Droid newbie: What phone should a developer with minimal needs get?

Discussion in 'Android General Discussions' started by Rei, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    A total droid newbie here. As in I've never even seen an android-based phone in person before. However, I am a web-application developer who needs to make sure her apps work well and look right on, among other things, android-based phones.

    In general, I love Google products and the open design philosophy they espouse. Unfortunately, the cell phone world is a pain of locked phones and disabled features, and that seems to reach into the Droid realm as well. So I'm at a loss here. I was thinking that perhaps the people at this forum could help. I need:

    * Basic featureset. The phone at a minimum needs to be able to support web browsing over wifi
    * Fairly representative of the typical android product range most consumers will have
    * Email support
    * Minimal cost possible given the above

    Here's what I would like:

    * Not required to be locked into a given network
    * Not required to have a data plan
    * Able to make use of a minimal dataplan with low cost and minimal capabilities
    * Still able to get higher data performance or more monthly data xfer if I later decide I want to pay for it.
    * Able to have those capabilities in Iowa City, IA zip code 52240, and in Detroit, MI if possible

    I've been told that Verizon has good coverage around here; I don't know about other providers. But when searched for "verizon droid unlocked", I found a lot of negative info about whether this was possible. Off the bat, all I'd want to pay for is enough data service to have access to email everywhere. Later, however, I might want more for actual data-intensive browsing.

    To be honest, I would probably not buy a phone as expensive as these new smartphones if it were up to me. I don't really need those capabilities. But my work requires it, since *other* people are buying these phones, and I need to make sure our webapps look and run right on them. And so I want minimal cost (purchase and monthly) now, but . And I want things to be open/unlocked as much as possible. Nothing drives me crazier than existing capabilities being deliberately shut out of software (yeah, I'm a Linux user ;) )

    Thanks in advance!

    - Karen
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  2. hookbill
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    hookbill Premium Member Premium Member

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    :welcome: to the Droid Forum. Unfortunately I'm only familiar with Verizon phones, particularly the Droid.

    To the best of my knowledge there is no Android phone that doesn't require a data plan of some sort. Google has the Nexus 1 available, but I don't know what their requirements are, however I do know that there is absolutely NO customer support for that phone. At least not much to speak of.

    I don't know about the HTC Droid, if that requires a data plan but Verizon does lock you down to a contract. Another thing you wanted to avoid.

    I feel that the Motorola Droid can deliver everything your looking for performance wise however your no contract and no data just isn't go to work for you to have a Droid.

    Hopefully somebody else a little more informed then myself on Android phones can help you. I simply don't have the answers for you.
  3. Skaggz
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    Skaggz New Member

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    * Basic featureset. The phone at a minimum needs to be able to support web browsing over wifi
    Pretty much any Android device as far as I know

    * Fairly representative of the typical android product range most consumers will have
    Probably go with any device that was shipped with at least 2.0 and is scheduled to receive the 2.1 update. This way you'll remain current with the future phone releases. The Droid as well as the Nexus One have a much higher screen resolution that previously released Android phones.

    * Email support
    Sure! Since Android is released by Google they all have Gmail support built in. There are apps available to receive mail from other web based or POP3 accounts.

    * Minimal cost possible given the above
    There are always special offers going on if you get a service plan. It pays to shop around a bit. If you're buying just the phone, you'll have to pay up.

    * Not required to be locked into a given network
    Not a Verizon phone since it uses CDMA. Maybe a phone that has a SIM card will work for you? I don't really see the need for this requirement here.

    * Not required to have a data plan
    As far as I know, all Android devices require an unlimited data plan in order for a carrier to activate. Of course you could buy just the phone.

    * Able to make use of a minimal dataplan with low cost and minimal capabilities
    See above.

    * Still able to get higher data performance or more monthly data xfer if I later decide I want to pay for it.
    Again, see above. WiFi is always free (so to speak)

    * Able to have those capabilities in Iowa City, IA zip code 52240, and in Detroit, MI if possible
    Do some research and check coverage in your area. I don't foresee too much of a problem in those areas with any carrier. But I've never been to either of those cities.

