The Motorola Droid Pro is a model that runs Google's Android OS but has a design reminiscent of BlackBerrys.
It is one of a recent group of smartphones from Verizon Wireless catering to a more business-oriented market than their predecessors, sporting the ability to work overseas.
It has a contract-free price tag of $480, dropping to $180 with a two-year service contract, though other retailers may offer it for even less.
BUILD & DESIGN
While many current Android devices are thinly veiled attempts to mimic the iPhone, the Droid Pro clearly has another target: the segment of business users that are mostly addicted to the BlackBerry and it's constant email access.
I'm not a BlackBerry user myself, but I am a member of the demographic that must have a keyboard, preferably in a one-piece design like this. So I came into this review curious about the Droid Pro, both because of it's slightly unusual design, and because it seemed to have the qualities I look for in a smartphone: a great spec sheet, simple design, and -- hopefully -- a solid operating system.
A key difference between the Droid Pro and its rivals is that while QWERTY-bar phones often include a relatively small screen with a landscape orientation, the Pro has a larger portrait-oriented screen. This makes it a little longer than it's relatives within the class, but considering everything that is packed into this device, the Droid Pro is actually surprisingly compact.
Compared directly to my usual phone, a Samsung Jack, the Droid Pro is about a third of an inch taller -- and that's it. They're the same width, and roughly the same thickness, though the Droid Pro is actually a tiny bit thinner over most of the casing, with a small bulge along the top rear. Even granted that my Jack is cheaper and is a year old, I was pleasantly surprised by the size.
Despite it's compact footprint, it squeezes in a 3.1 inch, half-VGA screen -- not the largest or highest resolution on an Android-based device, but roughly comparable to the first three generations of iPhones.
Given the device's size constraints, I had been half expecting the keyboard to be cramped. So it was another pleasant surprise that it was, in fact, every bit as usable as the better thumb keyboards I've tried out.
Good key travel, key separation, and feel. The number keys are spread out along the top row, instead of being placed in a conventional grid formation. The good news, though is that this is made up for by a large and very usable on-screen keypad available from the phone dialer application. Or, you can just speak the number that you want to call -- but we'll get to that later.
Other Buttons & Controls
One of the ways the Droid Pro saves space is by not having a directional pad or directional control of any kind, which is a departure for most QWERTY-bar style phones. At first, I didn't think that I was going to be happy about that omission. Now, after having gotten to use it a bit, I'm not nearly as put out as I expected to be. Yes, there's some situations where it would be nice to have a physical directional control -- particularly navigating cramped web page elements, or relocating a cursor for text entry. But for the most part I've gotten along quite well using touchscreen gestures for scrolling and practicing accurate fingertip clicking.
My biggest complaint about the Droid Pro's design lies in the four navigation buttons right above the keyboard. Because they're part of the screen, and therefore touch sensitive, it's fairly easy to accidentally "push" them if your finger brushes the screen accidentally. Since the center two buttons -- those most likely to be hit accidentally -- both take you back out of the application you're using, it can be very annoying to have to go back and re-start what you were doing. Since you can't vary the sensitivity of these buttons -- and they really do have a hair trigger -- the only real cure for this is time and practice, to get used to having them there and not letting your fingers stray.
With the memory card tucked under the battery cover, the only open ports are the Micro-USB plug on the lower left hand side, and the 3.5 mm audio jack on top. It's nice to have a standard audio plug again, though I wouldn't object to having all the plugs on the bottom, so that I could have a nice car dock for the thing, but that's rather a nitpick.
Overall, the build quality feels good, the design is sleek and very usable, and it packs all it's features into a very reasonable size and weight.
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