Ahh the Droid 2. Heralded as the prodigal son of the original (and quite excellent) Motorola Droid. How does it stack up? A month of intense use and benchmarking paints an interesting picture…
The original Droid was criticized for it’s “chin”, slightly vague keyboard, and occasional user experience issues. The Droid 2 – long lauded as an evolutionary upgrade for the original – was delivered to us almost one month ago in a plain-looking Verizon box.
Upon unboxing the device I was blown away by the large screen, firm sliding keyboard, and positively sumptuous keys. The body was sleek and rubberized and felt like a quality product. The battery door is friction-fit and flush to the remainder of the case. There were no sharp edges or manufacturing burrs- although one generally does not expect this from an established manufacturer such as Motorola. The horizontally situated speaker is placed in an alcove below the plane of the battery door and appears heavy-duty enough to suffer through the lint and debris in the average pocket. I fully charged the phone as per recommendation and then dove into the interface
Boot up time was reasonably quick and the familiar “droid” sound signaled that the phone was prepared for its first use.
Moving through menus and widgets was fairly simple however the phone appeared quite laggy through menus and transitions. More on that in a bit.
First thing I checked into was the camera- shots were simple to take and easy to organize, sort, and send. Taking the actual photo is a little awkward due to the location of the camera button but most smartphones have similar issues so we won’t fault the Droid 2 for that. Shots were generally clear with a little bit of fuzz in low light and a slightly over-warm tone to them. All in all- not going to be replacing your point and shoot with this (hopefully).
After setting up my home screen and integrating my social media functions- I opened up Pandora and went for a bike ride.
Playback was fairly seemless- a quality attributed more to Verizon’s ubiquitous network presence than to the phone- and all was right in the world.
That is…until an annoying beep approximately 9 miles into the ride. I pulled aside to check the phone where, to my shock, I had a scant 20% battery life remaining. Incredibly- the fully charged Droid 2 battery could not seem to handle a 45 minute bike ride with the screen off and Pandora running…
I rode home sans music, plugged the Droid 2 in, and began moving through menus to see if this was a fluke. During this time, I felt the Droid 2 beginning to heat up and was astonished to find that the entire top rear half of the phone was warm bordering on hot. Now- I’ve felt phones get warm before but…it’s generally when you’re doing a processor intensive task. The Droid 2 seems warm no matter when you’re using it. It’d be a great phone in the winter if you didn’t have any InstaHot on the ski slope but… as anyone who took a physics course in college knows: energy is required to produce heat.
The Droid 2’s 1 Ghz SnapDragon processor should result in a rich experience with little to no lag. Instead- I found myself fighting the phone through an infuriating series of scroll lag and application lag issues. This felt like a prototype phone with a 200 Mhz Palm processor in it, not the Droid “powerhouse” advertized by Verizon.
The experience was further hampered by the (in my opinion) sloppy integration of the MotoBlur interface. Using the Droid Incredible and the Droid 2 side by side- the Incredible flew through menus and transitions like a champ, multitasked with ease, and lasted a full 16 hours of heavy use on a single charge.
In (sharp) contrast- the Droid 2 dies within 6 hours ON STANDBY with the screen off and factory default settings (Push Gmail, Facebook link enabled) and a woeful 3-4 hours of light use. For the record: this was using the newest version of Android AND the pushed firmware update from Verizon.
Various forums suggest hard resets of the phone, drastic changes in the settings menu, etc in order to alleviate some of the problem. My only issue with that is- a phone should just work out of the box. I should be able to take a phone, turn it on, run some simple set-up, and get a usage number that’s reasonably close to the published statistics from Verizion/Motorola.
That being said: there are some good things about the Droid 2 (if you have it connected to a charger)
-Google Maps (beta) – awesome for navigation especially for the price of free!
-Keyboard – Motorola’s new Droid 2 keyboard is firmer and the buttons are more raised so typing is a blast
-Voice commands/integration – pretty solidly done and very responsive
-Android Market – very well laid out. I like how you can get a “refund” if you uninstall a product
Is it possible we had a unit with a dud battery? Sure… however; run a Search on “Droid 2 Battery Life” and you’ll see that we weren’t the only ones with issues.
Overall, this phone has most of the hardware potential to be a flagship for the Android movement but is plagued by poor battery design and quality issues surrounding said battery issues. Personally- I’d look into the HTC Incredible or similar designs before I went for the Droid 2.