Motorola Devour review

The Motorola Devour (video hands-on) came at a tough point in the smartphone world. It's the first Android device from Moto and Verizon to come after the wildly popular Droid. And while we pretty much knew from the get-go that we weren't looking at a Droid 2 -- the smaller screen was an early giveaway -- that didn't really seem to lower expectations. In some ways, Moto met them. In others, not so much.

So join us after the break as we take a look at the Motorola Devour and find its place in the Android lineup.

Fit and finish

Motorola Droid and Devour

It's hard not to compare the Devour to the Droid. And so we won't even try to avoid it. Both are sturdy devices, cased in just two pieces of aluminum -- one for the sliding screen, and one for the base. But where the Droid has a sleek painted finish, the Devour sports brushed metal. It's not a bad finish at all, actually, and gives the phone much softer lines.

The Devour and Droid are roughly the same size, but the Devour has the feel of a teenager who never lost the baby fat, while the Droid grew into its skin quite nicely. The Devour is a tad lighter than the Droid at 5.89 ounces, and it definitely feels hefty in the hand. Size is 61.0 x 115.5 x 15.4mm -- actually just a tad wider than the Droid.

The bottom line is that there's a lot of wasted space on the Devour. You see what we mean when you look at the face of the Devour. At the bottom you have three soft buttons where there should be four. In the fourth button's place is a tiny LED that's used for notifications and to otherwise remind you that there's supposed to be a button in this space.

Motorola Devour

Below the buttons is the bottom bezel of the screen. It's another stretch of aluminum, with the Verizon logo on the right, and the square optical trackpad on the left. The optical trackpad is a welcome addition -- anything to take the place of that cursed trackball -- but it looks woefully out of place, a random black postage stamp on an otherwise graceful canvas.

The sides of the Devour are mostly a large rubber cutout ringed by the aluminum base, to help give the otherwise smooth surface some grip as they slope inward.

The left-hand bezel hides the battery microSD card. It has little rubber nubs that help you slide it down so that you can pry it off and get to the goods. (Watch our how-to video here.)

Motorola Devour battery doorMotorola Devour battery door

The bezel on the right houses the volume rocker and camera button. The top bezel houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and secondary microphone for noise cancellation. It continues onto the back, where it rings the 3-megapixel camera.

Motorola Devour review

The bottom bezel has the grill cutout for the excellent speaker (Motorola is still among the best at this -- the Devour's speaker is LOUD) and an antenna. The microphone is built into the front of the device, just below the three buttons.

The screen

The Devour sports a 3.1-inch glass capacitive touchscreen at 320x480 pixels, and it feels darn good to the touch. Unfortunately, it also suffers from gangliness, with a good quarter of an inch of unused space between it and the three buttons. We understand that there are standard screen resolutions to take into account here, but it just looks poorly thought out.

Motorola Devour

Otherwise, aside from being far from the largest screen in the Android realm, the Devour's is just fine. Sure, it's not the latest and greatest screen technology available, but it'll do. Colors are clear enough, the screen is bright enough and, gosh darn it, people like it.

The keyboard

The Devour is a horizontal slider device, where the screen pops up to reveal a four-row keyboard. The movement is fluid yet stable -- it doesn't feel like there are any parts that would easily give out.

The keyboard itself is a basic four-row scheme. It's tough to decide whether its simplicity is brilliant in that it doesn't overwhelm the user, or if it really has no place on a smartphone. The keys themselves feel OK, if a little small, cheap and plastic. And they're not staggered, meaning they don't quite line up the way you expect, same as on the Droid. The bottom row of letters -- z, x, c, v, b, n and m -- are on either side of the space bar. That's another odd piece of design. You can get used to it, but the fact that you *have* to get used to it isn't so great.

Motorola Devour keyboard

That said, the keyboard is better than the Droid's if only because the keys -- never mind their negatives -- are decently spaced. You can easily feel your way from one to another. There's also a dedicated number row, so no pecking around for the "Fn" key just to bang out a phone number.

Motorola Devour on-screen keyboard

Oh, and the on-screen keyboard? Let's just say that you're going to want to explore other options.

What's under the hood

We really try not to worry about these specs these days, especially when it comes to more "consumer-friendly" devices like the Devour. But here you go: there's a Qualcomm MSM7627 processor running at 600MHz alongside 512MB of onboard storage memory and 256MB of RAM. It's not going to blow you away, but it's fast enough.

The Devour is running Motoblur atop Android 1.6. And before you start bellyaching that here's yet another phone that's not running the latest and greatest version of Android, remember that if you're buying the Devour, or the Cliq, or the Cliq XT, you're likely doing so because it has Motoblur, and not because you care what Android version it's running.

Our review unit came with a 1390mAh battery (Moto says 1400 mAh on its Web site) rated at up to 389 minutes' talk time and 443 hours of standby time. We also had an 8GB microSD card; the phone supports up to 32GB.

But the bottom line is this is a pretty speedy phone. So much so that even if you care what's under the hood, you're not going to be worrying about it.

Speaking of Motoblur ...

We've mentioned "Motoblur" a few times now. If you're new to Android, Motoblur is Motorola's (thus the name) custom skin on top of Android that brings together information from nine sources -- MySpace, Facebook, Google, Twitter, POP e-mail, Corporate Sync (i.e. Exchange), Picasa, Photobucket and Yahoo! Mail.

Once you're signed into one or more of these services, you start seeing results -- in the form of Facebook status updates, tweets and the like -- flowing into the various widgets that are on the Devour's five (count 'em!) home screens. Some are more useful than others -- I don't really need my own latest tweet front and center all day long.

