Monday, September 05, 2011

Gingerbread: Am loving it!

I never blogged about my darling Motorola Droid X when I got her about a year back.  But rest assured, I don't repent even slightest bit for NOT going with iPhone (and am more than happy I didn't go with WP7, which I could have gotten for free).  Don't get me wrong, I still ogle at the sexiness of iPhones, but Droid X has the advantage that you can also make calls with it :-P (blame it on the crappy AT&T network or grip-of-death, I don't care!).  Even though it leaves a bit to be desired, Droid X is as close as any non-Apple product will ever get to the uber-attention-to-detail and minimalistic design philosophy that is trademark of the Apple products.
For a while I was keen on getting every update there is for my DroidX.  But the enthusiasm died naturally.  So much so that I didn't even realize that Gingerbread update has been pushed out by Verizon for Droid X's (yes, blame i on work)!  How Lame, you say? I know, and I concur!  I generally rely on the update notifications and I still don't know why I didn't get an alert indicating that one is available.  Well, better late than never, I say.
So it wasn't until my co-worker pointed out that gingerbread has been pushed by Verizon, did I update my OS.  Late to join the bandwagon, I got my Gingerbread update more than a full month later.  But, now that I have it, I fell in love with my Droid X all over again :) And I say this in spite of the fact that the upgrade wasn't snappy smooth (and for a while I was cursing myself for upgrading).  So much so, that I thought I should put up a quick post highlighting the changes I noticed.
I was so excited after the new update, that (much to my mum's frustration!) I was fiddling with the phone most of that weekend, drooling over it (all over again) :D

This is by no means a complete treatise on Gingerbread, but just a few noteworthy changes.
Note: I haven't spent time isolating which of these are stock Gingerbread features vs MotoBlur enhancements.
Here goes the list:
  • Text-Selection & Copy-Paste
  • I have always been envied for the fact that I could copy-paste since the very first version of Droid X and I was happy (that while the others are still catching up to it the basics), Android has already took it a notch up! The selection of text is now orders of magnitude easier. Two large sliders come up when you select text, so you no longer have to wear magnifying glasses to select the text precisely. And just tapping on the selected text copies it! Eeze-beeze! In fact this has made me hate the old-fashioned way of selecting text on PCs with pesky mice!
    Text selection is not orders of magnitude easier!
  • Launcher Dock
  • The launcher dock at the bottom is now permanent, no matter which homescreen you are in, it stays there, giving you access to your MOST frequently used apps just one-click away (if you have ever used a Mac, this is much similar Mac's dock).
    The dock (red rectangle) stays so on all home screens
    Here you see an option of adding any app to the Dock
  • Overall Speed
  • I don't know if motorola optimized their interface or it is the Gingerbread magic, but my phone is noticeably faster and animations are much better than Froyo's.
  • Annoying GPS issue resolved
  • My GPS would just refuse to get a fix on current location when I needed it the most. But since I didn't use it very often, it didn't warrant my effort to fight for a replacement. But ever since the new upgrade, I'm yet to see that annoying "Cannot get your current location" error message on maps. I guess time has really come to say good-bye to my (expensive) annoying Garmin GPS.
  • App Groups and more
  • App management has become more usable and coherent with the rest of the system. I have noticed a lot of minor (welcome) tweaks in this area. One of the most tangible change is the ability to add apps to groups and then adding shortcuts to that group on your homescreen. Making organizing your apps a tad better.
  • Quick add-to-home menu
  • Adding shortcut to apps to homescreen is just a one-click operation now!
    Tap-n-hold on any app to get this rich set of options
  • Address Book navigation
  • I have always loved the contacts navigation on Android. It got much slicker with the latest update. I just breeze my finger through A-Z on the right hand corner where a traditional scroll-bar would be and I can jump to next-alphabet smoothly. It has been tuned just right so that you don't have to be super-precise if you want to just move form A to B, it will naturally stop momentarily at each alphabet (depending on your speed).
  • Contact History
  • I don't recall using contact history on Froyo much, but now it has become so very accessible. And very handy too. There are a lot of practical applications of this history (which, too much to my frustration, I couldn't find on iPhone!).
    Full call history for a given contact
  • Speech-to-Text
  • From my past experiences I have NEVER trusted speech-to-text conversions. Right from putting in effort to train the damn software to pronouncing it EXACTLY the way the software expects it to, take your pick. A recent conversation with Anna urged me to try it out again. Holy Rollerblading Cow! Was my exact reaction when the freak'in phone translated my speech into exact words! Without training the software or even straining myself too hard to speak in pure American accent. Man was I impressed! Google has a knack of solving problems, I gotta admit. Typical use case: if I gave someone a time (you know, I go on lot of dates! :-P) and realize that am running late due to traffic (or work), I whip out my text messenger and voice out my apology that I'm running a little late. Voila! I just have to hit 'send' after that :)
    Gingerbread translates my speech into text with too much ease!
  • Minor tweaks
  • There is an incredible amount of fine tuning everywhere that makes using Droid X more fun than ever before! In fact when I have to use an iPhone I feel caged and somewhat restricted! And like wise, iPhone users feel there is just too much to choose from when they take my DroidX for a ride. No offense at iPhone, if it is any consolation, it still is the most ogled-after piece of hardware, I think! 
    Moving cursor, for example, is painfully impossible to get it at the right spot right on iPhone. On Droid you get a nice big-ass cursor, hard to miss the target with those big boys.  Market looks much more organized. Managing apps: starting/stopping, (un)installing, moving between phone/SD card memory, checking resource utilization, etc. has gotten better.  Wi-Fi now connects more reliably when I move across home and office.  And as it has always had: all this PLUS you can still make calls!
    Moving cursor is now easier too!
Thank you once again Google, for giving customers a choice they would love to use (like GMail & GTalk).  Mind you, even if you hate Android, it has up'ed the bar for quality of smartphones: choice is always better for customers.  If you are out in the market for a new smartphone, you now know what to ask for! :)

Note: No phone OS war entertained, but constructive criticism's welcome.