As ever with Android, you’re presented with an array of homescreens onto which you can place shortcuts to all your favourite apps and arrange them into folders to keep everything neat. You can also add widgets in the form of search bars, email readers, stock tickers and such like, generally making it very easy to have quick access to all you favourite features of the phone. That said, the choice of widgets on offer is fairly poor compared to those on some other Android phones.
Along the bottom of the screen are shortcuts to the dialler, main menu and web browser and these are flanked by lines of dots indicating which screen you’re on. These can be tapped to flip between the screens.
Google’s live wallpapers are present and very funky they are too, showing all sorts of nice animations in the background while you’re going about your business. As always, though, it’s better to turn them off if you want to save battery.
Tap on the Menu button and as well as being able to manage your phones homescreens you can also access the new app management interface, which lets you easily find out what apps are running and close them down if needs be. Heading to the Settings -> About Phone option on the main menu also gets you to the new battery management interface that shows what programs and features have been sucking up the most juice, another new feature with 2.3.
Also new is support for Near Field Communication. This short-range wireless communication technology is the same as used in Oyster cards and wireless bank cards. Just wave the phone near an NFC device and it will recognise it and act accordingly. Currently it only supports basic functions like reading a URL embedded into a sticker – it recognised my Oyster card but didn’t know what to do with it. Nonetheless, the potential for the technology is huge with it being perfectly perceivable that in the not too distant future you can use your phone to swipe your way out of your place of work, pay for some dinner, jump on a train, get into a gig, and swap contacts with a new friend all using one device. For now, though, it’s simply a nice to have.
Other key improvements have been made to the onscreen keyboard. Now you can add multiple upper case letters or symbols at once by holding down the Shift or Symbol keys with one finger and tapping out the symbols you need with the other. Word prediction, and the way it is presented, has also been improved with alternatives appearing in a neat row above the main keyboard.
Even better is the new text editing function that lets you quickly highlight a whole word (by holding down your finger and selecting the option) then drag the selection markers to wherever you like. From then on you can cut, copy, or paste whatever you’ve selected. What hasn’t improved, though, is how you place the cursor, with you still having to tap blindly and hope for the best.
In general, though, the improvements to text entry make this a very accomplished phone on which to tap out messages, long and short. It’s possibly even the best on the market right now.