Blogs > 37th Frame

Photography, notes, commentary and much more from former Reporter Online Editor Chris Stanley.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More fun with Droid

OK, so they gave me this smart phone, an HTC Incredible Android. I know it's smart because it always knows where it is, which is better than I can do some days.
Ask any teenager and they'll tell you the best use for a smart phone isn't the phone at all - in fact recent articles have suggested many smart phone owners don't use the phone much at all - it's the apps. Texting, Facebook, Twitter, games, camera, music,'s basically a little computer that happens to have a phone app.
So I loaded this thing up with things I figure journalists would use - voice recorder, camera, video camera, Twitter, Facebook, a cool app that finds local police scanners and plays the audio for you, a map/gps program, live video streamer and a few others.
And OK, maybe I loaded a game or two. But I need these for 'research.'
After a month of carrying this thing around, I can tell you what I have used the most so far for business and for pleasure.
For business - by far the most useful thing is the camera. I used it to send photos of accident scenes which were loaded on our web site before I even left the scene. No longer do I need to wait until I return to the office - with this thing EVERYWHERE is an office - from the side of a highway to a remote campground. This can be good or unfortunate, of I have no excuse to not check email or post something even when I am 'relaxing'.
Second most-used app is the police scanner. It draws feeds from hundreds of police scanners monitored online across the country. The GPS-enabled program automatically finds the nearest scanner and plays the audio for you. Now when I hear a siren or see a fire truck race by, I can quickly find out what is going and whether it is newsworthy. Very useful.
Posting live video is very easy with the Android, though the final result can be a little jumpy. 3G just wasn't made for video - I am a little jealous of my 4G colleagues who get nice hi-res video. This, too shall pass. Like early cell phone cameras that produced 320x176 pixel images, the technology will soon catch up to the concept and we'll all be broadcasting from our watches like Dick Tracy.
I am only just starting to explore the thousands of apps available for this gadget. Though many of them are awful (Lady Gaga wallpaper, anybody?) others are amazing.
This weekend I spent a night camping with a group of hyper Cub Scouts at a nearby Scout camp. With little to do at night (since the recent drought put our hopes for a camp fire out) I broke out the Droid and a little app called Google Sky Watch. This GPS-enabled app actually places a sky chart on the screen that matches the real sky, labeling all the stars and planets. As you move the Droid, the sky chart moves. We had a great time identifying the constellations, Polaris, the dippers, and Jupiter, which currently is so close to earth it looks like a 767 on final approach.
This hopped-up group of grade-schoolers, fresh from a s'more sugar rush, actually stopped chasing each other for a little while and begged to be the next to try and find a star or two.
Now, that's amazing.


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