With Incredible Power Comes Incredible Responsibility

(Feel free to skip to the bottom for my quick take on the new HTC Droid Incredible.)

I buy capers at Costco. Sure I can only go through a few tablespoons of capers a year but I still buy the Costco-sized bottle of capers. It’s all about value. The little teeny bottle at the regular grocery store costs the same as the ginormous bottle at Costco and I cannot bring myself to buy the itty bitty for the same prices as the Jamie-Oliver-sized jar. (This is conjecture. I have no actual idea how many capers Jamie Oliver goes through in a given 3-month period. I imagine it is more than the 25 that fit into the jar at Safeway.)

Which brings me to a point. The Droid. Or should I say Droids?

In my latest adventure in selfish smartphone testing, I tried out the Motorola Droid. I was hooked almost immediately. It was fast. It was versatile. With an inexpensive app (Touchdown) I was able to sync up all my Outlook calendar and contact information using Exchange. The built-in Exchange support was lacking. It came with access to a plethora of apps that were cool, useful and fun. One of the most amazing things was the speech-to-text capability. You’d speak into the phone and it would transcribe your words into searches, text messages, emails, etc. I kept texting Dan with things like, “I just said that,” and “I’m not typing this either.” It was hot, the phone, not the texts. I loved it.
It was not as cute as the Palm Pre. It didn’t feel as good in my hand. It was not a mobile tethering wireless hotspot but it did everything I needed and more.

But wait. Then I found out that its Costco caper jar equivalent was coming out soon and I just couldn’t be happy with the Motodroid. The HTC Incredible Droid Droid Incredible from HTC Incredi-HTC-ible-McDroidy-Pants was released on April 29th and it has everything that the MotoDroid has plus and plus and plus.
The Incredible has access to the same apps and features as the MotoDroid but it also has a faster processor, more internal storage, an 8 megapixel camera, HTC Sense UI (meaning cool modifications to the Google Android operating system making it more sleek, attractive and functional), a better feel and a partridge in a pear tree.

So I could have been very happy with the MotoDroid but why spend $200 on it when I could spend $200 on the new hotness? The only reason I see to go with the Motorola Droid vs. the HTC Incredible is the slide-out keyboard. If you can’t live without it, then you’d better stick with Moto. I thought I couldn’t live without it but it took me all of a week of abstaining from using the MotoDroid keyboard by choice to convince me that I could live without it. The touch-screen keyboard is actually quite nice.
So I jumped in and bought the new hotness with my own hard-earned cash and we frolicked in the grass and synced up calendars and contacts. I downloaded known apps that were recommended to me by friends and family. I loved the phone and the phone appeared to find joy in me as well, remembering all of my likes and dislikes and allowing me to rearrange its multiple home screens to my liking.

HTC Sense has much better built-in Exchange support than the standard Android 2.1 operating system so after we figured out some weird bugs on our Exchange server, I was really happy with the way everything worked together. My Facebook contacts are now linked with my Google and Outlook contacts so anyone with a profile picture in my Facebook friends now has a photo attached to their contact on my phone and when I look at their contact info, I can see their latest status updates right there.

The first day I had the phone up and running, I took a picture of Wanda eating in a cute bib my friend had given me as a gift. I clicked “share” on the phone and chose “email” from the long list of sharing options. I then selected my friend from my contacts list, typed a one sentence thank-you note and sent it off. The entire process took less than 2 minutes and she was impressed that I’d taken the time to send her a photo thank-you.
The built-in Twitter app is lame but there are others for free in the Market. The Facebook app is alright. The internet speed with the Incredible on Verizon frequently beats my laptop. It’s very very pretty. I can point it at pictures and landmarks and it “scans” them and tells me what they are. It does more things than a phone really should do.

And there’s the hitch.

The joy of my new toy was disrupted last weekend when I was browsing the Android Market for new apps and came across several distasteful and offensive apps in the games section. I do not want to see clothesless women as I’m browsing for solitaire games on my phone. I do not want to see apps for freaky weird creepy guys with specific “interests”. I’m trying to avoid certain key search terms here but you get the picture.

So I figured if they had an app for finding my car in a mall parking lot and an app for people who like to do things to pictures of women, then they certainly had an app that would help me and my family avoid running across that junk while we’re searching for games. They might even have a filter built in so I could just say, “Don’t subject my eyes to these types of apps. I’m not old enough,” or a way to lock access to the Market altogether so my kids don’t accidentally navigate there as they’re playing a Disney Princess game on my phone while I doze next to them on the couch.

Not so much.

I searched and searched and found nothing but references to the fact that people wanted filters, locks and controls for their Android phones but could not find them or were having trouble getting Google to let them create them and add them to the Market. So basically, even though my home internet is filtered, I found myself carrying around unfiltered open season to all the junk the internet has to offer in my diaper bag without much hope of a solution.

Luckily since I’ve been working with PR at Verizon I was able to get into contact with someone at Google who spent some time on the phone with me this afternoon, listening to my concerns and answering some questions.

The short story? They don’t have an app for that… yet. The man I talked to handles among other things “child safety policy and communications” for Google. He pointed out several instances where Google has made strides to make internet usage safer for children and adults like myself who don’t want to deal with filth.

I was unaware that you can now filter your browsing experience using SafeSearch filtering. It’s a setting you can get to from the Google main page. I didn’t know about the new Safety mode on YouTube, a button at the bottom of the page that you can activate and lock to reduce the risk of seeing nastiness on that site. Neither of these are perfect by any means but they’re a good faith effort by Google to offer options for filtering and they’re working to improve them.

My new Google friend was very encouraging. The phones are still fairly new terrain for Google. They’re working on it. They know there’s a demand for this and they’ll follow their model on the web, bringing filtering and locking to their mobile phones.

