Not Your Average Droid Review: Simplify Your Life & Get Social!

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As Pomegranate’s resident Social Media expert, it was high time I got my hands on a smart phone.  I had been contemplating the iPhone for some time, with little motivation to move forward.  Born and raised on a PC, I never really jumped on the Apple train, having been quite loyal to my Microsoft-based products for a good portion of my natural-born life.  Some would see this as a curse.  I might have to agree.

As a loyal Verizon customer since 1999, I began the search for a new phone.  I owned an LG Voyager for about a year but wasn’t feeling satisfied with its performance; it was time to break-up and move on.  I started casually dating the LG EnV touch, but that relationship was short lived, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth and a jaded outlook towards media-based phones.  I was determined to put myself back out there and meet the love of life; a phone that was, by definition, perfectly seamless for all my social networking and data management needs.  Blackberry?  Droid?  Eris by HTC?  As a supporter of Google services for years, I decided it was time for an Android-based phone with Google integration.  It was safe to say I was fully in love with Google and was desperately wanting to take our relationship to the next level.

What is it about a Google phone that makes it stand apart from the rest, you ask? Most importantly, Android is an open-source, Apache-licensed operating system that Google makes available free of charge to device manufacturers who can add their own application genius for download in the marketplace. Basically, there’s no single, unified Android platform like there is for the iPhone which means you get a much greater amount of diversity, hardware and software, than the iPhone. You get Android 2.0 with Google’s proprietary push Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Voice, YouTube, and Google Maps Navigation with live street view rolled in. And because of the nature of open source software, the Apps Marketplace is a veritable smorgasbord of delicious and (very often) free applications that are sure to enhance your mobile experience. If you’re heavily invested in Google and all its glory, then you’ll have absolutely no problem making the switch.

Is it safe for me to say that the Droid is, hands down, the best smart phone currently out there?  Considering I have little to no experience with the iPhone or Blackberry, I’ll leave the full-blown comparisons to the true smart phone aficionados.  My focus here is simply on the Motorola Droid.  Maybe I’m biased, but I can assure you my bias comes from a very special place, having already logged hundreds of Droid usage hours since the phones inception into my busy social life.

Now for the fun part!  First, I’ll feature the specs of the Droid, then I’m going to feature some of my favorite applications, including apps for data/time management and apps socializing your life.  Keep in mind, all applications listed are FREE, and generally speaking, there really isn’t a need to pay for great apps on the Droid.  Thus is the beauty of open-source software!

The Specs

•    Platform/Processor: Android™ 2.0 with CDMA 1X 800/1900, EVDO rev. A, Arm® Cortex™ A8 processor 550 mHz, 802.11 b,g WiFi access

•    Playable Formats: AAC, H.263, H.264, MP3, MPEG-4, WAV, WMA, OGG, eAAC+, AMR WB, AMR NB, AAC+, MIDI

•    Video Capture Rate: DVD quality (720×480 resolution) up to 24 fps capture; up to 30 fps playback

•    Email: Corporate (Exchange 2003 and 2007), Gmail™, IMAP, POP3, attachment and browser document viewer (Microsoft Office® and pdf)

•    Camera: Image stabilization, real-time color effects, scene modes, location tagging; 5 MP; 4x Digital Zoom with Flash and automatic focus; image edit tools include cropping, rotating and geo-tagging.

•    Phone Book: Unified contact list (Gmail™, Exchange, Facebook™)

•    Google Services: Gmail™, GOOGLE Calendar™, GOOGLE contact sync™, GOOGLE latitude™, GOOGLE maps street view, GOOGLE maps™, GOOGLE maps™ navigation beta, GOOGLE quick search box™, GOOGLE talk™, GOOGLE™ search by voice, YouTube™

•    Web Browser: Webkit HTML5 with geo location and multiple windows, Adobe with Flash Player 10.1

Simplify Your Life –  5 Must-Have Time/Data Management Apps for Droid

•    Advanced Task Killer Free — This app allows you to stop running background processes or apps in memory. The Android operating system can run multiple programs and apps at once, which is a wonderful feature yet if not carefully monitored, can drain your battery faster than you can say iPhone killer.

•    Astro File Manager — A data management must-have!  This app allows you to manage files on your phone without the need for a computer, including access to the SD card and the ability to backup Android Apps to the SD card as well. Operations you can perform: copy, paste, move, delete, open with other apps, create and manager folders, etc. You can select multiple files to perform actions and search for files.

