The Motorola XPRT is, in many ways, the same phone as the Motorola Droid Pro from Verizon. A QWERTY-bar design featuring dual CDMA and GSM cellular radios for international roaming, a 1 GHz processor, 2GB of memory, and a thumb keyboard, it retails from Sprint for $130 with a new contract, and is squarely aimed at converting BlackBerry users to the Android-based world.
BUILD & DESIGN
Despite the six-month gap between them, the XPRT and the Droid Pro are nearly the same phone. They have the same basic specs, memory, processor speed, and layout, although Sprint's version has gone through a slight cosmetic refit, with different outer styling.
There's one refit, however, which is not so cosmetic. If you recall my Droid Pro review, you'll know that one of my main disappointments with the device was that it had rather lackluster battery life. I could barely make it through a full day before it was running on fumes. It was a bad drawback to an otherwise great device.
Well, apparently Sprint heard those complaints loud and clear. Gone is the 1390 mAh battery that powers the Droid Pro. In it's place is a whopping 1860 mAh cell. No, that's not a typo--the XPRT's standard battery is literally the same cell as is used for an "extended" battery for the Droid Pro, and one of the largest standard batteries available in any smartphone, giving a full third more power. To enclose this thing, they have a slightly roomier battery cover than the Droid Pro features. The XPRT's back is completely even, as opposed to the Verizon version which had a "hump" at the top where the camera is. The added room you get by making the entire device the same thickness gives room for the larger battery, and while it's a little bulkier than the Droid Pro, the overall thickness isn't much greater.
Other than that, the design hasn't changed much. The backplate is now textured for better grip, which is nice. I find it well built, rugged and quite a comfortable fit in my hand. There's also the little things that you don't find on other models, like the backlighting surrounding the USB port, making it easy to plug-in even in the dark. A nice touch.
Here's where the XPRT features it's first and biggest hitch. It uses a 320 x 480 (HVGA) screen, the bare minimum resolution for Android devices, and way below half of the resolution that's standard on most new smartphones. Six months ago when the Droid Pro was new, this resolution was a little behind the times; now it's a lot behind the times. Nowadays even the new BlackBerries--long famed for their tiny 320 x 240 (QVGA) screens--are beating the resolution used on the XPRT. Almost every new Android device uses 800 x 480 (WVGA), some have even higher, meaning that 320 x 480 isn't what it once was.
This is a pity because the screen itself is not bad. Clarity is good; since you're stretching those pixels over only a 3.1-inch display instead of the 4+ inches typical with higher resolutions, things stay crisp. Everything is plenty readable, as long as you've got good eyes. One peeve I have is that the screen's "automatic brightness" setting isn't quite bright enough for the ambient light. The Droid Pro had the same problem too, but there I was inclined to ascribe it to trying to save the device's battery. Here, you can afford a bit more juice, so it just becomes an annoyance.
In all, the screen is simply a compromise that one has to accept if you're looking for the single-piece keyboard design. Such a device doesn't accomodate as large a screen as a slider, so something needs to go.
The single-piece keyboard is a rarity on Android devices. It used to be that every device and their brother had one, now almost all new keyboards these days are of the sliding style. It's true that a slider does give more room for both the keyboard and the screen, but some folks still prefer the one piece.
Of course the other trade off for this, besides the screen size, is keyboard size. Compared to other keyboarded Android devices, the XPRT's keys are tiny and tightly packed. But despite this, they're still quite comfortable and adequate, at least if you're accustomed to similar-size keyboards. I certainly have no trouble using it, and I have fairly large fingertips. I would compare it favorably to most other thumb keyboards of this style: the keys are well built, responsive, and easy to locate.
There are definite advantages to the single-piece keyboard design: although the keyboard isn't as large, it is always accessible, and far more suited for one-handed use than a slider design. You can type out a message single-handedly on this with relative ease, whereas with a comparable slider, you might be unable to use the keyboard at all, or at least find it much more awkward.
Other Buttons & Controls
Besides the standard Power and Volume buttons, the XPRT does have one other control: a simple button on the right-hand side which is used to call up the device's calendar app. Convenient for business travellers, particularly if you input your travel schedule in addition to meetings.
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