iPhone to Android via Droid X

I’ve really enjoyed my Droid X. A friend looking to make a similar move from an iPhone to an Android phone asked me about my experience. Shortly after I finished, I realized it was blog-post size, so here it is. Thus, in no particular order, here’s my first impressions of the transition (still in progress) from iPhone to a Droid X on Verizon:

– The first time I assigned a category to a calendar event, and noticed I didn’t need to sync it, I was very excited and danced around the house. (I use gSyncIt to get from Outlook to Google Calendar, so it just popped up in Outlook too.)

– The Gmail stuff is built by Google and part of Android. The Email (POP/IMAP/SMTP) is built by Motorola, and is less polished. I use multiple accounts on each, and though it isn’t overly confusing, it is different enough to note. For example, there’s an “Accounts” button in the menu of Gmail, but no “Accounts” menu in Email. Hitting back enough times in Gmail takes you to the accounts list, going back the same amount of times in Email takes you home. If you get into Email via the notifications, you have to go out of the app, and click on the Messaging app to pick a new email account. (Oops.)

– Home screen widgets are awesome. I really liked the jailbreak winterboard calendar icon I had that always showed the current date. I now have a calendar widget that shows a full month.

– It’s not all about the apps. Though many things are available via apps, some things are just “online”. E.g. Google Docs integration is just “go to the website”. (Um, oh yeah, duh. That was my response when my wife explained it to me. :D)

– Check the “load apps from elsewhere” global setting, download an *.apk from any website, and install it. No jailbreaking required.

– I rooted my device. That was easy. I downloaded the one-click root, installed the Motorola drivers for my X, pushed the button, and it just worked. It was soooo nice. I haven’t explored too much of the root app list much. That’s on my to-do list. – The voice command feature has never worked for me, but typing isn’t that bad. I’ve not tried the Swype keyboard yet, wanting to get comfortable with stock first.

– The Motorola mods seemed ok. I didn’t link my Facebook account or flicker or twitter or etc account in the carefully unbranded Moto-blur “accounts” dialog, choosing the apps instead. Linking via “accounts” pulls down pics and statuses into the PIM (sound familiar? :P), but I read somewhere the Facebook app and the Facebook Moto-blur collided sometimes. (I don’t recall where or how old it was or if it was resolved.)

– I downloaded Launcher Pro (home screen replacement) and enjoy their take on the world. It isn’t all that different, but I found the features in it compelling, and the lack of moto-stuff intriguing. (I chose the X over the Incredible because of the larger screen and no Sense UI. The Sense stuff seemed cool sometimes, but overly weird other times. For example, I think the stock “slide to one side to unlock, the other way to mute” is much cooler than the rounded “slide up to unlock” that comes with sense. Same with the toolbar section of the home screen. The curve at the bottom of Sense UI’s home screen just seemed too “let’s play with Photoshop” to me.)

– The FM radio app is cool, though it only works with headphones, and no headphones come in the box. The iPhone headphones work just fine though. :D My 3-year-old Motorola Bluetooth ear-dangly thing doesn’t though.

– There are a few apps that don’t come stock. Most notably is a notepad app. There are scores of them in the app store though – many that sync with Google Docs … and / or my wife’s brilliant flash of the obvious for me: just use Google Docs’s website. Stocks and eBook reader also aren’t stock, but easily downloadable in dozens of varieties.

– The “set an alarm” is a bit less versatile in that you can set a time, but not a day of the week. (For instance, I had a weekly alarm to get us to church on time.) My wife said “set a reoccurring calendar item”. (Oh, duh. :D)

– The create calendar item dialog is much more powerful. Categories are awesome, but reoccurring is also very powerful. I can now choose options like “once a week on Sunday” or “every weekday” or “monthly on day 6” rather than just “weekly” or “daily”.

– Haven’t really taken the camera / video camera out for more than a passing spin, but they seem to do fine for all I (don’t) do with them. :D

– Playing with the Droid 2 and Droid X and Original Droid (want to try it on an Incredible too) is that the X has physical buttons for the 4 functions: Home, Menu, Back, Search. The others (excepting maybe the Incredible?) have virtual buttons – as if the touch screen just extended into them. My guess is this means the button presses on the non-X are just screen clicks, and while the screen is locked, they do nothing. On the X, when the screen is off, I click the home button, and the screen lights up. On the Droid 2 and Original Droid, the only way to light up the screen is hit the power button on the top. The power button still works for the X, but it’s on the top, and not overly convenient. (I always pushed the “home” button on my iPhone to wake it up too.)

– I like the asymmetrical (top to bottom) feel of the Droid X. While not looking, I can tell which way is up. On my iPhone, I don’t know how many times I wipe smudges off the top earphone because that wasn’t the home button. :P

– It took me a bit to realize the options I had at every step. There’s click, long-click, hit the menu button, hit the search button. All are valid at various places, and all usually get you to a different place.

– The brilliant flash of the obvious a friend of mine made was that Android is ‘feature by easter egg’. Because of the many ways you can run things – some not all that discoverable – it’s frequent to discover a really cool feature by clicking a wrong button. It’s also easy to not discover features at all just because you didn’t happen to click the weird buttons. The take-home for me was that it generally required more brain power on my part to remember where things were instead of just looking and knowing what to do. (I’m not good at “memorize these steps”, but I am good at “look at it and tell me how it works”.)

All in all, I’m very pleased with my Droid X. I’m still learning my way around the more obscure parts of the system, but I’m really enjoying it.