It is finally here. Verizon Wireless’ first Android handset and Motorola’s comeback kid. After a steep downhill from producing RAZR after RAZR, Motorola has been mixing up the medicine back at their labs. With all the commercials and ads jabbing away at the iPhone about multi-tasking, having a removable battery, full QWERTY keyboard and everything else the iPhone doesn’t, does it live up to the hype? Does the DROID have what it takes to take Motorola from the bottom back to the top? Find out in this extensive review of the new Motorola DROID. DROID does, do you?
In a world where fat and slim is always compared, it’s straight up amazing to see a handset that is just as sexy as the phone(s) it is rivaling against. The Motorola DROID is just downright gorgeous and at the same time very masculine as others have been saying about this particular device. The DROID is the thinnest Smartphone with a keyboard to date and as far as being thin, this thing is certainly rock solid. It’s almost as thin as the iPhone. From the sturdy slide mechanism (which isn’t spring assisted which I think is a great decision) to the amount of actual real estate the DROID uses, this phone is a winner. Just look at it. It says buy me right now. One thing I don’t like about the design of the DROID is the side volume rocker button. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be loose and that could be an issue for certain consumers, but it feels like it’ll fall off at any moment. The unit I’ve received from Verizon as well as previous prototypes have had the same button issues.
Besides those little nitpicks, the DROID’s build quality is top notch. It’s mostly made of metal. The bezel around the screen is metal which is great for the screen’s protection. The only part that is not metal is the back housing and that shouldn’t be a case problem for anyone because it is just as sturdy and tight as the metal too. The touch sensitive keys on the front of the phone are very responsive. I’ve been using the DROID since it has been released and have not had any accidental presses on and off the phone. I don’t think they would be a problem for most people since the latter of you will be concerned. The keys also have Haptic feedback, which lets you know that the key has been pressed with a little vibration andlet me tell you it does work. Pressing those keys gives the DROID a little bit of a violent vibration on your fingertips and that’s a good thing. There are no side keys on the left side of the phone but a microUSB port which doubles as a PC/MAC connection or for charging your handset. On the top of the phone is the power/lock/unlock button. On the right side you already know about the volume rocker and there is also the camera shutter button in its gold accent. On Motorola.com they call it brown sugar, and I don’t know if they were hungry for some Thanksgiving ham or just too lazy to say gold.
On the backside of the phone you have the battery door which is coated in a matte black and has the Motorola and Verizon logos on it as well. The speaker grill is also brown sugar and looks pretty tiny for such a powerful phone, more on that later. And then we have the 5MP dual-LED flash. That’s all there is to the outside of the phone, now to the guts. The DROID has one of the most powerful mobile processors in the industry at the moment. It’s packing a 600MHz OMAP3 CPU (which is underclocked at 550MHz), dedicated graphics processor, 512MB of ROM, 256MB of RAM, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a digital compass and accelerometer. Verizon wasn’t kidding when they said they were waiting for the right time to bring an Android handset to prime time and they sure did deliver.
This can be described in one word. Gorgeous. This is the most gorgeous screen on a phone I have ever seen. The DROID’s screen is at a whopping 3.7″ WVGA 854×480 capacitive high-res display. I’ll take this screen and a few more any day of the week. This is the best screen on an Android device to date and will probably be for a while on other devices. The iPhone’s screen is beautiful don’t get me wrong but it is 2ndnow to the DROID in resolution, size and PPI which is 165 compared to the DROID’s 265; talk about packing pixels, WOW. Watching movies and videos on this bad boy is just breath taking. Blacks are nice anddark while the whites are brighter than the clouds in the sky. The responsiveness is right on par with the iPhone and pressing the screen with little to no pressure at all is dead on. This screen is that good. Viewing websites on the screen is almost perfect. Since the DROID’s screen is so long, landscape view of a website is just perfect of what a site would look like on a computer screen. Impressive I must say. On the front of the phone besides the screen is the proximity and ambient light sensor. Putting the phone next to your face while on a call turns the screen off so there won’t be any accidental screen presses or hang-ups. The ambient light is for automatic lighting of the phone. If you are in a darkish type room, the phone will automatically brighten the screen to become more legible. One fault of the screen though, there is no multi-touch andthat’s a major fail. I don’t know if Motorola decided to not include that or if it was Android 2.0’s doing. All in all, the DROID’s screen is the best in the industry as of right now. Colors are vivid and sharp, what more can you ask for?
