This week has been busy for me and I haven't had a lot of time to play in the garage. One thing that I did manage to do was get a new phone, a Samsung Replenish and mess around with it and the Google App Inventor for Android. My old phone was a Palm and I loved it but it was really old and time to retire it to the box of phones and chargers that I have in the closet. I'm new to the Smart Phone craze and having a phone that is smarter than I am is a new experience for me. Should we really even call these things phones? It's interesting that it is called a phone but when you start to type a phone number it immediately does a web search for the number and not dial the person who you are trying to call. I think this is more like a hand held computer that also makes phone calls.
|My Samsung Replenish|
My first impression of the phone was how tricky the touch screen is to operate. As I mentioned I'm new to this but having to 'flick' my finger on the screen to move around isn't easy. I find myself selecting things rather than moving them especially when the screen is listing a bunch of options. I want to scroll down to see more options but instead I select one of them while trying to move. I'm getting better at it but it isn't intuitive and requires a lot of practice. The good think about the Replenish is there are arrow keys on the keyboard that let you move around without having to touch the screen. I can't imaging having to operate the phone without a keyboard.
The other thing that I noticed is there is no text file editor like Notepad that comes with the phone. Sure I can download one from the Andrioid Market Place but I would have thought that a simple note editor would be standard with the phone. I use notes a lot, and I mean a lot. I jot down shopping lists, odd ideas I get throughout the day and other things all the time. Having a simple text editor is important to me and the phone didn't have one out of the box. I downloaded a free one called Text Edit that seems to work nice and has a lot of extra features that I don't use like Fonts and Bold etc... Just a simple text editor is all I want because I'm a simple guy.
One last thing that I didn't like about the phone is the calculator that comes with it. It really is very limited but I guess I can't say too much because the phone isn't set up for engineers (like the Palm was). I guess it's OK for simple things but considering the processing horse power of phones these days it would be nice if the calculator was at least as functional as the default Windows calculator that comes with the Windows OS. I'm still looking for a good engineering calculator app for Android in all the calculator apps that are out there.
One cool thing that I have to mention is the Android Market place. I have never used anything like that and it was simple and easy to get the things that I wanted to add to the phone. I found browsing the Market Place for applications on the phone itself to be a burden but that was a minor annoyance. Looking for, finding and reading about apps was easy on my computer and once I found something that I liked I could get it on the phone without a problem. They downloaded and installed easily. If there is one thing that I hate it's software related stuff doesn't work right, and this seems to. user interfaces for software also drive me crazy, like Facebook for example is just plain evil.
The last thing that I want to mention because I have been playing with it (and this blog is about the things I am doing after all) is the Google Apps Inventor for Android. This is some software and UI that really had the potential to drive me crazy and it didn't! Even thought the Samsung Replenish isn't listed as a native supported device so the Windows driver wasn't available for it in the Apps Inventor it all still worked - even for a computer idiot like me.
The Google Apps inventor comes with several popular phone USB drivers for Windows but the Samsung Replenish wasn't one of them. I first went to the Samsung website and they didn't have one either :-( So I just plugged my phone into my Windows 32 but Vista machine and Windows went out and found the driver for the phone and installed it. Then I started the Apps builder, connected to the phone and was writing my own apps in under a half hour. I'm not a programmer and I don't know exactly what I am doing but it was actually pretty easy to make simple apps that are essentially worthless but fun to make. I'm sure that with some practice and reading I'll be able to make a calculator with the functions that I want to have.
Anyway that is about it for this week. Overall I have to give the Samsung Replenish, Android and the Google Apps Inventor a good review. I'm not a technology savvy guy and I am able to figure this stuff out. Granted this isn't a Palm phone that in my opinion was the most user friendly and best thought out Mobile OS ever but Android is OK so far in my opinion. Not a close second but OK.
I have a couple of projects that I am working on in the garage but nothing to write about yet. One of them is a new wood project and the other is even more interesting. I'll write about those next week if I make any progress.