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Droid Impressions and Custom Ringtones
Yay, new Google phone

I finally gave in and got myself a Motorola Droid phone, as I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time, but was reluctant to do so due to some known problems with it. I have been incredibly happy with it, and find it leaps and bounds better than the iPhone platform (and many other smart phones).

Pros (when compared to other phones/platforms on the market):
  • It’s on the Verizon network, which, from my experience, has by far the best coverage and quality
  • The Android platform keeps things running in the background so you can go in and out of applications freely, as opposed to only being able to run 1 application at a time on the iPhone. This multitasking approach is much better because...
    • This means that applications can continue to run/process in the background for necessary tasks, like periodically talking and receiving data from servers (without push notifications, which aren’t as powerful)
    • Applications, since they remain open, take no extra time to start back up every time you want to go to them
    • Keeping applications open has (as I understand it) next to zero, if not zero, drain on system resources if they are not doing anything in the background
    • If the phone is running out of memory, it will kill an application that is not in use
  • I find the touchscreen much more responsive and accurate than the iPhone
  • The voice recognition is spectacular (especially useful when combined with GPS/mapping programs)
  • It’s not Apple :-) (and it’s Google!)
  • It has a physical qwerty keyboard (see Cons)
  • The lock screen protection is pretty neat and quick (gesture-like unlocking)
  • The platform is open source, which has many powerful advantages for programmers
  • Music/books/etc are directly loaded from an SD Card with no need to go through something like iTunes. This can, however, be slow when indexing from the SD card after changes
  • Music sorts first by folder and then by album. While this would have been great for me a year or so ago when I got my iTouch, it no longer is as useful as I have already gone through my whole music folder and properly re-tagged everything (and it has actually caused a few bugs in my music organization)
  • Free tethering to a computer through PDANet (1 month trial that blocks HTTPS sites afterwards, but I SSL tunnel my connections anyways :-) ). [Edit on 5/25/2010]: Google has just announced Android 2.2 has a new added feature “a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that can be shared with up to 8 devices.”
  • Great [5.0 megapixel] camera/video recorder
  • Applications can use self signed certificates for distribution. Signed applications prevent tampering (which has both advantages and disadvantages :-) ), and self signing means you can develop for the platform for free

  • It cannot be on the Internet and a phone call at the same time (Verizon [CDMA] problem). This is especially problematic when tethering
  • Even though the system is Linux based, working with the terminal emulator leaves a lot to be desired
    • Most of my standard bash commands [coreutils] are not there
    • Permissions are so tight you can barely do anything without rooting
    • The shell itself is missing a lot of functionality (problems with finding files even though they are in the “path”, bash-type arrow shortcuts [autofill, history], etc)
    • Motorola has seemingly [possibly?] even removed some of the utilities that should have come with the Android platform (they are on the Android emulator at least) like the command line SQLite program
  • The physical keyboard is a lot harder to use than my last phone (VX9800, I’ve been using one since 2004), and also leaves a lot to be desired. It’s better than having no keyboard though!
    • Since there is no spacing between the keys, it is very easy to make a mistake
    • The number of keys is very small and not always in typical qwerty layout (for numbers and symbols), so it’s hard to find some characters
    • Some characters (like the pipe | ) are not even listed, and you just have to know how to get to them (alt+shift+comma for the pipe)
  • The phone does not let you record call conversations. This seems to be a hardware issue specific to the Droid (and possibly the Nexus One) and not necessarily because of the Android platform. I cannot find any official or confirmable information on the reason. [Edited this bullet on 3/1/2010]
  • It’s made to interface with Java when programming, and you don’t have much of a choice with this :-( . However, C/C++ modules can be made that directly interface easily with the Java base.

Anywho, the original intent of this post was not to talk about the Droid itself, but I figured I might as well get that out of the way while I was on the topic :-). The real point was to talk about a problem I ran into and the solution.

I had a lot of trouble finding a way to quickly set a ringtone to many people. As I have many hundreds of contacts in my phone, and I need groups of people set to different ringtones (and sometimes just one individual), it would have taken many hours to accomplish the task of assigning ringtones to these contacts. I found the perfect solution though in an application, not on the market, called JUSTones (also called “Just Tones”). Not only does it allow you to set ringtones for many people at once, but it also lets you set SMS tones for contacts (Yay!), which is not native to the platform.

Unfortunately, it was made for a depreciated version of the Android platform, and did not work on my phone. I have been in communication with the author, and after sending him the solution to my main problem, he has sent me a new working version (with many more fixes for bugs I mentioned too) ^_^. He even refunded my original purchase and told me to not worry about paying for it, which was pretty cool of him. It’s nice to find other software authors as nice and willing to work with you as this :-).

The problem was that the ringtones being set through the program were not actually being set to the contacts. The reason was that ringtone values are now set in 2 separate places in the OS, and only 1 of them was actually being used. I presume the old location of the value was still being set so legacy applications could still read the ringtone for the contact, but not necessarily set it.

The following is the code I sent to him that copies over the values from the old value location to the new one.

//Prepare to read from the old contacts database
Cursor cur=managedQuery(People.CONTENT_URI, new String[] { People.NAME, People.CUSTOM_RINGTONE }, null, null, People.NAME + " ASC"); //Query the old contacts database
cur.moveToFirst(); //Move to the first record of the old contacts database

//Prepare queries to run on new contacts database
ArrayList<ContentProviderOperation> ops = new ArrayList(); //This holds the queries to run
do //Loop over each [old] record of the database
	String TheName=String.valueOf(cur.getString(cur.getColumnIndex(People.NAME))); //Get the name from the old record
	String TheRingtone=cur.getString(cur.getColumnIndex(People.CUSTOM_RINGTONE)); //Get the ringtone from the old record
	ops.add(ContentProviderOperation.newUpdate(ContactsContract.Contacts.CONTENT_URI) //Prepare a query on the new contacts database
		.withSelection(ContactsContract.Contacts.DISPLAY_NAME + "=?", new String[]{TheName}) //On any record where the Name = OLD_NAME
		.withValue(ContactsContract.Contacts.CUSTOM_RINGTONE, TheRingtone) //Set Ringtone = OLD_RINGTONE
} while (cur.moveToNext());

//Execute the queries on the new contacts database
	getContentResolver().applyBatch(ContactsContract.AUTHORITY, ops);
} catch(Exception e) { }

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