A non-techie, feminine review of the Droid X

I purchased my new Android phone this past Thursday and below is my non-techie, feminine review of the Droid X.

I purchased my new Android phone this past Thursday and below is my non-techie, feminine review of the Droid X.  But before I begin, some quick disclaimers:

  1. As the title of this article suggests, I don’t pretend to be technical nor do I pretend to be an early adopter of technology.
  2.  My last phone was the Palm Treo 755p, so going from that to the Droid X was a pretty significant jump in technology.  I hated my Treo so badly that at one point I wrote the President of Palm a letter (the thing kept erasing my contacts!).  I have to get credit to Palm though, they called me to talk it out.
  3. I really wanted an iPhone.  I love my iPod, but AT & T’s service in Battle Creek is terrible and I got sick of waiting for Verizon to get it, so I went with the Droid X.  
  4.  I haven’t read the manual yet, so some of the issues I have below might be addressed in that.

Now that we got that out of the way:

Price

This is probably the most frequently question I get asked. For $247 and the renewal of my two year contract, I received the Droid X, a case of my choice (about eight to choose from), ear buds, the home charger, the car charger, and three screen protectors. Personally, I felt the price was very reasonable.

Eventually, I will need an extra USB cable for my computer so that I can charge it while at work. 

Look

Size

The first thing I noticed was how huge the screen is. The whole phone is about the size of my hand.  This larger screen size is fantastic for watching videos, zooming into my emails, and looking at photos (the resolution for each of these is excellent), but it is also an adjustment.  For example, I used to clip my Treo on my slacks or skirt at work. It was a little bulky, but ok. With the size of this device, it would look ridiculous to have it clipped to my hip, so it will have to be carried or put in a purse. 

Weight

I disagree with the early reports that the Droid X is heavy.  The weight is comparable to other smart phones.  It’s not uncomfortable at all.

Overall design

I prefer Apple’s sleek design to the Droid X. The Droid X looks less stylish and more like a utility item, but the purple silicone case that I got with the phone makes it more attractive and feminine.

Screen

Screen resolution is excellent.  The screen size is also fantastic (as previously mentioned). 

Wallpaper

I love the living wallpapers!  I chose the Grass theme and love it.  The sun rises and sets on my phone in sync with the time.  It’s very fun and very pretty.

Main utilities

Call clarity

Call clarity is very nice. It’s much better than my Palm Treo.

Battery Life

I haven’t had a huge problem with the battery life. I plug the Droid X in when I get in my car and sometimes while I’m at home.  I usually am at about 80-90% because of this. 

Screens

There are a total of seven screens that I scroll through. The multiple screens are excellent. I like to keep my main screen clean from apps, so I appreciate the fact that I can put the apps I need on a separate screen.

The turning of the screen to portrait or landscape is very accurate and very useful.

Keyboard

The keyboard is easy to use, although it’s still taking some adjustment from the Palm. With the Treo, I used my nail to tap the keys. Now, I need to use my finger. 

Sounds/Ringtones

The ringtones are fine and easy to hear.  However, even for a marketer, the constant branding for Verizon Wireless gets old.  It says “Verizon Wireless” sometimes when I unlock my phone, when I call someone, and when I receive calls. This is very annoying.

My big complaint here is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to designate sounds for when you receive and e-mail or a text.  I would really like to have a different sound for each, or, better yet, be able to silence the notification for the e-mail (keeping the flashing green notification light) and only have a sound for texts. 

Camera

The camera is only shooting at 6mp (I’m guessing I need to up this to get to the full 8mp?) but isn’t the easiest to use.  My friends and I have tried several times to take photos and the camera makes a loud beep but then won’t take the photo.  When that happens, there’s no indication on the screen as to why it won’t take the photo.  However, when it does take a photo, the picture quality is very nice (see below for a picture I took of me).

A photo of me taken with the Droix X

Media player

The media player was probably one of the biggest downsides to getting a Droid X for me because I love my iPod and iTunes and didn’t want to give them up. Luckily, I found an app, iSyncr, which allowed me to load my iTunes playlists (my full library wouldn’t fit) onto the phone. The app directions weren’t perfect so it took me some time to figure it out, but once I did, it was seamless.

