1. dhdoyle's Avatar
    Howdy! I'm a field engineer in Wyoming and spend a lot of time in remote locations. A typical day may have me leave civilization in a 4WD truck at sunrise, and return at sundown. The environment eats laptops on a regular basis even if they don't leave the truck: clouds of dust in the summer, snow, rain, mud, and/or extreme cold the rest of the year. I own an expensive, new-ish, ultrabook that I really don't want to ruin. OTOH, I have a Verizon Galaxy S4 in an Otterbox Defender that I'm willing to play with. I'd like to use it for field data collection via the bundled Polaris Office 5. I'd input data into a simplified spreadsheet that's also compatible with Excel, and write field notes and reports in a simple document form.

    And now to the questions...
    1. Is this a reasonable expectation? I've not found many testimonials about doing content creation on an android phone.
    2. I'd like to use an external mouse and keyboard for this work, for two reasons:
    I'm concerned about fat-fingering the wrong data into the spreadsheet while using a screen keyboard, and
    I'm hoping for speedier data entry and report writing.
    3. Any specific recommendations on compact / portable KB & mouse hardware that might stand up to hard use in a pickup truck?
    Any suggestions on the connection - Bluetooth vs. USB OTG?
    4. Since I can do most of my typing in the cab of my truck, I'd also like to be able to charge my phone while I'm doing all this.
    5. Buying another gadget (rugged laptop or tablet, etc.) isn't on the table right now.

    Any suggestions? Experiences?
    Thanks much!
    11-21-2013 05:10 PM
  2. Dave-in-Decatur's Avatar
    That's a great question. My research only takes me as far as the library, but I wouldn't mind getting some info on this myself.

    I can say this much: I have done a bit of content creation on smartphones, and if I was writing more than a few sentences, I've wished I had a keyboard. If I were doing it for a living, I'd definitely want one. Typing with an on-screen keyboard gets old really fast.

    I don't know if there are external mice available, but I'm sure there are keyboards, though I can't give a specific recommendation. I'd think Bluetooth would be easier than USB. It'd take a minute to set up, but then you wouldn't have to hassle with a cable in your truck cab. Especially if you want to keep the phone charging, you couldn't be using the port for a keyboard cable at the same time.

    As to chargers, BTW, I found a Duracell model at Office Depot that is a 2-amp charger, which means fast charging even while in use, and can be used with a wall outlet as well as a car or truck outlet/lighter. See Duracell 5 In 1 Universal Cell Phone Charger by Office Depot. I wrote a review there as well. It's pricey ($30), but I think it's worth it.

    So here's the picture I'm getting: You're sitting in your cab with the keyboard on your lap, a thermos of coffee handy, and the phone propped up on the dashboard while plugged into the charger. While you're typing away, you glance through the windshield at that beautiful landscape and never-ending sky, and feel pity for all us poor chumps who have to work in an office. Hope you can find what you need to make this happen!
    11-22-2013 02:29 PM
  3. dhdoyle's Avatar
    Here's the first installment on my experience thus far. I've tested my idea out enough to decide that my goal is sound enough to keep testing. In fact, doing work on an S4 using a full-sized USB keyboard is an entirely pleasant experience (practicality aside). It will be quite a while before I settle on a kit that I will use in the field. BTW, the reason I want to use a mouse is because I'm left-handed. There are several compact keyboards with touchpads on the right side. That would be nifty if I didn't find it awkward.

    There are generally 4 technologies that are available. (I'm not a hardware expert.) So far, I've worked with the first:
    1. Corded USB peripherals
    2. Standard Bluetooth peripherals
    3. Bluetooth 3 reduced power consumption peripherals
    4. Near Field Communication (NFC) peripherals

    I'm not going to mess with the last two types until the idiosyncrasies are worked out. I have one hardware item that looks like a keeper. I bought this USB OTG cable from New Egg. This cable gives my S4 a 2-port USB 2 powered hub. It has 2 full-sized female USB sockets and one female micro-USB socket for a power supply to your peripherals. I haven't posted a review on New Egg yet, but it looks solid. This is where I started climbing the learning curve.

    a. My generic USB keyboard and Logitech M185 wireless mouse were plug and play. I have to remember that I'm not in a typical Windows environment. Mice and keyboards will behave differently than you expect. My external HD is recognized, but isn't supported. See below. My Rosewill external DVD drive isn't recognized, even if I provide external power. I haven't tried any USB printing.

    b. I am very impressed with Polaris Office 5's ability to open Microsoft Office files and display them with fidelity. I'm keeping things simple, so that I don't run into Polaris' limitations. It uses only a small subset of Office's command set. It also supports very limited font styles, so don't expect to do finished page layout work on your documents. Unfortunately, Polaris Office 5 is only available preloaded. This may bite me if I optimize my field documents for it and then add a tablet.

    c. Expect hardware and software gotchas if you're working with productivity tools. Typical snags (that others have written about) are:

    • The micro-USB socket on your phone is certainly not as rigid as a full-sized USB one. People have posted negative comments regarding most OTG cables pointing out that they lose the device connection. This isn't the fault of the cable. It's because of the small physical size of the socket. If the socket flexes in any imperceptible way, you will lose your devices. If you're going to use an OTG cable, put the phone down and make sure the cable won't flex.

      Android can't read NTFS-formatted drives. My thumb drives work fine, but I can't use my Seagate Free Agent Goflex (usb3) drive. Since I will be in areas without cellular service, I can't rely on Dropbox to have all the files I will need. Data portability and synching with my PC is an issue that I will have to work out.

      I've used Firefox browser and Lastpass as my password locker on my PC for many years. I installed both on my phone quite a while ago. Firefox automatically synchs my phone with my laptop and updates my history and bookmarks. Unfortunately, Lastpass is a separate Android app with its own browser. I can either have my bookmarks, or my login credentials, but not both.

    Summary to date: I'm convinced that I can make this work. In fact, for routine email, I much prefer Android's Gmail app over firing up Outlook on my laptop. Now that I have a working prototype, my next goal will be to use my S4 for as much of my computer work as possible. Gotta define the envelope.
    01-22-2014 03:39 PM
  4. Rich Walter's Avatar
    Thanks for laying the ground work. I'm a field communications tech for a defense contractor and have some of the same needs and desires you had. Just lost the use of my 5 year old droid bionic and migrated to a galaxy note 4, which was pushed to the latest OS upgrade 3 days later. Still, the carrier didn't give me a lot of migration support or documentation when we made the purchase.

    I've found a great windshield mount from Bracketron which handles up to an 8 in. tablet vertically or horizontally and still allows me to charge via cord from outlet.

    Still looking for a Bluetooth keyboard to link up to this. And a reliable more compatible office suite that surpasses Google's docs and synchs easily.

    Any suggestions greatly appreciated. In a lot of ways this harks back to 15 years ago when I had a handspring visor pro with the sb3000 cellular module, just more sleek format and more disjointed software and hardware development.

    Posted via the Android Central App
    04-20-2015 07:35 PM

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