Motorola Droid - Why I converted to Verizon after 11 years with T-Mobile

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For 11 years, I had been a T-Mobile customer. Actually, I was originally a PowerTel customer. Then they were bought by T-Mobile, and I became a de facto T-Mobile customer.

I frequently described T-Mobile as the KMart of the cell phone world. Significantly cheaper than AT&T and Verizon. Mostly because I had a plan from 1998, that was unbeatable. Then in the early 2000's, I got unlimited internet (because I was in a test market) for $2.99 / month. Eventually, I had to give that up to get 3G, and had to pay retail price for unlimited internet.

But, after 11 years, my requirements changed. Most notably, I needed good support for MS Exchange (ActiveSync), and a nimble phone. My wish list also included an SSH client so I could access servers on the go, decent camera, and fast 3G phone coverage.

T-Mobile has 3G coverage, but not with a phone that met those requirements. So I waited.

Then, about a month ago, a friend of mine asked me "Have you seen that new phone out by Motorola? It's supposed to be an iPhone killer."

This was the best marketing for the Droid that there ever could have been. "Motorola Droid by Verizon: the iPhone killer."

Instead, they have some inane "Droid Does" garbage. No benefit. No nothing. Droid Does what? Dallas? The marketing for the Droid device is so inferior to the device itself, it's almost sad.

Obviously, the advertising agency for the Droid is not the same one who thought up "there's a map for that."

So in the end, it was a long journey from T-Mobile to Verizon, but ultimately, it was a trek I made for the following reasons.


1. Open Source

If there's not an app for it now, there will be one soon.
The first disappointment I heard about the Droid was that the browser did not support multi-touch. For those of you out there who don't know what multi-touch is, it is the technology that allows you to zoom by pinching the screen.

However, by the second day of release, the Dolphin browser became available in the Android Market (the Droid equivalent of the Apps Store) and it had multi-touch. And it was free.

This is just a great example of how quickly apps are being developed for the Droid. It's breakneck speed really. Goggle hands developers everything they need to make apps for the Android operating system. I would image, that shortly, very shortly, every app that exists for the iPhone will have a Droid equivalent. And... I'll bet the Droid equivalent will be free.


2. Workability

Finally, I can read attachmentsWord docs, Excel, PDF (that's a big one) they are all readable by the Droid. Just download the required apps, which are free, and you can read them. icViewer, in particular, is one of my favorites for PDF. Small app, works great, and supports multi-touch.


3. Exchange

Yes... Android 2.0 not only supports email, but folders
My previous phone was a Windows Mobile phone. It, of course, had active sync, but the most frustrating thing about that phone (a Motorola Q9h from AT&T unlocked to run on T-Mobile's network) was that it would never show me my sent items, and it would never show me other folders than the inbox.

Not matter how I configured it, it just wouldn't show it. The Droid, on the other hand has a WONDERFUL implementation of ActiveSync, and allows me to see ALL my folders.


4. Google Platform

Maps, Earth, Talk, and Voice, Oh My!
The Google Maps application that is built into the phone is amazing, and over Verizon's 3G network, it is quick and nimble. You can see your friends with Latitude, and you can get driving directions from where you are to where you want to go. It's fantastic.

Google Talk is integrated as well. Start a chat on your laptop, and then finish it in the car.

But by far the GREATEST thing about the phone is integrated Google Voice. Using Google Voice on your phone's data connection, you can make and receive UNLIMITED PHONE CALLS FOR FREE.

Of course, Verizon still makes you by a minutes plan. Just get the base 450 plan and setup Google Voice, and you're home free. You'll never use a single minute.

The VoIP connection over Google Voice is phenomenally good. No dropped calls yet, and no quality problems. In fact, using Google Voice, the bass quality in caller's voices is quite better than over the normal calling line.

You also get the benefit of Google Voice's transcription service for voice mails. Someone will leave you a message, Google Voice will transcribe it for you, and stick it in your inbox. The voice mail just became email. It's not perfect, but it is still VERY cool.


5. Voice Recognition

Circa Star-date 2199
The Droid can understand you. You can do voice search to query the web via Google' search engine. You can do voice search to find a contact, you can tell the phone call so-and-so's mobile phone.

It understands. It dials, and it rarely makes mistakes.

6. The Camera

5MP? You can't be serious.
That camera is just sick. Not only does it come with an LED flash, but it allows you to press the camera button down to focus, and then release to take the picture. Just like a real camera.

The picture quality is better than one of the other digital camera's I have in my house that are circa 2004. It also takes HD movies if you switch into video mode.


7. Data Integration

Linking Google, Facebook, and other Networking Sites.
The last thing in this list (only because I can't think of any more at the moment) would have to be the integration with data services on the web such as Facebook and others.

The Facebook integration is superb. It will even import the profile pictures of your friends on Facebook to serve as the contact picture for that person in your contacts or when you text message them. Finally, in a world where unified messaging is not yet mature, at least we have unified social networking. Maybe that's a statement on our priorities as a country, but I digress.


8. Tethering

So I lied. I thought of one last great thing about the Droid.
Tethering is a process by which you turn your PDA or cell phone into a modem so your laptop can get on the internet.

Verizon offers a tethering service for some monthly fee. But, in true open source fashion, pdanet has developed an app that allows your computer to tether off the Droid FOR FREE. (Just pay $29 for the app... a great investment in my book).

The tethered Droid is actually significantly faster than my Verizon AirCard. The AirCard routinely gets 1.5MB down in the Metro Atlanta area. The Droid is getting 2.2MB down, and 512KB up.

Needless to say, I am not renewing the aircard contract.

Bottom line, I have a cool phone, with great features, that is fun to use, and has lessened my communications bill by nearly 1/3 (because I don't have to pay for phone, phone-internet, and aircard anymore).

The Droid is a great phone.

So before I go, I will give you the only two things wrong with the Droid.

First, the battery life is not great. But, given the bright, hi-res screen, I guess that is to be expected. When you first buy the phone and get obsessed with it, you'll learn that it runs out of juice after 4.5 hours of constant use (surfing, downloading apps, taking pictures, SSH'ing into the mail server, etc...). However, under normal use, it will last you from sun up to sun down without issue. Just in case, invest in a car charger.

The only other issue is that the email crapped out on me yesterday. For no reason, Exchange just disappeared. This wasn't a big deal. I just deleted the account, and re-set it up, and the whole process only took 5-6 minutes. But none-the-less, it crapped out on me. Happened only once. Not sure why.

Hopefully this will be a helpful article to some of you out there considering the Droid. Buy it. You won't be disappointed.
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