The media player works very well.  The sound from the phone is good and it works well with my car stereo system (with a tape/ac adapter).  The media player shows up on your main screen when you are using it and you don’t have to unlock your phone to skip forward in your playlist. However, you DO have to unlock the phone to scroll through your playlist or switch playlists.  This adds an extra step and extra time with your eyes off of the road.

Contact merging

Merging my contacts from Gmail and my other social networking sites is fantastic.  Sometimes it creates multiple entries, but not often. And, if someone has a photo on Facebook or Twitter, it shows up as their photo in your contacts.

Weather updates

The weather update screen that came preloaded on mine can’t pick up my city, or the nearest Metro City to me so this feature is basically useless unless I want to torture myself with cities that have much better weather than mine.

Calendar

The merging of the calendar with Google Calendar is seamless.  I do wish I could figure out a way to change the default settings to create an e-mail and a phone reminder each time I have an appointment though. This gets old very fast.

Another simple, but nice feature of the calendar is that, if you put in your zip code, it displays the weather/weather forecast on the day you are looking at. That has been very helpful for planning trips to the golf course.

Pre-loaded Social Media Outlets

So far, I’ve only messed with the Facebook part of this and wasn’t too happy.  I could only do limited things on it and had trouble pulling up things on it such as photos of friends. I downloaded the app for Facebook, but had similar issues.  I finally resorted to using the browser and logging in that way to see what I wanted to see.

I also tried posting something, but in the midst of trying to figure out how to use the post filtering mechanism (which I still can’t figure out how to do), I posted only the first three letters of what I wanted to post. I tried to go to my profile and delete it, but found out I couldn’t do that from my phone either, so I had to wait until I could get to my computer.

Overall

Overall, I’m very happy with the Droid X and it’s a huge step forward from the Palm Treo 755p I was using.  A lot of the problems listed above I’m sure could be sorted out with a simple look at the manual or a Google search, but the point is, it takes time. With that said, I love the phone and am happy with my purchase. 

If you’ve been around me lately, I’m sure that you were subjected to the “see my phone!” excited speech. And, if you see me soon, you will also probably be subjected to it. If so, bear with me.  It’s not often that a non-techie like me gets the latest toy.

Brand consistency and higher education websites

Brand consistency is important on the web and can be accomplished through the use of templates and style sheets. But there also needs to be room within those templates and style sheets for some customization for each department to suit their individual needs.

MSU website on October 27, 2009 from ArchiveWeb

Michigan State University’s website on October 27, 2009.

MSU website on July 2, 2010

Michigan State University’s website on July 2, 2010.

Recently, Michigan State University (MSU) unveiled a makeover of their website.  The new design is fantastic. It’s much less cluttered than their previous site, the design is more contemporary, they have their latest advertising campaign prominently displayed on the front page, and the site is much easier to navigate. However, as a fellow marketer in higher education, I was curious how deep into their subwebs this redesign went. The answer was: not too far; a single click to the Admission area or the University Advancement area and a different web design appears.

But is this a bad thing? Should a university have a different look for each of the departments on their website or should they strive for brand consistency?  Conventional marketing wisdom would say that all materials within a brand should have a similar look and feel to maintain the brand. Under this wisdom, the web should be treated no differently than maintaining a similar look and feel throughout a college or university’s publications. However, the web is unique in that having variety, keeping interest, and including elements of fun are expected. Under these expectations, college or university departments having some variety in their look may be appropriate.

My belief about branding and higher education sites is that the answer is somewhere in the middle. Brand consistency is important on the web and can be accomplished through the use of templates and style sheets.  But there also needs to be room within those templates and style sheets for some customization for each department to suit their individual needs. As a marketing manager, I tend to be very conservative about this. The college I work for is very small compared to a large university and so I really stress the importance of maintaining a high level of brand consistency and “one voice.” However, where that line is and what amount of customization is appropriate, will have to be determined by each higher education institution as they consider their unique situation, including their size, mission, political landscape, etc. (as I’m sure MSU did). The key is to consider all of the relevant factors and then work towards the level of brand consistency that is appropriate.

Takeru Kobayashi’s arrest and a flip camera

So do I think that flip camera videos of events, such as Takeru Kobabshi’s arrest, will replace the need to have qualified video journalists? No. However, I do think they offer a nice compliment to the work of video journalists by offering any everyday person’s point of view of the situation.

