Motorola Droid
Learning the basics of your new Motorola Droid smart phone, with a few tips, trick and hints
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The purpose of this document is to help new users of the Motorola Droid smart phone get up to speed quickly.  I got mine in early February of 2010, and I soon realized I needed to make little notes to myself about things I learned about how to take full advantage of the Droid.  At first I was merely recording the notes just for myself, in a little Notepad txt file.  But as that file grew (there's a lot to know about the Droid) I realized it might be useful to others who are new to the Droid device, so I cleaned it up a little.

   T a b l e   o f   C o n t e n t s   

If you lose your phone
Controlling the Droid
    1. Three physical switches:
        power/lock, volume, camera
    2. Physical keyboard
    3. Touching the glass
        A. Four hard keys
            Back, Menu, Home, Search
        B. Touching the display:
            click, long-press, drag,
            swipe, scroll, zoom,
            double-click, pinch-zoom
Setting up the Home screens
    Add, move, delete
    Apps I recommend
    Backing up Contacts
Simulate Speed Dial
    Example of using a shortcut
    Example of using a folder
Screen sleeping
    Silent mode
    Airplane mode
Alert sounds
    How to add alerts
Volume settings
    Incoming call ringtones
    Voice calls
    System (UI) sounds
    Google Navigation
    Group photos
    Filename template
    Filename template
    Light sensor
    Proximity sensor

    Copying a track
    Copying an album
    Copying an artist
    Copying art
Streaming radio
Default browser page
File structure on Droid
Conference calls

Google Maps, Navigation


I c o n s      

Above are some of the icons that can appear in the white notification bar at the top of the display of the Motorola Droid.


L i n k s    

Below are links to some presumably authoritative sites:

Motorola support site for Droid phone
      Paper insert that comes with the phone (Verizon)
      Tips and tricks (Verizon) 10 pages
      User guide (huge manual) (Verizon) 58 pages
Verizon support for Droid
Verizon support for Android OS
Google Mobile Help
Google Mobile Navigation (Beta)
Verizon's Droid home page  (I don't know what this is.)

Below here are links to some forums, which are less authoritative but still useful.
About Droid phones
Also about Droid phones
About all Android phones




Introduction      TOP

This article on the Droid assumes that you have used a cell phone before but not a smart phone.  If you are an old hand with the Droid and you know how to root one in your sleep and you care that your build number is ESE81 and not something else then there might be nothing in here that's new to you.  In fact, you might be able to answer some of the questions I pose.  If so, please do.

Note that this is not by any means an attempt to reproduce any of the Motorola, Verizon and Google manuals available to you.  (See Links above for a partial list.)  This is an addendum to any such manuals.  In some cases I corral information from those sources into one spot, in other cases I re-word it, and in others I add information I found outside the manuals, whether on the Internet or by experimentation.

Google Maps and Navigation Beta: Because it's such a large subject, information about Google Maps and Google Navigation Beta will appear on a second page, here, when I get around to finishing it.

Phones that use the Android operating system (OS) include Motorola Droid, Nexus One, Droid Eris, and Droid Hero and HTC Droid Incredible.  Some of the below, which is specific to the Motorola Droid, applies to such phones.

This very file you're reading now, DroidIntro.htm, can be read from a smart phone browser, but it is designed to be read from a larger monitor such as on a netbook or a PC.  This article, which is still in beta, stops at the end of Battery.  Most of the rest of the subjects shown in grey in the Table of Contents above are written, they just nead to be cleaned up.  Also, I expect to add more.


If you lose your phone      TOP

1. If you lose your phone, the first thing to do is call it from another phone and listen for the ringtone if it's nearby or hope someone answers if it's not.

But if that doesn't work, and if it's in the hands of a non-criminal, you'll want to provide some way for that person to get in touch with you.

2. An obvious method is to mark the phone, and the case if it's in one, with your name and some other phone number, or just your email, or whatever you think is best.

Trick: You might also want to mark the inside of the device.  To do so, remove the battery cover and carefully scratch your initials or some other identifying insignia into the metal.  I use a diamond-tipped pen designed specifically for etching lines, but a nail or an awl would work.  You might also want to mark the SD card and the battery in the same way.  If you don't want to incise marks, you can use an ultra-fine-point Sharpie, which is less permanent but better than nothing.  The reason for making these marks is not to help a normal person return your phone to you but rather to prove to the police or anyone else that the phone a thief claims is his is yours.  Trust me, I know.

3. Yet another method is to create a contact that the finder is likely to spot right away.  I have created a contact named "0 LOST PHONE !" and I've starred it as a Favorite.  That way, anyone who finds my phone and hits Contacts and chooses either Contacts or Favorites will surely see that entry, because it sorts to the top of both lists because it starts with a zero.  That contact named 0 LOST PHONE ! lists my land line number as well as one other, and it lists an email address, and it lists a street address, and the Notes field says, "If you found my phone, please get in touch with me using any of the ways above.  Thanks."

4. Yet another response to consider is getting someone somehow to triangulate on radio signals your phone broadcasts in order to locate it on the planet.  I honestly don't know whether this can be done, but I think it can.

Controlling the Droid      TOP

There are three categories of ways you control the Droid.  One is the physical switches, or buttons, on the case, another is the physical keyboard, and the third is by touching the screen, also called touching the glass.  Touching the glass is divided into touching any of the four hard-keys at the bottom of the glass and touching any other part of the screen.

1.  Three physical switches

A. Power/Lock, at the top on the right side, two-stage by duration of press.  There's a lot to know about this button, and you may jump down to here if you want to read it now.

B. Volume rocker, on the right side near the top.  There's a lot more to know about this seemingly simple toggle switch than meets the eye, er, ear.  Read about it below, here.

C. Camera, on the right side near the bottom, two-stage by distance of press.  Press halfway on this button and the camera will try to focus.  If you like the focus, press the rest of the way; if you don't, let up and try again.  To learn more about the camera now, drop down to here.

2.  Physical keyboard

This appears when you open the slider.  Except for the fact it has arrow keys it seems to me to be useless.  Typing on the small virtual keyboard (in portrait orientation) can be done slowly with one hand, and typing on the large virtual keyboard (in landscape orientation) can be done fairly quickly with one hand merely holding the case any old way while the other hand types one-fingeredly.  But using the physical keyboard requires that at times both hands be positioned just right, plus which the keys are too close together, which makes it the slowest and most error-prone of the three keyboards.

In my opinion it was a design mistake to include this keyboard, which increases the weight of the device, the bulk of the device, and of course, the price of the device.

3.  Touching the glass

You can touch the screen's four hard keys that always appear at the bottom of the screen, below the display, or you can touch the display itself.

A. Four hard keys, from left to right

1. Back hard key.  This key tries to go back one screen page, like the Back button on a browser.  If you want to quit what you are doing, use the Back key.  If you use the Back key enough times, eventually you will return to the Home screen panel whence you started.  If on the other hand you want to multi-task, see the Home hard key below.

2. Menu hard key.  As you are learning the Droid you should get in the habit of testing whether the Menu hard key is activated.  If it's not then nothing will happen, but often enough you'll see a menu of choices that might be of use to you, one of which might be More, which will reveal more choices that might be if use to you.  If where you end up isn't of use to you, that's what the Back key is for.

3. Home hard key.  This is designed to take you back to the home screen in one click.  If you press a second time it will make sure it's showing the center panel of the three panels of the home screen.

You can use the Home hard key to exit Settings quickly.  For example, if you're three menus deep and you make a change (or even if you don't), you can click the Home key rather than clicking the Back key several times.

Multi-tasking: The Home hard key can be used to multi-task.  Here's an example.  You open the browser and go to a certain page, then you realize you want to check the weather.  One way is to use the Back key as often as necessary to close the browser and return to the home screen, then open the Weather Channel app.

But if you want to keep that browser page open, you'd use the Home key to multi-task.  Whenever you want, instead of backing your way back to a home screen panel, use the Home key instead.  You'll be back to the home screen in one stroke, and from there you can check the weather.  When you're done with that you can return to the browser, which will still be open to the page you were looking at when you went home.

A more common example of multi-tasking on the Droid is looking up a contact while on a phone call.  Dumb phones and even some smart phones can't do this.

4. Search hard key.  This is a powerful key you should remember about.  From any home screen panel, click it to perform two functions.  The first function is to open up a Quick Search Box at the top and a virtual keyboard at the bottom of the display whence you can search a wide variety of places, including Contacts, apps, downloads you've made, Web pages, and more!

Tip: Once you start typing in the search box, you should always make sure to scroll to the bottom of the list, because often enough there is a "More results..." drop-down menu hiding down there that you want to know about.

The Search hard key brings up a text box at the top of the display with a magnifying glass icon to the right of that and a microphone to the right of that.  Type the first character or two of what you want to see, and wait a sec to see what comes up.  Type another character to narrow down the list, and keep doing that till you see what you want or realize it isn't there.  If it isn't there, type till you've got a search term you like and click either of the virtual Search icons (the magnifying glass).

