n00b looking for advice


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  1. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Please forgive me. I apologize for posting this here: I am reposting my questions which I accidentally posted in the introductions forum. I searched, but could not see a way to move my post.

    So I'm thinking about getting a Droid X, but I don't want to post in that forum because I assume those people like their Xs and are biased towards them. I'd rather hear objective reasons I should change my mind. The Incredible is another phone I'm considering, and also the Fascinate.

    So here's my original post:

    Good morning to all my new friends.

    I've never owned a smartphone before, and would like some help in my decision making process. Maybe I'm just looking for a sounding board to bounce my thoughts off of.

    What I do:
    People call me for help, usually with their computers. I drive to their homes, often out in the sticks with no broadband, and sometimes with no cell signal.

    Why I want:
    I hate dial-up. I'd like to take some kind of broadband with me in such cases, to temporarily hook up to other people's computers.

    Also I like to set up a local network while I'm there to transfer files from my laptop to their pc. I'd also like to be able to check my appointments anywhere (I use Google Calendar) without getting out my laptop.

    Also (I have many "alsos") I currently have two Skype phone numbers and a Google Voice number. I'd like to free myself from having to lug out my laptop and plug in headphones every time I want to make a call.

    What I'm thinking:
    I currently have Alltel (I resist referring to them as Verizon because they piss me off) and think I'll stay because other companies seem to have worse coverage in rural areas. I'm leaning towards a Droid X. I welcome all comments from people suggesting otherwise. That's why I'm not posting this in the X forum just yet. Somebody please talk me out of this! lol

    My beef with verizon:
    Last year, before the evil V hijacked my service, I was perfectly happy with my Alltel account for $24.95 a month. I had 300 anytime minutes a month, free nighttime started at 6pm, and could call from just about anywhere in Michigan, free long distance to anywhere in the US, unlimited tethering for an additional $9.99 per month (which I dropped because I wasn't using it very often).

    Then the big bad came along and hijacked my account, promising that nothing would change. But then came the roaming charges, even within my own home town. They said my Alltel coverage area only included one tower, so if I drove to the other side of town I was roaming.

    After arguing all day, they bent me over a barrel and almost doubled my bill from $24 to $40 per month. I feel totally violated. Anyway... Sorry, it just feels good to get that off my chest.

    My concerns:
    I understand that if I get this droid, I'm also required to pull another $30/mo from my backside. That's where I draw the line, and I'll take it like a man. On top of that, another $20 for tethering??? That crosses the line. I'll root it first and not lose any sleep over it. But if I do this WiFi tethering, I've read that it's ad-hoc, not infrastructure, so will I be able to use it for pc-to-pc file transfers, like a router?

    At least it has Skype and Google Voice, right? But I hear that the evil V won't allow them as VOIP, even though I'd be paying for unlimited data, and that they'd burn my minutes instead. That also crosses the line. If I root my phone, is there a way to use VOIP?

    I do have ONE "friend or family", which currently is my Google Voice number. I currently have to call that number first, and then manually dial the person I'm calling. Is there any kind of "calling card" app that would do this automatically for me?

    Calendar:
    Is there a calendar app that will sync with my Google Calendar and keep a local copy I can view when I'm out of cell signal range?

    GPS:

    I used to use the GPS app on my old phone, Samsung u520, but it would quit working if I drove into an area with no service, so I bought a real dedicated GPS, a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx and dumped Alltel's GPS program and the data package (which I also used for occasional tethering). If I get the droid, will it have the same problem? Does the GPS require cell signal to function? Will it work in airplane mode?

    GPS Sensitivity:
    My first GPS experience was backpacking with my friend's eTrex Legend. It would lose the satellites in the woods because of the foliage. So I bought my eTrex Vista HCx which has a high sensitivity receiver. Now I can get a satellite lock even in my basement. What is the sensitivity of the GPS in a droid? Would it be suitable for backpacking in dense foliage with no cell service? If I can carry one less piece of equipment, that would be great. Can I load topo maps on it and save my tracks to a .gpx file?

    Navigation from Calendar:
    When I'm looking at my appointment in Google Calendar, which has the address in it, can I navigate from there? I'd hate to have to write down the address on a piece of paper, close the calendar, open the gps app, and manually enter it in there. Can droid make it easy?

