Internet to communicate with Luddites like you….now

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By ofersince72, September 14, 2010 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment

Inherit______________The__________________Wind________

I wish we had more Luddites.

The first two cell sites in America were installed in
Chicago and D.C. area.  I was in on the D.C. installation,
and know a bit about the Cell Phone technology. When you
power your phone down, the only thing you do is take the
power voltage away from, the lights and ringer. Your phone
can still be activated without you knowing it, every word
that you say can be monitored and you have no idea. It
can be activated right from the cell site, this always has
been the case, today most phones have GPS, so they can
tell exactly where you are. Of course even without the GPS
it wasn’t hard to determine since they could establish
just what cell site was talking to your phone. I don’t
have anything to hide , but it is good to know.

  I agree with moonraven.  When you look at our ecology
and the decadent shape of our society, there isn’t much
worthwhile or neccessary communication going on. I have
seen way to many examples of this.  The texting is really
disgusting.
  I can’t stand them and few understand the drain on our
power grid that they impose.
We are stuck with them.  Our airwaves are polluted and all
studies into what damage this causes has always been
supervised by the industry.
We will remain a backwards society as long as their is
television and cell phones.
This could be a very meaningful discussion, but few
understand or will admit that our society is backwards
and decadent.

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By moonraven, September 14, 2010 at 2:58 pm Link to this comment

Inherit:

I am not a luddite.  I undoubtedly know a lot more about technology than you do.  But that doesn’t mean I have to build hydrogen bombs at Los Alamos National Lab or masturbate myself with a plastic telephone every 15 minutes.

I do not like phones.  I don’t like people bothering me.  What’s the point of paying for phone service if it’s always turned off?  If I want to talk with someone I go to their house—or arrange by email to meet them someplace.  Sending an occasional email in an internet cafe beats having a phone ring.

Not that it’s any of your business.  You probably have an ecological footprint the size of Godzilla’s.  And absolutely nothing to say.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment

moonraven, September 13 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment

ofer72:

I could not agree more.

The phone crazy is worldwide now, and NOBODY—and I mean NOBODY—has anything worthwhile to say!

I had a cellphone back in the 90s before they became a craze—and I hated it.  It always rang at the MOST inconvenient times.  I gave it away.  Then I decided I didn’t want a land phone either.

I do not regret being phoneless.
**************************

How about clueless?  Truly a Luddite.

If you don’t want the phone to ring at an “inconvenient time” you simply turn if off. Every phone since the 60’s can be turned off by unplugging the RJ-11 cord from either the phone or the wall.

Every cell phone can be turned off, too.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, September 13, 2010 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

ofer72:

I could not agree more.

The phone crazy is worldwide now, and NOBODY—and I mean NOBODY—has anything worthwhile to say!

I had a cellphone back in the 90s before they became a craze—and I hated it.  It always rang at the MOST inconvenient times.  I gave it away.  Then I decided I didn’t want a land phone either.

I do not regret being phoneless.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment

These new giant phones remind me of the era of the giant boom boxes.  Remember when Danny Aiello as “Sal” smashed Bill (“Radio Raheem”) Nunn’s giant boombox in “Do The Right Thing”?  Tempting!

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By res, September 13, 2010 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m an evo user (who is typing this on his evo) and when it comes to
description of the sense interface, I have no idea what the author is talking
about. All rounded edges and gloss? Chat screens that give you a
headache? Are we even using the same phone? My chats and texts all show
as threads with black text on a white background. It couldn’t be easier to
read. Also I live in Baltimore and the 4g speeds are pretty consistent and
extremely fast. I agree on the author’s other points though. And I should
probably point out that I’ve never touched any Verizon Android phone.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, September 13, 2010 at 10:01 am Link to this comment

My favorite phone was the RAZR 2, but none of the major carriers offer it. You now have to buy it direct from Motorola at full price.

The Droid X and HTC Evo are way too big for my tastes. I have a Moto Droid (1) which is fine. I mostly use it as a phone (duh) and Google Maps. I suppose if I ever get stuck at DMV or something I’ll use to watch videos or surf. The nice thing about the Android OS, is many of the apps are free, you just have to deal with banner ads, which doesn’t bother me. And, now that there’s a flash player, I can stream porn. That’s always a positive. However, the Skyfire browser is much better for flash than the Google browser with Adobe. I also like the internet radio apps which I can run directly into my car’s aftermarket sound system via the 1/8” TRS mini-jack. No dongle needed.


I’m sorry, but we are currently out of the iPhone 4. Would you like the HTC Evo?

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By Inherit The Wind, September 13, 2010 at 4:02 am Link to this comment

(yawn!)
Nothing new here.  Find the iPhone and amplify its problems without improving on its assets.  Everything that I despise about the iPhone these phones have (other than Jobs “owning” you).  I’ve toyed with the idea of a Vibrant which is not TOO big, but I keep coming back to my beat-up old Omnia, which still has 32g and takes great 5mpx pics and video.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, September 13, 2010 at 2:37 am Link to this comment

As a person close to the bottom of the human food chain, I would like my cell phone to be just a phone, none of the other crap that many other people seem to want or need. I mean, there are things I sort of would like to have, so they are wants fortunately or unfortunately I cannot afford them.  My point is I would also like to pay less, for some reason I may find myself alone in this concept of a….. cell just a phone? 

For me a cellphone is like a piece of silverware,  each utensil serves its different purpose,....... I may be wrong in this, after all there is chop sticks!

After reading about the Kindle compared to other devices, I would still prefer for the time being anyway, to read a book, after all ... if one runs out of tissue,.... try blowing your nose on a kindle!

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By ofersince72, September 13, 2010 at 12:15 am Link to this comment

America…......get rid of your cell phones and

turn your damn TV off.  Sooner or later the power grid

is going to make this decision for you anyway.

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