If you click the microphone icon and speak when it tells you to, sometimes it will understand what you mean.  It's kinda' fun, and sometimes it works, however you will never be able to get it to understand the word "gullible."  (Remember to speak into the real microphone, not the one on the screen:)

The other function of clicking the Search hard key at a home screen is simply to see some of the last searches you performed, one of which you might want to see or perform again.  If you swipe a little in the list at the top the virtual keyboard will disappear and you can see more of the list.  To bring the keyboard back, click in the Quick Search Box.

You should also remember to try clicking the Search hard key at screens other than Home just to see what happens, because sometimes what happens is both surprising and useful.  If it isn't useful, just click the Back key.  Here are some examples.

● If you go to (text) Messaging and click Search, you can search all of the text in all of the text messages on your device.

● If you go to Music and click Search, you can search through all the words in the names of the artists, the albums, and the song tracks.

● If you go to Gmail (you have set up a Google gmail account, haven't you?) and click Search, you can search all of the text in all of those mails.

You can control which items Search searches with Settings > Search > Searchable items and then choosing what you want searched.  On my phone right now are listed Browser, Contacts, Apps, YouTube, Music and, oddly, Google Sky Map.

If you weren't impressed by the Search hard key before, you should be now.

B. Touching the display

Most of the times you control the Droid you'll do so by touching the display in various ways.  Here are those ways.

click:  to tap the screen once and let go, just as you would left-click a mouse.  Either something happens or it doesn't.  Also called touch or tap or hit.

long-press:  to touch the screen and continue touching till an effect occurs, which takes less than a second but longer than a click.  If nothing happens then the long-press is disabled for that part of that display at that moment.  I recommend you consider turning on the vibrator setting, using Settings > Sound & display > Haptic feedback, which will let you feel whether a long-press has activated anything.

drag:  to long-press till a screen icon is activated, then drag it as you would with a mouse.  Be careful not to release the pressure too much or too soon.  The drag procedure is sometimes best done slowly.  You will use the drag procedure, for example, every time your phone wakes up.

swipe:  to swipe your finger quickly across the screen, usually vertically, in order to scroll through a list such as your contacts.  The faster you swipe the faster is the scrolling.  To stop a fast scroll wherever you want, just click the screen.  Note that this is not that same as a drag, because there's no long-press first.  You just start your finger in one place and move it across the screen; in fact, you'll probably want to avoid lingering on the screen too long lest you accidentally perform a long-press.  A swipe is also called a flick.

scroll:  to move the content of the screen left or right or up or down.  You'll use this simplified drag procedure when viewing content such as maps and most Web pages.  Simply touch the screen (make sure not to choose a spot where there's an active link) and move it in any direction you want.  As long as you're pressing, you can drag to exactly where you want to be.

zoom:  to magnify (zoom in, or +) or step farther away from (zoom out, or -).  This is often done on maps and Web pages.  On screens where this works, you touch the screen and move your finger just a bit and the zoom icon appears in the lower right corner of the screen.  You then click the left half (zoom out) or the right half (zoom in) of the toggle switch.  If you do nothing for about four seconds the switch disappears, but you don't have to wait for it to.

double-click:  You can also try zooming in and out by double-clicking.  Again, either it works or it doesn't, but a good place to try is maps.  If it doesn't then no harm done and you've learned something in two seconds.  If it does work you've learned another way to bend the Droid to your will.

pinch-zoom:  As of the "2.1-update1" update of the Droid firmware (approximately April of 2010; check it with Settings > About phone > Firmware version), you can also zoom in and out using two fingers, just like on an iPhone.  Move your fingers apart from each other and you'll zoom in; move them towards each other and the display zooms out.

By using scroll and the various zooms efficiently you can home in on a particular part of many screens, such as Web pages not designed for a 3.7-inch screen, one example of which is, yep, mine.  Sorry, I didn't know.

The ways above for controlling the Droid all use digital manipulation.  There are other ways to control it.  One is to plug it into a computer with the USB cable, of course.  But I think it can be argued that there is yet one more way to control the Droid, and that is by moving it.  I can think of three examples, all of which are discussed in various places below.

Setting up the Home screens      TOP

One of the first things you're going to want to do is customize the three home screens.  This is a process that will never end.  You should feel free to keep customizing your home screens as your needs change, whether today or a couple years from now.

There are three home screen panels.  Swipe left or right to see them all.

You can add elements to a home screen panel by long-pressing on an open area thereof.  You'll see Add to Home screen and these four options:

-- Shortcuts
-- Widgets
-- Folders
-- Wallpapers

You should explore the many options under each of the four choices above.  Only Wallpapers is for fun (although I do here have to express my admiration for the living wallpaper called Grass).  Examples of using shortcuts and folders are below, here.

You can also add to a home screen by choosing an app and promoting it.  To do so, scroll through the list of apps you have so far (start by touching the up-pointing arrow at the bottom of the display) and decide which one you want.  If you merely click the app it will start.  But if you long-press it, it will jump up to whichever of the three Home screen panels you just came from.

To move an icon to another of the three panels, long-press and then drag carefully left or right.  Another option is to delete it from the panel where it is and recreate it on the panel where you want it.

To delete an icon, long-press and then drag it to the trash bin at the bottom of the display, which will turn red when you're close enough.  Moving the icon to the trash bin does not delete the app, it merely removes its icon from the home screen.

Your Droid will come with certain shortcut icons already placed, but remember you can change anything.  You can add to any of the three home screens, you can subtract from any home screen, and you can move icons from one home screen to another or from one place to another on the same panel.  You can have the same icon on more than one home screen.  I recommend you consider keeping or adding these icons on at least one of your three home screen panels:

Settings -- You'll always want one-click access to this.
Contacts -- Same here, especially once you fully realize how handy Contacts is.
Phone -- Presumably you'll always want one-click access to the phone's dialer screen.
Browser -- Same here.  I mean, it's the Internet.
Messaging -- Add or keep this icon only if you use text messaging.  (Who doesn't?)
Music -- If you listen to audio on your Droid such as songs and podcasts, add or keep this icon.
Gallery -- If you need frequent access to the photos and videos on your device, add or keep this icon.  Note here again that if you delete this icon you can still use Gallery, of course, by pulling up the up-pointing arrow at the bottom of all three home screens, as you can with any app on the device.
Maps -- Add this icon unless you have no use for this extraordinary app.
Market -- This is where you get more apps.

I use Settings so often that I have it in the lower left corner of all three home screens, and I have Contacts on two of the three screens, also in the same relative location.

Speaking of Settings, if you're a newbie you will want to carve out some chunks of time to explore this vast area, starting with Wireless & networks at the top and ending with About phone at the bottom.  A bewildering number of the default settings your phone was born with can be changed, and some of them probably should be to suit your needs.

Apps I recommend.  Speaking of Market, I recommend you consider installing two apps in particular, or any competing apps that do the same things.

Advanced Task Killer.  A free app called Advanced Task Killer by ReChild was installed at the Verizon store for me as a demonstration of how to locate and install an app.  (There are similar products you should consider.)  The current (May 30, 2010) version is 1.7.9, but it's being updated every few weeks or so.  I use Task Killer so often that I allow it to occupy the leftmost position on my notification bar at the very top of the display.  Task Killer shows you all of what it calls apps such as Chess and Maps and Music that are running (and it allows you to switch to any of them).

Remember that the Droid can effectively multi-task, i.e., you can have more than one thing going on, just like a PC, which makes Task Killer valuable even if you don't kill any tasks.  If you do choose to kill one or more tasks you will free up memory, which is not unlimited (see Memory below).  When I know I'm done with the phone -- that I don't care about any task that's running -- I have gotten in the habit of killing everything every so often using Task Killer.  Merely sleeping the phone with the power button does not automatically kill tasks.

Understand that killing apps and tasks does not permanently render them useless or dead, or uninstall them, or delete the icon or anything like that.  Any app you "kill" can be made to work again simply by firing it up again in the usual way.

As you check Advanced Task Killer you will find, if you're like me, that certain apps and utilities keep turning themselves on that you never used.  For me, Corporate Calendar keeps showing up even though I don't know what it is and have never used it to my knowledge.  Same with MP3 Store; it fires itself up unbidden.  Voice Dialer and Voice Search won't seem to give up.  If you know what causes various elements to assert themselves from time to time, please and I'll put your answer here.

ES File Explorer.  Another free app I recommend is called ES File Explorer by Estrongs Inc., although there are competing products such as Astro File Manager you should consider.  It allows you to explore and manipulate files on your device in ways that are difficult or impossible using the OS, especially if you can't plug into a computer.  The version I have as of May 31, 2010, is 1.4.1.

Sheer opinion: You will likely find that apps such as Advanced Task Killer and ES File Explorer are either extremely handy or indispensible, so you might wonder why the Droid OS doesn't include them in its native software.  I think part of the reason is the whole idea behind open-source software: The manufacturer provides all of the tools necessary for users to operate the device as advertised, but the manufacturer also provides, for free, all of the software code necessary for outsiders to create apps that take advantage of that code.  The result of competition among those outsiders -- called developers -- should be the creation of ever-better and always more current apps, and at a low price.