I was flipping through the Battle Creek Enquirer this morning and came across a story about hot-dog eating champion, Takeru Kobayashi, and his arrest yesterday. The story itself wasn’t that interesting to me, but something in the photo caught my eye. Below is the photo. What do we see to the right of Mr. Kobayashi under the arresting officer’s ear? Yep, it’s a flip camera. And, if you search YouTube, there are no less than 19 videos of his arrest.  Most of these, I would guess, are shot using a flip.

Takeru Kobayashi arrested on July 4, 2010

These little tiny cameras, with their ease of use and quality of video, are changing the way we view the world, and most notably, news events.  In the past, we’ve relied upon professional videographers to capture video. But now, with a flip easily fitting into a purse or someone’s back pocket, anyone has the ability to shoot video and upload it for the public to view.

So do I think that flip camera videos of events, such as Takeru Kobabshi’s arrest, will replace the need to have qualified video journalists? No. However, I do think they offer a nice compliment to the work of video journalists by offering another point of view of the situation.

Farewell to Dr. Ed Haring

As tomorrow nears, the college I work for prepares to lose a great leader and I prepare to lose a great boss and mentor. There’s no denying it anymore: Dr. G. Edward Haring, President of Kellogg Community College, is retiring. So, today, I’d like to dedicate this post to the words of wisdom that he has given his employees at the college over the years.

Dr. Haring and I at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on campus in 2009

As tomorrow nears, the college I work for prepares to lose a great leader and I prepare to lose a great boss and mentor. There’s no denying it anymore; Dr. G. Edward Haring, President of Kellogg Community College, is retiring. You can see it in his step, his relaxed manner, and his new style of dress.  And, although I like our new Interim President a lot, I will miss Dr. Haring.

I have learned so much from him in the three years we’ve worked together. So, today, I’d like to dedicate this post to the words of wisdom that he has given his employees at the college over the years. Some of the below he said, but all of the below he demonstrated through his leadership.

Words of wisdom from Dr. Haring:

  • It’s completely normal, when you begin a new job, to feel that you are in over your head. However, it’s not ok to let these feelings bring down your self-confidence or your performance.
  • One of the greatest accomplishments that you can achieve in your career is to hire good people.
  • Once you hire those good people, get out of their way and let them do what you’ve hired them to do.
  • Learn the Elaboration Likelihood Model and use it to determine the best course of action with employees.
  • Being honest means telling the truth, including situations where you know what someone is really asking for (instead of what they actually asked).
  • If you are about to say something you shouldn’t, find a way to walk away.
  • Smile, say hi, and take time to get to know people personally.
  • Be humble.
  • And, above all, be civil to one another.

Dr. Haring, you will be missed but your influence on all of us will continue for the rest of our careers. Happy retirement.

Search Engine Optimization, a modern rendition of the referral system

SEO may be the new platform, but it’s still all about asking for referrals.

Business Referrals

Before the internet, if a new homeowner needed a plumber to fix something in their home, they asked their family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. for referrals for a good person to do the work. This might result in a list of names of plumbers to take a look at, including multiple people recommending the same plumber. When faced with a decision, the new homeowner, in this scenario, is probably most likely to choose the plumber with the largest number of referrals.

This scenario is not a far cry from how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works.  According Brian Clark, author of Copyblogger, in a post about SEO copywriting, “Modern SEO is all about crafting content so compelling that other people want to promote it by linking to it or sharing it, which increases your trust and authority and helps the pages you want to rank well for certain keywords.”  This statement is supported by SEOmoz’s Search Engine 2009 Ranking Factors report. The report shows that the largest portion (24%) of the overall ranking algorithm is the trust/authority of the host domain, which means the number of people that regularly reference a site and therefore trust and find value in it.

So the answer, in part, to effective SEO, is to gain referrals and the best way to gain those referrals is to write content that is interesting, valuable, and authoritative enough for others to want to reference it. After that, writers need to promote their mind-blowing content on social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to let people know that the content they just can’t write copy without linking to is available and ready for use.  SEO may be the new platform, but it’s still all about asking for referrals.

