The Motorola Droid 2, recently launched by Verizon Wireless, is the followup to the original Droid smartphone. It has Android OS 2.2 running on a 1 GHz processor, 8 GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and a 3.7-inch touchscreen.
This device is now available from Verizon Wireless for $200 with a new two-year service contract.
The main question to be asked here is, is the Droid 2 a worth successor to its very popular predecessor? Read on to find out.
BUILD & DESIGN
This is the latest addition to the line of relatively large smartphones, roughly the same size as Verizon's HTC Droid Incredible and the Samsung Captivate from AT&T. It feels very solid in the hand, to the point that it's hard to tell at first that this is a slider phone with a pull-out physical keyboard underneath the screen.
This device is weighty but not too heavy. You won't forget that it's in your pocket, but it won't weigh you down too much either. Most of the weight is centered in the keyboard portion of the phone, which means that the device is still easy to hold when you have to slider open. Some phones are too top-heavy to easily use when the screen is pushed up, but the Droid 2 has a very nice feel to it.
You'll need a large pocket to put it in, but the phone isn't so thick that it will be too unsightly. However, you may have a hard time determining which end is up when you take the device out of your pocket -- there's not a good way to tell by feel alone, unless your fingers happen to find the ridge underneath the display.
The overall appearance of the device is a cross between modern and blocky. The corners are curved for comfort and there are some nice dull silver accents, but I wouldn't call the Droid 2 a particularly stylish or edgy phone, at least as far as looks are concerned. It isn't ugly, by any means, or even unattractive, but it isn't beautiful either.
The 3.7-inch touchscreen display has a WVGA resolution (480 x 854). It looks OK, but I'm not blown away by it. Pictures and video are sharp, and there weren't any problems with ghosting.
One negative is that colors aren't as rich as I would like, and in some lighting conditions what should be white seems to have a slightly yellowish cast that is definitely unappealing.
Outside, however, the Droid 2 performs quite well. The display washes out quite a bit in direct sunlight, but it is still readable. You may want to shield the display with your hand in order to improve your view, but the good news is that you will still be able to use your phone outdoors -- which is not something that is true of every smartphone.
The physical QWERTY keyboard is located under the display; you access it by holding the bottom of the phone and sliding the display up or to the right, depending on how you're holding the phone. The sliding action is very tight, and it is possible to do it with one hand, but difficult. That may change as the phone "loosens up" with extended use.
The keyboard is nicely laid out, with clearly marked keys, and large alt, shift, space, and enter keys -- something that I really appreciate.
Unfortunately the keys are very flat and indistinct, so even though they're fairly large overall, it will take some time to get used to the keyboard.
With practice, I can type fairly quickly and with few errors, but I have to constantly look down at my hands in order to be sure I'm hitting the right keys. Thankfully the keyboard is illuminated for use in low-light conditions, because I'm not sure that I would ever be able to touch type on the Droid 2 without looking at the keyboard.
Other Buttons & Controls
The power button on the top of the phone is very small and extremely unobtrusive. I've had the phone for just over a week now, and I'm still frustrated by how hard it is to hit that little button. My finger can't seem to find it and I usually have to stop and turn the phone up so that I can see the button and then punch it.
The volume buttons are on the top right edge of the phone and the camera is on the bottom right side. Just like the power button, they are rather small and hard to hit without looking.
I'm not terribly thrilled by the virtual buttons along the bottom of the display. They're right above a ridge, where the phone gets slightly thinner, so my fingers tend to hit that edge instead of the button I'm aiming for.
Overall I found the buttons to be not quite big enough and distinct enough, making them hard to use. The virtual buttons are somewhat poorly placed, making for a frustrating experience.
The Motorola Droid 2 is the very first smartphone to launch running Android OS 2.2, a new version of Google's operating system. It's based on a 1 GHz processor, a faster one than the original Motorola Droid uses.
When I first got this device, my impressions regarding performance were mixed, due mainly to whether or not the task I was trying to accomplish required heavy Internet access. Internal apps like the calendar and contacts were very responsive, but email and web browsing were painfully slow.
Thanks fully I was notified of a firmware update a couple of days ago, and now that my review unit is running Android 2.2.20, things are working much more smoothly. I won't say that the performance now is blow-your-socks-off great, but it is good and I don't have any major complaints.