Other apps I recommend anyone consider:

Google My Tracks
Google Earth
Google Sky Map
Google Translate (search for this exact term)
Google Goggles (this is amazing)
The Weather Channel (search for this exact term)

Others I myself find useful often enough to recommend are below, and all are free.

Shazam -- Place the Droid's microphone near a speaker playing a song and Shazam will try to identify it.  I use this a lot, even if I already own the song.  If you know how this works, please .

Calculator -- RealCalc -- Brian Overspill -- The Motorola Droid ships with a lightweight calculator.  This one's heavier.

DroidLight -- Movie theater aisle too dark?  Want to shine a brighter light at a concert where everyone else is merely turning on their phones?  This simply turns on both LEDs that constitute the camera's flash, so it's a flashlight.  Also, as you'll see below, you can use this app, and perhaps similar ones, to light a video you're shooting.

StopWatch -- Sportstracklive -- Functions as a stopwatch and a timer with alarm.  Useful for timing a 40-yard dash or cooking a roast.

Unit Converter -- ConvertPad -- Converts an astonishing number of units from one to another, such as yards to firkins and ergs to plamplams.

Reference -- United States Constitution --  You shouldn't go anywhere without this.  Make sure to check out the ingraciously named "Freedom Fries!" at the bottom, which is where the Declaration of Independence, among other noteworthy documents, is hiding.  Note also that there's a fair amount of opinion and analysis included amongst the documents, which according to some U.S. constitutional amendment or other you're free to read.


Some apps are free, some are not.  Some free ones expire, some don't.  Some are crippled compared to the paid version, some are not.  Some suck, and some are way better than expected for free. 

Each of the three home screen panels has space for a 4 by 4 array of icons, so 16 per panel and 48 total.  You will want to parcel out these 48 spaces with some sense of organization in mind rather than randomly, so you can be efficient.  Pay special attention to the center panel of the Home screen, because that's the one you can always return to in one or at most two quick clicks of the Home hard key.  Note also that a widget (which is installed by a long-press on a Home screen panel and choosing Widgets) might well take up more than one of the 16 squares.

Contacts      TOP

Another task you're going to want to start on is getting your contacts in order.  Ideally the contacts from your previous cell phone can be transferred to your Droid.  Either way, you'll see that compared to a dumb cell phone a smart phone such as the Droid makes your list of contacts really handy.  One reason you'll likely overlook till you remember not to is the Droid's Search feature, which is so useful that there's a whole separate hard key for it at the bottom right of the screen; the icon is a magnifying glass, and you can read more about it above.

Contacts' four tabs: Note when you click the Contacts icon you see a screen with four choices at the top.  You'll confuse yourself unless you first make sure the exact one you want is chosen.  They are, from left to right, as follows:

(1) Phone  Click this if you want to go to the telephone's dial pad.

(2) Call log  Click this to see a list in reverse chronological order of the telephone calls you've sent or received.

A green arrow pointing northeast away from you at the middle of the bottom means a call you made.  A white arrow pointing southwest towards you at the bottom means a call you received.  A grey arrow going southwest towards you at the bottom and then ricocheting northwest off of you means a call you missed.

If there's a phone number in your call log, you can turn it into a contact by clicking it and then choosing Add to contacts.  It often pays to do this, even if all you add is a quick first name, even if just for the short term.

Delete any entry in your call log by long-pressing it and then choosing Remove from call log.  Delete all the entries in your call log at once by clicking the Menu hard key and confirming you want to; you'll probably want to do this if a SWAT team or the FBI or the CIA or Jack Bauer is moments away from capturing you.

(3) Contacts  This is the list you will eventually want to fill in pretty completely, so you can search it.

(4) Favorites You designate which contacts appear in the Favorites list by checking or unchecking the star.  To set a favorite, first click the contact, then at the resulting screen turn on the star in the upper right corner.  (Note that this is unrelated to the "starred items" feature of Google Navigation Beta.)

You will likely find yourself gradually adding more and more information to your Contacts list.  Physical addresses become more important in part because they can be used by Google Maps and Navigation for GPS-guided, turn-by-turn directions from or to anywhere, including wherever your Droid happens to be at the moment.  For stores you frequent you can add the hours they're open.  You can add a note such as "birthday=12/06/1950" or "wife=Terry" or "heroin dealer #3." You'll likely want to add more e-mail addresses, because the Droid does e-mail. 

To add a contact click Contacts > Menu hard key > New contact.

To edit a contact click Contacts > click the contact's name > Menu hard key > Edit contact.

If instead you click the contact's icon at the left of the name, you'll be presented with some shortcuts' icons.  The phone icon means to dial the phone, the blurry Rolodex card means to show the contact's information, the smiley-face messaging icon means to send a text message to the phone number, the @envelope icon means to send an email, and the Maps icon means to open Google Maps and center that address on the display.  Note that an icon appears only if the field contains the appropriate information; for example, no Maps icon will appear if there's no physical address for that contact.

Trick: To see a list of all your contacts with a physical address, go to Google Maps > Menu hard key > Directions and click the mostly rectangular icon to the right of the "End point:" text box near the top to see a box labelled "Choose End Point."  Choose Contacts to see the list of your contacts with a physical address, sorted by contact name.

To add or change the image such as a photo that's associated with a particular contact, choose Contacts > click the contact's name > Edit contact > then click the contact's image at the upper left of the Edit contact screen.  Choose Use this photo, Remove icon, or Change icon.  (This pretty much assumes you already have a photo or other image in mind that already exists on the Droid's SD card.)

To see several options with regard to a particular contact, one of which is Edit contact, simply long-press it.

Tip: Remember, often enough long-pressing does something.  Remember also that if that spot on the display at that moment is designed to react only to a click, a long-press will be interpreted as a click and activate whatever a click activates, which might, for example, dial someone's phone you didn't want to dial.

If you want to change the contact's ringtone from the default you must, for some reason, choose Options instead of Edit contact.  See Ringtones below.

Backing up Contacts.  You're going to want to back up your Contacts database every so often, perhaps even regularly.  Here's how.

1. Select Contacts > Menu hard-key > Import/Export > Export to SD card.

The first time you do this it will create a file named 00001.vcf (VCard File) on the root of the SD card on your Droid.  The next one will be named 00002.vcf etc.  Mine right now is 173,940 bytes, and almost all of that appears to be taken up by the photos and other images I've chosen to associate with some of the contacts.

2. To back this file up to somewhere other than the phone, which is a good idea in case it goes permanently bye-bye, connect it to the USB port of something such as a computer and upload the file to there.  Mine are in C:\Droid\Backups.  You can also e-mail the file to somewhere and get it that way using an app such as Estrongs ES File Explorer.

Simulate Speed Dial      TOP

Example of using a shortcut

You can simulate a speed-dial, which the Droid doesn't ship with per se.  For true one-click dialing from a Home screen panel, here's how:

1. If the phone number you want to speed dial isn't in your Contacts list, start by getting it there.

2. On the Home screen of your choice, long press on an open space (you do have lots of open space, don't you?) to see "Add to Home screen" and some options.

3. Choose Shortcuts to see "Select shortcut" and some options.

4. Choose Direct dial to see "Choose a number to call" followed by a list of the telephone numbers in your Contacts list, sorted by contact.

Trick: This is one way to view that list among your Contacts, which shows every phone number as a separate entry, sorted by contact name.

For a more conventional view of that list of only those contacts with phone numbers, use Contacts > Contacts > Menu hard-key > Display options > Only contacts with phones.  If you choose to check this option box, you'll probably want to remember to uncheck it when you're done with it.

5. Choose a telephone number to dial from the list to see the Home screen again, with a new icon labelled however that Contact is labelled and showing whatever icon, if any, is assigned to that contact.

Notes on the icon: If the phone number you chose in Step 5 is labelled as Home, Mobile or Work, the appropriate letter -- H, M or W -- will appear in the upper left corner, just to provide you with a reminder which number will be dialed.  I don't know whether other letters can appear in that upper left corner because I'm too lazy to test it.

If you've assigned an image to that phone number, it will be the new icon.  In addition to the letter in the upper left corner there will be a small icon of a green, off-the-hook handset in the upper right corner.  (This can lead to some amusing effects when combined with photos:)

If you haven't assigned an image to the phone number, the default is a big, green, off-the-hook handset icon with that same letter in the upper left corner.

Congratulations, you now have one-click access to that phone number, i.e., you now have a sort of speed-dial.

6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 for each new number you want to speed dial.

Example of using a folder

Now that you know how to do it, notice that there are two drawbacks to this method.  One is that each such speed-dial icon takes up 1 of the 48 slots on your three Home screen panels.  The other is that you are too likely to touch the icon -- and thus untakebackably make a call -- accidentally.

The solution is to settle for two-touch dialing.  The first touch opens a folder on a home screen panel named Speed Dials (or whatever you like), and the second touch chooses which of the numbers you want to dial.

