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Motorola Droid 2 review

Without question, the the Motorola Droid -- and Verizon's marketing blitz behind it -- is what really put the Android smartphone on the map. It's safe to say millions have been sold, and you've been hard pressed to watch an hour of television without hearing the unmistakeable call of "DROOIIIID" announcing the arrival of yet another commercial.

And now we have the Droid 2. Launched with little fanfare compared to its older brother and its cousins in the Droid line -- the HTC Droid Eris, HTC Droid Incredible and the Motorola Droid X -- the Droid 2 keeps with the look and feel of the original while adding some needed improvements.

So join us after the break as we take a closer look at the Droid 2 its place in Verizon's Droid line.

See also

Droid 2 video walkthrough | Benchmark tests | Must-have applications

Droid 2 accessories | Droid 2 forums

The hardware

At first glance, the Droid 2 doesn't appear too different from the original Droid. It retains the horizontal sliding keyboard, angular shape and industrial look and feel.

The original Motorola Droid, left, and the Droid 2.

The LCD touchreen remains the same 3.7-inch Gorilla Glass of the original. And it's as good as it ever was. The capacitive buttons below the screen have been rearranged to the menu-home-back-search layout, keeping consistent with the Droid X.

And just below the buttons is where we find our first major design change . The sharp sloped chin and ledge on the original Droid has been replace with a rounded scoop that extends to the bottom of the phone. It gives a softer feel to the front of the phone. Also, the front bezel of the phone no longer is made of metal. That eliminates much of the cold feeling of the original Droid, though it doesn't do much for weight, with both phones at 6 ounces.

Size-wise, the phones are identical at 60.5mm by 116.3mm by 13.7mm. No sense messing with a good thing, as the Droid 2 combines a large screen with pocketability.

The buttons of ports of the Droid 2 remain in their familiar places. The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are up top; the microUSB port (with new LED indicator) are on the left-hand bezel; and the volume up/down rocker is on the right-hand bezel. The volume buttons also have been reimagined a bit. They're more rounded and stand out a little more, making it easier to increase or decrease the volume level. The dedicated camera button is still there, though it's been toned down a tad and isn't quite as easy to find by feel.

The main microphone is on the bottom bezel. There's a second, noise-canceling mic on the rear of the phone, near the 5MP camera and flash. (Pro tip: Make sure any case you buy has a cutout for the secondary mic.)

And speaking of the camera, very little has changed here. It's in almost exactly the same place -- but not quite, meaning you'll likely need a new case. More on the camera in a bit.

The sliding keyboard has exactly the same feel as on the original Droid, and that's a good thing. It's solid, with just enough resistance to make you not worry about it breaking, but no so much that it's a pain to open. And you have the same familiar "click" sound when the keyboard is fully opened.

But once it is opened, that's when the biggest change becomes apparent. Gone is the copper-colored five-way directional pad that looked more like a fingerprint scanner than anything else, replaced by arrow keys and an OK button. And with that D-pad out of the way -- it took up about a sixth of the keyboard's width -- there's room for some real improvements.

The Droid 2's individual keys are wider and more raised than their predecessors -- two improvements that were sorely needed. And they feel pretty darn good. The alt and caps lock keys have shifted a tad, a tab key has been added, as has a key to trigger the voice search microphone. And those awkward blank keys from the original Droid are now gone.

The silkscreening of the keys' secondary functions -- punctuation, numbers and the link -- has changed from a copper color to blue. Again, a softening of the design.

The redesign of the keyboard on the Droid 2 can't be praised enough. And, truthfully, it's what the original Droid should have had in the first place.

Changes under the hood

The Droid 2 has a beefed up TI OMAP 3630 processor running at 1GHz -- almost double the clockspeed of its predecessor. That's not to say that the original Droid was anything of a slouch, but the sequel is that much more powerful.

The Droid 2 sports 512MB of RAM and 8 gigabytes of on-board storage. That's in addition to an included 8GB microSD card (it's capable of reading up to a 32GB card). Repeat: That's 8GB on the phone itself for storing apps, which also can be moved to the SD card, thanks to improvements in the Android OS. (More on that in a bit.)

What hasn't changed is the battery. The Droid 2 comes with a 1390mAh battery (it's often rounded up to 1400mAh). We can squeeze out a day's use with generous e-mail use, limited background notifications from twitter and the like, and a smattering of phone calls. Your mileage likely will vary, though.

You get to the battery and microSD card through the same sliding rear cover as on the original Droid. The slider mechanism feels a tad more sturdy than its predecessor, and we've got little fear that it may fall off on its own.