Have you ever used the HTC Touch Pro? It feels just like that. The buttons aren’t as popped up as the TP1 though. The keyboard can take a while for getting used to but it is manageable. The keys are all flat and the feedback is ok. If you are coming from a BlackBerry device, you’d rather type on SurePress than this. It’s a totally different world compared to that. Yes it is a full QWERTY keyboard, but it’s far from perfect. One thing that bothers me about the keyboard is they could’ve done with more landscape for the keys for spacing out but they decided to crunch them together for the D-Pad. The whole time I’ve been using the DROID I’ve never used the d-pad and don’t think I ever will. There’s enough landscape on the screen to press down with your fingers and trust me my hands are HUGE, so if I don’t have a problem not using it you shouldn’t either… It’s still what you prefer though, that’s just me. The keyboard also has nice backlighting as well. Typing in the dark shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who can see. It’s definitely bright enough and comes across the letters fine.
The on screen keyboard that Android lovers so waited for in the Cupcake release makes its way to Éclair as well. The layout hasn’t changed at all so you shouldn’t have a problem typing on it if you’ve experienced it before. Typing on the screen gets the job done. There is Haptic feedback when you do type on the screen and it’s not annoying at all. There is an option to take off the vibration in the settings and you can decide whether you want it or not. If you’re not impressed with the standard on screen keyboard, you can always go to the Android Market to download other prettier ones. There is also auto-correct and while it’s not like the iPhone auto-correct, it still manages to predict what you’re typing pretty well. Turning the screen to the side brings out the landscape keyboard and it is very, very wide. People like me shouldn’t have a problem typing on this because of our huge hands and if you do, I don’t know what to tell you.
Android 2.0. Android 2.0. A lot of people have been holding off on an Android handset because it was kind of childish and new to the game. Boy oh boy did it grow up and hit puberty quick. Android 2.0 feels like what a real OS should be for a Smartphone. Google really outdid themselves on this one. Exchange support right out the box, unified inbox for non-Gmail email addresses, more resolution support (if you don’t remember Android 1.0 was executed on a HVGA 320×480 and Android 1.5 and 1.6 stepped it up for other resolutions to follow) and much more. Can you say that 1.0 was the ugly duckling that transformed 2.0 into the beautiful swan, I think so. Other features include full Facebook, Picasa and YouTube support. Facebook contacts sync to your DROID’s phonebook and you could have it one of two ways. Sync everyone or sync only the people you have in your phonebook with Facebook already. In the phonebook, tapping a contacts icon gives you a little pop-up menu on how to interact with them. You have your mandatory call feature, text, email and direct access to their Facebook profile. It’s pretty good and gets right to the point on how you want to contact that person at that time. Good job Google for making our lives a little bit easier. While it might seem perfect, there are still some flaws to 2.0. For instance, when will they incorporate an actual security code? Drawing lines and shapes is for little kids in Kindergarten, if you want to be in the big leagues you have to know where to draw the line on things like that. I’m in my 20’s and drawing lines is something I do when I sketch drawings. My unlock code is the Nike symbol, kindergarten stuff right? That was cute in 1.0 but 2.0 is a big step from what it came from, you can do it Google come on. Open platform is something we dream of, no lockdowns, no one to tell you take this out put that in. In my usage of the phone I’ve noticed that some programs make the device freeze and a pop-up shows in the middle of the screen to ask you if you want to “Force Close” or “Wait”, now I don’t know if that has to do with the responsiveness of the program itself to 2.0 or if its 2.0 altogether. I’m sure Google is working on a solution for that as we speak though.
