Droid 4 First Impressions: Speedalicious and Shiny

At long last, I have relinquished my beloved OG Droid and upgraded to a shiny, new Droid 4.
Droid 4
This wasn’t undertaken without some trepidation. My OG Droid was rooted, overclocked, and running a custom ROM with a lot of snazzy features, and I knew that I wouldn’t be rooting a new device for at least a year (not until after the warranty expires) so would have to deal with bloatware and a manufacturer’s skin—Blur (Motorola), TouchWiz (Samsung), or Sense (HTC)—running atop stock Android in addition to not having all the customization and control over my device that I’ve grown accustomed to.

But as souped up and modded as it was, my poor old Droid suffered from something I couldn’t fix: a shortage of RAM. At only 256 MB, even running a streamlined Gingerbread ROM to maximize memory and CPU balancing, I was having to strip off apps to conserve space and was still seeing an inevitable slowdown—despite overclocking the processor to 1 GHz. Every time one of my apps got an update, I had to weigh the increased size of it (upgrades to apps inevitably include size creep) and potential increase in CPU demands against the amount of internal storage/RAM I had, which usually meant I didn’t install the update. But even with painstaking space hoarding, websites were taking forever to load, apps likewise took forever to launch and frequently force closed or froze after they did finally open, and it often took half my train commute simply waiting for a status update to update already.

The thing is, I’m impatient. I just plain hate waiting for anything (not an advantageous personality trait for a writer to have, btw). And I’m also usually crunched for time, which exacerbates my normal hurry-up-already mindset to a perpetual state of “Rrarghh!” *gnash teeth, foam at mouth*. Of all the bells and whistles I enjoy ringing and tooting on my tech, what I really want is speed. I crave blazing fast, snappy responsiveness, lickety-split data downloads, and instantaneous content.

So when the Droid 4 came out touting 4G, a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, and 1 GB of RAM, I had lust.

Continue reading →

Running Gingerbread on my Droid, Simply Stunning v5.4, and Most Useful App Recommendations

Matthew’s Droid X upgraded to Gingerbread (Android O/S version 2.3.x) last week, so I decided it was time to give Gingerbread a try, too. I’ve been running ChevyNo1′s Simply Stunning Froyo ROM (v.4.9x on Android v.2.2.1) since I rooted my Droid, and in what I consider great cosmic serendipity, the developer released an update to his Simply Stunning Gingerbread ROM (v.5.4) as well as updated kernels the same week I decided to give Gingerbread a try.

Wow. I only wish I’d upgraded to Gingerbread before. Faster. More responsive. Cooler running. Longer battery life. It’s like I got a brand new phone.

I initially chose Simply Stunning because of its reputation for stability, excellent battery life, and impressive performance. Also, the developer is known for making incredibly stable, reliable, high-performance kernels. I was most satisfied with his Froyo ROM, so I’m not surprised that he’s developed yet another spectacular ROM for Gingerbread. What I am astonished about is that my Droid is capable of running so fast and so smooth. I don’t think it’s ever been snappier, even fresh out of the box without a single app installed.

I’m using the kernel that came with SS5.4, a low-voltage 1.0GHz. I thought about flashing a 1.1GHz or even trying a 1.2GHz, but honestly, my Droid is running so well, I don’t see the need more speed.

For folks with rooted Droids, I highly, highly recommend trying out this ROM.

And for both rooted and non-rooted folks, here’s a few new “Most Useful” app recommendations:

Continue reading →

New Favorite Apps: Part 3 – Most Fun Apps Redux

As I promised yesterday, herein my three new favorite Most Fun Apps:

  1. 2player DLNA Music Player – A music player that acts as a remote control for DLNA and UPnP devices on your home network. I can play music from my Droid on our home entertainment system, stream music from our media server to play on my Droid, and play music from my wireless data station on either my Droid or our home entertainment system. All controlled, wirelessly, by my Droid.

    OMG, geekgirl rapture. It’s so shiny!

  2. Moboplayer – An awesome video player that can handle MKV, MPV, MOV, and a bunch of other formats without conversion. I can finally watch subtitled .MKV anime episodes on my Droid!
  3. TuneIn Radio Pro – Browse and listen to radio broadcasts: live, local, and global. NPR on my Droid. Sweet!