    Phone while GPS?
    Another problem with the old Alltel GPS was that if a call came in, it would take over the phone, and I'd miss turns until I ended the conversation. Another reason I switched to a dedicated GPS. Can a droid handle the call in the background and still let me navigate?

    Music?
    I plug my phone into my car tape adapter to use as MP3 player. I do like that it would pause playing when a call came in, but if I want to initiate a call, I have to totally shut down the player. With a droid, can I just pause it instead? Also, and I know this is a long shot, can I play music while using the GPS to navigate?

    Camera?
    I have a Canon PowerShot A570IS, just a cheap but nice pocket camera. I know the DroidX has a big fat 8MP sensor, but with that little tiny lens, are pictures as good as my couple year old Canon, which has Image Stabilization and optical zoom? Also, does it automatically geotag the photos?

    Whew! I know that's a lot of questions. If you're still with me, thanks for hanging! If anyone can suggest a better phone for my needs, or any other ideas, I'm totally open to suggestions. If droid can't do most of these things yet, maybe I'll just wait another year or two and look again later.

    Summary of questions:
    Can wifi tether act as router for pc-to-pc transfers?
    Any hope for Skype or Google Voice to use VOIP instead of minutes?
    How about at least a calling card app to route calls through my friend or family?
    Can calendar cache a local copy?
    Does GPS work without cell service?
    If yes to above, is it sensitive enough to use in dense foliage?
    If yes to above, can I download topo maps and save tracks?
    Can I navigate in car while playing music or making a call?
    Does the camera geotag the photos?
    Could it replace my Canon camera?
    Is there a better phone I should consider?
    Should I just scrap the idea and keep waiting?

    Thanks everyone!
     

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  2. dan330

    dan330 Well-Known Member

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    Summary of questions:
    Can wifi tether act as router for pc-to-pc transfers?
    i dont know.. but i dont think so. It is mostly used for sharing internet service.

    Any hope for Skype or Google Voice to use VOIP instead of minutes?
    yes.. google voice for sure... skpe is an app.

    How about at least a calling card app to route calls through my friend or family?
    I dont know. dont use it.
    if they are outside the country. I understand there are apps that let your video chat for free to anyone around the world that has access to internet.

    Can calendar cache a local copy?
    YES. android loves google.. anything google.

    Does GPS work without cell service?
    NO.. not the GPS service that comes with the phone. It has to load maps from the internet as you move.
    You can purchase GPS apps from the Market that has full maps that you download into your phone. CoPilot is a good one and I understand it is on sale for $3 till Xmas ($35 regularly).

    If yes to above, is it sensitive enough to use in dense foliage?
    new phones have pretty good GPS radios. I can get locks inside buildings. (note: samsung phones have been know for weak radios)

    If yes to above, can I download topo maps and save tracks?
    android is very helpful here. it can share data between apps.

    Can I navigate in car while playing music or making a call?
    Yes.

    Does the camera geotag the photos?
    Yes. many apps that can do that.

    Could it replace my Canon camera?
    I will never replace a real camera. But it is pretty good for quick and most needs.

    Is there a better phone I should consider?
    I am partial to HTC phones...

    Should I just scrap the idea and keep waiting?
    are there any other options?
     
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  3. takeshi

    takeshi Well-Known Member

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    Can't speak for Skype but GV isn't a VOIP solution so, no for GV -- not on its own anyway. IIRC, GV can be configured to work with a VOIP solution but you'd need to dig around for current info unless someone pipes up.

    If your GV number is your only F&F number there are apps to route your outbound calls via your GV number such as gvmynumber.

    IMO you've pretty much answered your own question regarding image quality. MP doesn't mean a thing except for pixel count. If this is a make-or-break item on your list then definitely test out the cameras on the devices you're considering in person to see if any meet your expectations.

    Yup. Muiltitasking is multitasking. Android doesn't selectively choose apps to not multitask.

    Better is always highly subjective. There's nothing in your post that I see that would make one Android device stand out above all others for you. As always, check out the devices in person to assess your preference for the physical characteristics such as size, weight, form factor, keyboard, "build quality", etc.