Note that this method can be used to collect and isolate other subsets of lists.  For example, if you want to collect all of your game apps in one place, you'd create a folder named Games and populate it with all your game app icons.  If you have amassed a number of sources for news feeds you like to read or listen to or watch, you can store them in a folder so you don't have to sort through the whole list of apps in alphabetical order to locate them.

Hint: Remember that an icon can exist on the Droid in more than one place.

To create, rename, and populate the speed dial folder, follow these three main steps.

1. Create a new folder on the Home screen.

-- Use any of the three panels of the Droid Home screen.

A. Long-press on an empty spot on the Home screen to see "Add to Home screen" and four options below.

B. Choose Folders to see "Select folder" and several options below.

C. Choose New folder to see a new folder on the Home screen named Folder.

2. Rename the new folder.

We'll call it "Speed Dials."

Tip: The right side of a too-long name will be truncated, by greying out from the right to the left, as it appears under the icon.  On my phone, if you shorten it to Speed Dial it all fits, but if you add the "s," not only is the "s" invisible, but the "l" preceding it is greyed out a lot.

A. From the Home screen open the new folder by tapping once to see a grey box with "Folder" in the title bar on the left, with a close "X" icon on the right.

B. Press and hold that title bar to see "Rename folder."  Here you'll type and enter "Speed Dials" to see the Home screen again with your new folder, renamed from Folder to Speed Dials.

3. Populate the new folder.

Now that you have a properly named new folder it's time to add to it the phone numbers you want to speed dial.  Here's how.

A. Implement steps 1 through 5 above, under the section titled "Simulate Speed Dial."  The result, as you know, will be a new shortcut icon on the Home screen with a telephone number you want to be able to speed dial.

B. Drag that shortcut icon you just created onto your new folder named Speed Dials to see that the phone number shortcut icon disappears from the Home screen, as it should.  And if you now open the Speed Dials folder you'll see that's where it disappeared to.  Goody.

C. Repeat steps A and B immediately above for as many more speed-dial phone numbers as you want.

The result will be a folder of two-touch speed-dial contacts.

Note also that this method of isolating certain phone numbers can be duplicated, with a few extra touches, using the native Favorites tab in Contacts, but at least now you know in general how to use folders to sift and collect certain stuff in one place.

Screen sleeping      TOP

It's been my experience that when I go to Settings > About phone > Battery use, the biggest battery eater is often merely the display.  To turn the display off, simply press and quickly release the Power/Lock button on the right side of the top of the case.  The screen will immediately go dark but the phone will still work as you expect.  For example, music still plays, radio still streams, and phone calls still drone on unchanged, but you're saving on battery.  (To wake the screen, in case you really didn't know, you press the Power/Lock button again.)

Another desirable characteristic of sleeping the device this way is that the touch-sensitive screen is disabled, the hard keys at the bottom are disabled, and the volume and camera buttons on the right side of the Droid are also disabled, which means you may then safely handle the device or store it or transport it without having to worry about operating something you didn't want to operate (except the Power/Lock button itself, of course).  When you waken the display, you'll likely be back at the exact screen you were at when you slept it.

Tip: To set the screen so it never sleeps while charging, which you might find useful while at your desk, use Settings > Applications > Development > Stay awake.  (No, this is not intuitive; it should have been under Settings > Sound & display.)  Also note that if you've set the Stay awake mode to on, you can still sleep the screen using the Power/Lock button in the usual way, i.e., it temporarily overrides the Stay awake setting, which saves on battery and thus presumably allows the battery to charge faster.

The Droid exists in one of four states, those being Kansas, Missouri, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.  No, wait, delete that.  The Droid exists in one of four states, those being the following:

1. Dead, that is, the battery is completely discharged or missing.

2. Comatose, that is, powered completely off.  All of the phone's processes stop, and nothing can penetrate this condition except pressing and holding the Power/Lock button for a couple three seconds and then waiting a minute or so for the phone to power up and let you in.

3. Asleep, that is, the display is darkened and disabled, as are the hard keys at the bottom of the glass as well as the volume and camera buttons, but the phone is otherwise operational.  The only way you can waken the Droid from sleep by touching the device is to press (for as long as you want in this case) the Power/Lock button on the top of the case (or open the slider, if that seems easier for you:).

Tip: Note that the screen will time out by itself after a set time, which has the same effect as if you slept the device manually.  Go to Settings > Sound & display > Screen timeout to set that time from 15 seconds to 30 minutes.  For me two minutes is about right under typical circumstances.  Note also that the timer restarts every time you operate the device in any way such as clicking or swiping, but not when you merely rotate it 90 degrees.

4. Awake, that is, the display is lighted and the phone is ready -- nay, eager -- to be touched.

When you wake the phone from sleep with the Lock button you have three options:

A. Wait about five seconds and it will go back to sleep.

B. To fire up the device, slide the open-lock icon at the left to the right.  The word Unlock will appear to the left of the icon, and when you've dragged it far enough the phone will unlock and you'll likely find yourself back at whatever screen you were at when the phone went nighty-night.

C. If you slide the speaker icon at the right to the left, you will toggle on or off many sounds the phone was making or would make in the future till you change Silent Mode back to off.

More about Silent Mode.  Note that turning on or off the sound does not unlock the phone.  You still have to do the left-to-right drag to do that.

You would turn sound off if, for example, a phone call came in and started making your phone ring and you wanted to silence the ringtone without answering the call.  If you do this the call will be sent to whatever voice mail service you have set up.  I've been using the free for a few years and am satisfied with it, but I haven't tried anything else.

You can also silence the ringtone of the incoming call by clicking the Power/Lock button on the right side of the top of the case, which is different from the method above in two ways:  (1) The caller continues to hear ringing signals till they reach whatever the set limit is, and is only then sent to voice mail.  (2) The phone's sound-on or sound-off state remains unchanged, i.e., if sound was off before you locked the device it will remain off, and if it was on before you locked it it will remain on.

Another obvious reason to turn sound off is if you're going to sleep and don't want the phone to make any unexpected noises on its own till you wake up and then you wake up the phone and then you turn sound back on.  This is better than powering down the phone altogether, because it can still receive mails and texts but it just won't let you know about them out loud.  The notification light will still flash, and when you do wake up the phone the notification bar at the top will immediately show the appropriate notification icons at the left.

Yet another reason to turn sound off is if you want to use the Droid clandestinely.  The key-click sound and the camera-click sound and other system sounds are also turned off.

Tip: If the key-click sound is silenced even though sound is on, check Settings > Sound & display > Audible selection.

Whenever sound is off an icon will appear in the topmost row of the display, and it's that same right-pointing speaker with an X to the right of it.  When sound is on, which it shouldn't be if you're arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court or saying your wedding vows, no such icon appears.

If the right-pointing speaker at the right when the phone wakes is in a green background and has an X to the right of it, that means sound is off and your phone will not make most noises by itself, such as the click sound when you activate something with a touch or the notification for receipt of an e-mail or a text message.  It will still play music and audio feeds from NPR.  And it will still vibrate if you've set it to.

You can control whether alarms sound even if sound is off.  Initiate the Alarm Clock app native to the Droid, then Menu > Settings > Alarm in silent mode.

Another way to toggle the sound is, while the phone is awake, to press and hold the Power/Lock button till the Phone options menu appears, which lists Silent mode, Airplane mode and Power off.  Choose Silent mode to toggle sound on or off.

Airplane mode, by the way, means to deactivate all five of the radios in the device, which means you cannot make or receive a phone call or send or receive e-mail or text messages or use Wi-Fi or the browser or Bluetooth or any feature or app that needs to know where the device is on Earth such as GPS, which several do.  When the flight attendant tells you to turn off your cell phone, you may safely switch to Airplane mode and not invite FAA sanctions (I think).  You can still play chess and listen to music and re-peruse that copy of the U.S. Constitution app you've downloaded to your Droid's SD card, such as the one referred to above compiled by Ken Hunt.

Alert sounds      TOP

The Droid can make any sound that any other device with a speaker can make.  One useful and entertaining implementation is playing music or a podcast or live radio, whether through the headphone jack or not.  Typically these sounds last for a few minutes rather than a few seconds, and they can be referred to collectively as media.  You tend to listen to them continuously without any immediate need to do anything else.

But another useful implementation of the Droid's sound capability is simply letting you know audibly about an event at the time you want to know about it.  Generally, these sounds last for seconds rather than minutes, and they are called alerts. 

The difference between media and alerts is that you are expected, but not required, to respond to the various alerts rather than merely listen to them.

These alerts can be classified as alarms, notifications and ringtones.

Alerts can cause the notification lamp in the upper right corner of the Droid's face to flash, and they can cause the notification bar at the top of the display to show a new icon such as for the receipt of mail or a text.

Hint: For information on how to control the volume level of alerts and other sounds, drop down to here.


The sounds caused by alarms you've set are called just that, alarms.  When you set an alarm you can also set the sound for it (as well as whether it vibrates, which can certainly cause an audible sound as well).  Each alarm's sound can be set separately.  The sound will play or repeat for ten minutes unless you stop it.

The default alarm sound on my Droid appears to be Alarm_Classic.ogg, titled Ringing Alarm.

