My recent venture into a new smartphone with the Blackberry Tour was a less than stellar experience, that temporarily led me back to my old Windows Mobile phone. With fortuitous timing, I was invited to the launch party for the new Motorola smartphones, which gave me ownership of a Motorola Droid phone.
The launch party was an exclusive affair at Morimoto’s (yes, MOTOrola at moriMOTO’s) in the meatpacking district of New York City to introduce the Motorola Droid and Cliq phones, which were both on the verge of release. In addition to the best sushi I have ever tasted and demonstrations of these brand new phones, the restaurant was decked out with a photobooth and tin robot toys which all disappeared by the end of the party. Attendees were also given a card which they filled out to receive the phone of their choice by mail. While the Cliq appeared to be a good social media phone against the more technical Droid, my choice of technology and preference for Verizon Wireless led me to choose the Droid.
The Droid has been my phone for a week now, and I feel like I have had it long enough to make a solid judgment based on my usage.
Screen The Droid’s screen is big and bright. With a bigger screen and better resolution, the Droid’s screen is the best cell phone screen I have ever seen. The one advantage the iPhone has over the Droid is multitouch, but the Droid makes up for many of those multitouch gestures with onscreen buttons. The Droid also has haptic feedback, so many screen touches make the phone vibrate slightly to let you know you’ve done something.
Applications The application selection is second only to the iPhone, but has far more developer commitment than the Blackberry appears to have. The first wave of Android phones consisted of just the G1 on T-Mobile, so the developer support is astounding for a single phone. Now that there are more phones released in the last couple weeks, I expect to see even more choices. Most of the apps I have installed are either social media (Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter client) or media related (Last.fm, Pandora). I have installed no games at this time. To me, there are only two things missing, a Sirius XM app and a Flash app. I’d like to be able to listen to Ron and Fez with the phone and be able to watch Hulu on the go.
Closing Applications While it’s tricky to figure out how to exit apps on the Blackberry, most Android developers put the option into their menus to quit. Some applications, like Google Maps or Foursquare, do not. I have been unable to figure out how to stop these applications from running to free up memory and reduce battery usage when they are not in use.
Battery Life My usage of the Droid has not been overly extensive, but since it is a new phone, everyone wants to test it out. On those occasions, the battery runs down quicker than my normal usage would be. On the quieter days, the Droid lasts all day on a single charge, but I did run out of battery when I spent 12 hours away from home and my phone was actively passed around. The phone feels like it will be better than the iPhone in my regular usage, but I will probably be joining my friend Damien, who is notorious for seeking out outlets to charge his iPhone at public events.
Camera The Droid has a 5 megapixel camera with built-in LED flash. Many reviewers find it inferior to the iPhone, but I tend to disagree. I find it does the job for those in the moment shots as well, if not better, but if picture quality was a true issue for me, I would be carrying my digital camera everywhere I go.
Media Player I have not loaded any music or videos on the phone, but the biggest detriment is the lack of iTunes support. I use iTunes to manage all my music, videos and podcasts, and with the superior screen on the Droid, I would consider using it as my regular media device if not for this inconvenience. Music sounds good with the Droid, as tested with Last.fm and Youtube, plus the built in speaker is higher quality than the little ones in the iPhone.
Email Since the Android operating system was created by Google, it syncs perfectly with all of their services, from Email to contacts. I get my emails instantly and a robotic voice saying “Droid” announces their recent download.
Keyboard The Droid phone gives two options, both an onscreen and fold out keyboard. The physical keyboard slides out to reveal flat keys that take some time to get accustomed to. The i760 had raised keys that made touch typing easier, but I’m not sure how easy touch typing will become when all the keys are flat. The onscreen keyboard is great for those times when you can’t use both hands to type. Instead of juggling, the keyboard on the screen is fairly usable with one hand, albeit slower than using two.
Phone Of course, what is the point of carrying a phone at all if you cannot make phone calls. The phone does sound good, but of the phones I’d used in the recent past (Samsung i760, iPhone, Blackberry Tour and Motorola Droid), the Tour had the best sound quality, but I think it’s fair to put the Droid second.
Hardware While I like the thin design of the Droid, and the weight of the phone makes it feel very solid, there is an issue with the battery cover. The battery cover slides open too easily and often too easily falls off when I put it in or pull it out of my pocket.
Overall, I feel like this is the best smartphone I’ve used in a long time. It’s openness allows for alot of things that Apple does not with their iPhone, but if Verizon offered the iPhone within their phone selection (as they are rumored to next year), I would still strongly consider switching to an iPhone.