Droid Test

I just installed the WordPress app for the Droid. I’m experimenting with it a little bit to see how hard it is to compose and post to the blog. So far it’s quite decent although it makes me wist greatly for good droid bluetooth keyboard support. The lack of bluetooth keyboard is a small problem.

But! Not bad. I elected to use the clicklet keyboard for entry and it is definitely passable.

On the iPad

I wanted to buy an iPad for Eric’s birthday but he had a high water mark: if Papers, essentially iTunes for research paper and article management, came out with an iPad reader application, Eric would want an iPad (very badly). He has the iPod client and while it works, it is difficult to read papers on an iPod Touch. The screen real estate isn’t there.

Papers came out with a rather nice native iPad reader that syncs with the master Papers application running on Eric’s MacBook Pro. He knew I was taking in my precious MacBook Pro for service — the i key, of all things, died on the keyboard and it turned out to be challenging to type without an i — and if I happened to walk out of the Apple store with one he would not be upset. I asked the guy at the counter if they had any in stock and they had 15 left, so I sucked the cost and took one of them.

Having used one now, I have a bunch of thoughts on it in completely random order:

* If you believe the iPad is the “end of innovation” your mental box is very small indeed. The iPad is disruptive technology. It’s something that fits between laptops and smartphones. We don’t know where it will go (yet). But us in the tech world should be used to this sort of thing by now. The Internet was a disruptive technology. Refridgerators! Telephones! Off-set Printing! They happen.* The world moves on.

* Today, the iPad is a big iPod. This is undeniably true. I will never sell anyone different. Most of the available software is iPod software running in large screen mode**. However, the software coming out natively for the iPad show tantalizing glimpses of the future. The iPod can convey information, play music, and do many excellent PDA things but it does not have a the real estate for comfortable comics, movies, or PDFs.*** The native iPad apps are amazing.

* Katie already has an iPod Touch she adores. At first she complained the iPad was too heavy. Once she got her hands on Peggle she was ready to go. As a device for children, it’s magnificent. It’s hard to say how magnificent it is until you put one in your own child’s hands. Add that with the Kindle app downloading full-color children’s books for easy and comfortable reading and you start to see the future.

* Eric’s Papers reader and the Goodreader PDF reader blew me away with how crisp, clear, and readable the PDFs are. I could not read off an iPad for hours and hours like I can a Kindle but I can manage a PDF. We won’t talk about the comic books apps because I’m in danger of bankrupting us all.

* For scientific research, the iPad is a godsend. Being able to get papers, Omnigraffle, quick sketch, quick note-taking, it is the perfect in-hand device for making quick notes and then syncing them back to the MacBook in the office. It fits comfortable in a hand or on a bench without the clunkiness of the clamshell case of a laptop or the space of an actual computer.

* We showed it to my Mom and she was amazed. The first impulse was getting one for my Grandmother. The 3G version will give her what she doesn’t have now: easy email, an easy way to carry thousands of pictures, an easy way to get to streaming movies. She would never need cords, a router, or have to ever put discs in it or worry about maintaining her hardware. All she needs is a $30/month subsidized no-contract 3G wireless and 16G iPad and it’s a computer my Grandmother can use.

* Eric and Katie have already played two-player checkers while using the iPad as a portable board between the two of them. Having a portable card/board game device is awesome. It’s hard to play board games on the iPod — Eric and I played Catan on his iPod and it was difficult to see the board — but imagine being able to turn and place Carcassone tiles with your fingers. The board games are exciting! They are!

* My impulses for the device usage are completely different from Eric’s or Katie’s or my Mom’s. This is what opens my eyes: we all have this one device and see different things. I see a platform where I can load synthesizers on it and make music easily without having to bring up a whole rig — and a few are already available. I cannot get a full portable keyboard with an iPod, but a multi-touch iPad is a much different story. Katie sees movies and games. Eric sees PDF and information management. My parents want the netflix streaming.

