Once again it is time to examine the past week in Mobile Tech Manor and share observations made and lessons learned over the week. There was a lot of activity in the Manor and a lot of phone waving in the air. The Droid X arrived and I spent a lot of quality time with the newest Motorola phone running Android. The folks at LogMeIn finally released the Android version of their great remote desktop access program. I had a lot of fun appearing as a guest on the Technology Bytes radio show, and got to use some mobile tech in the studio. Let’s take a look at the week and see if we can learn anything.
Droid X launched
Verizon and Motorola launched the Droid X yesterday, and I’ve been playing with one for a week. This phone impresses me the more I use it, due to its performance and form factor. It’s got the big screen, yet is thin and light. It is extremely comfortable in the hand, and it never ceases to amaze people when I show it to them. They are equally impressed how small it is yet with such a large screen (4.3 inches).
Motorola hit a home run with the Droid X, and I like everything about the phone. The TI OMAP processor is snappy, and Motorola’s including so much storage (8 GB internal, 16 GB microSD) is outstanding. The Verizon 3G network is as good as can be, and the ability to use the Droid X as a mobile hotspot (extra cost) is a useful feature.
If Motorola can produce enough of these phones — something that has taxed many OEMs lately – it is going to sell a lot of these. The original Droid on Verizon is one of the top-selling Android phones due to the heavy promotion by the carrier, and I foresee the Droid X surpassing that due to how much it has improved over the first generation Droid. There were actually people lined up to by the Droid X the night before it launched. Android is here to stay.
There’s an app for that
The Android Market is growing by leaps and bounds, no matter who you believe. This week Androlib proclaimed there are now 100,000 apps in the Market, which caused Google to step up and say there are officially 70,000. Whichever number is accurate, there are a lot of apps available, and more submitted every day.
I have noticed the quality of apps is improving over time, and when you start looking for one to do a particular task, you can now find several to choose from. It makes it hard to find good ones since there are so many, so good user-generated lists are invaluable.
I’ve owned the HTC EVO 4G for over a month, and I still like this phone a lot. I have been observing the operation of the phone by using the System Panel app, which can be configured to monitor things like CPU usage, network usage and battery consumption. It has a unique ability to chart this usage over time, and having watched it for a while I can make some general observations about Android’s operation.
One of the coolest features of Android is the Live Wallpapers, those home screen backgrounds that are animated. Some of them even do cool things that are useful. In addition to the ones that come preinstalled on any Android phone, there are gobs of them in the Android Market, both free and at a cost. Ever since I first saw the live wallpapers in action, I was curious how they might impact the performance and battery life of the phone. What I’ve discovered using the system monitor with them activated is that you have to be very careful with them.
Some of these wallpapers have a huge hit on the system. I have run tests where I noted what time I activated a particular live wallpaper so I could check the activity graph later and see how it impacted the system. I’ve run into a few of them that immediately hit the CPU hard, even when the phone is idle, and don’t stop until the wallpaper is deactivated. I’ve seen this to be so consistent I no longer run any live wallpaper on any Android phone.
I have noticed this affect on three capable Android phones: HTC EVO 4G, Droid X and the Droid Incredible. Not every live wallpaper hits the system hard, but you can’t tell from what the wallpaper does just how hard it might tax the system. It’s easier to just avoid them. No matter what Android phone you have, if the wallpaper is hitting the CPU hard constantly, it will have a negative impact on the battery life.
Run your computer remotely
One of the apps I use a lot while mobile is LogMeIn Ignition, the remote control program that lets me take over any computer back in my office from one of my mobile devices. I originally bought the iPhone app to address those emergencies I encountered when working away from the office and needed access to a real computer. LogMeIn released an iPad version of the app (free to iPhone app owners) that is really useful, as I can use the iPad as a window into either a Mac or a Windows system and run “real” apps remotely.
This week the Android version of the app was released, and I’ve been testing it on the EVO. It works much like the iPhone version, and having the 4.3-inch screen on the EVO makes it a very useful utility. I have worked with my Mac and a Windows system using the little EVO, and it is pretty cool. I’ve only tested it over 3G and it can get a little laggy due to the connection speed; it is still very useful for short sessions. I intend to test it using a 4G connection which should be quite good.
This Android release is important for those who provide technical support on the go. I’ve heard from a few support folks who indicated they would like to switch from the iPhone to Android, but can’t as they are totally dependent on LogMeIn to do their job. This barrier is now removed, so Android is now an option for support people. The app is expensive ($29.99) but is worth it for remote support sessions.
Mobile tech in the studio
I had a great time on the Technology Bytes radio show this week. This show is on KPFT 90.1 FM and it’s great to sit down to talk tech with Dwight Silverman, Jay Lee and the rest of the gang. Even though we were sitting in a studio, there was mobile tech in attendance, some that surprised me.
There were four of us in the booth, and since we all had computers to get online in case it was necessary to answer a caller’s question, the collection of computers was very mobile in focus. There were two netbooks — MSI Wind and Acer — one MacBook and my iPad. All of us were able to do everything we needed to do on the show, which demonstrates that the different platforms have converged.
I was surprised to see Dwight using a Clear 4G modem in the studio. When I questioned him about that he said the station’s Wi-Fi could sometimes be erratic and the 4G coverage in the studio was very good. Based on his good 4G experience at the location, I pulled out the EVO and turned on the 4G. The connection speed was outstanding, so I turned on the mobile hotspot and used it to keep my iPad connected for the entire two hour show. Mobile tech doesn’t require a mobile setting to be useful, as I’ve often said.
e-Book of the week
This week I read the latest novel from one of my favorite authors, James Patterson. Private is a typical Patterson story, this one involving private investigator Jack Morgan and his immersion in several simultaneous mysteries. It’s not the best Patterson book, but certainly entertaining.
That’s the week at Mobile Tech Manor as it went down. It was highly focused on Android, as it is the hottest platform currently. Watch those live wallpapers, they can be killers. Until next week, be safe.