A Week With Motorola Droid
Everyone’s looking for the iPhone killer, including Motorola and Verizon. And with the advent of the Droid, competition is alive and well in the mobile smart phone market. I’ve had the Droid for little over a week now, so I thought VARs and MSPs might be interested in know if the new Android phone is a good replacement for their customers’ iPhone or Blackberry.
Here are the highlights.
A Shiny New Phone…
Quick run down of the features that make me happy: Glass touch screen – higher resolution than the iPhone, solid build quality, loud speaker phone, GPS — with Google Navigator Turn-By-Turn directions, WiFi, 5 MegaPixel camera, BlueTooth, 16GB SD card included — expandable to 32 GB. Oh, and the best part? Zero Verizon influence on the phone. It doesn’t even have a Verizon background pre-loaded. It’s the first phone from Verizon that is actually “open,” so to speak. And that’s a good thing.
Google’s Android OS has been under some serious development since T-Mobile’s G1 came out, and boy has it been polished. The Droid is the first phone running Android 2.0, and it feels like it’s a mature phone experience, most notably for its exceptional battery life.
Google wants you (and your customers) to live in the cloud. The first step to setting up my Droid before I walked out of the Verizon store was to enter my GMail account. Your Droid then synchs with your Google calendar, contacts and e-mail. You can then manage your contacts from GMail, tweak them, add pictures and merge existing contacts. All of this is lynched back to your phone.
Google Talk and Google Voice also integrate seamlessly with the phone, giving you a BlackBerry Messenger experience, and a Visual Voicemail experience. If you’re big into podcasts, Google Listen will automatically download podcasts for you when they become available. Instead of a music store, there’s a special Amazon MP3 application for downloads, and yes, previews are available. There’s no “App Store” but there is the Google Marketplace.
Voice recognition is to die for. Hold down the Google Search button and say a command. Or say what you want to search for. It was smart enough to recognize that when I said “Paranormal Activity IMDB” it knew I didn’t mean “I am dee bee,” and searched correctly. When you ask it to phone a friend, it’ll pop up and let you know who it’ll be calling, but gives you a 10 second delay to cancel should you’ve said the wrong name, or Google got it wrong. Google search is also integrated into the entire phone (a-la Apple’s new Spotlight in iPhone 3.0). Search contacts, e-mail, Google, even your text messages.
The ability to customize your home screen with widgets and shortcuts means you’ll have a very personal experience with this phone. I have mine setup so that as soon as I unlock the phone, I have the weather, date and time, dead center. The left hand column has my phone apps, the right hand column has my cloud apps. A bottom row is reserved for the music application.
Copying media to your Droid could — quite literally — not be easier. Connect to a computer. Drag and drop. Done. The Droid automatically looks all over the phone for media and correctly calls upon it depending on the multimedia app you’re using. No organization necessary.
Lastly, web browsing. It’s fast. It’s really fast. The stock browser with Verizon’s network is a completely natural and comfortable browsing experience. And since the resolution on the screen is higher than the iPhones, it’s actually a more pleasant viewing experience. No Adobe Flash support yet, but when it comes, you can be sure it’ll be on the Droid, while Apple decides not to. Clicking on a YouTube video loads the YouTube app. Coolest feature? Downloading common files, like MP3’s and DOCs are available for you from your SD card for later copying to your PC.
…That May Make You Angry.
All devices have their faults, and the Droid is no exception. A certain peculiarity was to include a keyboard without raised keys. They’re flat and flush with the plastic, forcing you to look at what you’re typing, and you’ll still make mistakes. And instead of using the entire slide-out surface area, they opted for a large directional pad. The directional pad is nearly unnecessary since the screen is completely touchable. Drop the d-pad, increase the keyboard size and tactile feed back, and the dive would’ve been near perfect.
The Google Marketplace is no App Store, that’s for sure. Applications are frequently hit-or-miss. You’ll do a fair amount of searching before you find something worthy of keeping on your phone (though all of Google’s Apps are perfect). To be fair, when you do find a magical app that you love, you won’t have to wait on Google to approve an update to it. Every day there’s a new app ready to download from the Marketplace, and apps get updated constantly since developers have no restrictions. Still, the quality of apps are mostly unpolished.
There’s also lack of multi-touch, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. For reasons that are wholly unknown (some blame Apple), the phone’s capacitive touch screen is completely hardware-enabled, but there’s a software switch somewhere waiting to be turned back on. Hackers are working on it.
The music application is not up to par with the iPhone’s. You can’t search by genre, only by artist, album or song. It feels clunky, and the GUI is no where as slick as the rest of the phone. This bothers me, because I take a lot of time organizing my music by genre and tagging it in iTunes. While it’s nice I can copy-paste my iTunes library into my Droid, I’d rather not scroll through ALL my albums to get back and forth between two particular ones. I suppose that’s what playlists are for, though.
Overall, the phone gives you a rock solid experience. I’m bordering on 1,000 words at this point, and I think there’s easily another 1,000 to say on all the tiny details, good and bad. But if you’re already on Verizon, looking to get a new phone. Don’t hesitate. It’s way better than anything out there. And if you’re looking to switch to Verizon from any other carrier, you won’t be disappointed on your browsing speeds. Like a lot of people say, “it’s an iPhone, but…” but this time, there’s very little but. For all it’s faults, this is one of the sexiest phones out there, and it’s a powerhouse. Even Andy Ihnatko, Apple columnist of Chicago Sun Times feels, it’s only 2nd to the iPhone. I think that says a lot.
Feel free to ask questions. I’d love to respond.