Results on voice quality are quite mixed. I have no problem at all hearing my callers very clearly, but the same isn't true on the other side of the line. When I called a fellow phone reviewer, he gave the Droid 2 a solid "B" and said that I sounded distant, and he could definitely tell that I was on a mobile phone. I didn't have any trouble hearing him, and everything came through loud and clear on my end.
When I called one of my friends, he asked if I was "outside on a busy street in a wind tunnel." I didn't have any trouble at all hearing him, but just like my first caller, he had a hard time hearing me--and I was inside my extremely quiet office.
I generally have good Verizon network coverage in my area. My personal phone is from Verizon, and I have no complaints -- so it's hard to tell if there's a real problem with voice quality on the Droid 2, whether I got a bad review unit, or if there's some other reason for the problems my callers experienced.
I've tried the wireless hotspot functionality, and I'm having some problems with it at the moment. The Droid 2 shows that my laptop is connected, and my laptop shows that it's connected to the Droid 2, but for some reason I can't do anything that requires network access, like checking my email or using Google Talk. I'm not sure at this point whether this is a random network issue or a serious problem with the device.
Like most Android OS phones these days, the Droid 2 comes with Calendar and Contacts applications, plus a calculator. The Quickoffice file viewer for Microsoft Office is also included. Other apps include the News RSS reader, as well as a News and Weather app that includes top headlines from several of the major outlets.
The included web browser works well, albeit rather slowly. Once the page is fully loaded, panning around and zooming in are very fast. The email experience on the Droid 2 is much like any other Android device, though again it is a bit slower than I expected.
Google Maps works great, though it was surprising to me that the phone could only pinpoint my location to an accuracy of 1300 meters. The new mass transit information was included, and I was very impressed with the accuracy of the information -- train and bus departures for each station were included. The Labs features are also very cool, especially Measure, which is used for quickly finding the distance between two points without having to go through the hassle of getting directions.
All of the usual suspects are here, from the Social Networking app and YouTube to the Music Player and a demo of Need for Speed Shift. The game played well, using tilt controls, but the sound from the external speaker was disappointingly tinny and not very loud, even at full volume. Video quality on YouTube was good, though again sound using the external speaker was rather disappointing.
If you want to listen to music, the built-in Music application works great, allowing you to view your music files by artist, album, or song, or you can set up your own playlists. I would strongly recommend plugging in earphones if you want a good listening experience.
There are also some preloaded extras, such as the Amazon Kindle app, which was a nice surprise. Amazon MP3 was included, if you like to get your music downloads from Amazon. Of course "entertainment" means different things to different people, and when you're ready for more apps and games, you can head on over to the Android Market app to find what you need to keep yourself entertained.
The Motorola Droid 2 has a 5 megapixel camera. but was am not tremendously impressed with it. Many of my photos look somewhat grainy, and the quality on zoomed-in photos is only acceptable.
The camera doesn't focus until you press the shutter button, so it takes a while to capture a photo and I found i very hard to get a decent action shot--they tended to be somewhat blurry.
As manufacturers focus more and more attention on the camera they put in each smartphone design, consumers are rewarded with better options, which means that their phone can often replace a simple point and shoot camera. Unfortunately the camera on the Droid 2 doesn't measure up to that lofty standard. It's OK for typical day-to-day uses, but if you're a real shutterbug, look elsewhere -- there are more capable smartphones with far better cameras out there for you.
This is a bit disappointing, as there were numerous complaints about the camera on the original Droid, and Motorola didn't listen to its customers.
The Droid 2 performed well in this area, though not spectacularly.
After the first day of use, I managed to almost completely drain the battery due to syncing all of my information, taking lots of practice camera shots, etc. In normal daily use I find that battery level isn't something I have to watch too closely, and it's nice not having to keep the charger in my gear bag at all times.
I was excited to receive the Motorola Droid 2, but unfortunately that excitement hasn't lasted. This is certainly not a bad phone, but it's not a "wow" phone either.
The main disappointments, aside from a major glitch with the mobile hotspot service, are the annoyingly indistinct buttons and the mediocre voice quality. If you're interested in this phone, I'd advise you to try it out in person before buying it.
In my opinion, there are better Android smartphone options available from Verizon.