My Palm Pre Plus went on the fritz again. The microphone wasn't working. I called tech support, who walked me through an update . . . after which the earpiece wasn't working either. It wasn't a huge deal; the speakerphone and bluetooth still worked, so it wasn't unusable. But when Verizon offered me a free Droid X2, on account of them having run out of replacement Palms, I took the opportunity. It meant giving up my free tethering, for which I must now pay an additional $30 per month on top of the $30 I pay for having a smartphone, but at least my unlimited data plan is grandfathered.
Google owns the phone; the rest of us are just visiting. You must have or create a Google account to use the phone, although it is possible to use other Google accounts not registered in the operating system in a web browser. For some reason, this makes me just a little nervous. I have two Google accounts: one under my real name, the other under my blogging persona. I'm not going to pretend that Google couldn't figure out that these two are one and the same, but somehow this process just makes it a little too obvious.
Processor: The X2 has a dual core 1GHz processor, which makes everything a lot snappier than the Palm or Touch 2G. It's probably on par with the iPad or iPhone 4S.
Screen: The screen is big, and advertises a 500x800 resolution or so. But the actual video quality is, as of this writing, inferior to my 2G Touch, as well to the Palm as near as I remember. I'm getting ugly compression artifacts, and skin tones especially have a reddish splotchy appearance. All the reviews of the X2 raved about the quality of its graphics, so maybe something is wrong with mine. On the other hand, I visited a Verizon store and their display model had exactly the same problem.
Interface: Not at all intuitive. The iPhone and iPod have a single button + power button. The Palm has only a power button (not counting the physical keypad). The X2 has four buttons across the bottom, plus a power button. I believe this is the standard Android interface. The button on the far left brings up the options for whatever application you happen to be using. Unfortunately, it means that you have to use it to get to simple functions that on other devices are already on the screen, so what on other devices is a one-press operation becomes a two-press operation, like "delete" for emails.
Applications:Speaking of email: Hotmail (Microsoft Live) Exchange isn't suppported. On the X2, a Microsoft Exchange account is called "corporate sync" (which took some figuring out). And you can add a Hotmail account, and the phone will tell you you've been successful. But then . . . nothing. Attempts to send or receive emails generate error messages, and contacts and calendar contents do not appear in the calendar and contacts applications. To use Hotmail Exchange on the X2, you must download and install a separate Hotmail application from "Windows + SEVEN" (which took a long time to figure out), and it must be installed from the "Google Play Store", not the Verizon store. The Play store is merely called "Play" on its icon in the apps directory, which I also had to spend time figuring out; do you see how all the counterintuition starts to add up?
The operation of the hotmail handler is, again, not especially intuitive, but it must be used in lieu of the native application. It does seem to do everything I need it to do, but I found myself having to google (hey!) the instructions for doing several things, like saving attachments separately from an incoming email, that ought to be intuitive. (To save an attachment, open the email and then press and hold the grey bar next to the attachment until the option to save it pops up. Who knew?)
Once the hotmail application is installed, MS Live calendars and contacts then become available to their respective Android applications. Weirdly, however, the user is not permitted to add contacts to his Hotmail contact list. Or rather, he can add a name, but (and I'm not making this up) only a name field is available: no email, no telephone number, nothing.
GPS: GPS works! At least it works outdoors. This may sound like a low bar, but it mostly didn't work at all on my Palm. And I should say here that it didn't work on the X2 right out of the box, but Verizon tech support told me to take the battery out with the phone still on (he was very specific about this), put them back in and turn it on. After that it worked. It seems accurate too, as accurate as the iPhone, which in my experience was the only phone whose GPS actually seemed to work. (The iPhone GPS also seems to work indoors.)
DHLA: This technology allows the user to stream video from another device in the same network, like a laptop or network drive. So I can access my entire video collection from my phone. The technology is available on other platforms, too, but I hadn't heard of it until using the Android, and so far it's the only platform on which I've actually managed to make it work.
Google Apps: Since Google owns the phone, they may a lot of applications for it that aren't available on other platforms. Some of these are pretty worthless -- the Google Reader app, for instance, isn't even as functional as the Google Reader mobile website, let alone Feeddler (alas, apparently not available for Android) -- but other are better. For instance, Google Navigator gives turn-by-turn driving directions in real time, not unlike VZ Navigator, except Google Navigator is a free download whereas VZ Navigator costs $10/month I think.