Maps, maps, maps. Google totally shattered the competition with Google Maps with free Navigation. After the announcement the stock for Garmin and TomTom dropped dramatically. Google, are you trying to become something more than a search engine without telling us. The navigation program itself is actually in beta as is says when you open it, but it is pretty damn good. I’ve used it on my travels to Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas and I have not had a problem with the directions it had given me. The GPS satellite on the phone takes no more than 5 seconds to lock on to your location and tell you where you are. I remember using Telenav on my BlackBerry 8800 a few times and told me to make an illegal turn. Illegal!! What kind of GPS does that? The Navigation is good overall though. Make sure you 1.6 users download the update to get the navigation on your Magic or myTouch 3G.
Social integration could be another thing to work on. I have more than 400 people in my Facebook and for some reason my phonebook shows when you click on a Facebook link, it shows the view profile option 3 times (Update: master reset my phone and it is normal now). Facebook on an Android handset is still somewhat new since it was released not so long ago. If you look at the difference between Facebook for Android to the iPhone version, there is a lot more options because it was out longer. Users will come to realize that it isn’t the best Facebook client, but it will get there eventually. I understand that 2.0 isn’t like HTC’s Sense UI, but if you have one social network on your phone add another. Twitter is not on here at all. You would have to download a client from the market, which I recommend get Twidroid, but you could’ve thrown that in there too. Am I asking for too much?
Here we go. The infamous market. Everyone knows how many apps the Apple App Store has compared to the Android Market. A 10:1 ratio. Jesus that’s a lot. But seriously, how many of those apps do you need on your phone. Are you the type to download apps just because or the ones you need? Now although the DROID has the native Market, there’s not enough memory to store all those apps on your phone. I think Motorola failed epically here. The iPhone has 8, 16 and 32 GB of storage for pictures, music, videos and APPS! The DROID only has 512MB for applications. Think about it. What am I going to do with 512MB of memory for applications? This is supposed to be your flagship device to bring you back from the bottom and you provide us with this? Come on Motorola. We had faith in you at one point in our lives, left and now you’re back. Hopefully you do better with that DROID tablet coming out……….
The music application on the DROID is still the same one from previous models. Still doesn’t sync with iTunes and you have to find your music art on the Internet somewhere. The good thing is that there is the Amazon MP3 store where you can purchase single songs or full out albums. The good thing is you don’t need Wi-Fi as well since the DROID is on the Verizon network. I don’t know why, but Motorola didn’t incorporate the music options like the iPhone and the Hero has while the screen is locked. Something so simple, yet not implemented is this feature. I wonder why they didn’t add it. Syncing via iTunes isn’t available on 2.0, so the only way you can add music to the DROID is through drag and drop. Hopefully one day that dream can come true. (Update: The program doubleTwist syncs your music, photos and videos to Android, BlackBerry, Nokia E & N Series, PSPs and Windows Mobile handsets. It’s a pretty neat application that gets the job done.) Now if only Apple can stop blocking people from hacking…
It’s crazy how we’ve gone from WAP sites to the mobile web and now the real web experience on your phone. The browser on the DROID is just as good as Safari if not better since they do run on WebKit. The pages load real fast over Verizon’s network and render nicely on that gorgeous screen. I’ve done a speed test with the iPhone and DROID’s browsers over Wi-Fi and 3G, and they’re just about on par with each other. The iPhone is just a little bit faster by about 8 seconds but that could be because of the API of the sites or the phones themselves (remember the DROID was underclocked to 550MHz while the iPhone keeps the full 600MHz so that could be a factor in the end). The DROID doesn’t play flash videos like the HTC Hero does in the browser but it does load up the YouTube client just like the iPhone. Now about that Flash…. Adobe states that Flash will be available for the Android platform in early 2010 and for the iPhone….wait for it….NO. It could be Apple not wanting a version of Flash on their product because that would lead to versions of SkyFire, BOLT, Opera and FireFox to become available in the App Store and trust me, Apple would decline those in a heartbeat. There is no pinch-zoom on the DROID so a simple double tap will zoom into the page and again for zooming out. Multi-touch would have been nice because 2.0 does support it, but if it is that much of an issue to you, wait for the MILESTONE to come out on the other side of the world. It’ll have it. There are bookmarks in the browser too just like any other browser has. The cool thing that was updated about the browser is the favicons. Going to a webpage shows its logo right in the address bar and that is nice little eye candy.
