It's pretty amazing to think how far Android has come in just one year. Just 12 months ago we were getting all excited about the T-Mobile G1 and the promises that Android 1.0 held. Fast forward 365 days and we're looking at all that potential realized--the Motorola DROID is simply a fantastic device and Android 2.0 makes it all the more amazing. The DROID is our faith in Android, re-affirmed.
But obviously, there's more to the DROID than just realizing Android's potential. How does it all come together? How good is the touchscreen? How sturdy is the build? How good is it as a phone? Read on to find out in our full review of the Motorola DROID!
Hit the jump to read Android Central's full review of the Verizon Motorola DROID!
*we've decided to split our Motorola DROID Review in two--one review for the hardware and one review for Android 2.0. The hardware review is today and the review of Android 2.0 will come over the weekend!*
What makes the DROID a uniquely styled device in a world of soft curves and round shapes, is that the DROID is all hard lines and clean cuts. Motorola wasn't simply designing the phone to fall in line but rather demanding it to stand out. The build is completely industrial--from the materials used (metal and glass) to the overall weight of the phone (it's not light)--it all adds together to make for one of the most strikingly styled devices in recent memory.
And we're sure, with such bold styling, the DROID might not be for everyone. We admit that in pictures it looks blocky and bulky but when seen and held for the first time, the quality build shines through and you'll have a very luxurious phone in your hand. We think most people will lean toward loving the style but if you don't, you'll definitely appreciate the craftsmanship.
Starting with the front face of the phone, the DROID is all screen. In fact, you can easily mistaken this as a 'one-slab' device a la iPhone 3GS if you didn't know better. The touch sensitive buttons line the bottom of the screen (Back, Menu, Home, Search) and though they're styled nicely, we can't help but think a pressure-sensitive option would be a better option. There's been occasions where we accidentally hit a button that we didn't intend to. It's not the biggest issue, but it's definitely worth noting.
The biggest sticking point for users, design-wise, might be the fact that the screen top half of the phone doesn't line up with the keyboard bottom half. Think of it as an anti-chin, actually. It's an interesting design choice that doesn't really affect usage in portrait mode but slightly affects using the phone in landscape (more on that later). We're impartial to this choice because we think it gives the phone more depth and character.
The back of the DROID is certainly notable. The strip of gold that lines the speaker gives the DROID a kind of throwback, luxurious look in a world of aluminum, plastic, and chrome. The back of the DROID also houses a matte finish that offers much needed traction to a sharp phone.
The DROID is a bigger device than its Android predecessors and with sharp corners, it doesn't do anything to dispute that notion (no tricky curves or chins here). It also gives off a rather masculine look that we consider to be bold and daring. So yes, overall, we absolutely love the design of the DROID. We can definitely understand those who are hesitant to call a phone that looks like a glass brick (in a good way) beautifully designed, but we're glad Motorola took the road less traveled when designing the DROID.
This is where the DROID will simply stun users. We can't even exaggerate how beautiful the screen is. It's a 3.7-inch screen with 480x854 resolution that combines vibrant colors and wonderful rendering of text. Everything looks crystal clear. Compared to the iPhone 3GS 3.5-inch 320x480 screen, it's really no contest--the iPhone looks downright old. Once you look at the DROID screen, you'll wonder why this isn't the new standard and why your phone doesn't have it--old screens become borderline blurry.
And it's not just the resolution, it's nice to have such a big screen because the Android software keyboard becomes instantly more usable. We'll be honest, the Android software keyboard isn't the best soft keyboard around (we prefer HTC's take) but on the screen of the DROID, our typing just flies. And plus since there's more overall screen real estate, pulling up the soft keyboard still leaves a ton of room for your viewing pleasure. You won't feel cramped at all.
The DROID's touchscreen is also the most responsive touchscreen we've had on an Android device. That could be due to a number of reasons: the touchscreen itself, the very capable processor (iPhone 3GS & Palm Pre have similar processors), or maybe even Android 2.0 being optimized for high octane purposes. Unfortunately, the DROID won't launch with multitouch (on Verizon at least) because, well, we don't really know exactly why. Multitouch makes touchscreen experiences so much more intuitive that it's almost inane to not include it. The iPhone has it. The Pre has it. The Hero has it (in the browser). The DROID should have it. What's the deal?
Keyboard & Buttons
We'll be honest. You won't find many people who'll love the hardware keyboard on first impression. Even though the buttons click fine with a great springiness to it that results in a satisfying click and the layout and look seem decent enough, it still takes time to get used to. The problem with the keyboard is that it's not easy to tell when one button starts and where the other one ends, so typing fast is somewhat muted because you end up 'typinh fasdt'.
But we'll also be honest. We're definitely improving on the hardware keyboard. It's strange to think of a hardware keyboard having a learning curve, but the Droid's keyboard definitely has one. Keep hammering away and we're sure you'll be up and ready someday.
Typing is made more awkward because of the extension the bottom half of the phone has. Remember typing on the G1, trying to position your hand over the chin? It's not as bad as that, but it's a similar feeling. You feel like you're overcompensating with your right hand and there's a slight awkwardness to the motion. So the odd design choice of the 'anti-chin' comes back to bite us where the 'chin' already has. Weird.
The 5-way d-pad is borderline useless. We think Motorola only put it in there to add more gold accents to the DROID because we never found a real need for it. Sure, it's nice to hit the down button every once in a while to get through text input screens but we feel the touchscreen trumps it nearly every time. We're not sure if eliminating the d-pad and spacing the keys would've helped the keyboard (it might've be too wide) but it's worth thinking about.