    But when searched for "verizon droid unlocked", I found a lot of negative info about whether this was possible.
    If by 'unlocked' you mean being able to use it on another carrier besides VZW, your out of luck. If by 'unlocked' you mean access to every nook and cranny of the phone's system, then this is the phone for you. Just look in the rooting/hacking forums.
    ---------------------------------------------------

    I'm sort of confused by your post. Are you going to be using the phone specifically for testing apps during and after development? Are your apps strictly web based? Is the phone for personal use too?

    There are a couple of solutions that may be of interest to you. They are provided by Google.

    1. The Android SDK includes emulators of the different phones that use different versions of the OS.

    2. Google does have an Android Developer Phone available that is completely unlocked. The current one (ADP2, or named Google ION) is essentially an HTC MyTouch 3G. The phone is a little dated now though compared to the newer releases. It will run you a cool $399.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  4. bizfox
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    bizfox New Member

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    Welcome to the Droid world! As far as flexibility in data plans go, you will be locked with a mandatory plan when signing up with Verizon. Fortunately, you also have other options with carriers considered as MVNOs (or resellers of Big Red that operate without contracts), namely Page Plus Cellular or Blackdog Wireless (I would vouch for the latter as the owner himself is a reliable dealer with reasonable rates, especially on the data side. Plus, his network is equal to the Big Red's postpaid coverage... so no roaming charges included on top of your monthly fees). The companies I stated above allow BYOD (bring your own device), and in this case, the Droid, when updated with the latest PRL, will work out of the box... calls, texts, email, web and all.

    More information on those two carriers is available on howardforums.com under the prepaid section. While I have a Verizon contract myself with one Droid, I also have a prepaid account with PPC (with a second Droid as well). I will be porting out to Blackdog soon as I do need a larger data package included with my regular plan (work purposes).

    Hope this helped you a little bit :) Plus, with these carriers, you will save more, while enjoying the flexibility of optional packages with no contracts!
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  5. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    Like any -reasonable- person, I care about total cost of ownership, not upfront costs. Which is why I don't want to get locked into an expensive data plan. I want to have the *ability* to upgrade to a higher end data plan if so desired, but what I need for now is pretty minimal.

    Because I hate, hate, hate lock-in. It's the principle of the thing. I'll do it if I have to, but I despite spending hundreds of dollars on something and be prevented from getting my service from who I choose.

    I like to own the things I have. And if you're locked in, to me, that's not true ownership.

    That's what I want to do: I want to buy the phone. I don't want to get the phone at some minimal price but then be locked into some expensive data plan and be dependent on having that.

    Do you know of any sites that contrast coverage for different areas? I don't even know what my options are -- only that Verizon is supposedly good here. And even if there was a site that would compare/contrast coverage, how could I be sure it would be applicable to the phone in question?
    As stated, I need to get it to be able to test apps -- almost exclusively from my place of business, which has wifi. But if I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars on a phone, yes, it would be nice to be able to get a minimal data plan so that I can get email on the road, too. But that's it.

    Yes. They use a HTML/Javascript thin-client frontend. And the backend is way too hardware intensive to consider running on a phone.

    Only insofar as I'd like a minimal dataplan for reading email when on the road.

    Would that affect how the web browser displays things? Obviously that couldn't affect the screen hardware. I don't care about Android's underlying Java layer.

    Would I have options for:

    A) Using it with no dataplan
    B) Using it with a minimal data plan for reading email
    C) Using it with a higher rate/monthly limit data plan at a later date if I so chose?

    Thanks for all of your help, everyone!
  6. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    What sort of unlocked Android phone could I buy that would work with them? And how could I find out what sort of coverage they have in my area for said phones? I tried going to the BlackDog site, but it was down (not an encouraging sign...)

    I do like the idea of "pay for what you use", since I don't intend to use much.
  7. Backnblack
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    Backnblack Premium Member Premium Member

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    Any Droid with out data and cell service is worthless IMHO..there is not always free wifi.
  8. iPirate
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    iPirate New Member

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    Buy a used G1?
  9. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    There's always free wi-fi in my place of work. Please note the primary reason I'm purchasing it.

    Not everyone wants a device for the same purpose. To reiterate:

    * When I'm not going to be travelling for a long time, I do not want to pay for any data coverage -- only voice.
    * When I am going to be travelling, I want to pay for only minimal data coverage (for email).
    * In the future, I may desire higher bandwidth/limits, and want the capability to acquire more.

