ProsGood internet connectivity
3G Data Sharing application(s) available
Turn-By-Turn Directions (for free!)
Configurability for the "tinkerer"
Verizon Network Coverage
ConsInconsistent User Interface
Spotty Copy/Paste Availibility
Poor Battery Life
Poorly Designed Keyboard
Screen Touch Sense Accuracy
Full ReviewSo you have decided that it is time to finally get that new mobile phone. You like the new iPhone, but for some reason you just cannot bear to change over to AT&T. Every time you walk into the Verizon retail store, you get mauled by sales people who have all types of phones (some of which you don't even think are classified as phones anymore because they have more keys than a baby-grand) that they say are perfect for you. Their favorite little gadget seems to be the Droid by Motorola. Is it for you? Read on to find out.
The Motorola Droid is a touch screen enabled smart phone with a sliding QWERTY keyboard and a 5MP digital camera. When turned to full brightness, the screen is visible in direct sunlight. With the Android operating system, the phone has access to Google's Android Market, which hosts (at the time of this writing) somewhere around 75,000 applications. Many of these applications are free, and many cost a fee.
Facts about the phone may be interesting, but facts cannot convey user experience. How does the phone perform? What are its limitations? How does it compare with the iPhone from Apple?
The Motorola Droid is a very capable phone. If you have used other smart phones in the past the Droid would serve as a great replacement. Gmail users will be pleased with the seamless integration with many/most of Google's services. Contacts, email, calendars, maps; all are very usable. One minor irritation with the email application is that there appears to be no way to copy text from a message in the inbox (or any other box for that matter). Copy and Paste features are available on the phone, just not in certain areas. Contact management has been no problem though, as Apple's Address Book is able to sync contacts with Google's online system easily.
Another benefit for some is the fact that you can configure the Droid to install applications that are not listed on the Android Market. This is a definite advantage for "gadget guys" and "tech freaks" who want to tweak the phone's applications and settings, but likely is not a big benefit for everyday users.
The built in web browser is very capable, and it appears to have few problems with most web sites. Of course, there is no Flash support (the next version of Android is supposed to have Flash, but there is no guarantee that it will work on the Droid), but that is no different than most other mobile devices. The most recent version of the browser allows features similar to the iPhone, such as pinch to zoom and double tap to zoom. Scrolling is smooth most of the time, but more complex sites with heavy use of graphics can make the browser slow down a great deal. Overall, basic internet functionality is pretty good. You can even get an application in the Market that allows you to share your 3G internet connection with your computer.
One of the most compelling applications for the Android operating system is the Maps application from Google. With the version of Android on the Motorola Droid, Maps has turn-by-turn directions. The best part is that they actually work. There is even a special car kit with a windshield mount that can allow you get additional functionality from the Maps application. All in all, this is one of the best features of the device. The GPS is fast enough to use while driving, and accurate enough to tell you almost exactly when a turn or "slight right" is necessary. The best part about this app is the price: free!
Though it is a good device, it is not a great one. For starters, if you are in the market for a phone with a good sliding QWERTY keyboard the Motorola Droid is not it. Typing is slow at best and confusing and difficult at worst. The touch screen looks great, but when you are actually using the device it becomes apparent that it is not as accurate as that of an iPhone. Smaller targets on screen are sometimes impossible to register a touch, and it drains the battery very quickly.
If you are expecting a device that has a lot of storage for media, you will be half-way pleased. There is a lot of storage on the phone for user data. The device comes with 16GB and could be upgraded to 32GB according to various reports.
The ultimate problem with this phone (and really the problem with Android based devices in general) is that there is very little consistency in the user interface. Most of the time people think that this is not a truly important issue, and simply believe it is a minor gripe. However, if you have used an iPhone or iPod Touch from Apple and then use the Motorola Droid, you get the impression that the Droid was released before it was complete. The copy paste feature not being present in Gmail is a good example. Another is even between Google's own applications, there is often a sense of "Oh, that's something that will be fixed later." In Google Places (an application which helps you find businesses based on category that are near your current location), you can choose a business, see it on a map, and are also given the option of opening the entry in the Maps application in order to get turn-by-turn directions. This is a great feature, or at least it would be if it worked. Apparently, Google Places sends GPS coordinates to Google Maps, but Google Maps expects to get a street address instead. This reduces you to spending five minutes going back and forth between the applications trying to remember the address to type into Google Maps. Why back and forth? Because copy and paste features are apparently not enabled in the Google Places application either. The list could go on forever, with menu systems not having any common elements between applications, no commonality for screen navigation, and other issues that seem insignificant, but all add up to a major blow to the user experience.
In ClosingIf you wish to stay with Verizon, the Motorola Droid is a good (not great) pick. Folks who like to tinker with gadgets will enjoy the phone and the ability to configure a lot of various aspects. If you are someone who just wants a smart phone, you might want to consider one of the Android offerings from HTC, such as the Droid Eris or the Droid Incredible. HTC does quite a bit of work to put some "spit and polish" on the Android operating system, while the Motorola Droid has the stock Android interface from Google. When comparing the Droid to Apple's iPhone, there really is no contest. Certainly Apple and it's iPhone have flaws, but overall the user experience is much better. Applications are more restricted, but as a result seem to be more consistent. Perhaps companies like HTC will inspire others like Motorola to spend the effort needed to take Android beyond the default configuration. After all, no competition in any market is bad for everyone, and this is no exception. Apple needs at least one major rival to spur it to continue innovating, and the rest of the industry needs Apple to do the same for it. In the end, a market like that is definitely a win for the consumer.