The software

The Droid 2 is the first U.S. smartphone to actually launch with Android 2.2 (aka "Froyo"). And on top of that, it sports the same UI tweaks (don't call them Motoblur) as the Droid X. That includes seven home screens and a number of preloaded widgets custom built by Motorola, in addition to the usual Android widgets. The Motorola and Android widgets are listed in separate categories in the home screen options.

Live wallpapers are there, naturally, though surprisingly the Droid 2 doesn't have its new glowing red eye loaded by default. It's there, and it's a more robotic and a little less monsterous than on the original Droid, and you can use it if you'd like.

Droid 2 application launcher

Another cool trick from Motorola is that some of the widgets it designed are resizeable. You tap and hold, then drag from a corner. It's a neat way to customize your home screen on the fly, giving it a real desktop feel.

There are a fair number of apps included on the Droid 2. Verizon's 3G Mobile Hotspot app (subscription required) is there. So are the Audible audio book app, Kindle e-reader and Blockbuster movie rental apps. Motorola's excellent Car Dock customizations (large, easy-to-read buttons) are there. And the City ID app (think caller ID) is there, too.

DLNA media sharing and Motorola's Media Share app are there to connect your phone to other devices. And Need for Speed Shift is there for some driving, and Skype Mobile (still a Verizon exclusive) is on by default. There's an RSS feed reader built in, and you have the standard news and weather app, too.

Is there "bloatware" on the Droid 2? Sure. Just like every other phone released by a carrier since, well, forever. Out of all the apps preloaded on the Droid 2, the City ID app is the only one we've never once used. And rememeber that the inclusion of these apps help keep the price of the phone lower through subsidies. It's a trade-off. But with a full 8GB of on-board storage, it could be worse.

What about the rest of Android 2.2? We've covered a good many of the major Android 2.2 improvements in our Froyo Features section. The ones we're most happy to see on the Droid 2 are the Just in Time Compiler (JIT), the ability to natively move applications to the SD card (though doing so may still break things like widgets).

The Droid 2 camera

(See our full Droid 2 camera test here)

The Droid 2 has the same 5-megapixel camera as its older sibling. And it's OK. Still not great, but OK. We're not sure if the Droid X has a different lens or if its the 8MP sensor that makes the difference, but the Droid X seems to take better pictures.

By default, the Droid 2 takes pictures in "Widescreen" format. They're not the full 5MP in that setting, but they fit the resolution of the phone and fill up the screen. If you're worried about showing off photos on the phone more than you are having the higher resolution, then you're all set. Otherwise, you'll want to dive into the settings and change that one.

Shutter speed is quite fast (you can trigger it either with the physical button or an on-screen button), and Motorola's camera software offers plenty of customizations, including a handy panoramic feature that walks you through taking extra-wide pictures.

(Click to open in full resolution in a new window)

There's one-touch access to switch to the video camera, or you can use the "camcorder" app. By default, the Droid 2 takes videos at its maximum 480p resolution. It's OK. Not great, but OK. The microphone does a good job of picking up voice even amid a slew of background noise.

In a sentence: The camera is still pretty meh. It'll do, but it should have been better.

Other odds and ends

  • Phone calls: Yep, it makes 'em. And Verizon's network is as strong as ever.
  • Data speed: Same here. It makes out at EVDO Rev. A, so you won't be able to take advantage of any LTE launches that take place over the next year or so.
  • Keyboards: You have Motorola's custom keyboard on the Droid 2 by default. Swype also is pre-loaded and uses a custom skin from Motorola.
  • Speakerphone: Have I mentioned before how much I love Motorola's speakerphones? This one's tops.
  • Wifi hotspot: Yeah, you have to pay extra for this. And that's not something we're happy about. But it works, and it works fairly well.
  • Indicator light: Yes, it's there, next to the front speaker. And it's green.
  • The supposed antenna problems: I've used this Droid 2 -- a full retail unit and not a review unit (if that matters) -- in two major cities (Miami and San Francisco) as well at home in the Florida Panhandle. I've had zero problems dropping calls or losing data. Does that mean you won't have any issues? Not necessarily. But in our testing, it was just fine.

So should you buy the Droid 2?

If you're looking for a Verizon Android phone with a keyboard, it's a no-brainer. The Droid 2 has a worth step up from the original Droid. It doesn't bring next-generation hardware or software to the table, though we're more than happy with the speed and power in the 1GHz processor. Really, we're talking another meat-and-potatoes phone here, which isn't a bad thing. And don't overlook that keyboard. It's been greatly improved.

