iPhone Reminders and Outlook/Exchange Tasks

So I bought an iPhone 4 not a 4S. (Does the “S” stand for “Siri”?) because my Droid died about 3 weeks before the big announcement. By died I mean refused to charge. It was the connector not the battery.

Frankly I’m thoroughly enjoying the iPhone 4. Enough people think I’m strange without adding talking to my phone to the list. The update to iOS 5 was slightly painful but not worse than what I’ve been through with Android or Windows Mobile and it didn’t break anything permanently (cough…Android, Froyo, Droid Launcher…cough)

But folks seem to have missed something in the Siri buzz. The Reminders app is actually pretty cool. All the reviews seem stuck on the idea that it will remind you about a task when your near that location but I have yet to see anyone write about the fact that it integrates Tasks from Exchange. I’ve finally got Exchange Mail/Calendar/Contacts/Tasks on a single device using built in apps.

The last time this happened was Windows Mobile 6.5. Apparently folks who review iPhones don’t have corporate jobs that include Exchange or they don’t have tasks to complete. I guess it’s possible that they just gave up on having synced/integrated tasks on their phone.

I’m thrilled that reminders are now on iOS 5 and I’m thrilled that they sync to that magical app known as Outlook 2010.

Why my next Phone will (probably) be an iPhone 5

I’ve never been an Apple lover. I loathe the bloated pig that is iTunes for Windows, but right now, it looks like my next phone will be an iPhone 5 (on Verizon).

I was a long time Windows Mobile user but when Microsoft decided to take a year off to start over I wasn’t willing to wait. So I bought the hot Android device at the time, the Motorola Droid. I use my phone for email, as my primary music player, secondary movie player, primary ebook reader and for blog reading, Twitter, Facebook, travel you name it. So I’m picky about my phone.

My wife and I had both had build quality issues with HTC WinMo phones and I wasn’t interested in spending the next two years cycling through replacement phones. I’ve had good luck in the past with Motorola so I went that route.

Overall I was thrilled with the Droid until they pushed out the 2.2 (Froyo) update. While Froyo added the ability to run apps from the SD card and live wallpaper it completely broke the launcher. The phone now regularly times out before returning to the home screen. After much pain and Googling I’ve found that this is essentially a lack of memory problem with no real fix. The only consistent resolution seems to be using ADW Launcher with the Keep in Memory setting. Without that, the phone approaches unusable as apps grab memory throughout the day. I’ve seen it take 5 full minutes to return the launch screen.The hardware is still generally good though the headphone jack seems to be getting loose.

So why am I not looking at another Android phone again?

  • The uncontrolled growth in apps bothers me. The Droid is short on memory but it really highlights problems with apps like Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook. These apps store their data in “data” not in cache. Cache clears, data never does. My wife and kids have this same issue on their LG Ally phones. Facebook eats up all available memory and parts of the of phone (like texting) are unusable until you manually clear data.Though it’s fun to see my daughter twitch because she can’t text, this is this a poor design. And it’s a poor design in many Google native apps and official apps. Fail.
  • I don’t like being misled. The size of an app on Google marketplace should reflect the size of the app on the phone, not the download size. I’m looking at you Google +. A 2+ mb download should not balloon into an app 4x that size on the phone. Also, move to SD card should not mean that 90% of the app stays on the phone and 10% moves to the SD card. Again, yes this is more of an issue on phones with smaller amounts of memory but the Android ecosystem is in that stage where software is out pacing hardware. More phones will run into this as apps bloat.
  • Google Bloat.Speaking of bloat, there are two kinds of Google bloat. Apps that I can’t remove, essentially Google crapware and apps that Google  bloats with updates. Both bother me but the updates bother me more. For example, the Google music app doubled in size with the latest update and got less user friendly. Google essentially stole space from me with their update. Sure I could choose to not install it but then the Market just nags me about it regularly. Amazon’s music app does the same thing, cloud and all, it is considerably smaller. The Android Market also ballooned with the last update. 3 of the 4 largest apps on my phone are Google apps, Maps, Music and Market. The fourth item is SlingPlayer which I expect to be large. It brings TV to my phone for heaven’s sake.
  •  Performance. Why can’t the dialer be given priority over all other functions? I should have an option to kill everything else and answer the phone regardless of what is going on the background. Few things are as frustrating as sliding the little bar over and over again and still missing the call because the phone won’t give me back control. Plus, I still have to pull the battery about as much as I did on my old WinMo 6.5 phone.
  • Accessories. Yes it’s trivial but if you want a case for your Android phone you’d better buy it with the phone because next week it won’t be available. Heaven forbid your case breaks while protecting your phone and you need a new one. Even for a hot phone like the Droid it was almost impossible to find a case a few months after release. I can still find 25 different cases for old iPhone 3GP at Wal-Mart today without any effort.

So why not Windows Phone 7?

  • I’m not interested in waiting for Mango to make WinPho7 right. Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt with too many promises in the past, and not just from MS. Android was the same way promising that 2.2 would make things all better, not. I’ll look at WinPho7 again in a year or two if it’s more mature.
  • Apps. It’s not about having more apps, it’s about having the right apps. There are still apps I can’t get on WinPhone like Square, Audible, Pandora and travel sites from Hilton, Marriott and Gate Guru. I travel, a lot.
  • Accessories. Android problem x 20
  • Strategy. Microsoft should have thrown in the towel and built a Microsoft branded Phone with WinPho7. They are trying to blend the control of Apple with the variety of Android. From a strategy standpoint, you can have apples or you can have fruit salad, Microsoft is trying push irradiated strawberries.

