The Droid Pocket Guide: Droid Hardware
- Apr 14, 2011
The Droid's hardware by its very nature can be a tad technical at times. If you're not a hardware person, feel free to jump around a bit or turn to a chapter that covers one of the more entertaining aspects of your Droid (such as software or apps).
Hardware Keys and Controls
To fully realize the potential of your Droid, it's important to master the various hardware controls and interface elements that make all the magic happen.
Figure 4.1 gives you a close look at the controls and keys on the Droid Bionic oriented vertically (also called portrait mode). The Bionic is the newest member of the Droid family and features several firsts, such as two CPU cores and a 4G radio, so I tend to favor it in the screen shots in this book.
Figure 4.1 Droid Bionic.
The hardware keys on the various Droids are similar, so I review them more generally in the following sections. For specifics on your particular model, refer to "The Droids You're Looking For" in Chapter 1.
Every Droid has a row of hardware keys along the bottom of the screen (Figure 4.2). These home-row keys are integral parts of the Android experience, allowing you to access the menu and search features easily, but they're most useful as ripcords when you need to go home or back—stat!
Figure 4.2 Five Droid models' Home keys compared. Which one doesn't belong?
One problem with Android phones is that hardware manufacturers have been known to take a few liberties with their designs. Witness Figure 4.2, which displays the home-row keys on five Droid models. Notice anything different? Yes, the Droid Incredible (pictured at the top of Figure 4.2) has swapped Home and Menu keys compared with the rest of the Droids. What's the reason for this swap? The Motorola Droids (X, 2, Pro, and Bionic) have the same home-row key configuration, but the Incredible is manufactured by HTC Corp., which has a slightly different opinion from Motorola about where the keys belong.
In the following sections, I take a look at the four very important keys that comprise the home row on a Droid.
A unique feature of the Droid—one that's not available on the iPhone—is the Back key (refer to Figure 4.2). As you'd expect, it takes you back to the last screen that you viewed. In fact, the Back key operates exactly like the Web-browser Back button that you've come to know and love.
The Back key also functions like the Escape (or Esc) key on a standard computer keyboard, in that it dismisses dialog boxes and the menu interface. If you want to get out of where you are but don't necessarily want to go home, the Back key is for you.
The Menu key (refer to Figure 4.2) is extremely useful in Android and isn't available on other popular phones. Pressing it displays a small overlay at the bottom of the screen (Figure 4.3), listing actions that are available in the current application. The Menu key is contextual, meaning that it presents different options depending on which app you're in. Usually, you can press it to find the various settings for a given application. (For more information on third-party applications, see Chapter 9.)
Figure 4.3 Pressing the Menu key presents five options.
If you long-press the Menu key, the text labels below each option display their keyboard equivalents. (Search becomes Menu+S, for example.)
People who use the keyboard a lot or simply are faster at typing sometimes prefer keyboard shortcuts to key presses.
Pressing the Menu key also unlocks the phone after the screen timeout interval (which you set by touching Settings > Sound & Display) has elapsed.
The Home key (refer to Figure 4.2) is equally intuitive. Pressing it takes you . . . well, home. It's a nice escape hatch from the depths of your Droid and a simple way to find your way back after an adventure through its various settings, menus, and applications.
Because search is a core feature of Android and the Droid phones, it's a perfectly logical choice for a hardware key. Press the Search key to bring up the Quick Search box. Then you can type your search keyword or touch the microphone icon and begin speaking. For more information on the Quick Search box and voice search, see the "Search" section in Chapter 1.
Keyboards (Droid 2 and Droid Pro)
The hardware QWERTY keyboards on the Droid 2 and Droid Pro are what differentiate those models from other Droids. Users who rely on their phones to send email and/or text messages regularly already know the value of a QWERTY keyboard and may even have purchased a Droid 2 or Pro just for this reason.
The Droid 2 (Figure 4.4) features a horizontal slide-out keyboard. Although the Droid is completely operable via its touchscreen with the keyboard concealed, many people prefer to use the hardware keyboard for texting and for composing email.
Figure 4.4 The Droid 2, oriented horizontally with its keyboard extended.
The original Droid keyboard was universally panned by users, so Motorola listened to the feedback and improved the Droid 2 keyboard 100 percent. It's much more tactile and has more travel and separation between the keys, and you'll be able to type on it pretty quickly with a little practice. This improvement is another example of how much things have changed in the world of Android in a year.
The Droid Pro (Figure 4.5) has a vertical keyboard permanently located below the touchscreen. If the Pro looks eerily similar to the iconic BlackBerry, that's no accident. Research In Motion (RIM) has long had the top phone in the smartphone market, and now that Android has conquered Apple's iOS, it's gunning for the No. 1 spot.
Figure 4.5 The Droid Pro's fixed vertical keyboard is the spitting image of the BlackBerry keyboard.