    This was another Amazon Appstore freebie, but I believe the only difference between the pay and free version is that the free one has ads.

New Favorite Apps: Part 2 – Most Useful Apps Redux

Continuing my new favorite apps list from yesterday, here’s three new Most Useful Apps:

  1. Fancy Widget Pro – A slick, highly customizable clock and weather widget with configurable tap actions and tons and tons of skins. As I mentioned yesterday, I got the paid version for free from the Amazon Appstore, but the free version looks to have most of the main features the pro version offers.
  2. Jorte – A really slick calendar/personal organizer app with lotso customization options. Easy to use, syncs to your Google calendar, and has a number of really nice and attractive widget options.
  3. Quick Settings – This app lets you quickly toggle and change common Android settings like GPS, wifi, bluetooth, volume, brightness, ringer, and screen timeout within another app via the status bar or a long press of the search key. It also displays memory use, battery consumption, and has a flashlight toggle.

    Ever turned on Navigation to get turn-by-turn directions and realized you’d forgotten to turn on the GPS receiver? Or wanted to download something and realized wifi wasn’t enabled? Or been in the middle of explaining some Android workings to your significant other and your screen keeps timing out? You don’t have to sigh and bring up your home screen toggle (or worse, go through Settings), before returning to your app. With Quick Settings, you can change fundamental Android settings without leaving your app. Once you try Quick Settings, you’ll boggle that you ever managed without it.

    Screenshots:

Continue reading →

New Droid in the Family. New Favorite Apps: Part 1

So the hubby finally relegated his stupidphone to its rightful place in the refuse bin and upgraded to a smartphone: a shiny, new Droid X. We are an Android family.

Been showing him the Android ropes and suggesting apps for him to try and, in the process, have discovered several new fabulous apps. So I figured it was time to update my list of best Android apps.

New Most Essential Apps:

  1. Amazon Appstore – This app lets you download and install apps from Amazon.com’s Android app marketplace. And to entice folks to use their appstore instead of the Android Market, Amazon is offering a different free paid app every day. Of note, once you “buy” a promo free-paid app, it remains in your app list even if you uninstall it, so you can re-install it whenever you like without having to pay for it. To date, the apps I’ve snagged include Weatherbug Elite, Fancy Widget Pro, TuneIn Radio Pro, PhotoVault, Trillian, and WolframAlpha—several of which made my new Top Apps listing. Definitely worth the download.
  2. Go Launcher Ex – After discovering LauncherPro, I thought I’d found my eternal home screen replacement app. But this baby converted me, and I am now a devotee of Go Launcher Ex. In addition to all (or most of) the awesome features that LauncherPro offers, Go Launcher Ex also provides an overhauled app drawer with a tabbed interface which you can create folders inside of, view a recently used app history, as well as uninstall, lock, and kill apps within. Due to Go Launcher Ex’s additional app organization options, I’ve dropped the number of home screens I was using from four to two. Yowza.

    Continue reading →

Ailing Human Suit Leads to Rooting My Droid and Top 5 Essential Rooted Apps List

Hope everyone who observes it had a fabu Thanksgiving holiday!

Spent most of mine lounging on the couch, dealing with human suit issues. I seem to have acquired a minor cold, which is throwing off my temperature regulation system. Irregular fever spikes are an early symptom of my immune system about to go totally wonky, so I took it really easy, even through I didn’t feel that bad. As such, I got little to no writing done. But I did take the plunge and root my Droid.

I’ve been wanting to root it for a while now, primarily so I can overclock the CPU. But I’ve been too lazy to go through all the hoop jumping, and I’ve also been concerned about the whole voiding of the warranty thing (with the related worry that I’d brick my Droid in my root attempt). But my warranty is nearly up, and a new, free, extremely safe, one-button rooting app recently came out: z4root.

Z4root provides the option of temporarily or permanently rooting your Android phone. So I could try it out first and make sure everything worked okay before doing it for keeps. And it also has an easy, one-button unroot option, so “permanent” isn’t a set-in-stone commitment either. Installed z4root, rebooted my Droid, ran z4root, and two minutes later, I was rooted. And suddenly a whole wealth of new apps with shiny options opened up to me. Time for another list!