    Just to clarify as this seems to be commonly misunderstood: The GPS receiver does not need cell service. The GPS app, on the other hand, may require data. It all depends on the specific app in question. The ever-popular Google Maps Nav requires data. CoPilot Live, as well as other solutions, does not.
     
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  4. lordofthereef

    lordofthereef Well-Known Member

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    I haven't used skype on android, but I imagine it doesn;t work any differently than the iPhone app. If that is the case, it is a full blown VOiP service. You can call other skype users over 3G for free or use your skype minutes to call land and cell phone lines.

    As far as copilot, that is an amazing price. I see it for $4.99. Is that the NORMAL price or is it the sale price (I ask because you mentioned $3 above)
     
  5. dan330

    dan330 Well-Known Member

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    if my memory is correct..
    right before thanksgiving.. another member purchased it and said it was on sale till xmas. he said $2.99 (i might remember that incorrect). but 4.99 is still a great price!!! I remember last year it was over $30.
     
  6. MegatronVsMe

    MegatronVsMe Well-Known Member

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    You are really smart for coming here and asking questions, im going to reply with this tonight when im not responding on my phone and playing mario cart at the same time
     
  7. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Dan, can you give me more info about how you place calls through Google Voice on the phone? I've read that Verizon doesn't allow you to do this because they want you to use your minutes. On my pc, I do it through my web browser, but I have to have the Google Voice plugin installed.

    Regarding the GPS, I'm coming to the conclusion that even if it did work, it would suck the battery dry in a matter of hours. Therefore, I'm going to keep my Garmin and pretend the phone doesn't even have a GPS for decision making purposes. If it work in the car, great, but not a deal maker or breaker I guess.

    Same thing with the camera, no real zoom, image stabilization, tripod mount, etc. Nice convenient extra, but I'll ignore it in my decision.

    Takeshi, thanks for the tip about gvmynumber, that's great!

    Lordofthereef, yeah I read that about apple, they they let you use VOIP, but Verizon won't because they want you to use your minutes. Kind of defeats the reason for having Skype in the first place. That's why I'm kind of hoping that if I root the thing, it will let me do things the Big Bad V doesn't want me to do.

    Thanks MegatronVsMe, I look forward to your thoughts.
     
  8. bpm120

    bpm120 Member

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    I can not physically confirm but using a bluetooth gps "puck" versus the phone's gps is a battery saver.

    Having said this, and being an avid hiker, I only use my handheld gps as a spot checker versus while hiking and if I could use my phone in this capacity I would toss my handheld ... if I carried my phone with me hiking. In the places I hike there is typically not service so I do not typically bring my phone with me.
     
  9. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    bpm120, That's what I was thinking too. When I'm hiking, I carry the GPS to make maps, as many of the old trails are no longer on the park maps, so I'm trying to make my own. Also I use the data to geotag my photos.

    I would like to carry less stuff, but I don't see that happening.
     
  10. bpm120

    bpm120 Member

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    Ah, I see - bushwacing. Yes, in that case GPS out and on all the time.

    With a little work it could probably be done and might just be worth while. Basically shut everything down that is not needed on the phone, throttle down the processor, and use the gps puck with low refresh rate since you are not moving fast.

    Weight-wise
    Garmin etrex 5.3 oz
    EVO 6 oz + Iblue GPS 2 oz
    Gar. 625t 9 oz

    Even so a phone is probably not a rugged as a GPS device but there are cases.

    Definitely not an out of the box application ... yet.

    3club - Where are you trekking at?
     
  11. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Mostly North Manitou Island, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National lakeshore. North Manitou Island (NMI) is a federally managed wilderness preserve. Aprox eight miles by five miles in size, used to have two towns on it a hundred years ago, now there's nothing but trees. Sometimes if you look through the trees at the right angle you can notice "Hey, there used to be a road here!" But they're not on any maps, except the ones I'm making. :) It's a wonderful vacation getaway if you're in to peace and quiet. (But when we bring the kids, it's a little less quiet, lol)
     
  12. bpm120

    bpm120 Member

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    I have been to the lake side of Sleeping Bear Dunes! Never checked out the island. Huh, will have to do that.
     