If you're coming from another platform, you can't go wrong with the Droid 2. And the same goes if you're comiing from another carrier. If you're already on Verizon? It's a bit of a tougher choice. The Incredible is another solid phone and has the HTC Sense customizations on the same size screen. The Droid X has a larger screen and the same customizations as on the Droid 2. (Anecdotally: We watched on launch day as the second person in our Verizon store -- we were the first -- traded in a Droid X for a Droid 2.)

And for those of you on the nerdier side (we'll call you "in the know"), what about that whole eFuse thing that supposedly could keep custom ROMs from being loaded? Just like we expected, that's proving to be less of an issue (though still a speedbump) on the Droid X than was feared, so we'll likely have plenty of hackery going on with the Droid 2 once everybody gets their feet wet.

For the masses, know this: The Droid 2 is a strong follow-up to the original. It has a much-improved keyboard, is as fast as just about any Android smartphone available today and should last for quite a while. Really, the only thing we want to ding Motorola on is the camera, but it's not a deal-breaker. It's interesting that Verizon didn't make more of a fuss over the launch of the Droid 2, given its place in smartphone history. But then again, the Droid has quickly become a workhorse phone, as at home in a purse as it is a in a suit coat or tool box. And the Droid 2 certainly keeps up that legacy.

  • Great review! Surprising about the camera. The Droid DID have a bad camera, though, the X camera is awesome. Would have been nice to see Moto beef up the camera like the X.
  • If I wanted a physical keyboard I would go for the epic with Froyo their is no need for 8gb of app memory. Plus coming from a d1 this isn't close to being an upgrade once the d1 is rooted.
  • soo. . when will my Droid 1 get froyo.
  • Sooo... What does that have to do with the topic, which is a review of the Droid 2?
  • When you stop being a tool?
  • "I've used this Droid 2 -- a full retail unit and not a review unit (if that matters) -- in two major cities (Miami and San Francisco) as well at home in the Florida Panhandle. I've had zero problems dropping calls or losing data." Me neither. I guess its asking for too much to assume other online publications to consider the possibility that their review units won't always function in the same capacity as the models that hit the shelves. Common sense gets rarer by the hour, it seems.
  • I currently have the Droid 2, I'll have it until my Droid X comes in at which time I can trade it in at my local Verizon store. Coming from the Evo on sprint, I have to say that the Droid 2 is a awesome phone. I'm not a big fan of the form factor although the keyboard is great. Anyone considering an Android phone on Verizon should check this one out.
  • I can't wait to get this phone!! Too bad my update is on December 2nd):
  • You should be elligible to upgrade then. Verizon is known for allowing early upgrades, especially with smartphones. You should call them up and ask. ;)
  • I can't decide if I should keep my DInc or upgrade to the D2. I know I would love the dedicated gpu and physical keyboard for games. And there is the game gripper too. The D2 is a dream gaming Android phone.
  • Droid x is better with bigger screen for gaming,same specs as d2, froyo was leaked and its awesome,its already been rooted and its only a matter of time before it gets custom roms and unless you don't like the screen/size or new to have a keyboard the droid x is the way to go. If you need a keyboard or need a small phone then either getthe droid2 or if your a tech geek which you prob are because you read this site then you might want the droid of for hacking but i would really advise against that because you wont be up to date. If you don't like the dx size or the d2 keyboard keep your dinc but it wont be good in games
  • Bloatware, when defined as "preinstalled apps" may help defray the cost of developing these phones, but making them permanent doesn't help Motorola, Verizon, or anyone else (and generally decreases consumer satisfaction). A harsh reality is that if a customer doesn't use them in the first couple of weeks he/she is unlikely to ever use them (and if they ever change their mind they could get them from the market). Defending permanently installed bloatware ala what VZ/Moto have put on of late seems inappropriate (to me) on a consumer/enthusiast website, although I would certainly agree that time-limited preinstalled apps, app stubs, etc,. are all good things even if you choose not to use them.
  • With 8 gigs of internal memory I don't really see the problem with bloatware. Plus with the new version of ProLauncher, you can even hide the icons in your app tray so between the large memory and hiding the icons, it's like they aren't even there.
  • Crap is still crap, regardless of how much space I have in which to store it. Even in the app drawer screen shot I can count 4-5 apps that I would never use. I do like and use LauncherPro, and jumped to add my vote for being able to hide apps when it was mentioned in their forums. But people who don't otherwise want LauncherPro shouldn't have to install yet another app just to hide the apps they already have but don't want. If my phone was rooted, Amazon MP3 and Visual Voicemail would be gone. Unfortunately, I think those really bothered by this bloatware are in the minority, so much so that their dissatisfaction with bloatware is such a minuscule blip on a carrier's radar that the carriers couldn't care less. It also wouldn't surprise me at all if whatever financial arrangements carriers have with the companies behind the bloatware don't have any impact on the retail price of the phones.
