Lookit the shiny:

i-32a21ce53cb04c17b2679965b953dd24-sm_shiny_phone.jpg

That’s a new Droid X smartphone, and it’s mine. I got it yesterday after discovering the existence of a slightly cheaper “data only” plan that is so secret only about 10% of Verizon Wireless employees know it exists. As my previous phone was a freebie LG flip phone from about three years ago that didn’t even have a camera, let alone any “apps,” this is a big step.

I activated it late last night (early this morning, really), but haven’t done anything more than really basic set-up on it. I am not allowed to play with it until after I finish the revisions to Chapter 5 of the book-in-progress (also visible in the picture), but that doesn’t mean you all can’t use the comments to suggest essential can’t-miss gewgaws that I simply must add to it.

Why this purchase now? My previous objections to getting a smartphone were twofold: 1) We got almost no reception in our house, so it would be pointless, and 2) even when I’m out somewhere with decent reception, I almost never used my existing cellphone, and paying for 400 minutes/month when I used maybe 400 minutes in a year seemed kind of ridiculous.

The reception objection was removed by spending a few weeks working at home while our basement was being refinished, and listening to the contractor get and make ten calls a day on his cell. In the basement. Clearly, the problem was not intrinsic to our house, but had something to do with our cheap phones. And the preliminary indications are that that was, in fact, the case– I have more bars here with the new phone than I ever got with the old.

The “data only” plan gets around the minutes problem, at least somewhat. It’s still more than I’d like to be paying, but I’ve hit enough situations in the last year or so where it would’ve been great to be able to access my email without needing to find a wireless hotspot and drag out the laptop that I think it’s worth it. Last year was probably an all-time record amount of travel for me, but as I’ve got at least one out-of-town trip lined up for each of the first four months of 2011, I suspect it may be a real increase in my average amount of travel.

I’m also hoping that the Google Calendar integration will help me become more organized, or at least less disorganized. I used to carry an old Palm PDA, but found it an enormous pain in the ass to enter anything into its calendar, and then couldn’t get it to synch with anything else. This ought to let me be a little more conscientious about keeping an updated calendar. I think. We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s my big new toy. feel free to use the comments to tell me about cool tricks I should learn to use on this, or to explain at length why I chose the wrong phone (somebody will do that whether I give permission or not, I know), or whatever. I have book revisions to get typed in before I can play Angry Birds start exploring the new phone’s functions.

Comments

  1. #1 SimonG
    December 31, 2010

    I got a smartphone a year ago, (a Nokia) with little idea of what I’d do with it. Like a lot of tech you never really know what you’re going to do with it until you actually start using it.

  2. #2 KevinQ
    December 31, 2010

    So, how does one go about signing up for this data-only plan, if it’s so secret? Tell, tell.

    K

  3. #3 Janne
    December 31, 2010

    My most used apps are:

    Useful:

    NewsRob – excellent RSS reader with good Google Reader integration. It has all important customizations (like per-feed setting on if you want just the RSS feed, or if it should download the web page too) and works really well if you read a lot of stuff through RSS.

    RealCalc. RPN calculator. Good one. ‘Nuff said.

    AppBrain – interface to the AppBrain website, an alternative catalogue to the Android Market. Much better way to find new stuff than the market itself.

    FBReader and Aldiko – two book reader apps. Both are good, and both have one or two features I really like and the other lacks. As it is, I have both and have been unable to decide on one of them so far.

    OSMonitor – check your system status, kill runaway processes, look at the kernel logs. Perhaps more fun if you’re a Unix geek, but can be useful for killing he very occasional badly behaved application.

    Google Maps – Google Maps in your pocket. Useful.

    Fun:

    GOdroid – Play Go on your phone. Anybody who is actually good at this game will find it too easy I suspect, but for a complete duffer like me it’s a fun time sink.

    Nethack – fairly useable port of the game, though on-screen keyboard playing can be a little slow.

    Angry Birds – yes it’s fun. And yes, it will drain your battery like nothing else I’ve ever tried. I have no clue why; much more graphics- and physics-intensive games manage to do far better.

    I use them; you probably won’t:

    Aedict – free, good Japanese-English dictionary, using the Edict dictionaries.

    Mainichi Shinbun – App for reading the latest Japanese news.

    Norikae Annai – find train scedules, plan trips, figure out the shortest route for any Japanese train or bus line.

  4. #4 Dave
    December 31, 2010

    I’ve had the Droid X for a few months now and love it. I recommend getting the Kindle App (or whatever ebook app you enjoy). The X is the only phone I’ve encountered that is large enough to justify using your phone as a regular ebook reader.

  5. #5 Joseph Smidt
    December 31, 2010

    Congratulations on the new phone. I thought I would never have much use for a cell phone but it turns out I use the data stuff now all the time. Emails etc…

  6. #6 Jamie
    December 31, 2010

    The long press is your friend. Learn it, know it, love it. You should also turn on swype. I’ll give you a rundown of apps later.

  7. #7 Robert
    December 31, 2010

    ArXiv droid is nice for skimming the day’s preprints and the tricorder app is lots of fun.

  8. #8 cass_m
    December 31, 2010

    congrats on your acquisition. My Galaxy S was recently in the shop for a couple of weeks and I was surprised at how much I missed being able to quickly check stuff on line, text and email. Not to mention play read. App recommendations I have are dropbox (file storage in cloud, access anywhere) and Quickmark (qr reader)

  9. #9 katydid13
    December 31, 2010

    I too would like to know about the secret data since making calls on a smart phone is not a high priority to me.

