Journeying into that wretched hive of scum & villainy--the phone store. Hope me Askme Wan Kenobi!
January 9, 2010 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Yet another droid question.

I'm probably off to Verizon tomorrow to get a Droid (and an Eris or the wife). A couple of concerns, which I'm hoping you all can provide some insight on.

1. How happy are you with the e-book options on the Droid? One of the main non-calling (I don't text) uses I'm interested in is accessing e-books at work (99% of these will be pdf versions of public domain works). What app or apps would you recommend?

2. Probably 90% of my internet time will be either via my home or work wireless network. How simple and solid, relatively speaking, has your experience connecting the droid via wi-fi been? I'm loathe to drop the extra cash for a full-on unlimited data plan, but would consider it if the wifi features aren't solid.

3. Is the video capture decent? I'm interested in recording small snippets of video (>5 min at a time) for uploading, mostly home-movie and kid's quality stuff for Papa and Nana. I don't particularily care about HD quality, but would like something simple to use and decent enough to replace the digital camera we currently lug around. What are your opinions of photo and video capture with the Droid?

Sorry if these are simple-sounding questions but this will be my first "smart phone" and I'm a little at sea as far as sorting out the hype surrounding this thing. A few trusted opinions from fellow mefites would carry a lot more weight than anything the internets or the Verizon rep is going to tell me...
posted by Chrischris to Technology (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a Droid, but here is the Howard Forums subforum for Verizon Android phones with tons of Droid discussion:

(Sorry, it appears my new browser is having trouble creating links)
posted by sharkfu at 8:46 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

1. I love the Aldiko e-book reader. It saves my place and has a bunch of options for tweaking the reading experience.

2. Wi-fi has always been solid for me on the Droid, but I haven't used it as heavily as you plan to.

3. I am astounded by how good the video is for a phone, but there aren't that many options to tweak anything (except for white balance). Here is a video I took with the Droid in a dark-ish room.

The photography is very decent for simple things; I've used the camera a million times to take photos for work, and am currently editing an instructional document that relies on pics taken by the Droid. Being able to send those pictures to my email (or various other outlets) is pretty awesome as well.
posted by hellogoodbye at 10:53 PM on January 9, 2010

You might want to at least take a look at the new Google phone, the Nexus One. HTC (Nexus) has a much better history with phones hardware than Motorola (Droid). The Nexus also runs on (an updated version of) the Android platform, and carries a 1ghz processor, as opposed to the Droid's 600mhz. This is going to translate into a much faster internet browsing experience. Unless you absolutely require a physical keyboard, the consensus seems to be with the Nexus One over the Droid right now.
posted by sophist at 11:04 PM on January 9, 2010

I am also using Aldiko and liking it, though I haven't fully explored how to load more libraries and take full advantage.

I have been really impressed with the camera on the droid and love that it comes with flash. So far my outdoor pics have been better than my indoor ones, but I am working on playing with the settings. There are a bunch of apps you can get to adjust and correct your photos and videos on the phone before you upload or sync, as well, and they give you more options than the standard camera app does.

The video has been great so far (I've used it to take a bunch of short vids of my bunny eating and running around) and the upload times are very good over wifi.

Wifi has been great, I use the wifi much more than the phone since I am home or able to borrow a network pretty often around town. If you live in an area where wifi spots are few and far between, you should spring for the big data plan, but if you know you will be in wifi areas, then you should be fine without.
posted by rmless at 11:45 PM on January 9, 2010

2. WiFi is great! Mine is automatically set to come on when in range of my home's router. It also appears to recognize more in various locations. When not in range, it switches itself to 3G. It can also constantly scan for possible WiFi connections.

In sleep mode it goes back to 3G (I think? to conserve. . .something??). When activated, it goes back to Wifi. Now I wonder when the screen is in sleep mode but email is set to check every 15 minutes, if it's checking using 3G or WiFi. Hmm.

I've never had a problem with the WiFi connection.

(When on WiFi YouTube videos are high definition, but in 3G it defaults to regular and if you want HD, it must be changed for each video.)
posted by Feisty at 12:03 AM on January 10, 2010

i've had huge problems with the camera on my droid, but otherwise i'm happy with the phone.

i'd be curious to know what tweaks people have found to make the camera useful in any way. as it is, it's just awful - too slow to take pictures of anything moving, screen too dark to see what pictures you're taking. bleh.
posted by timory at 12:21 AM on January 10, 2010

Support for pdf is not good. It's better on the iPhone, but still not, in my experience, good enough to be enjoyable. But public domain books are available in formats that work very well, like epub with Aldiko.
posted by dhoe at 1:18 AM on January 10, 2010

WiFi has been solid on all Androids I've used. Around 1.5/1.6, the Android 1.X phones have had a tendency to be a bit slow to realize that there's WiFi available, but my Nexus (running 2.X) doesn't seem to have that problem.
posted by effbot at 3:21 AM on January 10, 2010

hellogoodbye said most of the things I wanted to say. Aldiko is good, though I have not tried PDF on it. There are quite a few PDF readers in the marketplace. I use the one in Docs-to-Go, and it has met my needs.

WiFi works fine, but I am not sure VZW will sell you a Droid without an "unlimited" (5GB/month) data plan unless you are looking to spend the ~$500. I might be mistaken, though. Anyhow, having data is very nice for navigation, etc.

Hope this helps! My Droid is the best phone I've ever had.
posted by JMOZ at 5:54 AM on January 10, 2010

1- nthing Aldiko. It's a solid ebook reader with a decent built in library of public domain books. I've tried pdfs and epub formats with equal success.

