The Motorola Droid is the first handset offering from Verizon Wireless that runs the Android operating system. In the year since it’s release, Android has been available in the U.S. on HTC handsets branded by American mobile carrier T-Mobile. The Droid, from Motorola, was highly anticipated because it runs version 2.0 of Android and is backed by the nation’s best wireless network, Verizon Wireless.
What’s new in Android 2.0? Mainly some nice user interface changes that add some sparkle to the user experience. Also is the new version of Google Maps with full driving directions, much like your Garmin or regular GPS. You see, the older versions of Google Maps on the mobile give you driving directions, but can’t re-route you if you go off course and don’t provide real-time status of where you’re heading.
Opening the Box
The Droid is kept in minimal packaging, which is good for environmental reasons. After getting the back box open, you get your first glimpse of the Droid…a piano black lined phone that has a massive 3.7″ screen that dominates the front of the device. At the bottom of the front of the device are the conventional Android buttons including the universal ‘back’ button, menu key, home screen, and search button.
On the right hand side of the device you have the volume rocker and camera keys and the left side features the micro-USB port that is intended for memory card access and charging. The Droid can charge of a USB connection to your computer – which is a handy feature if you are without the AC adapter. The back of the device shows the 5.0 megapixel camera and battery cover.
The Droid has a unique feature: a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard. Once flipped out, a directional pad is revealed for navigation on the screen. The giant screen should he highlighted as well as it is the best capacitive touch screen I have used outside of an iPhone. One advantage the Droid has is the haptic feedback when you press and interact with the screen.
It should be noted that not everyone digs the Droid’s styling – the form factor is dominated by black and gold, reminiscent of the 1970’s to some folks who I’ve shown the device to.
The Motorola Droid comes stacked with hardware and software features that set it apart from the competition. The 3.7″ capacitive touchscreen is vibrant that colors pop off it’s screen because of its remarkable 480×854 WVGA screen. It has a 1400 mAh battery that gets you easily through a full day of use. Out of the box, the Droid supports Exchange email as well as Gmail and other IMAP/POP mail services. The Bluetooth stack enables you to do file transfer and A2DP full stereo for headsets and other device.
The onboard Google Maps application is augmented with an aGPS chip that quickly locks on to satellites for navigation. Also, for media purposes, a standard 3.5 mm jack allows for audio output. Utilizing the Bluetooth stack, you can also stream music to Bluetooth-capable receivers and Bluetooth enabled headphones.
The Droid features a 5 megapixel camera that is capable of “DVD quality video capture”. I never tested the video capability, but the pictures on the Droid were of good quality – not as great as a Nokia N97 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss Lens, but definitely better than the iPhone’s camera.
Motorola outfitted the Droid with a rockin’ 550Mhz processor. This great move makes the Droid zip through tasks such as web surfing, email, and other intensive applications. The Droid excels at multi-tasking, a much needed feature that again differentiates this device from the iPhone.
Applications, Applications, Applications
One great feature of any Android-based mobile phone is its awesome app selection, thanks go the Android Market. Where the iPhone is known as the “app king” amongst phones, the Droid isn’t too far behind. Every must-have app that I utilize daily on the iPhone is available in the Android Market. This includes Foursquare, Evernote, Flixter Movies, The Weather Channel, and many others.
Downloading and installing applications is quick and easy – just search, find it, and install, all within the Android Market. The Droid isn’t tied to a computer for updates to the Operating System…I installed an Android OS update using over the air (OTA) updating. Again, this can’t be done on the iPhone – you must utilize iTunes to install such an update on an iPhone or iPod Touch and are therefore tied down to a computer to complete this task. Which is a bummer if you travel a lot or are on the go, away from your home computer.
Another application that is quite enjoyable is the YouTube app. Not only can you watch and rate videos, but you can shoot video directly on your Droid handset and instantly upload it to your YouTube page. It’s the perfect solution for grabbing quick videos and sharing them with your contacts online.
Using the Phone/Performance
What is the Droid like to use as a day-to-day device? Quite heavenly, actually. The Droid has a powerful enough battery to last a full day of use, including heavy data usage (ie web surfing, app usage, and so forth). The camera makes it easy to snap photos and share them on the web via Facebook or Twitter.
One great feature of the Droid (and Android in general) – when you sign into the phone with your Google account credentials, your Google Contacts, Google Calendar, and Gmail are all synced automatically. No need to configure each program individually, like my Nokia devices.
The Droid is snappy enough to run multiple applications simultaneously without slowing down. Also, the navigation features of Google Maps on the Droid are stellar!
I was able to get about a day and a half of battery life out of the Droid, which included pretty much consistent use of heavy apps such as: email, Twitter, Facebook, and Evernote. The Droid does have a user-replaceable battery in case you run out of juice in the middle of your day.
The only usability factor I didn’t like about the Droid is the hardware QWERTY keyboard. I couldn’t get used to the key layout and found this keyboard laborious to use. I much preferred the software keyboard which is a rarity for me. I normally always prefer to type on a hardware keyboard on devices such as my Nokia N97 and N900.
The Droid from Motorola is by far the best handset in the Verizon Wireless line-up. Even though I’m not crazy about the Droid’s looks, this is by far the most useful and dynamic phone Verizon Wireless has ever released.
This phone has almost everything (other than looks), a smooth and sexy operating system, full app selection and support, awesome camera, all combined with that stellar performing Verizon Wireless voice/data network.
Aside from the OK keyboard, the Droid is a high-powered, web-savvy smartphone that will make anyone happy who buys it and uses it on a daily basis.