Phone Call Quality
Can you hear me now? Good. Phone calls on the DROID are just fantastic. You dial and it connects instantly. It’s just that quick. And the best part of it all is the in-call quality is outstanding. Callers sound loud and clear without any hick-ups. Motorola really knows how to make a call sound like its coming from a landline. It’s so crisp you’ll think the person is next to you. The speaker on the DROID is one of the loudest speakers I’ve ever had. We’re talking Nextel i95 loud. The sound is loud and it isn’t distorted at all either which makes that just too good to be true. I’m not sure whether if the DROID has Motorola’s CRYSTALTALK technology but it sounds like it does. I’ll have to find out some more info on that. I’ll update with the details some other time. Another factor that makes the calls on the DROID so great is that it has the Network behind them. Verizon sure does boast about having the best network in the country and they sure don’t disappoint….now I wonder if ATT will ever figure that out. DROID + Verizon = Heaven. Done.
If you’ve previously used an Android device you could tell that the interface needed much of a makeover and for the most part it did. It actually looks like a real camera interface for the most part without the face detection and image stabilization. It does take decent pictures though. The DROID comes with a dual-LED flash and it’s not that good when there’s not enough light around. Pictures in the day time come out nice and detailed. There’s not that much noise in the photos so they have print me hidden in the background. It’s still not a replacement camera like the Sony Ericsson Satie’s 12MP shooter or the Samsung Pixon12. If you want a decent camera phone and want to post a picture for Facebook from the night club, the DROID does that.
Do you realiiiize, that you are a Champion? Yeaaaah. Yes it is. The DROID’s battery life is amazing. I have 3 email accounts and 1 exchange syncing all day. Constant Twitter updates. Facebook updating all day. A bit of web browsing, texting and some calling and my battery still isn’t dead. The DROID comes with a 1400 mAh battery, the same one as in the MOTOCLIQ (DEXT). It’s crazy that the DROID’s battery lasts this long because CDMA phones don’t last that long. I could compare this battery to that of the Blackberry 9700, but recent blogs are going insane with the battery usage on the 9700. Fellow blogger, CrackBerry addict, [email protected] has used his 9700 going on 36 straight hours without any charge between on average usage and the battery has depleted to 20%. That’s amazing in its own way because everyone knows BlackBerry battery life isn’t all that great on regular usage. Shouts out to RIM for improving on that. Back to the main event though, the battery on the DROID is a winner. Point blank.
So what have I come to? A conclusion obviously. If you’re in the hunt for a new gadget that brings all the quality of entertainment and business and you’re not looking for aBlackBerry, the DROID is your best choice. If you are a Verizon customer there should be no hesitation at all to get this device. You already have the Network so why not have a handset that takes full advantage of it. It’s the first phone EVER released by Verizon that they didn’t cripple or take part of in any of the design concepts and programming. Hmmm. Winning that auction for the 700MHz spectrum really did them a favor because they’re heading in a whole new direction from what they’ve originally gone down. Before it was all about improving the network and not having a pretty handset. Now it’s the opposite. Go Google! I mean Verizon *cough*. The choice is simple. If you’re on Verizon, don’t get aBlackBerry unless you are a fanatic and need to. Get the DROID. If you are on a different carrier and tired of network issues and dropped calls, check it out at your nearest Verizon store and make your decision there. Motorola is back and it looks like they’re in a good position to shoot back up to the top like they did with the first RAZR. Welcome back Motorola. We’ve missed you.