He said he’d let me know as soon as developments occur. And I’ll let you know as soon as he lets me know. For now, I’ve locked the front screen of my phone so my kids can’t slip it out of my purse and play with it without me. I’ve also set the SafeSearch mode in Google Mobile’s settings to “Strict” although there’s currently no way to lock in this setting but unless the kids figure out how to change it, it should keep me from running into too much junk. However, there will still be garbage on the Android Market and for the time being I will still run into it occasionally.

To avoid it, I’d suggest sticking to the “Top” apps rather than looking at the “Just In” apps because after signing up as a developer with Google, which requires a credit check and access to the developer’s real identity information, a developer can post things to the Market with no sort of vetting process. This allows for the kind of creativity and freedom that has made Google so successful, but again there’s that whole bad-comes-with-the-good thing.

If an app violates Google’s policies by posting anything pornographic or malware or spyware, users can flag it to be taken down. Personally I’d rather not be the one to “discover” malware, spyware or pornography so I’ll stick to the high end of the Market and wait for quality apps to be tested by others and trickle up.

Daring Young Mom Quick Take – The HTC Droid Incredible is an amazing tool with huge possibilities for productivity, fun, creativity and connection. I love all of the great things it can do for me. But, like the internet itself, it’s also got some real hazards built in. I’m so glad Google’s working on them. I can’t wait to pass on the good news that they’ve implemented mobile safety solutions but for now I’d say to proceed with caution.
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16 Responses to With Incredible Power Comes Incredible Responsibility

  1. divrchk says:

    I love my Droid. Can you list your favorite apps?

    • I think I’ll do a whole post on this soon but here are a few. Any of the Google apps are awesome as you probably know, Google Goggles, Navigator, Sky Map. My favorite non-Google app is probably Astrid, a to-do list/ task manager. I also like Carr Matey, Dictionary.com, Documents to Go, Aldiko eBook reader, Reveal Reader for LDS scriptures and manuals, Battery Left Widget, ToMarket Lite – a grocery shopping and planning app, Cardio Trainer, AK Notepad. For free games I like WordUP! and Coloroid. The kids love Abduction – a game with bouncing cows and Jokes for Kids.

      What apps do you love?

      • divrchk says:

        I use OurGroceries for lists shared with my husband, Key Ring organizes all those club cards and grocery cards (including Children’s Place, B&N, Borders, etc…), Google Shopper, FxCamera, RunKeeper for tracking mileage, Pandora, The Weather Channel, c:geo for Geocaching, AppBrain to manage apps from the computer, DroidLight, Fairies Puzzle, Math Workout, USAA for banking, Yelp and Urban Spoon.

  2. Christina says:

    The decline of family values is startling. Anything that Google can do to help filter pornography and adult content would be so necessary. It’s not just for our children, but for the adults too!

  3. Becky says:

    Awesome to know that Google is working on this. It has been a concern of mine, and I’m getting close to needing a new phone. Please let us know as soon as they have filtering available!

  4. Rachel says:

    See, this is why my phone is for making phone calls not surfing the internet or using apps for any number of things that a pen and a piece of paper works just as well for.

  5. Andrea says:

    Google’s web filtering is usually so good. Hopefully they’ll get it going for the android phones soon too. I have a droid, which I LOVE, and that is my only complaint about it. My kids are in my phone all the time, and they have the tech savvy to pretty much do anything that they want in there…including download new apps. Since I happened across some things I don’t want them seeing, they aren’t allowed to use my phone anymore and it’s frustrating for all of us.

  6. Heather says:

    Kathryn, thank you for being so proactive to help us help our families. I think it is so important that we have these controls, and I would LOVE to buy a Droid, but I would definitely hesitate with Google’s current parental controls. I will keep checking back to see when they have done something about this. Great review, by the way. Wow, I am so excited to have a Google phone down the road when they have ironed out the issues with filtering.

  7. Nancy says:

    I am behind the times in the phone category–yes, I’ll admit it in public….I still have a flip-phone and don’t even know how to text! After reading through your analysis, I’m even more hesitant to want to learn how to do all those cool things. However, that being said, I have three children that will be getting phones before you know it (not fast enough for my 12 year old) and I know I’ll eventually have to upgrade to something like you’ve described. I surely hope the big companies (like Google) figure out a way to block all of those inappropriate sites or my kiddos and I will stay away that much longer! Thanks for the great info and taking a stand Daring Young Mom!

  8. Yoddler says:

    What I was thinking is that now not only do I have to be worried about what my kids will see on other peoples computers…now I have to worry that their friends will flash them something pornographic on their phone! Hopefully with the right tools parents can put better filters on their children’s phones.

  9. Pam in Utah says:

    I love that you even thought to ask the PR person about the problem instead of just being frustrated or getting a different phone! AND, that the google people were actually listening. Hope they figure it out soon. Sometimes you just have to be the one to go up to the front desk and point out a problem that a bunch of other people have noted but not done anything about yet-like ASKING for a fix! Good for you, and keep us updated on the internet safety issue. Thanks!

  10. Cynthia says:

    I like google because they seem innovative, easy to use and connected with the public. That being said, parental controls and filtering is a must for all technology products.

  11. Michelle says:

    I’m surprised that Google hasn’t already got this in the bag – I wouldn’t think it would be so hard to adapt SafeSearch to the app store. But Google has been expanding quickly lately, so I suppose there are bound to be some wrinkles to iron out, and at least they’re working on it.

  12. Beth says:

    Were you able to download LDS scriptures to your htc incredible?


  13. Beth says:

    Hi can you recommend free or paid that will work the best for the htc phone (your opinion)

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