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
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.
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.)
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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 Devour is fitted with a 3-megapixel camera with fixed focus. There is no flash. Still pictures are presentable but appear a little dark.
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
- Verizon's V CAST suite of software.
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.