Let’s say it right off the bat: the Motorola DROID, winner of our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award, is the best Google Android based smartphone phone to date. It’s the first device to run using the greatly improved Android 2.0 operating system and Motorola has gone a long way to address most of the shortfalls that were inevitably leveled against previous Android phones in comparisons to the competition. To make things even better, it offers some of its very own unique features that should put the DROID on anybody’s short list when considering a touch screen smartphone purchase.
On first glance, the Motorola DROID seems just a little bit clunky by today’s standards. It’s black and square (well, rectangular) and a trifle thick and weighty. Not huge issues but sort of uninspiring. Turn it on, though, and the impression is changed radically. The device is almost completely covered by a huge, by cell phone standards, 3.7-inch touchscreen that is nothing short of beautiful. It boasts a bright and sharp 440x854 pixel resolution capable of displaying 16 million colors. The touch screen works well with the notably improved user interface for the Android 2.0 OS and features haptic feedback for some functions but still lacks of the most popular features of a multitouch screen like the pinch to zoom function.
It comes equipped with a built-in accelerometer so rotating the device changes the screen orientations from portrait to landscape and there’s a full QWERTY keyboard in both modes. Better yet, there’s a slide out physical keyboard. That feature isn’t important to everyone but many users find the real keyboard preferable to the virtual one for all but the quickest of typing tasks. That said, this keyboard isn’t among our favorites in that it’s generally flat and there’s little to separation between keys making touch typing pretty tough. Still, it’s not bad and as we get accustomed to its feel, we find it less objectionable.
There’s a lot to say about the overall performance of the DROID and it’s based on a number of factors. The phone has a 600MHz processor at its heart and 256MB of RAM. Memory can be expanded by up to a 32GB SDHC card but it comes packaged with a 16GB card which is already pretty impressive. The Android 2.0 OS also provides a substantial performance boost compared to previous Android devices, especially when taking advantage of the devices enviable multitasking capabilities. The Verizon Wireless EVDO Rev A network also gets a lot of the credit for the phone’s top-notch performance when using web based functions.
Android’s open-platform application format has always been at the heart of the OS’s appeal. At this point, the Android Market boasts about 10,000 applications which is an awful lot compared to little more than a year ago when the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1 became available. Still, it pales in comparison to the Apple App store which has recently crossed 100,000 apps. The good news for Android users, when making the comparison, is that most Apple apps are self-serving and primarily promote a particular business. Android apps tend to be more useful.
Google Maps is among the most usable web based features around, both for computer and mobile devices. The DROID successfully leverages the relationship with Google to offer perhaps the single coolest unique feature of this phone…a terrific, turn-by-turn GPS navigation system that doesn’t require a monthly subscription.
Pretty much every email platform is supported by the DROID including MS Exchange synchronization for enterprise users. It’s worth noting that only Exchange and Gmail get true push delivery with this phone. It can be set to check IMAP and POP3 accounts at user specified intervals from 5 minutes to an hour. Users for whom true push email is a priority will still be best served by BlackBerries. On the other hand, the DROID does a great job of integrating contacts and calendars much like the Palm Pre and other Palm webOS based devices.
The Motorola DROID comes equipped with a 5.0-megapixel camera with LED flash and also features video recording. It also has a very good multimedia player which offers direct downloading from the Amazon MP3 store.
We don’t love the fact that every new smartphone on the market has to be compared to the Apple iPhone but that is today’s reality. Just about everybody agrees that the iPhone sets the bar very high for the largest spectrum of users…not the best phone for every single individual, but generally best for most consumers. Other devices are often cited as preferable for specific groups, e.g. BlackBerries for enterprise users or Android devices for serious techies. Perhaps the nicest and most realistic comment that prevails regarding the DROID is that it gives a very viable option for an awful lot of buyers.
Reviews praise the DROID’s multitasking capabilities, its generally quicker performance and the free location based services.
Several of most important advantages associated with DROID are a direct result of its use of the Verizon Wireless network. We rated it first in both our Cell Phone Providers Review and our Mobile Broadband Review sites…ratings that, by the way, were made independently and by different reviewers. Other reviewers have generally echoed these sentiments.
With the Motorola DROID, the Android OS comes a major step closer to realizing its potential. As a handset manufacturer, Motorola finally has a real winner and even Verizon Wireless, the country’s largest wireless provider, has a real contender in the smartphone race. The DROID is a great option for users who like most iPhone features but want an alternative to it and AT&T. In the long run, everyone, consumers and the wireless industry, win big by the presence of genuine, valid choices at the head of the pack.