  • How can this be a worthy successor to the original Droid when it has a locked bootloader? {{-_-}}
  • it's just a matter of time before the hacker community cracks that shiny new bootloader. :)
  • I doubt that the bootloader is ever unlocked on the Droid2 and Droid X. It still hasnt been cracked on the Milestone. We will have root (already do on DX), will have custom recovery (again, already do on the X), and more than likely will have some OCing, but flashing ROMS will sadly never happen.
  • "A worthy successor to the phone that launched 1,000 Androids" The G1 is the phone that launched 1,000 Androids not the Droid. the G1 started it all without it and it's success the Droid would never have launched. because of G1's success Verizon decided to sell Android phones so i think you should rethink what you wrote even if you are a Droid fan that is still not fair to the G1(THE PHONE THAT STARTED IT ALL).
  • IMO the Droid,w/2.0 and Verizon's 3G network backing it,was the device that really showed the average cell consumer what Android could do.
  • My roommate got the G1 when it started and I thought it was retarded. Weak design (his broke AGAIN). It wasn't until I came back from deployment in the spring did I see the true power of Android and invest in what I considered (until the D2) the best phone money could buy, my awesome Droid. The PHONE sold me on the OS. I don't even need to be rooted and OC'd to love my phone, it's already better than the iCrap and Crackberry, way better than my fiance's old Pre. The only phone better than it STILL (imo of course) is the D2. Love that keyboard...
  • Droid 2 has two main problems with Exchange Servers. Once you add an Exchange server to the Droid 2 it forces you to create a PIN and from then on you are stuck with typing that PIN every time you want to open the phone. There is no way to change back. Second problem is with the Contacts list. Outlook 2007 Calendar and Mail synchronized nicely but not Contacts. I have 3400 active contacts in my Outlook 2007 and only about 80 were brought over to the Droid 2.
    Verizon Wireless technician at the retail shops could not solve it neither did Motorola Second and Third level technicians (after sending them email messages).
    Also the Skype icon after a couple of days changed to a Monitor + wheel icon and it says "" under it.
    I hope Motorola will get their act together soon and resolve this. I have found out that Droid X had similar problems and if you used TouchDown program (which costs $19.99) Exchange problems evaporated. Motorola offered to Droid X owners free licenses of TouchDown), and I hope they will do the same to Droid 2 owners. Android 2.2 was supposed to resolve these issues with Exchange servers, but it seems it has not.
  • There was an update rolled out late last night that addressed Exchange issues. That may have very well been one of them
  • @Nurhan: Before you fault Motorola or Verizon, you may want to check with your Exchange administrator. The PIN requirement is set by your Exchange server. One bright spot is that you will find that with Froyo, you can set the password duration, so you can have it not ask for your password for 5 minutes (or other options) after the screen was turned off, instead of every time. Your contacts may also be an issue with you adding the account to your phone multiple times. You have to log into OWA and delete the device from your account in the options of OWA. The device remains in Exchange even after the account is deleted from your phone, so when adding it back, Exchange assumes the data that was previously synced is already on the device. And, we won't even go into the fact that you're Exchange server may not have the latest service pack installed (considering you're already not using the current server configuration, which is Exchange 2010)...
  • Had a Droid 2 for a couple of days and found it to be a nice upgrade. I didn't care for some of the UI changes, I guess I prefer stock Android. The Exchange issues are still a problem ( and since I'm the network admin I am pretty sure those problems are with the phone and not my servers). The unit I had was particularly plagued ( it just wouldn't sync contacts right, and my original Droid never had a problem) so after a couple of hours on the phone with Moto support it will be going back. I haven't heard of other units with this problem (nor had the very polite support rep) so maybe it's isolated to the unit I had. Don't know if I'll go with another Droid 2 or an Inredible, since it appears stock Android handsets are a thing of the past now I might as well give sense a spin.
  • Keyboard looks like a big improvement but not putting the number keys as a primary function makes zero sense. This is my biggest complaint with the original Droid. Will have to go check this one out to see if the upgrade is worth it.
  • this is probably the most accurate and best review of the droid 2 on the internet. i agree with it
  • I have added an article with full specifications of Motorola Droid 2 Global in MOTOASK forum.