About a year ago I shared my nightmarish adventure on the Keybo2 with you. It's finally dying and I'll be moving soon so I decided it was high time for a new phone. In my time with the Keybo, Telus and Virgin began offering actual smartphones on their prepaid plans. Unfortunately, Telus is the only carrier with a true one-number-unlimited feature which I need to tunnel all of my calls through a VoIP incoming/dial-out gateway for unlimited North America calling and great justice.
I was a little wary given my caged experience on the keybo; I expected captive portals and locked down features abound. I talked myself into it though, realizing if I really liked it I would probably return it, drop all the VoIP buggery and get a real plan with an incumbent provider. Imagine my delight when I turned it on and:
- Connected to my access point
- Downloaded an SSH client from the REAL android market for FREE
- Created a VPN and shelled into a server
- Browsed a bunch of websites
- Installed and ran a terminal emulator
- Enabled built-in mobile hotspot (tethering)
At this point I knew I was in love; even though the prepaid data on Telus is crap ($10/250MB), totally unrestricted wifi makes up for that by letting one sync and cache certain apps before heading out. Kudos to Telus for embracing tethering; to tether the Keybo you have to unlock the service menu and grab your PPP credentials then use dial-up modem emulation over BlueTooth or USB.Â Unfortunately, the terminal emulator doesn't really give you any access to your phone unless you install a custom (rooted) ROM. I'm two weeks in and haven't needed to root my phone yet but if the urge arises expect another article. Interestingly, the NSA released SE Android yesterday but at present it looks like it must be built from source and probably won't be very noob-friendly for a while to come.
Here are the specs, courtesy of GSMArena:
|2G Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900|
|3G Network||HSDPA 900 / 2100|
|Status||Available. Released 2010, October|
|Dimensions||113.5 x 59 x 13.3 mm|
|Type||TFT capacitive touchscreen, 256K colors|
|Size||320 x 480 pixels, 3.2 inches (~180 ppi pixel density)|
|Alert types||Vibration, MP3 ringtones|
|Card slot||microSD, up to 32GB, 2GB included|
|Internal||170 MB user available, 512 MB RAM|
|GPRS||Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots), 32 - 48 kbps|
|EDGE||Class 10, 236.8 kbps|
|Speed||HSDPA 7.2 Mbps|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|Bluetooth||Yes, v2.1 with A2DP|
|Camera||Â 3.15 MP, 2048x1536 pixels, autofocus|
|Â Geo-tagging, face and smile detection, Beauty Shot|
|Video||Yes, [email protected]|
|OS||Android OS, v2.2 (Froyo), upgradable to v2.3|
|CPU||600 MHz ARM 11|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, proximity, compass|
|Messaging||SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM|
|Radio||Stereo FM radio|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS support|
|Java||Yes, via Java MIDP emulator|
|Features||- Social networking integration
- Google Search, Maps, Gmail
- YouTube, Google Talk
- DivX/Xvid/MP4/H.264/H.263/WMV player
- MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+ player
- Document viewer/editor
- Voice memo
- Predictive text input
Although the camera's resolution is no improvement over the Keybo I'm thrilled to finally have automatic, mechanical focus. Now instead of snapping 50 shots to get one decent one I'm down to something like 5. My Optimus shipped with Android 2.3 and a now-defunct app called the LG App Advisor.
Now that I had become introduced to my new toy it was time to get that totally badass animated weather wallpaper HTC Sense UI users have. To do this without purchasing Beautiful Widgets we first replace the default launcher (LG's kind of sucks anyway) with GO Launcher EX. Then download GO Weather, both available through the Android Market. GO Weather is a beautiful (literally) piece of software that provides three interfaces:
App - This sits in your app tray and has its own video theme. Opening the app provides detailed weather information and updates the weather data.
Widget - There are four different sized widgets that can be included in your launcher; depending on the skin you choose they may display different things.
Live Wallpaper - Set your launcher's background to the GO Weather Live Wallpaper and download a video theme to get a similar effect as the App.
Next I wanted to grab a few apps that would be handy around the city. TTC AlertsÂ is probably the neatest, most useful app I have installed so far. When a diversion, delay or cancellation happens on Toronto's bus, subway and light rail system I am notified by a vibration and red TTC icon in my status bar. Dragging down the status bar gives me the details. When the issue clears up and everything is moving smoothly once more the icon turns green. Essential for anyone who relies on The Rocket.
Another sweet app for TTC users is Transit Now Toronto. You can use your GPS to find the closest bus stop and plan your route. The free version of this app does not support the Alerts function but the TTC Alerts app discussed above makes this sort of moot. If you're lazy like me you may also like the TTC Subway Efficiency Guide which helps users pick the right place to stand on platforms so they are better situated to stairs and escalators at their destination. Toronto PATH Map is a pocket-sized map of the world's largest underground shopping complex.
Being a man of the province I also downloaded Go Mobile from Ryerson University. Go Transit is Ontario's inter-municipal transit system, it operates a combination of diesel-electric locomotives and coach busses to interconnect the towns and cities of Southern Ontario. My biggest complaint about this app is it requires a data connection to even get to the main menu. I feel the bus and train schedules could at least be cached daily. A minor gripe is that it is impossible to plan a route end-to-end where there is a connecting bus or train.
Speaking of caching, data is going to cost a lot on a prepaid plan so anything we can grab while at home or near a hotspot is golden. Nowhere can I see this being more beneficial than with GPS navigation. The apps that came loaded on my droid - and many of the third party apps out there -Â rely on a data connection and Google Maps. Fortunately, MapDroyd has you covered: you can download a pre-compiled map of a given geographical area to your SD card .
That brings me to entertainment: with all of the weather and TTC updates and bells and whistles going on in the background non-stop I expect to be chewing through my 250MB quota without even using the connection. Obviously, browsing youtube is not going to be an option on the road. In addition to audio and video files off the PC I have found these interesting apps which will let you store their content for offline viewing:
- The Toronto Star - News notifications, background synchronization and off-line viewing of one of Canada's most respected news outlets.
- TED Air - Download videos of TED talks to watch at any time. Very slick looking but also very crashy. I have had a _lot_ of problems with this one.
To track my data usage I've been using DroidStats because it's one of few which track wifi in addition to 3G. DroidStats also comes with 4 different sized widgets to keep you informed of your quota usage on the launcher.
I've decided to keep this phone for the time being. The wifi combined with $10 data plan and one-number-unlimited still make it more economical for me to put up with routing my calls through VoIP than ponying up for a real phone on a proper data plan. It's a big shock for me, giving Telus a good review but I'm so happy to finally have a cellphone that DOES things.
For $99 I have no regrets. This time.