Year of the Droid

Picture of HTC Hero by L & C VolantI got the phone I started writing this on about a year ago, just before Christmas 2009. It has really changed the way I use my phone and the way I use the net. It’s totally different from any phone I used before and I use this more fully than I used any of my previous phones. Before I got this, I had been using an old Nokia, a 6100 I believe. It must have been six years old and although capable of taking and sending pictures and videos, the memory was so tiny that it soon filled up, and the pictures weren’t big. It was a small, phone-shaped and sized unit and did basic phone functions like calls and texts well. It outlived at least two more sophisticated units, and I broke at least two in anger. For that reason, I was apprehensive about getting this one, but having heard so much about phones with internet applications and which I could develop applications for myself, I decided I wanted one.

I’ve written about the teething problems I had with the unit before, as well as the quest for an update to the operating system which was made available but for which many hoops had to be jumped through (like having to get the instructions off a forum rather than T-Mobile’s or HTC’s website). I would not go back to the old unit now, however. I’m now able to check my emails and blog comments without being by my computer, and there is some convenience to that and, when comments are lively, it means I can approve them quickly rather than hours after submission and keep the discussion flowing. I like being able to check my Twitter and Facebook feeds on the go. Some might say that means being too wired in and attached to the world, and indeed I often find myself looking at my email or feeds rather than reading the newspaper I bought (which I could, actually, use my phone to read online). The internet capability is, however, only as good as the coverage. I find that, regardless of signal strength or how many people are likely to be on the network (fewer at night, for example), the internet coverage is intermittent and often cuts out.

The biggest drawback with this unit is that the battery life is pretty short — about a day, and it will barely make it through a full work day, much less if you use the internet applications. Google Maps [corrected] seems to be the biggest battery drain; last Saturday, I used it to look up where to deliver the consignments of bread I had to deliver in Brighton area, and the battery had almost completely drained well before I got back to base. I ordered a car charger off Amazon, which keeps it from running down completely during a driving job that starts at 6pm, like the one I was on the other day. I would also say that it’s not really suitable for typing long emails and blog entries. I’ve done it, but it’s frustrating, particularly if (like me) you can touch-type quickly when in front of a proper keyboard. Admittedly, the predictive text does cut down the time spent typing, but sometimes persistently suggests the wrong word or the wrong derivative of a word; it often suggests corrections rather than ways of completing the word (if you turn the phone into landscape format, it offers more suggestions). It lets you add words to the word bank, but it’s easy to add a non-word by mistake. Another serious annoyance is that it occasionally reboots, and sometimes crashes (usually by becoming unable to bring it back from standby). The only way round it is to take the battery out and put it back in again, and restart the phone (which takes ages).

All in all, I’m glad I got this phone and I would rather keep it than go back to my old one. It’s the only Android phone I have used, and perhaps the newer models have ironed out some of the glitches in this one. However, I would not recommend one of these to someone who was not in the least tech-savvy or, for example, wouldn’t think of the “take out the battery” method of resetting a phone. Android is a young platform, and I would recommend getting as new a model of handset as you can; I would not recommend buying a second-hand HTC Hero off eBay if they are available. You would be much better off getting a new one.

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