Motoblur is a big Achilles' heel these days. It's keeping devices from being updated to the latest version, and so they're stuck in Android 1.5/1.6 land. And such is the case with the Devour (1.6). We have no reason to believe that Motorola isn't working to update Motoblur, but it's certainly a limiting factor at this point.

The camera

The Devour is fitted with a 3-megapixel camera with fixed focus. There is no flash. Still pictures are presentable but appear a little dark.

Motorola Devour camera testMotorola Devour camera test

Motorola Devour camera testMotorola Devour camera test

Motorola Devour camera testMotorola Devour camera test

Video is surprisingly OK, actually, despite capturing at just 23 frames per second. YouTube doesn't do it any favors here, but it's pretty decent for a cell phone camera.

Other odds and ends

  •  Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR and Stereo playback.
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g
  • aGPS
  • Verizon's V CAST suite of software.

Conclusion

Motorola Devour

So who is the Devour right for? If you're a Verizon customer and have a hankering for some social networking integration, then that's you. That said, Motoblur leaves much to be desired, especially when you put it up against the likes of HTC Sense (which will be on the upcoming HTC Incredible on Verizon). You do, however, get the usual Verizon build quality. And any design quirks aside, the Devour feels as well-put together as the Droid.

Listed at $149.99 on contract with Verizon (and you can find it elsewhere for less), it's an OK option for someone looking to get into smartphones without much overhead. Unfortunately, Motoblur lowers the bar whereas a skin like Sense (or even Samsung's new Touchwiz 3.0) keep social networking integration at a high level without dumbing down the phone.

Motorola Devour review

 
There are 20 comments

trash!

moosc says:

Don't feel it should need the 30$ data. But it in this day vzw is charging roughly 90% of there phones with data requirement.

Um, a smartphone without the data plan is just dumb. Trust me this one uses just as much data as the Droid and other high end smart phones. More in a way because of motoblur which pushes data to your phone.

SpyBob says:

Moosc, dispite your 'feeling' on the data plan, this devise has every bit of the access any other pda has however dumbed down it may seem. I personally see no benefit to owning this device due to the Motoblur. If a customer asks me to compare it to the other Droid devices, an Eris will put it to shame especially with the capability of forcing it to 2.1. Blur offers nothing that isn't available on any other Android OS.

By all means then point me in the direction of a third party app that lets me look at ALL of my updates from FB, MS and Twitter all in one stream the way Motoblur does. Preferably with a widget but that's not essential...

jd says:

I like my Sense

delrey1900 says:

I'm glad I got the Droid...

afazel says:

So it's Verizon's Android-based Sidekick. Works for me :)

weehooherod says:

The edges of the curve where the keyboard slides out are so sharp! It hurts when you type.

I've used this phone pretty much daily since Feb and haven't had a problem....

kenc3dan says:

One thing about the Devour.
IT HAS REAL BLUETOOTH VOICE DIALING!
Droid may never have it.
Tried it in-store myself. My Droid is going back. Maybe the Incredible will work...you know, as a PHONE!
Motorola works in mysterious ways.

Gunner says:

Good point. That is the biggest selling point for the Devour, IMO. The biggest gripe about my Droid is lack of BT voice dialing. And Moto has more or less said they are never going to add it to the Droid.

Phil,

You forgot to mention the biggest downer for this phone in that the radio kinda sucks. The phone drops from 2bars of 3G to one bar of 1x for no reason whatsoever. Meanwhile the Droid only a few feet away has 3-4 bars of 3G steady. I sure hope they release a patch or something because it is getting very frustrating.

Other major downer: you can't RE TWEET from Motoblur. Motoblur makes it easy to quickly sift through a lot of tweets, status message updates, etc in a hurry. But when you find something you want to re tweet or something you want to copy and paste you have to go out of Motoblur, open Seesmic or the appropriate Facebook or MySpace app, find the tweet/post in question and do it from there. Not intuitive at all.

Also the battery life sucks compared to the droid. It's had more than enough time to settle in for me (I've had it since early Feb) but if I leave the power on the battery is dead by mid afternoon with little or no use. And try to find a spare battery!

Other than that I really like it!

SpyBob says:

VZWRocks, a fellow employee I assume.

employee of what? Verizon? No I'm not actually. I just think Verizon Rocks...

chozen1 says:

Anyone that complains about a $30 dollar data plan on a phone with pdanet, and free turn by turn directions along with all the other things these devices use needs to go an try to convince some network to let them reactivate their friggin startac, or a bagphone. growup and welcome to the future.

sjcea says:

I really hate the moto blur nonsense on these phones !! can that be disabled or what ???

The widgets can be dragged off the home screen, but Motoblur is built into the OS.

commentbug says:

thats kinda ugly

http://www.commentbug.com

JeffDenver says:

Tested this phone at the Verizon store and was not impressed. It looks and feels cheap. The "teenager who hasn't lost his babyfat" analogy is a good one. The only thing I liked on this phone was the hardware keyboard (it is far better than the Droid's IMO). But the interface looks messy and amateurish, and the craptastic low-res display doesn't help. The reviewer is wrong; the display looks really awful compared to other Android phones. Even cheaper ones.

If you are on Verizon and considering getting this phone, do yourself a favor and get an Eris instead. Then Eris is superior in virtually every way except the lack of a hardware keyboard. Oh yeah, and the Eris costs less too. The social networking widgets are simply not worth dealing with all the other flaws on this phone.