Herein my Top 5 Essential Rooted Apps:

Continue reading →

Best Droid Apps Revisited: Five New Fun Apps and Some Honorable Mentions

Rounding out my best Droid apps reprise are five additions to my “Most Fun” apps list:

  1. Furry Creatures 11 Clocks Set – A collection of clock widgets for your home screen that are shortcuts to the stock alarm settings. Not for everyone, but all the fuzzy beast clock widgets made me go squee. I’m a girl. They’re cute.
  2. iLightr Virtual Lighter – It’s a Zippo lighter you can flip open, flick to light, and blow out. The flame even responds if you tip the phone. It’ll make you the hit of any party…so long as no one needs a real light.
  3. IMDB Movies and TV – Been waiting for this one. The perfect companion to the Flixster Movies app.
  4. Instant Heart Rate – It measures your heart rate using your phone’s camera! You put your finger over the camera lens for ten seconds, and it displays your current heart rate. How cool is that? But do keep a soft, lint-free cloth handy to wipe the smudgy prints off your camera when you’re done.
  5. MyPod Podcast Manager – I was looking for a more feature rich podcatcher/player for my Droid than Listen. This is it. MyPod is not a basic podcast app. It’s a bit complicated to set up and use, tech-intimdated be warned, but it does everything you could ever want a podcast app to do.

And some honorable mentions:

Continue reading →

Best Droid Apps Revisited: Five New Most Useful Apps

As promised, following my review of five new “Most Essential” apps for my Droid, herein five additions to my “Most Useful” apps list:

  1. WordPress for Android – I’m typing this post into my WordPress blog on my WordPress website, so it’s not much of a surprise that when the WordPress for Android app came out, I glomped on it. “Write, edit, publish, and manage comments from my Droid?” I thought, “What could be sweeter?” But it was glitchy, full of bugs, unreliable. I left it installed for emergency WordPress updates on the go (I develop WordPress websites on the side and support/maintain several different sites) but was unimpressed-unto-disappointed.

    Then the developers put out a couple updates, fixed the glitches and bugs, added some shiny features, and it turned from “meh” to “squee!”

  2. Continue reading →

Best Droid Apps Revisited: Five New Most Essential Apps

I compiled lists of my Top 10 Essential, Useful, and Fun Droid apps back in January, and since then, my Droid has been upgraded to Android 2.2 (Froyo), accompanied me to the Nebula Awards and Atlantis shuttle launch, and weathered Dragon*Con with me, and I’ve discovered new apps and retired old ones. I figured it’s high time I revisited my “Best Apps” lists.

Today I’ll review five additions to my “Most Essential” apps:

  1. LauncherPro - This is my most recent essential app find, and it has quickly gone from “essential” to ESSENTIAL.

    It’s a super-slick, super-smooth, super-fast home screen replacement to end all home screen replacements. It’s completely customizable with up to seven home screens and up to three scrollable docks, with each dock icon able to do two actions–the standard “tap here to launch app/do something” as well as a “swipe here to launch app/do something.” (So the dock, all by itself, can perform 30 separate actions–five icons in three docks multiplied by two!) LauncherPro also has a snazzy preview feature, i.e., see+select all your home screens on one screen; lets you hide apps in the app drawer that you don’t use (or just to keep things tidy); specify what the home key does; change how icons are highlighted when you select them; and specify how many rows and columns you want on your home screens. You can also choose from a number of stock docks, download custom docks from the dedicated forum, or create your own custom dock. And that’s just the free version. It is the god-king of home screen apps.

    LauncherPro epitomizes what I love about the Android platform: it improves on the stock, provides a dizzying array of options, is completely customizable, and has a thriving and enthusiastic user community. If I ever meet the developer, I will hug him.

  2. Continue reading →

Droid X, Multitouch Keyboard, and Swype Beta

So Motorola, Verizon, and Google announced yesterday that the Droid X will be coming out next month, and units have been pre-released to the media.

The Droid X looks impressive—faster processer, 8MP camera, HDMI output port, Adobe Flash, and a bunch of other shiny features. It also has a 4.3-inch screen (compared to the Droid’s 3.7-inch). Thing is, I actually prefer the smaller profile of my Droid. My hands and fingers are small, and I don’t like the idea of possibly having to strain to single-hand commands. Also, the Droid X doesn’t have a physical keyboard, which an hour ago was a definite deal breaker for me. But now I’m less adament. Why the sudden position wobbling, you ask?

Continue reading →