If you’re a Droid-chaser, you’ve no doubt been hooked to BGR for the past few weeks (more than normal, maybe?). We have our very own Motorola Droid handset, and although the software isn’t final, it’s solid enough where we feel comfortable giving you a nice preview of the unit. Remember, again, this isn’t a final unit and things can and will change for the better. Read on for our Motorola Droid Preview!
P.S. As we have been doing, we’ll follow up on this preview with a review based on a retail unit at release.
P.P.S. I just want to add that this is a Google Experience phone, and my line about Verizon and GPS was a joke. Verizon hasn’t and won’t touch or control any functionality on the Droid. GPS is 100% open, there’s Wi-Fi, Android Market, etc.
Hardware / Build quality:
When the Motorola Droid is released in the coming couple weeks, it will be the most advanced Android device on the market as far as specifications go. Software too, as it’s the only one said to be running Android 2.0 until months from now, but that’s for another section. There’s a 550MHz Texas Instruments OMAP3430 processor, separate PowerVR GPU, 256MB of RAM, CDMA Rev A., Wi-Fi, GPS, a digital magnetometer, accelerometer, proximity sensors, a 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual-LED flash, notification LED, four touch-sensitive navigation buttons, a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port — jesus. In the last year or two, spec sheets really haven’t meant all that much to people. Rational people, that is. What means a lot more is the OS your phone is running since that’s what going to enable you to take bad ass pictures and immediately share them with a close group of friends, or edit work documents on your phone while conducting an online presentation, and so on. But what’s actually pretty funny is, Android devices have been a little underpowered, so the spec sheets do matter, and the Motorola Droid absolutely topples every single Android device ever released as far as the hardware specifications are concerned.
We love the build quality of this phone. It’s mostly metal, and while it’s heavy, it gives you a reassuring quality feel that you just don’t find much nowadays as handsets get thinner, lighter, smaller, and cheaper. It’s practically the opposite of the Motorola CLIQ as far as the physical attributes of the device goes. Really solid and it seems to be manufactured very well. The slider is not spring-assisted, but when you push the metal bezel around the gorgeous display upwards, you get a satisfying click. It does the same when you slide it closed as well.
It’s the largest capacitive screen we’ve ever seen and it’s positively amazing. It’s crisp, sharp, vibrant, bright, and really, really responsive. It’s almost iPhone-level in terms of the capacitive touch. We’re not sure if the screen is glass or plastic (we’ve heard glass but it’s incredibly hard to tell), but it doesn’t seem like it would scratch easily regardless of the material. The 3.7 inch display powers a 854×480 resolution image and shows off Android’s true colors. You see what we did there?
What’s interesting is this whole touch-button phase. On the HTC Desire/Predator/Your face, it also features touch-sensitive buttons just like the Droid does. The great part about the Droid’s implementation is that there’s haptic feedback when you press a button and to be perfectly honest, we don’t mind them at all. Would we prefer physical keys? Yeah, sure, but these work just fine and we haven’t come across any problematic occurrences.
Everyone is bitching over the keyboard. Well, it’s probably better than you’d think, but it’s not perfect. As has been discussed ad nauseum, the unit we have has two blank keys. They don’t press in at all, so it’s not just like there isn’t anything written on them, they are just flat. We had initially been told this was because the keyboard design wasn’t finalized, and if you’ve been Droid-chasing for a while you’ll have noticed many different keyboard revisions. Love it or hate it, this keyboard design is actually final and will be on the device you buy from your favorite Verizon Wireless store. As far as the actual ‘board goes, there isn’t as much feedback as we’d have liked from the keys, but since the phone is so darn thin, there had to be compromises somewhere. People have asked why Motorola didn’t just make the phone into a keyboard-less version, and our answer would have to be: they are. We like the keyboard on the Droid and we’re really anal about keyboards. The directional pad on the right is a little weird at first but it doesn’t hamper your typing too much, but there isn’t enough tactile feedback to make it perfect. Something that’s a little annoying is the proximity of one key to another key, but all in all we’ve been able to bang out emails, texts, and other forms of text entry very efficiently on the hardware keyboard very quickly after using the device. It’s not the best, but it certainly isn’t bad, and it’s definitely better than the T-Mobile G1’s keyboard.
