(If you don’t know what an OOBE is, look here.)
I’ve been sick for the past few days, and have had to spend most of my time in bed, so I was pleased yesterday when the FedEx truck rolled up with my Verizon Droid X. Making friends with it was something that I could do while flat on my back.
The packaging was not elegant, like the iPhone, or even spiffy, like the Kindle, but it was certainly adequate. There was a Spanish language version of the quick start instructions, but not one in English. Undeterred by the omission, I pulled the protective plastic off the face and out of the battery compartment, found the battery and figured out how to insert it, found the back cover and figured out how to clip it into place. I plugged the phone into the charger with the supplied USB cable, and was rewarded by a very nice animated graphic in which the charge in the battery was modeled as water sloshing around in a storage tank. It looked like the battery was about 80% charged, so I pulled the charger cable, and lay down to set it up. I found the power button on top of the phone; the boot interval was about average.
There are four buttons across the bottom of the phone, in contrast to the iPhone’s single button. The left one appears to be a context sensitive menu, the next one is a home key, the next a “go back” button, and the right-most one a dedicated search key. While it struck me as a little strange, it seems perfectly consistent with Google’s whole approach to computing to dedicate one of their scarce buttons to search.
The phone vibrates briefly to give your feedback on important actions. I found that a nice touch; I think it would be especially valuable in a bright environment when it’s difficult to see the screen clearly, for noisy one where it’s difficult to hear audible feedback.
The display is generously sized, and substantially larger than the display in the iPhone. It is detailed and crisp. The home screen has seven icons; the center icon in the bottom row brings up about 50 preloaded applications. Most of them are the applications you would expect on any smart phone, many are apps that you would probably download yourself, like the Kindle Reader and Google Maps, and a few appear to me to be shovelware. There’s room for lot of personal opinion in the last category.
I figured out how to set up the Wi-Fi connection, and pulled up the browser to confirm that it worked. Google is the default home page. What a surprise.
My next task was to set up a connection with my Exchange server. I found the e-mail configuration screens, but the only choices offered were POP3 and IMAP. I figured that Verizon had disabled the Exchange e-mail client, so I would have to set up the phone first.
Before I talk about the phone set up, I’d like to say a few words about data plans. The data plan I had with my old Samsung i760 allowed only 10 MB a month of Internet traffic, and cost 25 bucks, but it didn’t seem to have any restrictions. I used it as my connection to the Exchange server. 10 MB a month wasn’t enough to do e-mail, and you probably wouldn’t want to do e-mail on the Samsung anyway, but it was plenty to synch calendars, contacts, and tasks. One I ordered the Droid X, the $25 stripper data plan I’d had was gone, replaced by a $30 all you can eat plan. Sounded like a bargain to me, until I read the fine print: no ActiveSync connections to Exchange servers allowed. There was a $45 plan that did allow those connections; mildly ticked, I went for it. Now I’m really glad I did, because Verizon seems to have crippled the phone so that you can’t connect to an Exchange server even when you don’t use their network, unless you buy their upgraded plan.
So, on the activating the phone. I tried the automated activation, and it failed. I called the Verizon support number, and asked for a manual activation. As the tech activated the phone, he commented that automated activation didn’t seem to work with any of the Droid X’s. It’s only been shipping a few days, and I’m sure that Verizon will work this out.
I couldn’t figure out how to setup the Exchange server connection, so I placed another call to Verizon support. One thing I have to give Verizon: the techs are truly pleasant and helpful, if not always knowledgeable about data issues. After trying a bunch of things, I still couldn’t make the connection work, so the tech transferred me to Motorola. The first Motorola tech didn’t have any success, and transferred me to a second-level technician. She didn’t have any better luck, and told me that it was probably my firewall. I disputed that, pointing out that the Samsung had worked fine, and the iPad work fine, and they were using the same SSL connection. She said she’d send me the detailed instructions in an e-mail. When the email arrived, it contained instructions for the Droid. It’s interesting that the setup of e-mail in the Droid and Droid X are in different places. Her instructions didn’t work at all.
I called back to Verizon support, and the courteous and pleasant technician told me that there was a known issue with the Droid X and Exchange server. I asked him to send me an e-mail when the issue was resolved and I could try again.
A little bummed, I opened up the Google app store, which they call Android Market. Google forces you to sign up for a G-mail account before they let you download any apps. I picked a few free apps, and looked at the download progress screen. The apps appeared to be downloading, but there was no progress. I wondered if Google was using some strange port for the app download. Turns out they are: port 5228, both UDP and TCP. I punched the appropriate holes and the firewall. I didn’t mind the TCP hole, but it always irks me every time I have to create a UDP hole; it’s such a big security risk. I would feel better if people who inflict UDP on their users tell them why they must do it; in the case of apps download, I see no justification at all. Apple seems to work just fine using standard ports.
All in all, a promising, but rocky, beginning. I’ll feel a lot better when I have e-mail, contacts, and calendars.
Oh, by the way, as a phone, the Droid X appears to be pretty darn good. Adequate volume, crisp sound, and, although I tried to screw it up, no antenna problems.