The four touchscreen buttons on the front face of the phone are fun to use but not practical in the day-in, day-out routine. When holding the phone in landscape mode whether to use the landscape soft keyboard (which is amazing) or take a picture, we've accidentally hit a button we weren't supposed to hit. If those buttons were pressure-sensitive instead of touch-sensitive it wouldn't be an issue. Also, the backlight on touchscreen buttons backlight sometimes disappear when you're using the phone, which makes it really tough to see if you hit menu or back.
Camera, Battery Life & Specs
The Specs of the DROID are as follows:
- 3.7-inch WVGA (854x480), 16:9 touchscreen
- Arm Cortex A8 550 MHz Processor
- 5-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash
- DVD-quality video capture and playback (720x480)
- 16GB microSD (32GB expandable)
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- QWERTY keyboard
- 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS (with Google Maps Navigator)
- 1400 mAh battery
- Android 2.0
The Arm Cortex A8 processor really shines through and performance on the DROID is amazingly speedy. Let's be honest, the speed bump was much needed in Android and we're very happy that the DROID launched with this new processor (iPhone 3GS & Pre have it). We think that this is the new standard for smartphones and hope to see it pop up in more Android devices in the near future. It's definitely capable enough to put us through until Snapdragon becomes usable. As long as we can all agree not to go back to the dark ages of the G1 on 1.0, we'll be satisfied.
Other neat details about the DROID is that it uses microUSB to charge (which certainly helps in thinness) and has a convenient charging light next to the microUSB port. The DROID also comes with a unobtrusive notification light that seriously blends into the front face of the phone--we were amazed when it lit up and couldn't even point it out when it was off. There's also two Verizon Logos, two Motorola logos, and one 'with Google' logo on the DROID--thankfully they're all relatively subtle. The DROID also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, a lock/unlock power button, a volume rocker, and a dedicated camera button--they're all very well placed.
We're going to go into more detail with full comparison shots at a later date but in the mean time, the 5-megapixel camera with LED Flash on the DROID is well, pedestrian. Maybe the specs of the camera oversold it for us, but we expected a lot better performance. The best place to use the camera is outdoors, in perfect weather and perfect lighting. When you get indoors, colors begin to look washed and the whole picture looks hazy, it just seems like the camera doesn't handle light properly. We don't know who to point the blame to, Motorola for packing a weak camera or Google for messing up the software but either way, we expected a lot more. We'll show you guys in better detail soon, but just trust us for the time being. Keep your point & shoot around.
On the flip side, the battery life is pretty impressive. We've been pounding away on the DROID and it's been taking everything punch. Your mileage will obviously vary, but even under heavy usage (GPS, 3G, Wi-Fi, video streaming), we could easily get a full's day worth without having to re-charge. You won't find an anemic battery in this DROID.
Phone & Network
It's the Network. We've always been AT&T and T-Mobile users here at Android Central (partly because they've had the best phones) which meant we were forced to live with the ups and downs of both networks. On Verizon, everything just works and it makes the DROID a better phone. There's no dropped calls, rarely does it ever go to speeds less than 3G, and simply no excuses whatsoever. Verizon has a robust network that allows them to brag that 'there's a map for that' and they should continue to brag, we really love being on Verzon's network. Having such a great phone on Verizon's network is an obvious gamechanger. Obviously the rate plans are sky high and that's something you have to take into consideration but at least with Big Red, you get quality service for what you pay.
Call quality is great, callers sound pronounced and clear. The DROID works really well as a phone. There's no digitalization and we're certain you'll enjoy making calls on the DROID. The speakerphone is also lovely, whether you're using it for phone conversations or playing music, it gives a clear sound with little to no static or cracks. The phone application in Android also gets a facelift and we think it's much improved.
Final Hardware Thoughts
What makes this release so much more special than all the others is that this is Android's first 'no compromise' device. It's not a perfect device, as no device is, but it dares to strive for perfection and cuts no corners in doing so. How many devices can you say do that? Think about the features people want in a phone. Hardware keyboard. Brilliant touchscreen. Powerful OS. Great network. Beautiful hardware. Sturdy build. Fast. Just make a list and the DROID checks them all.
We really have to give kudos to both Motorola and Verizon for creating and delivering such an amazing phone. Motorola, with their backs against the walls, had the audacity to build a phone that cut no corners and truly delivered in the hardware department. Verizon, having passed on the iPhone and stuck with a great network with no phone anyone wanted to use, took a chance on Android and received a beautiful device that is only strengthened by the best network in America. Motorola, Verizon, and Google all deserve credit for pushing out the device that has officially raised the bar for Android smartphones and smartphones in general.
We're sure that a lot of users will be introduced to Android with the Motorola DROID, and they're lucky, it's simply a stunning device to use. And though there are some oddities in the keyboard department and the camera, the build quality and overall hardware direction more than make up for it. The Motorola DROID is one heck of a device and we have no problem in saying it's the best Android phone on the market (even only a month since we said the same thing about the Sprint HTC Hero).
We think if you're in the market for a new smartphone, the DROID is the best option available. We think if you can swallow paying Big Red their monthly rate or already a Verizon customer, it's an even easier decision. Seriously, if you want the best phone on the best network--the DROID is it. It's that simple.
If you're a T-Mobile G1, myTouch 3G, Sprint HTC Hero, Motorola CLIQ, or Samsung Moment owner, don't worry, you still have Android 2.0 to look forward to and that deserves it own review. Stay tuned.