Droid Charge: Discharged

Amy Poehler (seated)

I’ve been out of the blogging saddle for about a week now. Geesh. This has been the biggest sabbatical I’ve taken since I began penning prose on these pages back in April 2005.

Placido Domingo
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Well, I had a good excuse. My #2 son had his college graduation last week — a full four-day extravaganza including the dorm move. Two down, one to go.

But what a fab week! Honorary doctorate degrees bestowed upon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Placido Domingo, Dr. David Satcher, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and other such luminaries! Placido Domingo even broke into an Ginsburg-infused aria for the sitting Justice, herself a huge opera fan.

(l. to r. sons #3, 2 & 1 + BW)

The day before, Boston College alum Amy Poehler had a chance to share her pearls of wisdom with the new Crimson-infused graduates. Here’s a link to her speech.

While all this was going on, my plan to extricate myself from the grid for a few days was made much easier by a dumb decision to finally abandon my Blackberry — with its new OS’s one-too-many clicks, uncaught exceptions and too many many unreadable websites. I opted for the new Droid Charge from Verizon Wireless.

My go-to site on such matters, The Business Insider, prompted this rash decision with its breathless headline “Get Verizon’s Fastest Android Phone From Amazon For $100 Off” and story. I took the bait.

Huge Mistake.

Samsung Droid Charge for Verizon Wireless

Not only is the Droid Charge fatally flawed, but the second-tier tech support folks at VZW admitted as much to me. During the first evening’s dinner with my son and his roommates and their families, I sat next to a Droid-using doctor who encouraged me to purchase a Griffin stylus to compensate for the myriad mistakes my clumsy fingers make on the touch screen keyboard.

At 9am the next day, I found one at the Verizon store. I now had a brand new Droid running 4G LTE, a full battery, a new stylus, and the sun was shining. Life was good. By 10:30am, the battery had died! Huh?

Verizon tech support advised me to download one of the “task killer” apps from the Droid’s “Market” section. This way I could manually kill those unnecessary pre-loaded apps like VZ Navigator and Media Hub, which the tech told me “will drain a phone’s battery in no time.” Sounded good, except that those superfluous apps kept reappearing after the phone came out of lock mode…every two minutes.

I called again. The new tech support guy said that the task killer app is “very bad” for the phone. I should remove it and use the pre-installed app manager instead. Okayyyy. That done, the battery seems to last a tad longer, i.e., like three hours instead of two. Now how do I get my email to automatically refresh?

The third tech explained that Droid email is far inferior to Blackberry’s, which has and will continue to have the “gold standard” for smartphone email. Moreover, emails sent are not instantly received. They can lag for five minutes or more. So much for real-time communications. Finally, I learned that some emails I sent were never received (nor synced with my laptop email). Groan.

But back to the battery drain issue. I finally had a level-two tech who whispered in my ear that I should “root” the Droid Charge, thus expunging any unwanted pre-loaded, battery-draining bloatware. “It’s not all that simple, and it will void the warranty, but you’ll find the battery will last longer.” Basically, he explained, that Verizon pre-loaded all this crap on the phone, which inherently conflicts with Droid’s native operating system. This drains the battery, but also causes the phone to spontaneously re-boot. (Ahh, that explains that dumb Droid sound I hear in the middle of the night.)

The re-booting also re-sets my settings, which rendered my Internet access obsolete. I arrived home and called tech support one last time to outline the growing number of problems I’ve had with the phone — from short battery life to sporadic Internet access to faulty email. Did I mention that the Droid market versions of my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn mobile apps lost half their usability? No UberSocial? Or that the much-touted tethering and wireless router modes do not work with Macs.

The final level-two tech support asked me to hold several times so she could “consult” on the issues. She was literally clueless. She finally advised me to return the phone and get a new one or a different make. Really? I asked her whether others have complained and she had some canned answer like I personally am not aware. Hmmm. That’s exactly what the other two techs said when I asked them the same question.

Thank you, Amazon for accepting the return for a full refund, no questions asked. I retrieved my BB Bold from the kitchen drawer and reactivated it. It soon experienced an uncaught exception freezing the device for some five minutes. The BB tech said the only remedy is a clean wipe of the phone back to factory settings, which means that all my third-party apps will also be wiped.

To make matters worse, Apple announced today that it will unveil everything BUT…the new iPhone 5 at an event on June 6.