Tip: The Droid can't tell time very well, and its alarm can't tell time even worse.  Both my device and one other I know of are consistently 15 seconds fast, which I find inexplicable.  I mean, if it's always 15 seconds off, can't it be re-programmed so it's zero seconds off.

Also, the alarm doesn't ring exactly on the minute, either the fast one or the real one, so if you're testing how an alarm behaves under different circumstances, you'll probably want to wait till several seconds after the minute you've set it for before deciding it isn't going to operate.  The longest I've seen it wait is 23 seconds.  Of course this is no big deal if you're just plain-old using it as opposed to testing it.


Notifications are sounds that announce some event your phone learns about such as the receipt of a text message or an email.  To set the default notification sound, go to Settings > Sound & display > Notification ringtone.  Please don't choose the one named Ta Da, because I find it very appealing and I want to be the only one who uses it.  Thanks.


The sounds caused by incoming phone calls are called ringtones.  You can make your Droid play a particular ringtone for a phone call from any particular contact.  You will probably end up with most of your contacts' using whatever the default ringtone is that you've set, but it can be handy to know when special people call you by giving them special ringtones.

First, the default ringtone for any contact is whatever you set in Settings > Sound & display > Phone ringtone.

Second, to set a particular ringtone for a particular contact, go to Contacts > click a particular contact > Menu hard key > Options > Ringtone, which will reveal the available selection of ringtones.  Click any ones you want to listen to them.  When you find one, at least for now, that you like, make sure it's chosen and click OK at the bottom.  You can change this contact's ringtone any time you want by just doing this again.

(Yes, the Options option under the Menu hard key is unintuitive.  You would expect to be able to set the ringtone for a particular Contact from that Contact's main Edit screen rather than having to remember to hit Menu.)

Another option to try for setting a default ringtone is to use Music to play a chosen song or track or sound and then, as it's playing, choose Menu > Use as ringtone.

How to add alerts

It's useful to understand that you can have any sound play as an alert, i.e., as an alarm or a notification or a ringtone.  The Droid doesn't care what sound is called which of the three types.  It also doesn't care how long the sound is, whether a split second or several minutes.  And it doesn't care where it came from.

All the Droid cares about is where in the file structure of the device you decide to store a legitimate sound file.

To begin with, I recommend you create the following file structure on your Droid.  You can do this by connecting it to a USB port on your PC or by using a file-manipulating app such as the one I've mentioned, ES File Explorer.


Said another way, on the root of the SD card create a folder named Media, then create a folder under Media named Audio, and then create three folders under Audio named Alarms, Notifications and Ringtones.

Now, note this important tripartite point.

Any sound file you put in the alarms folder can be an alarm sound.
Any sound file you put in the notifications folder can be a notification sound.
Any sound file you put in the ringtones folder can be a ringtone sound.

Hint: If any changes you make don't seem to take effect, try powering the phone down and then back up and test again.  I know it takes over a minute, so you might want to pile up several such changes before you do it.

When you test, you'll see not only the native sounds but the ones you added.  The native sounds, which came with your Droid, are located at system/media/audio/.  (Note that this is not the same as the sys folder.)  Note also that you cannot access this part of the Droid's memory using a USB connection, because that accesses only the SD card.  The sound files below are on the device's internal memory, and note how they mirror the folder structure recommended above.

System/media/audio/Alarms (6 of them)
System/media/audio/Notifications (19 of them)
System/media/audio/Ringtones (50 of them)
System/media/audio/UI (7 of them)

All are of the .OGG format and all are dated 10/20/09, where the UI (User Interface) folder contains sounds such as KeypressDelete.ogg and camera_click.ogg.  You can copy any of these files to a folder on the SD card as you please using ES File Explorer or an equivalent app, so if you want an alarm sound to be a notification sound as well, copy it to the appropriate folder on the SD card, as described above.

It is the combination of the two -- the files in internal memory and the files on the SD card -- that appears as choices for alarms, notifications and ringtones.

For creating and editing and otherwise manipulating sounds for the Droid, consider a free app called Ringdroid.

Volume settings      TOP

You can control the volume of the various sounds the Droid can make by using up to four methods:

• toggle the volume rocker button on the right side of the case,
set a default in Settings,
use a virtual volume setting slider, and,
if you want to try apps that control the various volume settings all in one place with other handy features, search Market for "volume" or a similar term and install whatever strikes your fancy.

Hint: You can try free apps for, well, free.  If you want to get rid of an app, remember to go to Settings > Applications > Manage applications, then find what you want to get rid of and choose Uninstall.

With regard to volume settings, there are seven categories to consider: (1) alarms, (2) incoming call ringtones, (3) notifications, (4) media, (5) voice calls, (6) system (UI) sounds, and (7) Google Navigation.  Let's examine each in turn.

(1) Alarms

The default volume for alarms is set in the native Alarm Clock app itself.  From that app choose Menu > Settings > Alarm volume.

While you're at this page, go ahead and make sure Side button behavior is set to None, because it's too easy to hit a button while you're fumbling around at 5:30 in the morning having gone to bed still really drunk at 3:30 and mistakenly snooze the alarm or, worse, dismiss it, when all you meant to do was pick up the device and look at it to see what the heck's going on, since you just know it can't be 5:30 yet.  No matter what, the volume toggle button on the side of the case does not change the volume of an alarm that's sounding or trying to.

What the volume toggle button on the side of the case does do is give you one more option for re-setting the default level.  While you're at Alarm Clock > Set alarm > Ringtone, if you toggle the volume button a slider will appear labelled Alarm volume, and the the new level will become the default.  You can lower the volume to 0 if you want, although presumably you'd set Vibrate to on, else why set the alarm at all? 

I have my alarm volume set to maximum, but the particular sound I use starts with a crescendo.  I chose one that starts quiet so I'm not too rudely jarred awake, and it gradually rises to the Droid's maximum volume.

It is the unedited entirety of a very short track (23 seconds) from an album titled 666 by a group called Aphrodite's Child, and the track is titled "The System."  The file is named AphroditeAlarm.mp3, it's 566,002 bytes, and you may listen to it here.  If you can't save it from there and want to, try here, where the filename is, so once you have it downloaded, delete the ".save" part so that the name returns to AphroditeAlarm.mp3.  As you know from the Ringtones section above, the next step is to copy it the appropriate Alarms folder of your phone.

(2) Incoming call ringtones

To set or confirm the default volume for the ringtones of incoming phone calls, use Settings > Sound & display > Ringer volume to see a slider.  Drag it (or just touch) as you like to test the volume of the currently selected default ringtone.  I've set mine to maximum, but it doesn't matter much.

An easier way to control the volume of ringers is simply to operate the volume toggle button on the right side of the case near the top.  If you see a slider pop up in a window labelled "Ringer volume," whatever level you set here will become the new default.  There are seven levels of volume, but if you get to the lowest positive volume and keep pressing the down toggle, the next stage is vibrate (you'll see a vibrate icon in the notification bar), and the last stage is silent mode (you'll see the silent mode icon in the notification bar).  In silent mode you'll have to see a phone call come in.

Trick: When a call comes in, no matter how you have your ringer set, if you touch either the top or the bottom half of the volume toggle button, any ringtone or vibration will instantly be stopped.  You may still swipe right to Answer or swipe left to Decline as usual, or just let it "ring" till the caller is sent to voice mail.

Tip: If the Ringer volume drops to Vibrate or Silent, at least using the volume rocker button, then Settings > Sound & display > Audible selection will be greyed out and no sound will play "when making screen selection," which is referring to Effect_Tick.ogg, which is the little t-t noise you can hear when you touch, say, the Contacts icon on your Home screen.

This volume level you've set for ringers can also become the new default volume for notifications.

(3) Notifications

Under Settings > Sound & display > Ringer volume there's a checkbox labelled "Use incoming call volume for notifications."  If you want the volume of notifications to be the same as the volume for incoming phone calls' ringtones, check this box.

It makes sense that you would want them the same under many circumstances, e.g., if you want ringtones to be loud you might also want notifications to be loud.

If you uncheck this box a second slider will appear, for the volume of notification sounds, if you want to set them differently.  You might want to set the ringer volume to 4 or something and set the notification volume to 0 if you are going beddy-bye and want to hear phone ringers but not notifications, or you could vice versa that.

Another way to set the default volume of notifications is to go to Settings > Sound & display > Notification ringtone.  From there toggle the volume button on the side of the case to whatever level you want, a slider labelled "Notification volume" will appear, and your choice will instantly become your new default back under Settings > Sound & display > Ringer volume.

(4) Media

There's little reason to bother going to Settings > Sound & display > Media volume, but that's where you'll find one way to set the default volume for playing media such as music and podcasts and YouTube videos and other similar sounds, including System sounds, discussed just below.

The reason changing this setting in Settings is unimportant is that it changes automatically for you anyway, if you're playing any media, every time you use the volume rocker button on the side of the case, which is what you want.  Whenever something is playing such as music or an audio news feed, if you toggle the volume rocker to a higher volume, the new default volume for all media will become that volume.  If your operation of the volume toggle button is affecting the Media volume, a slider will appear labelled "Media volume."