  13. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    There's a north island and a south island. The south is more touristy, guided tours in vehicles, three campgrounds, running water, outhouses, etc. The north island has none of that. You camp anywhere you want, no campgrounds. Last spring I was there for four nights, never saw another person until the last night. I heard the ranger tried to find everybody's campsites. I was the only one he couldn't find.

    Two beautiful lakes on the island, no animals you need to worry about except mosquitoes and chipmunks.
     
  14. bpm120

    bpm120 Member

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    Good to know and thanks for the extra info. It is on the list.
     
  15. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Hello again,

    Just wanted to update everyone, in case any other folks have the same questions I had. About a week and a half ago, I bought the Droid X. It may have been the same day or maybe the next, I got the OverTheAir update to 2.3.340. I used z4root and it rooted just fine.

    I did install Wireless Tether. It does show up as an ad-hoc connection rather than infrastructure, but I can still connect multiple pcs to it and use it as a router for pc-to-pc file transfers. The internet speed is comparable to slow DSL, about 1.5mbps. Yes, it works great, and yes, I can still make and receive voice calls while wireless tethering.

    Regarding the Skype/Google Voice/VOIP thing rather than burning my minutes, I found an app called Google Voice Callback by Xinlu which intercepts outgoing calls, uses a data connection to initiate a google voice call from your google number to you phone, and then to the person you want to talk to. So you're actually getting an incoming call from your friend/family number. Works fantastic, and you can even select certain numbers to direct dial instead.

    Yes, the Google calendar, GMail, and Google contacts are all cached on the phone, and all available if you have no service. The extent of the integration with Google really impressed me.

    The GPS navigation is my favorite part! First, the app downloads and caches all the maps for your route and the areas around it, so if you lose service, it continues to work just fine. The GPS can still track your location without cell service. If you deviate too far from your route, beyond the map data that was downloaded, you might have problems. The GPS will still show you where you are, just no roads.

    The sensitivity of the GPS is not the best, but it's very good. I can still get satellite lock indoors, but it may show me a quarter mile from where I really am. Not as sensitive as my dedicated GPS unit, but still very good.

    Yes, it really does multitasking! (Technically task swapping, but close enough.) I can drive while listening to pandora, and watching the maps, and it will pause or mute the music when it needs to tell me to turn. It doesn't mute phone calls, so the other party has to listen to the GPS also, but that's okay. I'm very impressed.

    Yes, if you're looking at an appointment in your calendar, you can tap the address and it will bring up a map, and then you hit navigate and you're on your way. The guy at the Verizon store told me it couldn't do this, but it does. Glad I didn't listen to him! lol

    The camera has some nice features, a panoramic stitching mode, and anti-shake mode, etc. The pictures (indoor) are not great, kind of grainy compared to my cheap $99 Canon pocket camera, the the integrated geotagging, editing, and instant uploading to facebook and picasa make it worth losing a little quality in most situations.

    Battery life sucks, although maybe it's better than the competition. I may only get 4-6 hours, but I have to remember how much more stuff it's doing than my old phone, so I can't complain.

    In conclusion, I'm extremely happy with this phone, and would highly recommend it to anyone. I hope my experiences are helpful to other n00bs. :)
     
  16. darklide

    darklide Well-Known Member

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    No cell service = no phone service or phone internet.

    To solve your local area network to transfer files from your laptop to their pc just buy a router and connect both computers up through ethernet cable.
     
  17. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Oh, and just wanted to add a couple more great things I've discovered. I installed TeamViewer 6 on the phone, and it works great for supporting my clients remotely! That means longer vacations for me! (I did find that you need to disable UDP for good performance.) So if you're wondering about LogMeIn, gotomypc, VNC or anything like that, I can tell you that TeamViewer works great.
     
  18. 3club

    3club Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    @darklide, yes correct. no broadband + no cell service = a sad situation indeed. In that case, though, you don't even need a router, just one ethernet cable, pc to pc. But when the clients ethernet port is buried in the back of a cabinet, I found that the phone doubles as a potable hard drive quite nicely. I think I can stop carrying around my thumb drives now! :)
     
  19. dan330

    dan330 Well-Known Member

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    welcome to life with android... droid can be your personal assistant in most anything...
     

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