Three months with a Droid

Just before Christmas¬†I got a Motorola Milestone to replace my Nokia N95. At the time it was the latest and greatest Android device to be released in the UK, and it’s my first non-Nokia device in a decade.

All in all, it is not the step change I was hoping for in upgrading from a device I got in October 2007. The device itself looks unremarkable and rather like several touchscreen LG models. The hardware keyboard is very useful but the keys are virtually flush together, making it hard to get any kind of sense of whether you’re about to press the right letter or not (obviously it’s less of an issue after a bit of practice).

The camera is significantly worse than my N95 in both hardware and software (even accounting for the 24.5 day bug which my firmware has) – this is a real disappointment since the camera on my phone had become my main Flickr weapon since it worked well in most light conditions, had simple software and a great lens.

It doesn’t come with a podcatcher, which the nokia did, and the music player is extraordinarily basic (although it does seem to do most of the things I want).

On the other hand, having a large, hi-res, bright, touchscreen device is lovely. I’ve been lusting after my wife’s iPod Touch for the last year or so but hate iTunes and get frustrated at the Touch’s limitations so it’s been a blessed relief to finally get a device that feels more like a computer (yay for multitasking!). Of course, the Android Market is much smaller than the app store but the only place I’ve really noticed this is with games, and I’ll write another post about the Market later.

It’s pretty clear I was quite spoiled with the N95 in that it met all the hardware and software requirements I had, even though I didn’t realise I had them until I moved platform.

All this does lead me to wonder whether i’d have been better off with the Nokia N900 rather than the Milestone. In the short term I think the answer is no, especially since it runs Maemo rather than Symbian. I’m glad I have an Android device, even if, in the worst case, it’s just to get some experience of it; but in 15 months time I think there will have to be something special, in both hardware and software to keep me on Android.

Adding a bookmark to an Android Home screen

It’s easy to add a link to a URL to the home screen on the iPhone. When you’re looking at a web page, just hit “+” and select “Add to Home Screen”. On Android it’s slightly more involved:

  • Bookmark the page you want to add to a home screen
  • Go to the home screen you want to add the link to
  • long-press in an empty space to bring up the “Add to Home Screen” menu
  • select “Shortcuts”
  • select “Bookmark”
  • choose your bookmark!

The icon you get will be the standard bookmark image with a small overlay of the site’s favicon. If the site provides <link rel="apple-touch-icon-precomposed" href="blah" /> in the <head> then that will be used in preference. Both the iPhone and Android support the apple-touch-icon-precomposed link rel-type so it’s the preferred way of setting a custom icon for your webpage.

Update: I should mention that the resolution of the image you link to shouldn’t be too important but that the Android Icon Guidelines say it should be a 48×48 transparent PNG. I ignored that and used an icon I had lying around that was 256×256 and the OS scaled it just fine. Google themselves use this technique and their image is 57×57. You can find lots of good, free icons for your apps on Smashing Magazine.

Update 2: As rblon says in the comments, there is another way of doing this:

  1. Bookmark the page you want to add to a Home screen
  2. Open the browser “bookmarks” screen
  3. Long-press the bookmark you want
  4. Select “Add to Home screen”

tada!