Night Terrors: Droid and the Business User
I finally replaced my aging Blackberry recently, mainly because of T-Mobile’s decision to lay off a big hunk of their workforce. I chose T-Mobile several years ago because of high-quality customer service, after dealing with virtually every other carrier (except Sprint) for way too long.
So I called Verizon (whose customer service has proven to be excellent, by the way), and ordered my first iPhone. I was initially happy with it. It was very easy to set up, both business and email worked flawlessly, and Angry Birds became my new best friend. Everything worked great, that is, except the phone itself. My calls broke up something fierce, and the call quality was so poor I finally decided to trade it in for a phone that I could actually make calls on.
To be fair, I live in a section of Colorado that is quite mountainous, so many of my neighbors actually park outside our development to finish up calls before they finish their drive home. However, when call quality was even poor from downtown Denver, the phone had to go (for you Apple lovers, maybe I just had a bad phone, don’t know).
I’ve always wondered about Android, so I settled on a Motorola Razr Maxx. I love the phone. It’s big, thin, sleek, and the call clarity is awesome, even when I’m in my home office. Software-wise, however, it’s – how can I put this– a bit rough around the edges in terms of business-readiness.
Compared to the business-ready Blackberry, the business functionality of the Android leaves a lot to be desired. Email is a problem. The email client included with the phone doesn’t have an option to select whether deletes to the phone sync with Outlook, unless you are connecting via Pop. The default is that they do. Since our email provider only allows ActiveSync, every time I delete an email on my phone, it is also deleted on the server.
While the Blackberry gives you the option to delete on handheld, Outlook, or both (and always has, to my knowledge) for each email, Android does not.
Since I file practically all email as part of my job (in various folders) you can imagine what my phone looked like after about a week. The only thing I could delete was junk email, which meant that I had about 400 emails languishing on my phone with nowhere to go. I broke down and paid the $9.99 for “Enhanced Email”, which allows you to turn sync OFF. However, it doesn’t have the selective deletion you get with the Blackberry. It’s either/or, delete or not, for everything—you can’t make the selection on an individual email basis.
While email isn’t good, the Clock is even worse. Most business travelers end up sleeping with their cell phones, because the phone is their alarm clock. With the Blackberry, all was well. You set the alarm, power down the phone, and sleep soundly with no buzzes or rings.
Not so with Android. If you power down the phone, none of the (100 or so) clocks in the App Store is smart enough to “wake up”—at least none that I found. You have to leave the phone ON or the alarm won’t go off. Which I found out the hard way the first night I tried to use it.
The second night I tried leaving the phone on. Only to get a call from United Airlines at 3 a.m. telling me my 10 a.m. flight would be late. The third night I tried airplane mode (no transmission). However, even in airplane mode, the phone still flashes from time to time. Even worse, for some unknown reason it starts saying “Droid, Droid” at unpredictable intervals. I can tell you it’s pretty spooky to wake up to a robot voice, particularly when I was sleeping in my brother’s basement bedroom on a recent visit, two floors away from the rest of the family. (It isn’t just my phone btw. I read an account from another Android owner that the same thing happened to him—his wife makes him leave his phone downstairs while they sleep.)
To solve that problem, I installed a product called WakeLock power manager which, after some fiddling, enabled me to turn off the screen and keyboard while leaving the CPU on. When I combine that with Airplane mode, the alarm still goes off as expected, giving me a kludgy workaround to a feature which should work out of the box—on a business-ready phone. And so far, no spooky voices.
I’m pretty geeky so I have to say I do like my Razr Maxx despite its flaws. However, I wouldn’t want to be a Help Desk tech at a company that adopted Android as its standard phone. I’m on Android 2.3.6, waiting for Verizon to release ICS which is supposedly scheduled for Q2. Hopefully, we’ll see more business-ready features in that version.
If I had it to do over, would I trade in the iPhone for the Razr Maxx? Absolutely. For me, a phone that can do everything except make a phone call just doesn’t cut it. However, if Google is serious about making a wholesale move into the phone market—and it appears they are—they are going to have to do a lot better, software-wise, to meet the needs of business users.