Motorola Droid and Android Review
The Motorola Droid handset is the first Android 2.0 device to become commercially available exclusively on Verizon's 3G Network. The Droid is a high-powered Android phone, maybe the best Android experience to date. It comes with a very large high-resolution screen, a compact design, high-resolution camera, a physical QWERTY keyboard and Google latest build of Android. The Motorola Droid is a Google experience device, meaning that Google helped Motorola's software team on the implementation of the new Android SDK (2.0) which comes preinstalled with all of Google's pristine applications: Gmail, Maps (with voice navigation), Browser (new), Calendar, Contacts, gTalk, Voice Search, YouTube. Google has also added native support for Exchange; however, I have not been able to try this out due to not being connected to an Exchange server. Another big selling point that is being advertised is the new Google Navigation Beta application that comes pre-installed on the Droid with voice to text and vice versa for easy hands free navigation on the go.
NOTE: The Motorola Droid has been my only smart phone.
Before I get into my review let me provide some basic information to put this in context for you: I have been using the Droid as my main phone for one month now. During this time, I tracked emails from my Gmail account. My calendars and contacts were synced with my associated Google Account. I stay heavily connected to friends, family, and co-workers via Facebook and Twitter. The Android 2.0 Operating System allows for multiple contact sync networks (initially Facebook and Google Contacts) allowing for thumbnail pictures and information synced with your phone's contact information. I read and reply to both emails and social networking sites frequently. I browse the internet several times a day to view random blogs and to keep up to date on my subscribed RSS feeds via Google Reader mobile-edition. I don't call much though, 10-15 minutes per day. Your usage pattern is what affects the battery life on the Droid the most. It also will influence our views on different features of the phone itself. With that out of the way, let us continue with the review.
The Droid is a solid built Android device. The phone itself is much smaller than other QWERTY slider phones on the market. This phone comes with a beautiful 854x480 display that is top of the market leaving the iPhone 3GS's 480x320 display behind (almost 2x better resolution). The slider requires more force than other slider phones, but it feels more solid and has a "click" when the phone "locks" in position. The keyboard is much different than other keyboards on QWERTY phones by having a very flat layout, but the keys themselves are a tad bit bigger than on other devices. Overall the Droid is a smidgen larger than the iPhone 3GS (but has a physical keyboard) and the Droid also weights about 25% more. Many people believe that the physical keyboard is not needed, but I am here to say that the physical keyboard adds to the experience that is the Droid. Having the option to switch between the physical and virtual keyboards has its pluses and minuses. For personal use I tend to use the virtual keyboard for short typing and the physical keyboard for longer messages.
Like many recent devices, the Droid is sporting the Micro-USB to charge and sync. It is great and I would prefer to use a standard unlike in years past where phone makers forced users to buy their respective charger. The Micro-USB port is not in an ideal position since it is right under the QWERTY keyboard (it gets in the way if you try to use the phone while charging). There is a standard 3.5mm audio jack at the top of the phone. I have noticed that it is not the best of quality audio jack and that sudden movements of the phone cause extra noise to be transmitted down the line (and sometimes loss of connection). On the back of the phone is the 5 Megapixel camera with a dual LED flash. Next to the battery cover there is a external speaker which is used for games, media, and speaker phone.
Starting a phone call is very simple. You can dial a number on the virtual numeric pad, slide the keyboard and search for a contact, select one from the contact list manually, or use the voice dialing application (doesn't work with Bluetooth, yet). I tend to use the favorites list or the call log to make calls. Currently, you must use the physical keyboard to type out a contacts name, but you can use the virtual keyboard to search for a contact instead. One strange thing about the contact list is that you can't change the way they the contacts are ordered (aka you can't order contacts by last name). I have noticed that the volume on the phone is pretty good as far as in call volume goes (my blue tooth is a little quite, but that might be due to my headset device and not the phone). However, the phone's volume sounds a little more muffled than other phones that I have used (this muffling doesn't carry over to Bluetooth). Overall the basic phone features are well laid out on this phone.
##Web Browsing (Android Browser)
The high resolution screen makes for a great web browsing experience. One complaint is that there is no multitouch zoom (pinch&zoom), but rather to zoom on the Droid you must double-tap. Upon a double-tap on a section of a web page the browser attempts to figure out the boundaries of the content and then zooms to that level. It's not always perfect, but is pretty close and is better than using the zoom button on the lower right of the screen. The thing about the double-tap is that it will only zoom once and will not get closer, only further away. I have read that other users have been able to unlock this feature in the operating system by rooting their phones. Another thing that would make the browsing experience better is if the phone's bookmarks would be synced with the cloud. Unlike a number of other things on the phone, bookmarks are not synced with the cloud. Google has recently adapted bookmark sync with their Google Chrome browser (which works wonderfully). If this was supported on the phone it would make the transition between phone and PC much more seamless.
