One Week With Android

Now that my wife is posting regularly, perhaps I should resume my technobabble-related ramblings. I’ve been the happy owner of a US Cellular HTC Desire for a week now and am loving every minute of it. Being back at US Cellular with all the related perks has been awesome as well.

Let’s get the gripes out of the way early… I really have only two, and they’re common to many Android users: battery life and storage space. I sometimes have trouble making it through the day, but I still have some tweaks to try and really, the iOS4 already prepped me by killing my iPod Touch’s battery life. Plus with USC, I can get a new battery for free anytime I want! Storage space for apps is atrocious, though only compared to what I’m coming from (having all 32gigs available to me). I patiently await Froyo 2.2 to alleviate this concern.

The great stuff? Being off Apple will be a nice relief. Most of my gripes with the iPod are taken care of by default. And despite earlier posts, having data available everywhere has already proved very useful (and not just for Pandora, which has become my default music-listening option). Plus I now have a decent camera always available as well as GPS for the occasional trip to unknown locations (and perhaps a new family geocaching hobby that may or may not take off). What really makes it amazing, though, is everything it can do that iPhone can’t:

Tasker – ~$6 ($5 direct from developer)

As one of my coworkers this thing makes your phone a true “smart” phone. With so many options a programmer would love, I haven’t even begun to figure out everything this can do for me, but here’s a start:

  • Automatic silent mode during meetings (driven off calendar) and during church (fixed time)
  • Insert headphones = popup instant menu of media apps (actually this popup menu thing can also be used as a much nicer implementation of folders)
  • Auto-enable GPS when loading maps (or any) app; disable it when done
  • Auto-lower volume when a certain high-volume family member calls
  • Custom Alarms (I actually did this just to get the permanent alarm icon off my notification bar, but you can play any song, support advanced snooze/shutoff/etc.)
  • Auto-updating battery status widget
  • Read aloud messages received while driving
  • Tons more!

LauncherPro – FREE ($2.99 upgrade option)

Sense is pretty and all, but do I really need a clock taking up half my home screen? And that’s really all it is. LauncherPro lets you customize the way you launch apps and organize your home screens, but it’s so much more than that.

  • Hide apps in the drawer – why list them there when they’re on your home screen or bloatware pre-installed on your phone? If you really want one back, search is your friend.
  • Custom dock: 5 shortcut keys to do whatever you want. Basically like the iOSĀ  dock except you can put any Launcher shortcut in there. Oh, and have two actions for each icon. (I click on phone, it takes me to the dialer. I slide across the icon and it loads my contacts.)
  • Activity shortcuts and Profiles – more programming wizardry, but you can create a dock or homescreen icon to take you to a particular settings page in any app. And with profiles (I haven’t even checked this out yet), you can create automated scripted tasks, too.
  • Resizable Widgets (upgrade) – Minimal use but cool when applicable. I have a 4×1 power strip with 6 toggles on it. But I can shrink it to 3×1 or even 2×1, and it still works fine!
  • LauncherPro Widgets (upgrade) – The best things about sense (except the ugly clock.. yet), but being actively developed and with multiple size options. I like the agenda view mainly, and am looking forward to the friendstreamesque (facebook+twitter) widget next week.

Google Voice

US Cellular has free incoming texts, but I don’t want to pay for a texting plan. But in Android, I can text from any app that hooks into text messaging by using Google Voice instead of the standard messaging app. The drawback is my Voice # shows up, but realistically, the only person I ever text is Amanda, who already knows it. Also, with an app like

Google Voice Callback, I can essentially call for free (because, oh yeah, US Cellular has free incoming minutes, too). I probably won’t use that too much unless we get close to our minutes, since we have a pretty low plan for now. (They text us when we get close, too).


While this app is not quite as full-featured as Stanza on iOS, it still lets me download free books automatically. And change the hardware brightness (oh wait, iOS doesn’t let you do that). And add book-shortcuts to your homescreen. And turn pages with the volume keys (apps get banned for that by Apple).

This just after one week! Give me a couple months and we’ll really see what this thing can do!

Alternative Input Methods

I haven’t played around too much with this, but you can replace the keyboard with different systems including Swype (which I hear is awesome…if it ever comes out of closed beta). Plus just tap a key on the keyboard and speak what you want to say. I guess there’s some speech recognition for iOS but it’s no good if the iPod Touch doesn’t have a microphone.

Like I said, I’ve just scratched the surface, but already I can do so much more than just browse the Internet on my phone. Exciting times are ahead!

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