•    Dolphin Browser — Kind of like Firefox for Android, this browser gives you a better Mobile Internet experience.  Features: gesture, sync Google bookmarks, download YouTube videos, Multi touch, save cache to your SD card, tab view, and theme pack support.  You can also set your own gesture drawings for web navigation functions (stop, forward, backward, refresh, bookmark, etc)… nifty!

•    gTasks — For the busy consultant or business owner on-the-go, this app conveniently allows you to sync your task/to do lists from your Android phone to your Google Tasks from either Gmail or Google Apps email accounts. gTasks offers a solution to an issue surprisingly not solved by Google in their Gmail client. More beautiful, you don’t have to login nor grant permission to the app as it just works with your Gmail/Google Apps account(s)!

•    Remote VNC Lite — This app is recommended for network-savvy individuals only (or those who are smart enough to know someone who is network savvy).  Remote VNC Lite is an extremely convenient VNC client that allows you to control your computer from anywhere directly on your Droid phone!!  You can share same smart UI with Remote RDP (another app, only UI shared, no RDP support), connect to any Windows, Linux, Mac with VNC server installed, RealVNC  recommended for better performance (unless you are running Windows Vista, which RealVNC isn’t compatible with – alternative recommendation is Ultra VNC which runs on most operating systems).

Get Social & Have Some Fun — 5 Must-Have Social Apps for Droid

•   Foursquare — If you’re like me and you work from home, then you know how important it is to get out of the house and resurface in society from time to time.  When a friend turned me on to the Foursquare app for Droid, I was hooked!  Foursquare is a location based social network that incorporates gaming elements and a point system. Users share their location with friends by making a “check in”; you connect with others and can see where they’ve been and vice versa.  You can even link it up to your favorite social networks (Facebook, Twitter) and have your location updated automatically whenever you check in.  Pointlessly social yet highly addictive!  Add me on Foursquare!

•    eBuddy — Need a place to harness all your chat buddies?  eBuddy’s free instant messaging application supports multiple chats instantaneously for AIM, Facebook, ICQ, Google Talk, Yahoo, and MSN Messenger. You can sort by network or by screen name, with network icons identifying which network your buddy is on. Some other features Droid users should love include optional audio notifications for new messages, status updates, emoticons for every IM service, and automatic reconnect if their internet connection is lost.  If this app doesn’t satisfy the social butterfly in you, nothing will.

•    ALOQA – Their tagline:  Always be a local.  This app is perfect for people who, when out, want everything local at their fingertips with the simple touch of a button.  This truly is instant gratification at its finest. This GPS based location app brings “channels” to wherever you are.  Find the nearest Starbucks, gas stations, theaters, bars & night clubs, shopping centers, WiFi hotspots, restaurants, hotels and even personals! They partnered with great resources like, yelp, and  Never again will you be at a loss for anything. Ever.

•    Qik — This app is for video and film junkies, and although I don’t consider myself one, I was was lured into the ease and awesomeness of this app very quickly. Simply register an account online and once this is done you can right down to business by plastering your embarrassing videos on the internet. In fact, recording a clip and uploading it to your personal space at Qik is so easy you might not even be aware you’ve done it. With one touch of the big green button, you can be recording “live” in an instant. It automatically triggers the upload procedure. While you’re recording your video, Qik uploads the completed portion onto the Qik servers. It’s incredibly slick and astonishingly fast (especially if you’re on a WiFi connection). Once your videos are uploaded, you can share them with friends by directing them to your own personal Qik page or linking them to your favorite social networking sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.  I have mine set to update to all three, automatically.  In the instance you are filming something that you don’t want to “go live”, you can always pre-set the video setting to private before recording.  Afterall, there are just some things your mother shouldn’t see.

•    Twidroid – If you’re a Twitterholic like me (the first step is admitting you have a problem) then you need to get your hands on Twidroid, a full-featured Twitter client that includes direct messaging, photo posting, replies and background notifications for Android. Good news!  You can do virtually every Twitter function from the Android App that you could from the web, including: direct messages and  @reply to your friends, post pics, paste a URL and set your location with the new Geo feature pulling your location from the GPS. Also, you can Search Tweets and can set background notifications too!  Follow me on Twitter!

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