Some of the other problems with the browser experience are due to the fact that Adobe has yet to release an officially supported flash player for the Android OS (or other mobile platforms for that matter). It has been said that this support will come to major mobile platforms in 2010. This hasn't been a large problem for me as I wouldn't try and watch a TV show from Hulu on my mobile device. Another web service that I would like to see more native support on the Droid is Google Docs (you can view, but cannot edit). Overall, the browsing experience is quite polished, but is missing some major updates to become great.
For email on the Motorola Droid you have two options: 1. Use your phone's Google Credentials for the Gmail application, or 2. Use the Email application to use POP/SMTP/IMAP to use a remote server's mail locally on your phone. There is native support out of the box for Exchange Servers, yet I have not been able to use this due to not having an Exchange Server. It has also been reported that it is true push email similar to BlackBerry equivalents. The Email application allows for multiple email inboxes to be aggregated into a single combined inbox on the phone. One thing that would make the Email application better would be to add search functionality similar to the Gmail application's, but this would not be deal breaker since I don't spend a lot of time trying to find an email.
The camera is a 5 Megapixel camera with a dual LED flash. It has been noted that this camera's firmware does have a focusing problem that forced the camera to not focus every other 29 days. Google has noted this problem and has said that it will be solved in future firmware updates. The camera has a physical shutter button, which is a lot better than other phones (using either a trackball or clicking on the screen) to quickly snap photos. Having a physical button helps to hold the camera more steady when taking pictures.
The Droid has the capability to take DVD-resolution videos. The resolution itself is higher than the iPhone's 640x480, the Droid captures at 720x840 (3bps, 24.61fps, AAC Mono 16Khz). Along with the camera application videos also have a slight focusing problem. This focusing problem surfaces only when your object is within 2-3 feet or so. There is no native video editing application, which I do not see as a problem since when would I want to edit a video on my cell phone. A quick search in the Android market would more than likely rectify this "problem".
Verizon is selling the Droid with a pre-installed 16GB micro-USB card that could be replaced with a 32GB card further down the line. The Droid is not as much of a multimedia player device as much as say the iPhone (since Android wasn't created around the idea of a next-gen media interface), but still contains all the same functions.
Music: As usual with most mp3 players on the market, you are able to search by artist, album, song, or playlist. In addition Google has added a search by keyword (initiated by just typing in the music application). This seems to be very useful if you have a large number of media files.
The battery in the Droid is rated at just 1400mAh, but the Android 2.0 platform seems to do a great job of energy management. The single thing that you will need to watch out for is unnecessary use of the screen, the downside of having a big vibrant high resolution screen is that it is a power hog. It always tops my list of "battery drainers" on the Android Battery Life Test (which can be found under settings). This is a very useful quick tool to see what is using your battery in relative terms to other functions. From my testing, the music player doesn't drain the battery very much as long as the screen is turned off. Even using Google Navigation with the screen turned on with Pandora streaming the Droid lasted around 5.5 hours.
The Droid handset and Android 2.0 platform still need some polish and to the question "Is it an iPhone killer?" I would answer with a slight "No, it isn't" and I would add "for a few yes, it is". The experience is good and I would guess that once all the applications that you use are installed it will work for you. Users get the benefits of a great touch screen phone, a full QWERTY keyboard and an open OS. For a techsavy user this is no-question the phone to get, for an average user it is a great phone and will work for their basic needs. The main thing going against this phone is the fact that Android is not as widely supported as the iPhone system (for now). I personally believe that the Droid is not necessarily going to be the iPhone killer people make it out to be, but it will give both the iPhone and AT&T a run for their money. The best thing going for the Droid is the backing network, Verizon.
I personally believe that the Droid is going to spring jump the Android platform into the eyes of industry to get more support with applications and websites. There are a number of things that Google needs to do to get the Android platform up to par with the iPhone/iTouch, but they are well on their way. There are a number of Android supported smartphones coming to market in 2010 on the big 3 networks (Verizon, A&T&, and T-Mobile) including the Google Phone, Nexus Prime, that has been the talk of the web over the past week.
Pricing: $200 with rebates and a new contract, $120 upgrade for current customers. Best Buy and some other retailers have been reported to give an instant rebate, and not a mail-in rebate. The voice and data plan starts at around $70 per month (including taxes and other charges).