To sum up:

I did not expect to be as blown away by the device as I am. I was somewhat iffy on it when it came out and didn’t expect to want one or need one. After all, my iPod is a 3rd Generation iPod with an 80G hard drive and a clickwheel. I hold the iPad in my hands and it is not my netbook and it is not my MacBook Pro. It is a device I can hold comfortably in my hand and read comics, or make music, or play games without ever having to worry about having to be the system administrator. It’s something else completely different. It’s a powerful concept.

And yeah, sure, we’ve been trying to do tablets for 10 years and they’ve always failed, but isn’t it neat when someone actually gets it right?

Disclaimer: Yes, I am a Mac cultist, but I use an Ubuntu phone and an Ubuntu 9.10 netbook. I dislike Windows on the computer but you will take the Xbox360 from my cold dead hands. I like things that work more than loyalty to a company or a brand. Apple makes things that work. So does Google. If Microsoft wants to play, then perhaps they should make things that work because blue screens are no longer an option.

* Puzzle Quest!
** I will talk more about what industries I see growing out of the iPad tomororow. I have some serious thoughts on this topic but I am still digesting.
*** As a proud owner of a Droid — which I love — I know there are apps that run tiny and great and apps that need room to breathe. Human Interface design is important, folks!

Stuff on My Droid

I have owned the Droid for a few weeks now and it is conforming to my lifestyle. A few apps have stayed on, a few apps have bit the dust, and a few I like very much. Here’s today’s Quick Roundup of Droid Toys ™ that do not include “phone,” “calendar,” or “email”:

1. Remember the Milk. I finally signed up, and paid the $25/year fee to, Remember the Milk. So should you: easy to use task lists, multiple lists, and shared lists. The free mobile Droid app integration complete with running task list widget on the main page is fantastic. Double click, click the box next to complete, and it automatically syncs with the website. It’s especially powerful with shared lists.

2. Google Listen. I am fairly meh on podcast software because I use iTunes and my iPod and the original version of Google Listen was a horrible piece of dreck. But the new, upgraded version is very nice and very powerful. It has good search features, list management, subscription management, download only on wifi, automatic stream, and manage Listen subscriptions through Google Reader.

3. Seesmic. I haven’t tried any other Twitter clients on the Droid but Seesmic has features I want: twitpic integration, maintains my “last read” point so I can easily find my place and scroll through an hour or two of tweets, easy reply, easy retweet, and easy private messages.

4. Google Maps and Google Navigator. Google Map support is, unsurprisingly, spectacular on the Droid. Google Navigator is a bit strange to use in car mode but it is a better GPS than my tom tom in a pinch.

5. Weight Journal. For $0.99, it will chart your weight! It sounds stupid but knowledge is power and the ability to watch one’s weight allows one to moderate one’s daily intake of calories accordingly. And as soon as I started using it I saw a very small but steady decline in my weight…

6. Pandora radio. Pandora just got an update that improved it considerably because before it was dropping the connection constantly. I am still not certain why it insists on playing all Beatles songs on my Radiohead station but it has found some interesting music for me.

7. Netcounter. It tells me how much bandwidth I am consuming. That’s it. It’s a handy metric to have.

8. ConnectBot. Yes! An SSH shell on my Droid! Sure I have to use the pull out keyboard for it but it is an honest to freaking god full color term on the Droid in itty bitty teeny weeny type. AWESOME.

9. ShopSavvy. Open it up, scan in an item, get prices and reviews. I have used it on games that looked dubious and came back with nothing but poor reviews.  It has already saved me money.

10. WeatherBug. Don’t leave home without it. It gives me a constant update on the temperature outside.

Stuff I have that I like and will keep but don’t use so much:

– ElJay, an LJ client.
– Yelp!
– Flickster
– Evernote
– Facebook client
– Google Goggles

All good, recommended apps. I’m just not hitting them as hard as my above top-10.