2- I'm pretty sure that Verizon requires the $30 unlimited data plan with the droid phones (My wife and I partook in the droid/eris promotion just before christmas). The Wi-Fi works fine on the Eris, but I haven't used it much on the droid (if I'm paying for unlimited data, why bother?).

3- I haven't used the video much, but as you may have read the still camera TAKES...FOR...EVER...I haven't figured out how to turn off the shutter sound, so not only is it slow to open and slow to take a picture, it's loud as hell. That camera is actually my ONLY qualm with the phone.

There is definitely a learning curve with the phone, but stick with it and it's pretty awesome. I'm discovering new fun things every day. Check around the internet for lists of best apps (weather channel, flixster, and amazon are all indispensable!)
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:46 AM on January 10, 2010

OP, please correct the "verizon" tag and add "android".

After 6.5 years with my trusty Palm smartphone, I'm about to take the plunge into Android myself. Like, tomorrow. Sprint and I will have a heart-to-heart conversation and if it doesn't go well I'm jumping ship.
posted by intermod at 10:11 AM on January 10, 2010

2. WiFi works great. However, your plan of not buying the "unlimited" data plan will not fly. It is required by Verizon to activate the phone. Plus, frankly, you'll be missing out on the best features if you don't have it.

3. The still camera is crap. Complete crap. Not one picture of any moving object (cats, dog, cars, butterflies, etc.) has come out for me--they're all a blurry mess from two seconds after I press the button.

But the video camera is quite decent. Impressively decent.

haven't figured out how to turn off the shutter sound, so not only is it slow to open and slow to take a picture, it's loud as hell.

You can't turn it off. This is the way of the future for all phones, as there are a number of jurisdictions that mandate that cellphone cameras make noise.

If you're rooted you phone, you might be able to replace the default sound with a silent one. But, I haven't looked into it.
posted by Netzapper at 11:22 AM on January 10, 2010

I have a Droid and your questions are very good ones.

1. I echo the support for the Aldiko app. It's quite smooth. I have not played around with it much yet, or tried to load anything beside the basic free books. I would like to see some kind of Kindle app or something so that I could buy books and read whatever I wanted, but we'll see how soon something like that happens. A frustrating thing for me was that my library provides thousands of e-books, but they have to be downloaded through special software that only supports WinMo, Blackberry, Palm and Symbian. And that's it, with no further development planned. Arghhhh.

2. My WiFi experience with the Droid has been wonderful. It is more seamless than connecting with my laptop. It's extremely fast on my home network and streaming video is a joy on it. The only problem I had connecting was when I tried to connect to a network that had a repeater on it. I knew I was in over my head so my husband worked on it for quite some time, but he never got it to work. If you want more information on this, I could ask him more about it.

3. I am extremely rah-rah Droid, but I am an honest person and have to admit that I'm disappointed with the camera. I understand the fact that small cameras have sensors that cannot and will not function in low-light situations, but it's frustrating that I can't get a decent video from indoors unless the room is flooded in white light. I took several videos at Christmas in what I would normally consider a fairly well-lit room and almost all of them are pitch black. Here's a video I just took at work in a room lit with overhead fluorescents.

All that said, I don't know if you're going to find a smartphone that takes better photos and video. And some people have gotten fantastic results out of it. It did get better with the last over-the-air update and I hope that it continues to improve. If you do like to take a lot of video, I cannot recommend the Qik app enough. It's wonderful! You can take videos and it instantly uploads them to the Internet and if you have enough battery life and a good enough connection, you can even stream live with it. Qik claims that the app is high-res for the Droid. You can take a look at the video above and tell me if you think that's high-res. I don't know much about video, but it seems fairly low-res to me.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the Droid. I don't know if it's worth it to wait for the Nexus One. It will be a great phone, but the physical keyboard is a nice option to have and the Droid is an outstanding and solid phone itself. And it will probably get updated to the same version of Android that the Nexus One will run. It seems like I'm constantly finding new things I can do with it - my most recent delight has been making it into a retro gaming machine with emulator apps. Oh, and FWIW, I was able to turn off the camera noise. This made me happy because it IS loud, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how I did it and it is unsettling to know that the camera can be so covert.

Finally, a great place to ask questions about the Droid would be I'm not an active participant, but I've learned a lot there just by reading some of the main threads. There is a lot of wisdom there.
posted by bristolcat at 7:49 AM on January 11, 2010

Aldiko is awesome - compares extremely favourably with Stanza on the iPhone, but it doesn't read PDFs (neither does Stanza). Beamreader does PDFs, with the added bonus of being able to read them in "text mode" which is a lot faster. Calibre is a desktop app that can be used to convert books to epub format, but if you grab/buy/download native epubs rather than (making them yourself out of other formats) they rock. Rich text, bold, italics etc, all comes alive in Aldiko. And I have no idea what the difference between the free and paid version of Aldiko is, free version seems to do just about everything with no nags or limitations that I'm aware of.

Wifi works fine for me, but because I have an unlimited data plan I typically don't jack into it.

Wasn't happy with the video - specs say it's great, but it's incredibly slow to start up and the noise is so ridiculously loud that I almost don't want to use it BECAUSE of the click! I haven't found out how to turn it off, I'm sure I could with a bit of application but I don't use the camera (I have a D90 SLR which takes slightly better pics) so there's not much point in dicking with the Droid.
posted by cyniczny at 8:16 PM on January 19, 2010

Aldiko is the best ebook app I've found for Droid. It only reads epub format. So on my computer I have calibre (which is a free program) a ebook organizer type thing that also converts ebooks from one format to another either individually or in bulk.

I just download a book, change the format, and then use the HTC syncing to upload the ebook using USB. Aldiko imports the book into the library for me.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:05 PM on February 6, 2010

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