The lowest volume is silent mode, which is zero, and there are 15 positive volume levels above that, with 15 being the loudest.

Hint: If you set the Media volume to 0, which changes the icon in that slider bar window to the silent mode icon (a right-pointing speaker pointing at an X), no such icon appears in the white notification bar at the top of the display as you might expect.

(5) Voice calls

When you are engaged in a telephone conversation, you control the volume of the other person's voice by using the volume rocker button on the side of the case.  If, when you're on a voice call, you press either the up or down toggle of the volume button and you see a slider labelled "In-call volume," that will be the new default volume setting.  There are no other controls I know of, such as in Settings, unless you count moving the phone a little bit away from your ear, which I do.

(6) System (UI) sounds

By system sounds I mean the ones located in the /system/media/audio/ui/ folder in internal memory referred to above.  On my device right now they are as follows:

KeypressStandard.ogg, and

Anyway, you can tell from the file names what these User Interface sounds do.  If you want to audition them, one way is to install an app such as ES File Explorer or an equivalent, as discussed above.  When you go to the folder and touch the sound's file, it plays in Music.

The volume level of these extremely short noises can be controlled by the level for Media volume, discussed just above.

(7) Google Navigation

The spoken turn-by-turn directions feature in Google's Navigation Beta has its own volume setting, which presumably works only when you're using Navigation.  When in Navigation, use the volume rocker button on the side of the Droid and you'll see a volume slider titled "Navigation Volume."  Changing the volume level here does change other volume settings, fff but I don't know exactly which ones yet.

Camera      TOP

Here's how to take a still picture with the Droid's camera.  (Information on shooting a video is immediately below this section.)

Note first that the camera button, located near the bottom of the right side of the case, has two stages.  One is pressing down only halfway, and the other is pressing down all the way.  You can test out the feel of each stage with the phone sleeping if you like.

Note also that, unlike most apps you will use on the Droid, when you're in camera or video mode there is no notification bar at the top of the display.

1. Fire up the camera
Initiate the camera's operation in either of two ways: (A) Roll up the apps screen and choose Camera, or (B) do what most people do and press the camera button all the way down and hold it there at least till you feel the key-press vibration, then wait.  (If you do not feel a vibration, check whether Settings > Sound & display > Haptic feedback is on, but the camera will initiate even if it isn't.)

Trick: End the camera's operation when you're finished in either of two ways: (A) Touch the Back key at the left side of the bottom of the screen, or (B) in a cast-iron skillet bring a quart of safflower or motor oil to a boil, drop in your Droid, then lower the temp and simmer for twenty minutes.  Although there's nothing in the manuals about it, chatter on certain Internet forums says you should stir frequently, which supposedly (yeah, sure) has the effect of encrypting any sensitive data that leak out.  If you decide to run this experiment, please let me know the results so I can pass 'em on to everyone.  Thanks.

2. Take a picture
Now that you've initiated the camera, there are three ways to snap the picture.
A. Point the Droid at something that hasn't been photographed enough yet and press the camera button all the way down.  Wait a sec, then take another picture or go to step 3.
B. Point it and press the virtual shutter on the display.  Wait a sec, then take another picture or go to step 3.

As with choice A above, you won't get the benefit of auto-focus, but this has the benefit of requiring less movement of the camera, i.e., touching the virtual shutter icon will tend to move the camera a fraction less than having to press down farther on the physical button, which might come in handy if you're taking a macro photograph where reducing camera motion is crucial.

Tip: If you do switch to Macro focus, remember to switch back for normal focal lengths.

C.  Do what most people do under most circumstances, which is to use auto-focus.  Press the physical button down only halfway, which will cause the camera to try to focus.  If you're satisfied with the focus, press down the rest of the way to snap the pic.  Wait a sec, then take another picture or go to step 3.

Note that when the camera thinks it has found a proper focus it will beep twice and the white corners of the frame will turn green.

Trick: The Droid's camera does not offer an aperture (f-stop) setting per se, which on a dedicated camera would be used to change the depth of field, i.e., the particular zone outward from the lens in which objects are in focus.  But you can kludge an f-stop.  Let's say you can't get the Droid to focus on a kitten's face three feet away and want to.  You can point the lens at something three feet away that it can focus on and then, before you press the button the rest of the way, point the lens at the kitten's face three feet away.

If you're not satisfied with the focus or anything else, let up on the button and try again.
3. Do something with the picture
Note that you don't have to do anything with any picture you just took.  It is already saved to the SD card by the time the screen returns from darkness and will appear in the Gallery app (eventually), where you can select it and perform the same functions on it as below, and more!  Said another way, you can just go ahead and take another pic.

After taking any photograph and waiting a sec, the display will present you with a thumbnail of the image at the top of the right side (in landscape orientation).  Click it to see that image in the main part of the display, perhaps to check whether it's so defective or so beautiful that you want to try again.  Also, you will then see these four options (any of which can be done later):

A. DELETE  Click this to delete the photo shown.

B. SHARE  Use this to send the image to various places.  The choices on my Droid right now are Bluetooth, Email, Facebook, Gmail, Goggles, Messaging, and Picasa.

C. SET AS  On my Droid right now the choices are to set the image as a Contact icon or as a Wallpaper.

D. DONE  This merely clears the image currently in the display so you can shoot another shot.

Trick: There's a too-long delay between when you press the button to take a picture and when the Droid actually takes the picture.  Make sure the device is pointed exactly where you want during this lag.


There are seven zoom levels.  The camera (and the video camera) defaults to the farthest-out zoom when you open it, so you can see the most the lens can show, which makes sense.  To zoom in all the way, double-click the glass.  To zoom in step by step, touch the glass and, when the zoom toggle appears in the lower right of the screen, click the plus ( + ) icon as many times as you like.

Portraits  For portraits, you're going to want to pretty much fill the frame with the subject's face, especially if you're going to use them as icons for your Contacts, and there are two ways to do that.  One is to move the camera closer to the face (or vice versa), and the other is to zoom in.

Experiment as you wish, but I think you'll find that at full zoom-out, which is the default, if you shrink the distance between the lens and the face enough to fill the frame, your subject will have a bulging nose and little teeny ears, like looking through a fisheye lens such as a peephole.

But if you stand far away and zoom all the way in to accomplish the same goal of filling the frame with the face, the resulting picture might be grainier than you want.

Tip: The Droid's camera, a CCD device, does not sport a true zoom lens such as you find on dedicated cameras, where the elements of the lens actually do move relative to one another.  The Droid camera and any other camera without moving parts in the lens "zoom" in by shrinking the frame and fff.

I recommend you start by zooming in three or four clicks to alleviate the fisheye effect, then adjust the lens-to-face distance.  Do experiment.

Group photos  For many recommendations on taking a group photograph, go to a whole different page on my Web site, here, then click "How to take a group photo."

Filename template

Photos taken with the Droid are stored on the SD card in the folder named sdcard/DCIM/Camera, where DCIM stands for Digital Camera Images. 

The filename template for photos taken with the Droid is

YYYY-MM-DD HH.MM.SS.jpg.  For example, the file named
2010-05-31 18.44.59.jpg

was taken on

May 31, 2010, at 18 hours (6 PM) plus 44 minutes plus 59 seconds.  And yes, that space is in there between the date and the time.

Latitude and longitude

The Droid can record the location in the world where you take a photograph, which you might or might not care about.  The record will be an approximate street address or a latitude and longitude coordinate, althoughI don't know why it's one one time and the other the next.  To make the Droid do this, or to stop it from doing this in case you're shooting a porno and don't want evidence of where it was shot, make sure the camera is initiated and go to Menu > Settings > Store location.

Still camera file sizes

The Droid camera offers three sizes and three levels of "picture quality," for a complicated total of nine combinations.  The sizes are 5 megapixels, 3 megapixels, and 2 megapixels.  The picture quality levels are Super fine, Fine, and Normal.  A couple hours of testing have revealed some statistics you might find useful.

Tip: The nature of the contents of the shot does make a difference.  A shot of a white piece of paper will result in a smaller file size than a shot of a busy, colorful scene.  I'm not saying you should do anything about this, just that it is one reason file sizes differ with the same camera settings.

DO NOT take any of the statistics in the next three paragraphs below as gospel.  Variations in file size, sometimes significant ones, arise almost every time you take a shot.  For example, try turning off flash and thoroughly covering the lens, so that the Droid can see only black, shoot the picture, then note the file size and do it again.  They're likely to be different!

Using the Super fine picture quality setting, the average 5 MP photo was 902 kilobytes, the average 3 MP photo was 613 kilobytes, and the average 2 MP photo was 420 kilobytes.  Thus dropping down from 5 MP to 3 MP saves 32%, and dropping down from 3 MP to 2 MP saves 32%.  Dropping from 5 MP all the way to 2 MP saves 53%.

Dropping down from Super fine to Fine saves 27%, and dropping down from Fine to Normal saves 20%.  Dropping from Super fine all the way to Normal saves 42%.

Dropping down from the maximum (5 MP, Super fine) to the minimum (2 MP, Normal) saved 72%.  Said another way, the file size went from 905 kilobytes to 252 kilobytes.

