Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Google Navigator and Physical keyboard prompts switch to Android

Today I read an article by Stacy Johnson entitled "10 Tips for Buying an Android – From an Apple Hater." Source: Money Talks ( Although I have never been what you would call an Apple Hater, this year I, too, switched from an iPhone 3GS to a Droid 3.

Two of the most important reasons? - Google's voice prompted Navigator system available and updated free for Android phones and a slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard.

Google's Navigator sounds like expensive Garmin voice-prompted systems I have heard before but is based on Google Maps which is updated regularly at no charge.  My brother has a dedicated Garmin GPS and, although he's been quite pleased with its accuracy and convenience, he is not pleased now that it's prompting him to pay for an annual map update at a cost almost equal to the original cost of the hardware.

One caution to potential immigrants who want to switch to an Android-based phone.  I am using Verizon as my cell service provider and they load a "Verizon Navigator" on your phone in addition to the Google Navigator.  Of course, the Verizon Navigator costs you a monthly service fee if you activate it.  I removed the icon for it from my home screen (apparently you can't simply delete it!)  Another confusing aspect to the built-in Navigation system is that you must go into settings and turn on ALL THREE navigation locator options (at least on the Droid 3) - even the one that says use stand alone GPS and the one that says use Verizon location services.  This does NOT cost you anything and if you don't turn them all on the GPS services for the Google Navigator will give you an error message pointing out that you have to turn on GPS for it to function.  A service rep at the local Verizon store showed me how to do this since I went into the store complaining about the GPS error knowing I had turned on the Google GPS location services.  I actually think this is ridiculous.  The location services should all be turned on by default and if you are paranoid about your privacy, you should learn how to turn them off.  I'm sure the vast majority of Android phone users want to use the built-in GPS!

As for onscreen vs. physical keyboards, I have found that I just make too many typing mistakes with an onscreen keyboard.  I don't know if it's my aging vision or my pudgy fingers or that the touchscreen detection sensitivity on smartphones is not precise enough, but it's been very frustrating on the iPhone.  In contrast, although the keys are small on the slide-out keyboard of the Droid 3, I have no problem pressing the right keys and the "click" provides the auditory feedback I need to let me know the key was pressed hard enough.  As Stacy points out, it does add a little heft to your phone but not enough for me to be concerned with it.

I also like the microSD card expansion slot on my Android-driven phone.  With iPhones, you actually have to buy a different phone to gain more capacity if you discover that you wish to capture that spur of the moment video clip.  Now that smartphone cameras have the ability to capture 1080p HD video, you're almost forced to buy the much more expensive iPhone with larger capacity internal storage if you think there's even a remote possibility that you might want to use the video capability of your camera.  And, if you find yourself using that camera more and more, you must get in the habit of downloading those videos and purging the iPhone's internal storage if you want to keep recording more images.  With a smartphone equipped with an expansion slot, you can actually treat the phone like a digital camera and simply remove a full chip and insert an empty one.  Furthermore, if you have another Android device, like a tablet that uses microSD chips, you can swap chips with it if you have files stored on the tablet that you wish to share or edit on your smartphone.

As a photographer, I also like the Droid's 8 Megapixel camera.  It has both flash and zoom and I have even taken indoor shots without flash and the resulting images are sharp with very little noise.  I was also able to buy a lens kit ($49) for it from that includes a 2X teleconverter, a macro closeup lens and a fisheye special effects lens for times when I don't have my full sized digital camera with me and need just a few more features than the default phone lens capabilities.  The kit lenses are attached via a small thin magnetic ring that is affixed like a sticker around your phone's camera lens so the kit works with just about any model of smartphone.  

From an application viewpoint, the Android operating system has built-in Speech to Text conversion so I can dictate book reviews and blog posts and speak destinations into the Navigator when I'm on the road and can't use the keyboard.

I didn't even have to give up one of my favorite casual games, iFishing.  Despite its name, this game by Rocking Pocket Games has been seamlessly ported to the Android.  I've discovered most of the applications I liked on the iPhone have been ported to the Android so I don't feel giving up the App Store in exchange for the Android Market was a sacrifice either.

The only thing I would caution a potential immigrant about is that you should first set up a Google Wallet or Checkout account so Google has a way to charge you for applications you select that cost money in the Android Market.  I knew there needed to be a way to connect a credit card with your Google account so the Android Market could function like the Apple App Store but I didn't know how this was accomplished.  I searched the web and found a reference to the Google Checkout account (  then navigated to it and set up an account.  I thought it was strange that Google Checkout was not listed as an available service in my regular Google account profile options.
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