One more reason I’m looking at the iPhone 5 is still the apps. The iPhone gets them first, Android is optional for developers and Windows Phone is afterthought. Examples include WSJ, Suntrust, Marriott, etc. The last reason is that there is little risk in this decision. If I hate the iPhone, my wife is due for a new phone in Feb. and she definitely wants an iPhone 5. We could just swap then and I could get something new.

There is one reason right now that I may not go to an iPhone 5 and that is LTE. If, as the rumors go, the iPhone 5 won’t have LTE I’ll have to think about whether or not I want to spend two more years in slow town.

Droid Rebuild

Droids have long histories of rebuilding. There was the six million dollar man who became something of droid after the rebuild. C3P0 was rebuilt multiple times in the Star Wars saga as were the Terminators.

On Monday I decided that it was time to rebuild my Droid. My original droid had been through the upgrade to Froyo and I was regularly getting out of space issues despite my best efforts. The last straw came when any apps on the SD card refused to update. After deleting them, they refused to reinstall.

So Monday night I backed things up and did a hard reset on the devices and a format on the SD card. I was pleasantly surprised that my previously installed apps automatically installed, except of course that I didn’t want a few of them back. It would be nice if Android asked first.

By noon Tuesday the phone was 100% with all of my settings, logins, etc. complete and the phone rocks. It’s fast again and I have tons of room on the device and on the SD card.

I’ve noticed that many, many, many Android apps don’t clean up after themselves leaving crud on the device.Didn’t Google used to complain about that with Windows?

Finally, the day after I rebuilt my phone, Verizon sent me an email telling me that I was eligible for a new phone. Bad timing. Two days earlier and I might have jumped. Today, I’m happy again with my Droid.

Android and Office 365

I signed up for the Office 365 beta and with just a little work got my email account working on my Droid with the default Office 365 domain setup.

Here’s how:

  • In the core email app, click Menu | Add Account
  • enter your email address and password from Office 365

Android wasn’t able to automatically setup the account like it could with my corporate mail. I suspect this is a beta issue.

  • In Domain\User name enter your full email account like myname@myname.onmicrosoft.com
  • Enter your password
  • In the Server enter SN2PRD0602.outlook.com
    • This is slightly different than the settings you see if you add the account to Outlook. It uses SN2PRD0602.mailbox.outlook.com but that doesn’t seem to work on my droid.
  • Check Use Secure connection (SSL)
  • Hit Next
  • You will need to accept the security prompt.

That’s is. Now I’ve got my corporate Exchange based mail and my Office 365 mail going to Android. I can view a combined inbox or see them separately and the notification icon shows number emails in the number of inboxes.

My Most Used Android Apps

I’m late to the party. Dwight Silverman posted his most used Smartphone apps. James Kendrick followed up with his 5 most used Android Apps. I thought that I would join in with my most used android apps, excluding the built in apps. This is just apps, I’ll tackle widgets separately. I use most of these every day. A few are more every other day but are just so incredible (like DroidAnalytics) that I couldn’t leave them out.

  1. Touchdown – Simply the best Exchange app I’ve seen on any platform including Windows Mobile. The app includes To Do lists, the ability to set categories and email signatures. It’s worth every penny, even at $19.99

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.nitrodesk.touchdownpro
    \Screenshot of Exchange by TouchDown Key
  2. Kindle –  To avoid having multiple book reading apps I’ve decided to standardize on the Kindle and I’ve not looked back. I’m working on reading 100 books this year. I’m up to 82 so far it wouldn’t be possible without the Kindle app. Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.amazon.kindle
    Screenshot of Kindle for Android
  3. Newsrob – The free versions of Newsrob is still my favorite RSS reader. I’ve tried them all and keep coming back to Newsrob. Free or $5.00

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.newsrob
    Screenshot of NewsRob (Google Reader / RSS)
  4. Hootsuite/Twitter – Yeah, I know that these are two apps but Hootesuite is my favorite for managing multiple Twitter accounts. The Twitter app however allows adding location to posting so I use the both. Free/$2.99/Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.hootsuite.droid.fullhttp://www.appbrain.com/app/com.twitter.android
    Screenshot of HootSuite  Screenshot of Twitter

  5. TripIt – I’m on the road every week and TripIt gets a ton use. Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.tripit
    Screenshot of TripIt - Travel Organizer
  6. Blogaway – If you use blogger this is a must have app. The feature set is amazing. I use it regularly to pop out a blog post before the plane leaves. Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.beanie.blog

  7. Droid Analytics – I like to keep an eye on my blog stats. This is soooo much easier with Droid Analytics. Droid Analytics gives incredible access to Google Analytics while on the go. Free/$1.25

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.droidanalytics
    Screenshot of HootSuite

  8. Calorie Counter – Some of us need to lose a little weight. Calorie Counter from Fat Secret lets you track what you eat and weigh and it syncs with the Fat Secret website making it easy to make updates online or while mobile. I’ve lost more than 20 lbs in 3 months and I’m still losing. Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.fatsecret.android
    Screenshot of Calorie Counter by FatSecret

  9. Abduction – Now that I’ve worn out Angry Birds I’m back playing some Abduction. Help the cows join their little cow buddies abducted by aliens. Fast and still addictive. Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/au.com.phil
    Screenshot of Abduction!
  10. Paper Toss – There is a sense of déjà vu you get when sitting in an airport waiting for a flight playing paper toss in the airport location. It’s like those picture in a picture in a picture shots. There are still times when I just need to turn off the brain shoot some wastebasket hoops. Free

    http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.bfs.papertoss
    Screenshot of Paper Toss