It's useful now to understand what difference the file size makes under different circumstances.  For one thing, you should care whether your SD card, where these photographs are being stored, is getting full.  If it is, that's bad, and you should probably clear out some room, maybe by moving some files to a different device such as a computer or a DVD or a flash drive.  Or I guess you could buy a 32-gigabyte SD card if you haven't already.

But photos don't take up all that much room.  Let's say you're down to only 1 gig of free space on your 16-gig SD card.

Now let's say you shoot photos at maximum file size (5 megapixels and Super fine quality and a busy, colorful scene) such that each photo is a full 1 megabyte.  Even then, you can take 1,000 such photos before you're out of room.

And if you shoot photos at 2 megapixels and Normal quality, you can take almost 4,000.

If the average file size per photo is 500 kilobytes and you have 10 gigs free, you can save 20,000 shots to your SD card before you run out of room.

Learn the amount of free space on your SD card at Settings > SD card & phone storage.

Pros and cons  Taking a picture at maximum file size has the benefit of allowing you to capture all those pixels in a program such as Photoshop, where you might have a use for them.  And of course you can, whenever you want, reduce the file size in such a program, which probably offers finer control for doing so than the phone offers.  But if you take a picture at too low a resolution, you can't take that back; at some point you or someone might regret the loss of fidelity to the original.

But large file sizes are a problem if you're attaching a photo to, say, a text message or an email.  You don't want to spend more time than necessary transferring the file, and your recipients don't want to either.  And besides, for viewing on a computer screen, and especially on a smart phone display, those extra pixels from a high-resolution photo are wasted.

Another drawback to large file sizes is the longer delay from when you release the "shutter" and when the device is ready to take another shot.

So, keep in mind what the purposes of the photograph are before you decide how high a resolution you want, then do make sure it's set correctly.

Unless you are running out of room, generally speaking the more photos you take the better, as you learned if you went to that page I recommended here and clicked "How to take a group photo."  The cost of taking a digital photo is only in the time it takes, which is measured in mere seconds.  You can always sort through the photos later and delete the ones you wish you hadn't wasted that small amount of time on.  But if you don't take the photos to begin with, there's nothing to sort through.

And that can be said of taking videos.  Sometimes the biggest problem is remembering to break out your Droid and start shooting.

Video      TOP

To shoot a video, fire up the camera as described in "Camera" above and you'll see it defaults to still camera mode.  In the middle of the column of three choices at the right side, assuming you're using landscape orientation, slide the slider from the camera icon at the bottom to the video camera icon at the top.

Trick: You don't have to really slide this slider, you can just touch whichever icon you want.

You don't have to shoot a video in landscape orientation, but if you shoot it in portrait orientation then you will have to watch it by holding the phone in portrait orientation.  If it is to be played back under expected circumstances, it should be in landscape orientation.

As with the camera described above, pull out the Settings slider at the left and make sure your settings are as you want.  The most important choice in most circumstances is whether to record at a Video quality of High or Low.

Trick: As you probably guessed, you don't have to drag this control, you can just touch it to make it slide open to the right and touch it again to make it slide back in to the left.

Start shooting a video by pressing the camera button all the way down.  You can also touch the virtual Record button, a red circle in a white one, which will turn the red circle into a grey square (Stop).  Stop shooting a video by operating either of those two controls or by touching any of the four hard-keys -- Back or Menu or Home or even Search.  What this means, unfortunately, is that you cannot keep recording a video while you go Home to start another process such as the Droid Light.

Keep in mind that recording the audio portion of a video can be a problem if the source of the sound you want to record is far away from the microphone, especially if there's a nearer or louder source of sound nearby.  Keep in mind, if you want to try to record audio at all, not to accidentally cover the little, tiny microphone just below the center of the bottom of the glass.

Surprise: You cannot turn on the flash using the camcorder, which is another disappointment.  Heck, even my now-ancient Motorola Maxx VE dumb phone offered that feature.

Trick: However, you can still use those two LEDs under the camera lens to light your videos if you download an app called DroidLight or Droid Light.  There are probably similar apps; search the Market for "flashlight."  To use this trick, first start DroidLight and make sure the flash is on.  Then press the camera button on the case and select the video icon and start shooting.

To save on battery DroidLight will time out after 15 minutes whether you want it to or not.  If you want to shoot a video longer than that with flash on, your only choice is to call, "Cut!" and start over with a new segment.

Surprise: Unlike in the still camera mode, you cannot set the zoom level of a video.  The camcorder defaults to full-out zoom and that cannot be changed, which is a disappointment.  Heck, that Maxx VE dumb phone I mentioned offered 10 levels of zoom-in.  The only way to effect a change in zoom level on the Droid is to change the distance between the camera and the subject.

Of course, the farther apart are the camera and the subject, the quieter will be any recorded sounds that subject makes, such as singing or speaking or playing music.  Needless to say, the Droid's microphone, which faces the wrong way anyway and which can easily be blocked by a finger, is not designed to record music at high fidelity, and I assume that's true of any cell phone's mic.

Surprise: You cannot pause the shooting of a video on the Motorola Droid.  You can stop it and start another recording, but then you have two videos you have to stitch together somehow instead of the one seamless one you wanted.  Because that 2007 model of dumb phone I used to use offered Pause and Resume controls, I'm disappointed that the Droid smart phone doesn't.  Altogether I find the Motorola Droid's video software lacking.

You'll remember that one of the important controls for shooting Droid videos is whether to set Video quality to High or Low.  Here is information to help you decide.

A high-resolution video uses up very close to 22.14 megabytes per minute, according to my many tests, which I hereby conservatively round to 23 MB.  A low-res video uses up only 1.53 megs per minute, which I hereby conservatively round to 1.6 MB.  Thus, a low-res video takes up only 7% as much space on your SD card as a high-res video, which is quite a difference.

A high-res video is shot at 24 frames per second, whereas a low-res video is shot at 14 frames per second, which means low-res is shot at about a 42% lower frame rate.  The lower is the frame rate the lower is the quality of the video, especially when you're recording fast action, of course, but the lower also is the resulting file size.

A High-quality video records at 3 Mbps (megabits per second) whereas a Low-quality video records at 200 Kbps (kilobits per second.  (There are 8 bits in a byte, so 1 kilobyte (1 KB) per second equals 8 kilobits per second (8 Kbps).)  fff ??.

Density of activity.  A video shot at high resolution will take up the same amount of space on your SD card regardless of the density of the activity it records.  If you record 10 minutes of a rock concert, with lots of video and audio activity, it will occupy 222 megabytes on your SD card.  If you record 10 minutes of total darkness and utter silence, it will occupy that same 222 megabytes.

Irrelevantip: After you take a long, hot shower on a cold day in your bathroom, your mirror will be covered in condensation, as you would expect, which means you can't see to shave or do your hair or makeup or make a phone call on your Droid if you're dyslexic like me and have to see everything in a mirror.  To solve that problem, next time just before you hop in the shower, take a couple minutes to apply to the mirror a film of soap.  I've been using shaving soap of the kind that's in a cup that you dab onto your face with a brush, but I imagine other kinds would work, maybe even gel or aerosol shaving soap, but also just plain old bar soap.  I just work up a lather and slather it onto the mirror, then I wipe it off.  Don't rinse it off, just wipe with a dry towel till the mirrors is clear and clean.  At the end of your shower you'll be impressed how clear of condensation the mirror is.  The effect lasts maybe three weeks for me.  Try just a test patch the first time to gauge how well it works for you and whether it's worth the time and soap.

But the low resolution setting is different.  The denser is the activity the larger is the file size.  A normal 10-minute video at low-res takes up 1.53 mebaytes of SD card space, whereas if you point it at darkness in a silent place it takes up only 0.35 MB, which is 77% smaller.  I'm not saying you should do anything about this, I'm just saying I'd like an explanation for the difference.

Spreadsheet.  There is a spreadsheet in Excel 2000 you can open or save from here.  It shows you how I arrived at the statistics I assert (and allows you to change the data), and it also offers a calculator in which you enter how much space is available on your SD card (Settings > SD card & phone storage) as well as how long a video you expect to take.  The spreadsheet calculates how much space that will take up in both High and Low quality and what percentage that is of the available space.















(for SD card)
(MMS messages)
Format X-H264-Video video/MP4V-ES
Bit rate in Kbps 3,000 200
Frames/second 24 14
Average MB/minute 23 1.6
Standard deviation 0.05 0.01
Ratio of Low to High




Filename template

Videos taken with the Droid are stored on the SD card in the folder named sdcard/DCIM/Camera, where DCIM stands for Digital Camera Images.  You can get at the SD card by using an app such as the ES File Explorer mentioned above.

The filename template for videos taken with the Droid is

video-YYYY-MM-DD-HH-MM-SS.3gp.  For example, the file named

was taken

at 46 seconds past 19 minutes past 5 PM on the 12th of June of 2010.

Watching stored videos.  It's not obvious that the way to watch videos is to use the Gallery app that comes with the phone.  You can also use ES File Explorer.