And oh… a ton of people are asking, and we’re not sure why you wouldn’t assume it already, but you can indeed use the on-screen keyboard in portrait as well as landscape mode.
Phone calling / speaker / call quality:
The Droid sounds great as a phone. Calls with the handset over Verizon’s network sounded clear and the phone application itself performed really well. It’s speedy and there weren’t any hiccups unlike some other Android devices we’ve fooled around with. The dialpad is pretty standard and if you’ve used an Android device, you should be right at home as this is a straight Google affair after all. Google Voice obviously works flawlessly (we’re not sure why it wouldn’t, unless you’re talking about the animal sacrifices Verizon makes to disable GPS on the phone…) and the phone application is quick! That’s probably what we love most about it… number dialed. Call connected. Have a nice day.
Ah, Android 2.0. We’ve detailed it quite a bit, but we can definitely explore it a little more for you… I personally never liked Android 1.0. Well, that’s not true completely. I liked it, but I just didn’t see it being the OS we expected. It wasn’t polished, it wasn’t fluid, it offered very basic functionality — not a good way to start. What has happened between Android 1.0 and 2.0 is that a lot of missing functionality has been added, the UI has been made a little bit more streamlined in some places, and it generally brings the OS up to speed with other mobile platforms. Out of the box Exchange compatibility is our absolutely favorite new feature, but we’re sure people will appreciate the new unified email Inbox, voice commands / search, a new Google Maps, better multimedia support, a new browser, and the list goes on and on. Once you have a chance to use Android 2.0 on any device, whether it’s HTC or Motorola or Samsung, we think you’re going to love it.
This might come as a shock to many, but the Motorola Droid has the best battery life out of any Android device we’ve ever tested. It completely smokes the Motorola CLIQ — obviously it’s not constantly pushing as much data, but it’s not even a fair comparison. With push Exchange configured, Facebook, and a linked push Google account (Gmail, contacts, etc.) we had no problem lasting through a whole day of usage. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi were disabled, but it’s still a pretty amazing performer as far as the battery is concerned. Yes, it has a user-replaceable battery, but it’s probably good enough to be sealed up to be honest. Motorola recently made a boo boo and let the Droid appear on their website, and official battery times are: 6.5hrs of continuous usage (phone + web + email + anything else, continually) or around 270 hours of standby time.
There’s a really cool accessory that we’re told will be available at launch and it’s a charging dock/multimedia station. It turns your phone into an alarm clock/weather display/music player by using a magnet to control and launch the corresponding application. We discovered that by putting the phone in our BlackBerry 9700 holster in a certain position, Car Home would launch.
We then moved the magnet and the multimedia mode launched, so we’re guessing there’s going to be some sort of car cradle/dock/thing that will be available as well in addition to the above station.
You know how we roll at BGR, we don’t hold anything back — if it’s hot, it’s hot. If it’s not, it’s not, and we’re not afraid to call it like it is. The Motorola CLIQ was a pretty big disappointment for me personally, but oh man does the Droid make up for it. Sure, there’s a little hype sprinkled in because this is the first Android 2.0 device I’ve had the pleasure of using, but once you move past the initial “wow” factor, the Droid really delivers. Whether it’s Verizon’s ad campaign or Motorola’s that pits the Droid against the iPhone it doesn’t matter. The Droid isn’t an iPhone competitor because nothing at this point in time is an iPhone competitor besides the new iPhone. And things don’t have to be right now. Everyone can eat. So will the Motorola Droid be successful? Absolutely, we think. It will eat in to BlackBerry sales, Windows Mobile sales, and positively murder any lingering Palm Pre sales. It’s that good. Did you notice how Verizon still hasn’t announced the BlackBerry Storm2?
We really enjoyed using the Motorola Droid and think you’re going to love it. It’s not as straight forward as an iPhone and a little more involved than a BlackBerry, but if you’re up for the challenge, so is the Droid.
There are a couple more comparison shots below!