My new phone… and the adventure of accessorizing

As the release of the latest famous Cupertino phone approaches, I thought I would share some thoughts about my latest phone and the adventure of accessorizing it. If anyone’s concerned, I bought these on my own, with the Disney corporate discounts, but paid out of my pocket.

Just before a weekend trip to Walt Disney World, I upgraded from the HTC ThunderBolt 4G to the Motorola DROID BIONIC, the first dual-core LTE phone to come out.  Not long before, I’d added an inductive charging pad and wireless charging back to the Thunderbolt, and I also had the extended battery and desktop dock and car mount for it. I have a bad habit of getting all the accessories I might need, and then one or two, so I’m prepared for any solvable situation. And it means that when I pass the phone down to my significant other, she’s more than prepared for anything she’ll run into.

So I got the extended battery (half price on Verizon promo) and screen protectors for the BIONIC, since the car mount, wireless charging door, and webtop adapter were not in stock at my Verizon store yet. My rep at the Santa Clara store ordered the Verizon-branded car mount and the wireless charging door for me, and I ordered the webtop adapter later that day from home. My weekend in Lake Buena Vista had me with two batteries and their backs, and that’s it.

Verizon coverage is pretty good all around Disney World, for voice, text, and data. Sure, there are weak spots, but my connectivity was useful nearly everywhere I went. Even so, I saw about 4 hours of life on the standard battery and 8 hours of life on the extended battery, with 4G and GPS turned on, WiFi off, Wireless Hotspot service only while plugged into the charger. I broke a personal record (and an all-my-friends record) on Foursquare with my checkin activity (7-day max of 574), so I was making some use of the device. Usual sitting-in-pocket activity levels would have resulted in longer life, but I knew what I was doing.

The best accessory I could get, other than the extended battery (which seems less imposing than the Thunderbolt extended battery), is the Juice Defender app. It manages the data network based on your activity and settings, turning off the data service (3G/4G/1X) when idle and using less power. This ended up giving me about 1.71x battery life, and in fact the last day in Florida I had the standard battery in and was surprised to get almost 7 hours on it in the intermittent coverage of rural southern Florida.

I got the car mount, and soon discovered that there are two different car mounts available: Verizon-cobranded and Motorola branded.

Verizon sells their branded version with the Motorola and Verizon names on the front. Motorola’s direct version doesn’t mention Verizon as I recall, and it’s a different packaging design. They both come with the plastic disk for attaching the window-mount to a dashboard location, an innovative and long overdue mount design that lets you leave your extended battery or wireless charging door on while inserting it in the car mount (Thunderbolt car mount barely worked with the wireless door and didn’t even try with the extended battery), a micro-USB jack on the back for the charging cable, and an audio cable to connect the phone to the aux input on your car stereo.

The difference is twofold: First, the Motorola Vehicle Navigation Dock comes with a dual-USB car lighter charging adapter. Second, the Motorola version includes the custom cable that routes audio out the USB connector to your car stereo aux input. With the Verizon version, there’s no charging adapter, and you have to hook your audio jack to the phone’s headphone jack directly.

I read on various blogs that you could hound Motorola and they would likely send you the custom cable, or Verizon might do that, but I decided to send back the Verizon one (barely within the return period) and get the Motorola one. Amazon has it for about $54 (see previous link) and Fry’s had it in stock for $60. I got the wireless sales guy at Fry’s to go up the ladder and find one for me, so I could make sure it was right before sending the other one back. It worked, so the other one went back.

As with all of the DROID phones I’ve used (OG DROID, DROID X, DROID 2, HTC Thunderbolt, and now DROID BIONIC), the car mount has a magnet that sets off the vehicle dock mode on the phone (when the phone is seated properly). This gives you large, easy-to-find buttons for some basic functions like navigation, voice search, and user-specified actions (I have Gas Buddy and Foursquare added to mine). There’s an insert that makes the standard and inductive charging doors work, and if you remove the insert, the extended battery fits nicely. There’s a little clip on the top that holds the phone in place.

The wireless charging door works fine, although the Energizer Qi charger I got didn’t handle the Thunderbolt and the BIONIC at the same time. The Qi may be faulty, as I got it used at a thrift store, but it seems okay with one phone. The other inductive charger is on my desk at work, and works fine as well. Wireless/inductive charging is very convenient, especially if your phone is going to sit on an open space on your desk anyway. And between this and the car dock, you have no excuse for an uncharged phone on a regular basis.

The Webtop Adapter plugs into the Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB connectors on the phone, and sets off the “Webtop Experience.” You can mirror your display to an HDMI display, i.e. a television or computer monitor, or you can set the external display as primary, and the phone becomes a touchpad keyboard/mouse. You can also connect a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse to it in lieu of the touchpad mode, and have a netbook-type experience with your phone (including a full version of Firefox browser).

Without the Webtop Adapter you can still use HDMI display; I haven’t done this much but I think you need the Webtop Adapter (or HD Dock) to get the laptoppy experience. You can also drop $300 on the Lapdock to get laptoppy experience, and believe me, that’s tempting. If you’ve seen the Atrix at Fry’s you get the general idea.

I haven’t had much use for the Webtop yet, but I have the cable at work so I can use it there if I need to.

So that’s what I’ve come up with so far on this device. I’m loving it, and I enjoyed hearing the 4S announcement and seeing that my friends with iPhones are almost catching up to my last phone. Something to be said for 20mbps+ connectivity consistently on a phone.

So what accessories do you need for a new phone? How do you feel about the laptoppy modes that some laptops offer? And are you really going out dressed like that?

Aside: Amazon is allowing California affiliates again, as a result of a one year reprieve on an earlier California bill that would have put some new constraints on businesses with referrers in California. Geno Prussakov of AM Navigator has a good article covering the details of this process, and some good links out to other resources. Take a look if you’re curious. I’ll be putting some Amazon links in some upcoming posts, trying to bolster my toy budget, and the AStore link on the right is valid again.

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