Tip: Note that covering and uncovering the light sensor in the upper right of the glass can lower or raise the brightness of the display, but that will not change the brightness of the video recording itself when you go to watch it.

Surprise: sgh

As I said before, the biggest problem with camcording video on the Droid is forgetting that you can do so.  Just choose High or Low quality and go for it.

Battery      TOP

To see the battery's current (ha ha) charge status, use Settings > About phone (at bottom) > Status.

Those percentages can be 100%, 90%, 80%, 70%, 60%, 50%, 40%, 30%, 20%, 15%, 10%, and 5%.  0% never appears, because the device shuts down for lack of power just before that.

You can also use the battery icon in the right part of the white notification bar at the top of the display to learn the level of battery power you have left, but it is irreliable.  It invariably overestimates, which is the opposite of what I would have thought the designers intended.  I'd have thought they'd want either get it right or get it conservative.

In the table below you can see, in the first column, what a reasonable interpretation of the battery icon appears to show, i.e., what it looks like.  The second column tells what the battery charge really is according to Settings > About phone > Status.  The last column is my best shot at representing the appearance of the battery icon, from six bars at the top to one bar at the bottom.

Looks like Really is


100% full 100% - 90%            
80% or even 90% full 80% - 70%            
67% or even 75% full 60% - 50%            
Exactly 50% full 40% - 30%            
33% full 20% - 15%            
Tiny sliver of green 10% - 5%            

You can see that not until the battery has dropped to 20% does the icon show a level below 50%.  As I say, this is the opposite of the conservative attitude you would think a caring designer, wanting to help us customers avoid running out of battery, would adopt.  It is, however, the attitude a heartless huckster of this phone would adopt.

At 15% a warning appears on the display telling you to recharge the battery.

Only a tiny sliver of green left: 10% and 5%.  At 10% the notification lamp begins flashing to alert you that the battery level is really low.

Moments before the current drops too far to operate the phone it will paint to the display a "Power off" warning and tell you it's "Shutting down . . . ," and the battery icon turns white inside with a slash through it.  At that point, when you plug it back into its life-sustaining charger, the phone will power back up in the usual way, except that the notification lamp in the upper right corner of the screen will stay lit, as opposed to its normal flashing if it's in use at all, till the charge level gets high enough.

If I had been asked to design this display I'd have used nice, precise numbers that are unmistakable instead of a progress bar that isn't: 1.0 for 100%, .90 for 90%, .15 for 15%, etc.

Tip: The battery loses power significantly faster beyond certain temperatures.  Although I have no research to back me up, I will make this bald assertion:  Time spent in 90 degrees F eats 10%-20% more battery than in 70 degrees F.  Also, I can imagine that if you left your Droid on your dashboard to literally bake in the hot sun for long enough, it would start to think about breaking in some way.

To see what has been using battery power by percentage use Settings > About phone > Battery use.  Note that the period over which the measurements have been taken is shown in the green bar at the top, so make sure you understand its implications.

It can be useful to know which elements of the phone are eating how much battery, for two reasons.  One is that it might be you're fretting about certain elements that aren't that big a deal, and another is that you aren't fretting enough about elements that are.

Wi-Fi and GPS.  There appears to be some controversy as to how much battery is eaten by Wi-Fi and by GPS.  There are apps and widgets that control such battery-eaters as WI-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and the display brightness.  I haven't found one I like.

Generally, if you don't need it, turn it off to save battery, but remember that it's off.

Display.  Under most circumstances, for me so far playing with the Droid, it seems like the biggest battery eater is simply the display, so my habit has become to sleep the display before I set the phone down unless I have some reason not to.  To do so, simply press (but do not hold) and release the button at the top of the Droid on the right.  For more information on the display, go back to here.

The button at the right side of the top of the case is labelled in two ways, indicating it performs two unrelated functions.  The lock icon refers to locking (sleeping) the screen as well as, of course, unlocking (waking) the device.  The other icon is one of the international symbols for 0 and 1, where 0 represents off and 1 represents on.

Powering down.  If you press and hold the Power/Lock button, you'll be presented with the Power off option, which truly shuts down the phone so that it stops whatever it was doing such as playing music or using GPS and also prevents it from responding to incoming phone calls or notifications or even alarms you've set.  Powering down the device is the ultimate battery saver.  Also, and I don't know whether it's true, a Verizon employee told me it's a good idea to power down a cell phone and then power it back up again every so often.

Light sensor.  There's a light sensor located in the upper right corner of the face of the Droid, just above and to the left of the notification lamp.  If you look carefully, perhaps using a flashlight, you can see a circular opening in the black mask of that part of the screen and a really tiny sensor underneath.  To understand how it works, first go to Settings > Sound & display > Brightness and make sure the Automatic brightness box is checked.

Now, cover that sensor with your finger or something so no light gets to it, wait about five seconds, and you should see the display dim.  If you didn't then the display was dimmed to begin with, so point the sensor at a bright-enough light for a few seconds to get it to smile more brightly, which you should be able to detect, and try covering the sensor again for a few seconds to see whether that dims the display.

Now, return to Settings > Sound & display > Brightness and turn off Automatic brightness, which will reveal a slider.

Hint: You don't have to literally slide this slider or any other.  Just tap where you want to slide to.

Play with the slider for a while, then slide it all the way right, i.e., maximum brightness, click OK, and the Droid will now always use maximum brightness no matter how much light the light sensor is detecting.  Similarly, if you move the slider all the way to the left, the Droid will always use minimum brightness no matter what the sensor sees.  You can test this by messing with the sensor and noting that the display never changes, whether you cover the sensor or shine a flashlight into it, not after five seconds and not ever.

The reason the light level has to change enough for five seconds rather than a split second is to prevent unnecessary dimmings and brightenings caused by a brief shadow or a cop car's light bar.

If you know at what light levels the sensor thinks it's too dark and too light, please let me know your source.  If you know how the Motorola Droid measures its display brightness, please let me know that too.  As I see it, there are four points of interest: minimum but not off, automatic minimum, automatic maximum, and maximum.

Trick: The brightest the Droid's display can get is brighter than the level you see when Automatic brightness is on and it's bright out.  This means that if you normally keep Automatic brightness on, you should remember that you can make the display even brighter by turning Automatic brightness off and maxing out the slider.  Vice versa for making the display even dimmer than the automatic level you see when it's dark.

Proximity sensor -- Screen-sleeping during a phone call.  The screen brightness behaves differently when you're on a telephone call.  During a phone call a proximity sensor located on the left side of the top of the face of the phone, just above the display (look for two tiny holes in the mask), detects when an object is close to it.  By my estimate the distance is 2-1/2 inches.  When anything intrudes into that zone during a phone call, the screen instantly turns off, which prevents your ear or your cheek from accidentally activating the touch-screen when you place the phone to your head to talk.  Happily, this also saves on battery.

When you move the phone away from your head, perhaps to look up a contact or check the weather during the phone call, the zone of sensitivity will no longer be interrupted and the display will instantly light up for you.  Brilliant.

Note that this doesn't apply if you've turned on speakerphone.  The device assumes -- just as it would any other time the display is lit -- that if you're on speakerphone you won't touch the screen except on purpose.

By using Settings > Sound & display > Screen timeout you can (indeed, must, if only by default) set the amount of time the device is idle before the display times out and goes to black to save on battery (and also turns off the touch-screen and the volume and camera buttons).  If that happens during a non-speakerphone call and you remove the phone from your head, the display will still be black, as it should be because you told the display when to time out and go to sleep.

To waken a sleeping display, simply press down on the Power/Lock button in the usual way.

Note that in Google Navigation the display does not darken after the default amount of time, but if you sleep it using the Power/Lock button, when you wake it back up you'll still be in Navigation.  Several apps behave the same way, i.e., they override the default screen timeout.

"Training your battery."  Go here for Motorola's advice, as part of a much larger PDF file, on how to "train your battery."  Once the file is open, search for that term.  The procedure will take several hours and involves draining the battery completely and overfilling it, twice.  Here's the text, and note the word "should" in the last sentence.

Train the battery by fully charging it and draining the battery until it shuts off.
1. With the device turned off, fully charge the battery until the LED no longer flashes and remains on.
2. Let the battery charge for an additional TWO hours.
3. Repeat the process again (perform twice in a row) and you should experience improved battery life.

Whether this works or not, generally you can expect to have to recharge your battery more and more often over time, because batteries eventually do wear out.  The question is whether that happens before you get a new phone.

Tip: If you're new to smart cell phones you need to know something you might have already learned from dumb cell phones, which is that no matter what device you decide on and pay for, better models will almost instantly come on the market that you'll wish you'd bought instead.  They'll be sturdier and powerfuler, and they'll offer more features, and they'll be easier to use, and they'll eventually be cheaper.


Date last edited: 01/15/2016

This subject, Battery, is the end of the Motorola Droid article for now.  Go back to the TOP to see the subjects, shown in grey, that will be added soon.

If you have any suggestions for improving this article, especially if you can answer any of the questions I've posed above, please .

Copyright 2010