- Large, high-resolution display
- Easy-to-use OS and software
- Large physical keyboard
- Free navigation app
- Loads of third-party apps
- Barely average camera
I traveled up to New York City today for Verizon’s launch of the Motorola Droid. It was worth the trip. Previous phones running Google’s Android OS have ranged from OK to fairly good, but the Droid is the first really great one I’ve seen.
It offers an impressive feature set: a large WVGA+ capacitive touchscreen, physical keyboard, mobile broadband, Wi-Fi, and the latest version of Google’s operating system
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.
Probably the next thing 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.
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.
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.
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 arrangement for one-handed use, as the D-pad isn’t available in portrait mode.
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.
This Motorola model lives up to it’s name in one way: it’s very angular… mechanical. It has a masculine look. I suspect it’s going to be a love-it or hate-it design. I’m in the “love it” category.
There has been some concern about the fact that the Motorola Droid runs Android on a 550 MHz processor. It’s a mistake to judge performance based simply on a number: if you could, every guy over 6’6″ would be able to play in the NBA.
The real-world performance of this phone is good. Admittedly I’ve only had a short time with it, but I’m not seeing any lag or irritating delays.
The Droid is the first model with Google Android 2.0, which has some new features.
Easily most important of these is support for synchronizing with Microsoft Exchange. Until now Android was a decent option of consumers, but not for business users. Now that people can send and receive their corporate e-mail messages, that has changed. The Droid can also sync your Calendar and Contacts, too.
Naturally, this OS can still sync with Google’s services, so you can have your G-mail, personal calendar, and contacts on your phone.
And the Droid doesn’t stop there: it can pull the contact info for your friends out of Facebook, too. But don’t worry, all this information won’t all be jumbled together.
This smartphone comes with a suite of applications for handling many basic tasks. I already mentioned the e-mail, calendar, and contacts apps, but that’s just the beginning.
Android was created by Google, so it’s no surprise it has one of the best web browsers available. It’s one of the few that can go toe-to-toe with Safari on the iPhone. The latest version is tweaked, but there wasn’t much room for improvement.
There’s also a music player, and a combined video player and image viewer. I’m happy to report that this plays a much broader array of formats than its predecessors. There’s also a YouTube app.
Generally, Verizon seems to have taken the attitude that “less is more” and didn’t load the Droid down with extraneous software. But if you want to fill it up, you can; there are over 10,000 apps available for easy download in the Android Market.
A relatively simple mapping application was part of Android 1.0, but Google has taken this to the next level in the new version. Voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions have been added, making this app vastly more useful.
It now works like you’d expect a stand-alone GPS receiver to, giving you audible directions of when to turn, and automatically re-routing you if you miss a turn.
You can even program it with voice commands.
I put together a short video demonstrating the Motorola Droid, including a quick overview of its hardware, user interface, and web browser.
The Motorola Droid is definitely the new flagship of the Android OS — the one that future models are going to be compared to. And they are going to have to work hard to live up to the new standard.
Verizon is positioning it as an iPhone killer, but that’s a topic for another article. I’ll just say that at this early stage this new smartphone looks very promising.
I’ll continue testing it, and I’ll bring you a more complete review as soon as I can.