As noted in previous posts, the mobile market “stabilized” recently, in that every other suitable product has been discontinued, and I decided to get an Android device. To that end, as of a week ago I am the proud(?) owner of a HTC Doubleshot, marketed as the MyTouch 4G Slide in the US.
I’m generally pretty pleased with it — my Google appendage is back! My decent media player is back! All else is minor. — but there are some noteworthy things about the device itself, and a week’s worth of posts about things that are very wrong (and a few things that are right) with Android. I’m reserving judgement on T-Mobile for a little longer than the rest of the device for fear of Telco lies, but between how much better their plans were than what Sprint/AT&T/Verizon (in order of increasingly crappy offerings) were offering, and my low expectations for telecom companies, they’ll have to fuck up pretty thoroughly to disappoint. I’ll be following that format; the rest of this post is about the device itself, several following posts will be about Android in short bile-filled spurts, not because I hate it, but because it is the most promising surviving platform and I want it to improve.
Device Notes (HTC’s Fault):
+ The camera is spectacular. 8MP sensor, 3.96mm 1:2.2 lens, responsive, and gives me as much control as a Canon point and shoot without CHDK. It does rest on the ring around the lens when sitting on a flat surfaces, which is a little disconcerting but seems to have been designed for.
+ The finish on the device surface is wonderful. One of those particle-impregnated synthetic rubbers that feels soft and grippy, and is nearly indestructible. Kind of like the Thinkpad finish, actually.
? The keyboard is mostly good – I couldn’t find a clear picture of it when I was shopping, so here one is –
The buttons are separated enough to be easy to press, and tactile enough to be practical to touch type with your thumbs on, but it is excessively offset to the right of the phone (desktop style qwerty with no ; or ‘) which makes it a little awkward, and some of the dedicated button choices are dumb. It seems that keyboard remapping is still a little touchy, but eventually I’ll probably reclaim “www/.com” and the “genius button” into more useful things, like pipes and angle brackets. The keyboard also has a nice gentle backlight, and a pair of little white LEDs to indicate the state of the bucky bits (Shift and Alt), which is an unexpected nicety.
– The “optical trackball” thing is unresponsive and inprecice. I don’t know if it is this one in particuar, or the mechanism in general, but coupled with the capacitive touchscreen it makes fine manipulation tasks unnecessarily difficult. At least it isn’t a nipple mouse.
? The screen brightness range is “very bright” through “eye searing.” Great for sunlight, but it eats the battery at an absurd rate. Somewhat software overrideable, but the Sense and 3rd party brightness controls don’t quite get along, and it isn’t clear how much can be saved by reducing brightness.
+ This thing is, generally speaking, absurdly fast. 2×1.2Ghz cores and 768Mb of RAM was a decent workstation less than a decade ago, and this nestles comfortably into my hand.
+ It really is a pretty respectable media player. Google’s music app is quite usable, the sound quality isn’t noticeably deficient, it is yet to misunderstand context on a volume button press, and it has a helpful “pause music on headphone remove” feature to help with multitasking.
Device Notes (Not HTC’s Fault):
* I’m in the minority on this, but I actually prefer good resistive touchscreens to the capacitive mechanism currently in vogue. There are these wonderful non-occluding precision pointing devices on your hand called “fingernails,” and it would be nice to be able to use them instead of covering the thing you are trying to interact with with your finger. That said, no one seems to be making decent resistive screens anymore, so it is a moot point.
* The 3.5mm TRRS connector happens to be standard (Tip/Ring/Ring/Sleeve =Left/Right/Mic/Gnd). Unfortunately, almost all headsets in the US use the purposely opposite of standard order Apple uses (Left/Right/Gnd/Mic). Plugging in Apple-order headphones causes it to think there is a TV-Out cable and make angry feedback noises. One of these things should fix it, but there is a standard for a reason. Not HTC’s fault that Apple decided to be dicks, but Lenovo used Apple’s order on my laptop, so it is super inconvenient.
It isn’t clear yet how battery life and device durability are. I haven’t damaged it in the week I’ve had it, and my usage patterns haven’t stabilized so there has been a factor of two range on how long it went before asking to be plugged in. The good news is it looks like it can survive about eight hours of being fiddled with compulsively (Battery life extnsion lesson: Don’t play Angry Birds if you want your battery to last. This concludes the battery life extension lesson.) My father got the same device, so I should have a pretty good reference for how different usage patterns affect it once both ours’ stabilize.