    That's one of the annoying things I've found whenever I search for info on phones: some person comes to a forum and says that they want a phone but not a data plan, and gets berated as though they don't understand what it means to be limited to wifi. Just a bit of a pet peeve -- sorry.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  10. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    Would that be able to come without a data plan and work without a data plan (wifi-only)? Would I be able to add a limited data plan in my location?
  11. BzB
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    BzB New Member

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    interesting...

    do you currently have a smart phone? if so, what phone do you use and what type of plan do you have? as you may know, data plans are standard across all smart phones unless you buy the phone outright. i suspect you might not be doing this now with your current phone/provider?

    you seem to be fairly sharp. a lot of this information is available on sites like cnet. have you done any research at all? has it led you anywhere other than here? it's easier to help out if you come into the discussion with some type of background knowledge...
  12. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    I currently use an old cell phone so minimal and meager that I don't even know what model it is. Voice only. We own the phone.

    As you'll notice from my first post, I did research and could not find out if what I'm looking for exists. The problem is that the cell phone world is constantly changing, and I can't tell whether a piece of information I find in one place is still current. Furthermore, there are all sorts of different Android phones (and different providers' versions of each given phone), and I don't know if what applies to one applies to others.

    I'm familiar with the general features of the Android operating system. And I don't care all that much about the hardware or the additional software installed, inso far it's roughly representative of most Android-based phones. What I was not able to accurately tell was whether I could get a phone not locked to a particular provider for which I can have a choice in data plan options where I live. Which is why I came here.
  13. bwhite82
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    bwhite82 New Member

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    It sounds like a prepaid Android phone would be your best fit. Unfortunately, my Googling has only uncovered two things:

    -T-Mobile Pulse (Europe only)

    -And I saw mixed results for people buying G1's, using a friends contract SIM card to get the phone setup with, then inserting your own prepaid SIM. The caveat with this is no data with the prepaid, but can still use wifi AFAIK.

    EDIT:

    Looks like you can get the Motorola Cliq with a prepay plan:

    https://supportforums.motorola.com/thread/16086
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2010
  14. BzB
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    BzB New Member

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    being a web app developer, surely you have a smart phone (or access to one) that you can use for development and testing...right? :icon_eek: i suppose this could be your virgin entry into the web app development arena, however i would expect that you have some experience with smart phones...being this is 2010 and all. :p

    a couple things... you will be chalking up a good amount of money (~$400-600) to keep from being locked into a contract, i.e., buying a phone outright. or you could try ebay or cl for better prices. your best bet is to buy a gsm based android phone that you can use on multiple carriers, or just use the wifi if you don't want carrier based service at all. in order to get carrier based service you will need to subscribe to a data plan. based on your use need and the requirements you mentioned, the nexus one is probably a good fit as that phone is sold without contract.
  15. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    I really haven't wanted to get one, but as you note, I really have no choice here. I'm forced to.

    Yep, fully aware of that.

    So, basically everyone but Verizon uses gsm, right? Will any GSM network fully support any droid phone at full speed? Do you know of a good place that compares different networks' coverage? If not, do you know of any list of providers so I could try going to their individual sites to check coverage? The only one I know if in my area is Verizon.

    Meaning, even for phone service, I'd need a data plan?

    Thanks for the tip -- I'll look more into it!
  16. BzB
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    BzB New Member

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    for major carriers in the US, verizon and sprint are cdma. att and tmobile are gsm.

    if it is a gsm based android phone (like the nexus or desire) you should be able to get full speed. not exactly sure though. when the nexus was first released it was intended for tmobile 3g, but compatible on att. i believe a version compatible with att 3g speeds is now available.

    no. best i can suggest is going to each carrier website and pulling up their coverage map. someone else on the forum might be able to point you to a better comparative source.

    these days i don't think you can get smart phone service without a data plan. as soon as you tell them what phone you're trying to activate on their network they may require that you choose a data plan. there may be some loopholes but i don't know of any. if you buy an unlocked phone that might also get you around the data plan requirement, then you can use wifi for your data.
  17. iPirate
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    iPirate New Member

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    Yes.

    I have no experience with limited data plans. The phone is old and the first Android phone, so it will work for developing Android related websites and apps. But beyond that the phone is old so slower and not as good as newer phones. I have seen them for just under $100
  18. Rei
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    Rei New Member

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    Sounds right up my alley. Thanks!
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