This week in Mobile News Manor #17: Invasion of the Droids

This is a peek into a technology writer’s home office, aka Mobile News Manor, discussing gadgets, apps, best practices using same, and ebooks. This week the Manor was invaded by the Droids.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor on

One of the primary benefits of being a technology writer is the ability to work in my home office, aka Mobile News Manor (MNM). It is a bustling place, with evaluation gadgets constantly arriving and going back to the vendors. As part of my daily work I spend a fair bit of time testing these gadgets for review, and also looking at new apps for various platforms to streamline my work methods.

This column is my look back each week to share pertinent experiences that I believe you might find useful. There is no telling what you might find in this column, but you’ll definitely get a feel for what it is like testing gadgets for a living. Welcome to the Manor.

Gadgetry in the Manor

The revolving door at Mobile News Manor was constantly spinning as new gadgets arrived almost every day. A nice laptop came first, the ThinkPad Edge E220s from Lenovo. This consumer notebook has everything a person could want, powered by a Sandy Bridge processor that keeps things hopping. The folks at Lenovo are pushing the ThinkPad line to the consumer with the E220s, and it's a fine addition to its product line.

The only unusual thing about the E220s is the sealed battery, meaning no swapping a second battery in should the need arise. This makes the notebook more appropriate for the casual mobile worker, and not the heavy road warrior. It's nice in every other area, and Lenovo is pricing it to move them so worth a look.

A couple of phones arrived from Verizon, the newest members of the Droid line. The Droid Incredible 2 is a decent refresh of the very popular Droid Incredible, and HTC has done a good job with this new model. The phone feels solid and impressive in the hand, and the 4-inch Super LCD display is pleasing to the eye.

The Incredible 2 is a world phone, so international travelers should keep it mind when looking for a phone. It is a Verizon 3G phone, so it works on the EVDO network here at home but also handles GSM for international connectivity. The phone does not have 4G LTE connectivity so those wanting the fastest connection possible should skip over the Droid Incredible 2.

Primary improvements of the Droid Incredible 2 over the original model:

  • Front-facing camera: 1.3MP
  • 8MP rear camera
  • Second generation Snapdragon (1 GHz) is faster
  • More internal memory (16GB vs. 8GB)
  • Newer version of the Sense interface
  • Slightly bigger battery
  • DLNA capable
  • Larger 4-inch screen

The Droid Incredible 2 is a great Android phone (2.2) and for those wanting a 3G smartphone is worth a look.

Another phone arrived in the Manor this week that I have become totally enamored with. The Droid Charge is the first phone in Verizon's Droid product line that incorporates 4G LTE capability, and that connection speed makes the Charge a true handheld computer. This is the first Droid phone made by Samsung, and they've included a drop-dead gorgeous 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. The screen is the best I have seen on any phone, including the iPhone 4, and colors really pop on the display.

The single core processor in the Charge is not the fastest processor available today, but the phone is definitely fast enough. There is no problem with lagginess that plagues some Android phones, and the user experience is very good. The TouchWiz interface from Samsung is one you either love or hate, but since the Charge is running Froyo customization is a simple process if desired.

Some folks may find that the plastic construction of the Droid Charge feels less solid than other phones, but personally I like it due to the light weight. The Charge is lighter than many smaller phones available, and that translates into a more comfortable user experience for me.

The Droid Charge was due to be released this week but Verizon has delayed the launch, probably due to the massive 4G network outage this week. There is no word from Big Red when it will be available for purchase. It will be a pricey $299 with a two-year contract, making it one of the most expensive Android phones with a subsidy. I have been so impressed with the Charge, if I was a Verizon phone customer I would seriously consider paying that premium.

Apps and Ebooks »

App of the week

This week Google finally released an Android app that provides a touch interface for working with Google Docs. I've long used Google Docs and have wanted an app that makes accessing my documents easier with Android devices. Google Docs for Android primarily adds a wrapper around the mobile web version of Google Docs, but it's a welcome addition.

I find it very intuitive to use, with switching views of my many online documents as easy as swiping left and right on the screen. It also adds better search capability, so it's easier to find that one document I might be looking for among the many. A new feature Google has added to the app is the ability to capture information with the Android device camera, and converting it to a text document using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This is similar to what Evernote has done for quite a while, and my initial testing of the feature in Google Docs is less than stellar. Hopefully Google will improve this conversion in the future, as it is a handy feature to have.

I find the app particularly useful on the Galaxy Tab, due to the larger screen than that of my phone. Using the touch interface on the Tab makes the app an intuitive experience, and both editing and reviewing documents is good in either portrait or landscape orientation. I see this app extending the usefulness of the Galaxy Tab even more than before its release, which is a considerable addition to my toolkit.

Ebooks of the week

I read one good ebook this week and started another. Vegas Moon by John Locke is a novel in the outstanding Donovan Creed series, and it's my favorite so far. I love the way Locke tells an irreverent tale full of humor and unlikely characters, and spins it so it becomes believable and exciting. There is something compelling about a hero who is a hitman for the mob. Vegas Moon is highly recommended for those who enjoy the Creed books.

I just started reading the latest in David Hewson's great Nic Costa series, The Fallen Angel. I can already tell this novel is going to be another great one by Hewson, and find it hard to put down. I was thrilled to see David bring back a very interesting character from an earlier novel. If you like the Costa series, and who doesn't, then don't miss The Fallen Angel.


That's the week as it went down in Mobile News Manor, and once again I enjoyed sharing it with you. I hear from a lot of folks who enjoy the rambling nature of this column, which is by design. In this tightly focused world of mobile tech, I believe it's refreshing to share the week by discussing whatever comes to mind. I hope you get something to take away from the column.

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