Every now and then a phone comes along that shakes up the market. The Motorola Droid is one such device.
Google launched its Android OS last year, but the first edition felt like a beta. The Droid is the first model with Android 2.0, and this new version is ready for primetime, with enhancements in almost every area, from business to entertainment.
And Motorola's new model sets a new standard for devices based on this operating system with a generous, high-resolution display, a large keyboard, 16 GB of storage, and a laundry list of other features.
Verizon hopes the Droid will be able to go head-to-head with the Apple iPhone, and has priced it accordingly: $200 with a two-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate. And those who purchase it through the retailer best Buy don't have to hassle with mailing in the rebate.
BUILD & DESIGN
Motorola says the Droid is the thinnest phone with a QWERTY keyboard ever made, and I believe them. At first glance, it looks too slim to be a slider, but it is.
This model lives up to it's name: it's very angular... mechanical. It has a masculine look, and has even been compared to Darth Vader. I suspect it's going to be a love-it or hate-it design. I'm in the "love it" category.
If fits very well in a pocket, but is not a light device. It feels heavy in both my pockets and my hands. Still, it's just 6 oz.
Overall, it's 4.6 inches tall, 2.4 inches wide, and 0.5 inches thick.
One of the first things you'll notice is the 3.7-inch display. This is one of the largest available -- bigger than the one on the HTC Touch Pro2, and slightly higher resolution, too. In fact, it's of a much higher resolution than all the earlier Android models, which have HVGA screens.
The display is ideal for looking at web sites, images, and video, whether you're inside out out.
Naturally, Android supports both portrait and landscape modes in all applications. And the Droid has a sensor that detects which way you're holding it, and gives you the appropriate orientation. However, opening the slider turns the sensor off and puts the screen into landscape mode.
Because the keyboard has a landscape orientation, it's of a decent size. On the other hand, the keys are all set in a flat surface, with little or no space between, which isn't an ideal arrangement. After a week I've grown accustomed to it, but some roundness or space between keys would be nice. Still, some sacrifices had to be made to keep the overall shape so slim.
There's a large D-pad next to the keyboard -- that placement means it's only available when the slider is open. This isn't the best design for one-handed use, as the D-pad isn't available in portrait mode. Because I use the D-pad frequently, I find myself using the Droid with the keypad open most of the time.
There's a sort of "chin" to the right of the keyboard, which you have to reach around to type or use the D-pad. This isn't any kind of hassle to me, and to be honest I hadn't even noticed it until someone pointed it out.
When the Droid's slider is closed, you can use an on-screen keyboard. This allows yo to enter short amounts of text with the device in portrait mode, though this keyboard is so cramped you are going to want to pull out the physical one to enter more than a few words.
The on-screen keyboard is also available in landscape mode, where it is much more usable. This raises an interesting possibility: if you prefer virtual keyboards to physical ones, or just don't like the Droid's hardware keyboard, you can use the on-screen keyboard to enter all your text. I prefer hardware keyboards, but the Droid's virtual one is nearly as usable, as long as it's in landscape mode.
This smartphone has comparatively few dedicated buttons.
Built into the touchscreen are four control buttons: Search, Home, Menu, and Back. The traditional Call and Disconnect buttons are conspicuously absent. You have to depend on on-screen buttons for this.
There's also a power button on top, plus a volume control rocker and camera button on the right side.
The Droid's 3.5mm headset jack is easily accessible on top. I wish I could say the same about its microSD memory card slot. That's buried in a place that requires you to remove the battery to switch cards.
This device gets its power from a micro-USB port, and comes with a combination charging and data cable and travel-size charger, a nice touch.
As far a build quality goes, the device feels solid in most ways, but the slider on my unit is just a tiny bit loose.
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