You are most welcome Waterboy!
How have you found the support (manufacturers and online)?
Support for Vera is good, imo, every time I have needed tech support they have been there - I haven't had any issues with them and have called them directly on the phone a number of times to ask questions. I know alot of people disagree. It is true however, that your best bet with Vera is the Mi Casa Verde Forums, they are without a doubt the best I have ever seen and used, without comparison. I would be very surprised if there is anything that cannot be answered by someone on those forums. I myself (when I have time) read them and post and try to help every day if I can and I know at least a dozen people that are ALWAYS available to help. Plus you will get a reply within an hour or two at latest if you can't find what you need by simply searching for it.
How is the programming for the unit? (I was reading some comments on having to move the Vera or the device close together to get them to communicate initially.)
Programming is very easy, although scene setup and events can be a bit tricky sometimes but you will find that if you use it everyday as most people do when they start their network, it becomes second nature. You do need to move the units within 3 feet of the device for the initial inclusion of each device, IF you want to or if you are including switches (hardwired devices). That is a fact for all Z-Wave devices and controllers as far as I know. I normally include my devices that are battery operated just by setting them next to the unit and plugging them in, afterwards move it to where it will be going finally. For hardwired 120VAC switches, you just unplug the VeraLite from the power and it starts up in inclusion mode powered by standard alkaline batteries and include right at each switch. Vera3 is a bit easier because it comes with a battery pack so you don't need separate batteries.
This doesn't really apply if you are using Insteon because pairing Insteon devices is done directly with the Insteon Modem, not with the Vera unit. After the Modem has the device addressing info, it then relays that info to the Vera via serial USB.
Where do you utilize the different platforms.... Insteon = lights..., Z-Wave = ?
Control of everything is done within the Vera GUI. You control everything from a dashboard which shows your devices and each room you have them assigned to, a mirror of your home basically, then there are separate tabs for setup and config where you can program events, triggers, scenes, etc. Once a device is included it doesn't matter what protocol it uses, and it shouldn't. If its a lamp module, turn it on, if its a wall sconce, turn it off or dim it, or what have you. Whether or not the device is Insteon, X-10 or Z-Wave doesn't matter after you set it up. You do need the Insteon Modem which plugs into the Vera directly to its USB port, in order to use Insteon and X-10 so thats an additional $79 (we also sell them) and there is a free plug-in for Vera called Alsteon which you can get from the Vera store that opens up alot of Insteon additional features - I have never used it, I use my Insteon all by itself within the Vera UI.
Is the Vera a stand alone like the ISY's?
Yes it is. You do need internet access for config and setup of devices but afterwards, control is done all within your zwave network which the Vera now controls. Communication between devices is done directly with the Vera Unit and not over the internet once everything is setup. That includes timers scenes and events as well. Now there is a limitation of the VeraLite in that regard as the Veralites internal clock is run by internet time, so if you aren't connected to the internet at all, your timed events and scheduling will be out of sync. This is not an issue for the Vera3 however, as it has its own clock, plus the Vera3 has a router built into it so it is more secure as well because it can be setup similar to a cascading router connection by plugging it into your home networks router, so you have a network within a network thats totally independant of the internet. You would of course need internet access from somewhere for remote control via smartphone mobile apps.
What are the app options like? The link to the android app does not have a good rating
I have used a few Android apps for Vera including Home Buddy, AutHomation, and VeraMobile and find them all very good but my favorite is VeraMobile. It works perfectly in my network and because it is made by Vera it should work perfectly. Home Buddy is good as well and is the only one that supports widgets at present time, although I believe they are all expecting to have widgets included at some time. I haven't used AutHomation as much as I should but it is good too and you will find the developer himself on the forums every day as well helping people and answering questions. I don't normally go by ratings by others because I simply find people very fickle and 99% of the time I don't agree with what they say in the ratings, or at the very least I reserve judgement until I know what I am talking about and have first hand info. Nothing is perfect and this stuff takes time to develop so if you want perfect, don't get into HA to begin with lol. DIY HA is far from perfect just as is installed HA is and computers and life are in general. Just my opinion.
Well hope this answers some of your questions Waterboy, and any other readers as well.