Ladies and gentlemen, the newest Droid has officially landed.
Verizon’s Motorola Droid X launched across America on Thursday. The Droid X is among the most powerful Android phones to date, with a 4.3-inch display, 1GHz processor, and 720p high-resolution video recording. Plus, it’s expected to receive Google’s Android 2.2 upgrade within a matter of weeks, making it one of the first handsets to run the long-awaited Froyo operating system.
Thanks to Android’s open ecosystem, the Droid X has countless options for customization — a night and day change from a certain other popular smartphone platform. Much of the muscle comes from the ever-expanding Android Market, which features an uncensored and ever-expanding array of programs that let you make the most of your Android experience.
One of the most innovative apps available for the Droid X is Google’s own Google Goggles. Google Goggles, a free download in the Android Market, lets you get information about objects simply by pointing your phone at them. It can recognize landmarks, logos, artwork, businesses, and all sorts of different products.
Once you snap an image, Goggles scans and identifies it. Seconds later, it brings you detailed information about the object along with pages of relevant Web results.
When you’re using the Goggles Android app to learn about a business, the program combines GPS and compass data to deliver live augmented-reality-style results. That means you can just point your phone at a building, and your phone will display the name of the business along with links to contact information and customer reviews.
Pretty cool, eh?
Droid X App #2: ShopSavvy
For on-the-fly product comparisons, the ShopSavvy Android app is tough to beat.
With ShopSavvy, available for free in the Android Market, you can quickly scan any barcode and see how much other stores — both online and in your area — are charging for the item. You can also check out user reviews, making this app a must-have for any tech-oriented shopping trip.
(In case you’re wondering: Yes, you do get funny looks from other customers. And yes, it’s definitely worth it.)
Droid X App #3: WaveSecure
While you’re loading up your new Droid X with apps, music, and data, why not take a moment to protect yourself in case the phone’s ever lost or stolen?
WaveSecure may be one of the most important Android apps you’ll ever install. If your Droid X is missing, WaveSecure’s Web site lets you remotely activate the phone’s GPS system and pinpoint its exact location. If it turns out the phone’s fallen into the wrong hands, one more click will remotely wipe all of your personal data from the device. And if the thief tries to swap out the SIM card, WaveSecure will automatically lock the phone down.
The WaveSecure app itself is free, but in order to use the service beyond its seven-day trial period, you’ll need to pay an annual subscription fee of about $20 a year.
(Note: I’ve previously recommended another security-oriented Android app called Mobile Defense. It has similar functionality, but unfortunately, its developers have temporarily returned to a closed beta model and suspended all new registrations while they prepare for their next release.)
Droid X App #4: MyBackup Pro
WaveSecure can back up and restore some of your phone’s data, but for an even more robust backup option, an Android app called MyBackup Pro is well worth grabbing.
MyBackup Pro, currently $4.99 in the Android Market, can back up practically everything on your phone: contacts, call logs, bookmarks, text messages, system settings, and files from all the other apps you’ve downloaded. MyBackup Pro can even back up your Android home screens, so if your phone’s ever lost or damaged, you can restore your custom setup in seconds.
MyBackup Pro lets you schedule regular automated backups of whatever data you want to either your phone’s SD card or the company’s secure online servers. With the latter option, you can restore all of your information to any Android phone — be it your current Droid X or another device — anytime.
Google Sky Map, a free download from the Android Market, uses a combination of GPS data, compass data, and time and date information to help you identify planets, stars, and constellations through your phone’s screen. It’s like looking into space through a magic telescope.
Google Sky Map can search for specific planets and stars, too: You just type the object’s name, and the app will direct you to its current location.
Droid X App #6: DoubleTwist
Android’s default music player gets the job done, but an app called DoubleTwist makes managing your music even easier.
The DoubleTwist Android app works seamlessly with DoubleTwist’s desktop program for headache-free music synching. It’s kind of like a less bloated and more pleasant version of iTunes.
Both the DoubleTwist Android app and the DoubleTwist desktop program are free downloads.
(Whether you use DoubleTwist or not, don’t forget that you can load music onto your Droid X any way you want, including dragging and dropping files directly from your PC as if the phone were a flash drive. This ain’t no iPhone, baby.)
Droid X App #7: Astro File Manager
While we’re on the subject of file management, a handy little program called Astro is one you’ll want to install.
Astro lets you browse your phone like a computer (yes, with Android, you can actually do that, too!). You can navigate through directories, copy or move files, delete files — practically anything you could do within a PC-based file manager.
Astro is available as a free, ad-supported download in the Android Market (make sure you get the program called “Astro File Manager” — there are several similarly named utilities). If you like the app, you can opt to get the ad-free “Pro” version for $3.99.
Droid X App #8: Pandora
At this point, most people have heard of Pandora — the personalized streaming music service — but I’d be remiss if I failed to include it in a list of starter apps for your Droid X phone.
The Pandora Android app is practically a necessity for any music lover. For the quite reasonable price of $0, the program lets you stream music from all your Pandora stations right from your Android phone. It runs in the background and even comes with its own widget, giving you a live functioning control panel right on your Android home screen.
Droid X App #9: Places Directory
When you’re out exploring the world, Google’s free Places Directory app can prove invaluable. Places Directory uses your phone’s location data to provide you with lists of nearby businesses — restaurants, banks, hotels, you name it — all broken down into categories. This thing has come in handy more times than I could possibly count, especially when traveling in unfamiliar cities.
Once you select a place, Places Directory gives you its address, phone number, and a measure of how far it is from your current location. With one tap of your screen, you can call the business. With another tap, you can get turn-by-turn directions for walking, driving, or taking public transportation.
Of course, you can find opinions, too: Google’s Places Directory compiles user reviews for each business from a variety of online review sites.
Droid X App #10: Car Locator
If you’re like me and have an awful short-term memory, the Car Locator app for Android can be a real life-saver.
Car Locator, $3.99 in the Android Market (also available in a free 10-use trial version), makes it impossible to forget where you parked the car. You can save your car’s location anytime by using a one-touch home screen widget, or you can instruct the app to automatically save your location every time your Bluetooth earpiece disconnects. Then, when it’s time to track the car down, Car Locator gives you a map along with directions.
Being a dodo-head has never been less embarrassing.
Droid X App #11: Gesture Search
Android phones have system-wide voice search, but sometimes it’s easier to let your fingers do the talking. Google’s free Gesture Search app for Android is the way to make that happen.
With Gesture Search, you draw letters to browse through your phone’s contacts, apps, bookmarks, and music. As you draw more letters and move closer to spelling a word, the Gesture Search app narrows down the list of relevant results.
I often use this in place of scrolling through my contacts list or music list to find what I want. It’s really a cool little program.
Droid X App #12: Metal Detector
The final Android app on our Droid X starter list is one that’s more for fun — and maybe showing off — than functionality.
Metal Detector, available for free in the Android Market, does just what you’d imagine: It detects metal. As you move your phone over various objects, an on-screen meter jumps around to indicate the level of metal content. When you strike gold, so to speak, the app buzzes and plays a sound. (If it isn’t working reliably when you first try it, head into the app’s “Settings” menu and play around with the sensitivity values. That usually does the trick.)
Now, unless you’re that weird dude on the beach, you probably won’t actually need this app too often — but it’s guaranteed to attract some serious attention and make you the envy of any geek-heavy party.
JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the new Android Power blog. He’s on both Twitter and Facebook; come say hello.