Earthquake on June 23, 2010 and U of M Hospital’s response

In the age of endless technology, it occured to me that the only way to get this message out was the old-fashioned, simple but effecitve, pa system. Although I’m a big fan of text messaging services such as e2campus, and love when orgnaizations post critical information on their facebook pages, neither of these mediums would have reached me in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. The only way to reach me was by public announcement.

Yesterday, at 1:44 pm, I was sitting in the hospital at the University of Michigan (no worries, a member of my family had a doctor’s appointment) when I felt a shaking.  I looked around, but no one else seemed to notice. The only other person sitting on the bench was my father, so I thought he was moving about, but he wasn’t. So, I went back to reading.

About 15 minutes later, a voice came over the PA system at the hospital. The voice said that U of M Geologists had just confirmed that there was an earthquake, but that there was no harm done and the hospital would continue to function as normal.  Approximately 15 minutes later, the voice repeated the message, adding that the quake was in Canada. 

In the age of endless technology, it occurred to me that the only way to get this message out was the old-fashioned, simple but effective, PA system. Although I’m a big fan of text messaging services such as e2campus, and love when organizations post critical information on their Facebook pages, neither of these mediums would have reached me in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. The only way to reach me was by public announcement.

Also, kudos to U of M for responding so quickly and for confirming information before sending it out.  Within 15 minutes, their geologists had confirmed the earthquake and they were making announcements to reassure the public that they were safe and everything would operate as normal.  This response leaves me with a feeling that if something more critical were to arise, U of M is fully prepared to respond.

As a Michigan State student, it slightly pains me to say this, but U of M, great job responding to the earthquake on June 23, 2010.

The Internet didn’t have to be as an anonymous as it is

I hadn’t thought about the fact that the Internet was anonymous by design or that it could have been designed differently. I had simply accepted it as it was. But it was time to think differently.

Jaron Lanier

“There was a choice to make the Internet more anonymous than it might have been and there are a whole bunch of interesting sociological and, even, religious fantasies that lead into that choice. But this, this, combination of anonymity and, and, social mixing can bring out the worst in people. So, it’s absolutely true that it’s an authentic part of human nature, but it’s not necessarily always the best part, and so it does concern me.” Jaron Lanier during an On Point with Tom Ashbrook interview.

After listening to Lanier say the above quote, I paused the interview and sat quietly. It was one of those moments when you realize that your whole world just changed, that you thought you had it all figured out and learned you didn’t.  I hadn’t thought about the fact that the Internet was anonymous by design or that it could have been designed differently. I had simply accepted it as it was. But it was time to think differently.

Looking at traditional forms of communication, it isn’t impossible, but incredibly hard to voice an opinion without attaching your name to it. Newspapers won’t print anonymous editorials, radio stations don’t have anonymous people as guests, political campaigns can’t advertise without revealing sources of funding, and, in some states, it’s even illegal to hold a street-corner protest while concealing your identity. 

But the Internet is different. It’s very easy to be anonymous.  It takes less than 5 minutes to set-up a random screen name and begin using it to say whatever you want, without fear of someone finding out who you are.  And therein lies the danger. People are much more censured when they know their name is attached to something. When it isn’t, they feel free to say hurtful and untrue things. Once published, the nature of the Internet allows these messages to spread at speeds a viral marketer can only dream of. The amount of damage done by a singe hurtful or untrue comment is immense.

Just recently, the Battle Creek Enquirer along with newspapers across the country, began hiding the public comments section below news stories. When announcing the change in the paper on June 15, 2010, the Enquirer’s Managing Editor, Eric Greene, wrote, “The reason we, and almost every other news outlet in the land, allow online comments is because we want to promote a free exchange of ideas. However, despite our intentions, the online discussions too often are dominated by a few people who, with their behavior, effectively suppress others’ voices. When anyone feels like it’s a waste of their time to speak up, that’s when we know our online forums aren’t living up to expectations.” As a regular online reader, I am glad for the change, but find it disturbing that the newspapers have to hide the comments because of their hateful and abusive nature.

So what is the answer? The truth is, I’m not quite sure.  But I do think a good first step is for all of us to think about this differently, to throw away our assumption that the Internet has to be anonymous, and decide whether we agree with the anonymity or not.  Then we can figure out what we need to do.

For me, the bottom line is, the Internet didn’t have to be as anonymous as it is and I don’t think it’s a good thing.