Little bit o' Droid-lust

My VX6800 has been falling apart, of late. Since nothing out there was really impressing me enough to spend money, I took it to the Verizon store, complained about how the keyboard wasn’t working, allowed the rep to test the phone to verify that it was, in fact, not working, and got a new refurbished VX6800.

I mentioned to the wife (who generally has accepted Steve Jobs as her personal technological savior and has a fashionably matched set of iPhone, iPod, and MacBook devices) about this. The rep overheard me, told me that I’m nearing the new-every-two mark on my contract and that Verizon has a hot new device on the way that I might like.

The thing is, there’s a successor device to the VX6800 out, this time branded by HTC instead of being an HTC device branded by Verizon. But I don’t consider it worth spending money on. I’m feeling that itchy feeling on the back of your neck that says that it’s time to jump off the sinking Windows Mobile ship.

I had a conversation with a very well placed tech exec recently and how he’s been directing his developers to produce interesting applications for the iPhone and Blackberry and was thinking about which other platforms to produce for… and I shared my theory that there’s room for a third “big” player in the smartphone market. See, the iPhone is great, but it has a few major downsides… largely that text input is too slow for my tastes and that the app store and SDK is too closed. And the Blackberry has better keyboard input… but makes the iPhone look like an open platform. So, my goal is something that has a keyboard and is a reasonably open platform… which is the niche that Windows was previously serving in. There are also market forces at play for there to be a good, modern, full-functioned phone operating system (which, at this point, neither Symbian nor Windows Mobile are able to serve as) that’s not inexorably tied to a single vendor, so I think that this is a larger market space than one person.

I was starting out figuring that it would be Android. Then, the Palm Pre came out and I wondered if that would be it. But the more I learned about it, the more I realized that it was just not going to happen anytime soon, if at all. JWZ’s rant on the app store, followed by his rant about the phone in general, made me realize that if I purchased the Pre, I’d want to stick it in a mug of beer.

So, I guess that leaves Android. The rumored features of the Motorola DROID actually look kinda good. It has a fancy 5 megapixel digital camera and a bundled 16 gb flash card, showing that they are stealing some plays from the Nokia playbook. It’s got a keyboard, which is a requirement. It’s got about the same degree of CPU power as the iPhone 3GS, so I tend to think that performance is up to the OS, not the hardware.

I’m looking and I have the vague impression that all of the stuff I’d really want to be able to do on the DROID that I already do on my VX6800 have existing applications… like SSH and a weather bug and astronomical calculations… so I think it’s all about how well the phone feels when played with. The screenshots look good, but so did the Palm Pre’s.

I also checked into the operating system and it looks like there are some useful and interesting things to hack on in the kernel, especially in the 1.6 version of the SDK… and since I also don’t believe that I should have to pay money to promote somebody else’s operating system, having the SDK freely downloadable is a plus.

On this line of thinking… I should also mention that this is also Verizon’s launch to screw up. Verizon is fairly notorious for disabling useful telephone features in an effort to gain more control. Every single device I’ve purchased from them has been compromised in some way or another… generally I buy the device with the idea that I’ll be happy with it as-is, but I’ve found that having a feature that I know is disabled on purpose has been grating on me more and more as I’ve gotten old.. and so has the cat-and-mouse game of hacking devices back to a useful degree of functionality.