  10. #10 Chad Orzel
    December 31, 2010

    The only advice I can offer on the sooper seekrit plan is to keep insisting that it exists, and eventually, you’ll run across somebody who will have seen it before, and will know how to put you on it. They all know that there’s a data-only plan for small businesses, but only a couple of them were aware that there’s an individual version of it as well. Once we located somebody who knew about it, it was pretty easy to add.

    The one drawback is that they charge $0.25/min for any phone calls you do make, which is a little steep. But still, it’s something like $30/mo cheaper, which is a lot of phone calls. And if I read the information correctly, Skype-to-Skype calls are free, if you want to call other people with data plans.

  11. #11 Detritus the Troll
    December 31, 2010

    I know nothing about these infernal gadgets so I can’t contribute to the conversation on that score. (I work in an environment which doesn’t require, in fact positively discourages, them.) I was, however, instantly drawn to the Pratchett reference in the title. Fellow Pratchett-o-philes may know that this is Hogswatch Night, and that tomorrow is the first day of the Year of the Rat, in the Century of the Anchovy. Happy Hogswatch Day to all!…(Detritus the Troll)

  12. #12 crd2
    January 2, 2011

    Get Alchemy. You’ll love that game.

    There’s a program called Appkiller. Some people swear by it and others refuse to use it. Definitely read about it in the link below and decide for yourself. Appkiller can interfere with your alarm clock causing it to not go off so choose wisely.

    http://forum.androidcentral.com/droid-incredible/21268-final-verdict-should-i-use-app-killer-not.html

  13. #13 Jamie
    January 2, 2011

    Okay, now that I’m sitting in front of my computer (instead of on my phone, which also happens to be a Droid X) catching up, I thought I’d point out some useful apps.

    Advanced Task Killer. It is your friend.

    Amazon Kindle: All the classics for free on your phone (and if you have a Kindle, your collection there can be accessed as well).

    Android LightSaber: Just for fun.

    Barcode Scanner: Actually really useful.

    Google Books: Yep, I use this too.

    Bump: This is a great little app for sending/receiving files and apps to/from other people.

    Canon EPP: If you have a Canon Wireless printer in your house, it will find it and print directly to it.

    Chrome to Phone: From Chrome, send a link to your phone for access later.

    ConvertPad: Converts just about anything to anything else.

    DC Metro Transit: (For readers in the DC area who also have Android phones, you NEED this app) Real time Metro Station status.

    Documents to Go: I use this for opening Word docs, my wife has the paid for version and all the goodies that come with it.

    Droid Light: App to use your phone as a flashlight.

    DropBox: DropBox is DropBox, you’re either already using it, or you will be at some point, it’s too convenient not to.

    Facebook: Tweetdeck is better for your newsfeed, but for Photos, posting, and FB chat, you need to real thing, it also pulls your FB contact list into your phone.

    Google Reader: I find it easier to keep up with my RSS feeds using this app on my phone cleaner than logging in via browser.

    Google Sky Map: Turn on GPS tracking so it knows where you are.

    GPS Status: Does exactly what it says.

    Meebo IM: All your IM accounts in one app.

    MyIP: This is useful when you’re having network issues.

    Nook: Another ebook reader, yay. They’re all slightly different and they all have free content for out of copyright works.

    ONN: Onion News Network. Just Because.

    PocketCloud: Access your computer’s desktop remotely from your phone.

    RingDroid: lets you edit and create ringtones from MP3s.

    Skype: Skype is Skype. Only works on 3g though, which is a PITA when I’m in a place with good WiFi and lousy signal. I blame VZW.

    Tricorder: Yes, this is exactly what you think it is. It also gives you some real useful info in one handy little app.

    TweetDeck: Twitter, FB, Buzz, and Foursqaure feeds all in one handy little widget.

    Twitter: Official app pulls in contacts in much the same fashion as official FB app.

    Google Voice: If you don’t have Google Voice yet, get it. One number: all my phones, all my VM, and all my SMS in one place. It also means I don’t have text enabled on my phones and I don’t pay VZW for incoming sms spam.

    WiFi Analyzer: Excellent app. Especially if you have neighbors whose 802.11X is stomping all over yours. Lets you see whose broadcasting on what channels. Also gives you db for selected network so you can move your AP around for best placement.

  14. #14 Derek Jones
    January 2, 2011

    Arity is a graphing calculator

    RealCalc is the usual hand held calculator with hex/octal support

    SpectralView analyser for broad spectrum sound analysis

    Seismo, just in case there is a local earthquake

    Accelerometer log, for 3-axis acceleration.

    Google sky map for figuring out what that star pattern is

    Ruler green, for measuring

    I have not found an app for distance estimation using echo location, suggestions welcome.

  15. #15 Matthew Beckler
    January 4, 2011

    I upgraded to an android-based phone back in September, and I’ve found that tethering it to my linux laptop while traveling is a godsend. Forget the terrible and expensive wireless at most airports and hotels. Using the usb cable, I can set up a vpn-style connection from my laptop to my smartphone and access the internet at a fairly decent speed.

    http://community.spiceworks.com/how_to/show/1047