Droid Does… or Does it?

Motorola Droid Review

If you’ve been wondering what to think of all of the attention the Motorola Droid on the Verizon network has been getting, let me add a little more for you to consider.  I purchased the Droid December 4th and as you can imagine I have been monkeying around with it almost nonstop much to the chagrin of my loving wife.  Here follows some of the things I have learned and loved about the Droid.

Many people have asked me if I think the Droid is the “iPhone Killer” it has been touted as – my response is that in Montana the iPhone really isn’t around to kill.  However, in a broader sense, I do think that the Droid is a contender in the smart phone battle – at least in the US.  One of the biggest advantages that the Droid has over the iPhone is the open-source nature of the OS.  This allows developers to offer more apps faster.  No hoops to jump through – just code it, test it, deploy and support it.  Currently there are only about 15,000 applications available for the Droid compared to the 100,000 for the iPhone, but there is no doubt that app developers will jump on the Android bandwagon and we’ll soon see applications for all sorts of things you never knew you didn’t need.

Basic Usage

motorola-droid-2

Motorola Droid includes a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard as well as a very responsive touch keyboard.

The Droid requires a connection with a Gmail / Google account and provides a wide variety of functionality that Google offers including GPS with real-time mapping through Google Maps (includes satellite and other layers),  one-touch voice search, and more.  For document handling, the Droid includes a mobile version of Google Docs that handles PDF files as well as a standard version of Docs To Go for Microsoft Word and Excel files.  An upgrade for Docs To Go is available for $14.99 through the Android Market.  The integration with Google is a valuable asset that allows you to keep your mobile life in sync even when offline.

A very useful feature of the device that is not enabled by default is haptic feedback on the on-screen keyboard. I found the on-screen keyboard exceptionally easy to use while in landscape mode while the portrait version was smaller I was still able to use it without much difficulty.  The number pad for dialing is quite large and easy to use – even while driving (but I NEVER do that) and the Droid features an on-screen button to add a caller to the current call.  Call quality is just as good as other phones I have had and callers have said they do not notice much background noise.  I have yet to test it with a Bluetooth headset simply due to the fact that I have yet to find one worth using.

In general, the Droid has an intuitive design with a large, bright, highly responsive touch screen. A very responsive accelerometer enables the user to switch between landscape and portrait mode with ease.  The slide out QWERTY keyboard is a little awkward compared to the exceptional on-screen keyboard and battery life can be somewhat disappointing if not properly managed. However, the Droid is a fun-to-use and highly functional device.  The threaded SMS / MMS layout makes texting a breeze and even displays any photos received.

The Droid’s awesome WVGA display is an impressive 3.7″ and provides 854 x 480 resolution.  The built-in YouTube integration (including direct uploading)  makes the Droid one of the best mobile-video devices I have seen.  The 5.0 megapixel camera includes LED flash and auto-focus capabilities that can sometime make taking quick pictures somewhat taxing.  However, like most camera phones, all features of the camera can be adjusted to meet your needs.  The video camera takes excellent video and the included 16GB Micro SD card provides plenty of space for capturing those once-in-a-lifetime moments.  The “share” feature included in the camera functions allows for direct uploading to a number of online sharing sites such as Google’s Picasa and YouTube as well as Facebook and many others.

Applications

Any discussion of the Droid needs to include the Android Market and the availability of various applications.  I have need of only a few applications:  SplashID for keeping track of hundreds of passwords and other sensitive information, OliveTree’s Bible Reader and NAS Bible, Facebook and Evernote.  I found and installed all of these applications with ease and the one I had to purchase (SplashID) was very simple through Google Checkout. That being said, I have found many, many applications that are certainly not on the need list but are quite informative and/or useful.  Here are a few of the applications I have installed at one time or another and would recommend:

  • Google Goggles – enables you to take a picture of a logo, landmark, barcode, etc., and the software will analyze the photo and conduct a Google search  based on what it finds.
  • Bluetooth File Transfer by Medieval Software – an FTP program allowing transfer of files between the Droid and SD card to phones and computers.
  • Droid Light – ever use your phone as a flash light? Droid Light turns the LED camera flash on for a great, easy-to-use light that also works while shooting video.
  • Speed Test – test how fast your Internet connection is at any given time.
  • Google Sky Map – want to find a constellation? Turn on the app and point it at the sky and it will tell you what you’re looking at.  Just plain cool!
  • Fring – integrates several IM communication tools as well as giving you access to Skype.
  • DailyStrip – get your favorite comics on your phone for free!
  • Pandora – Internet Radio for your device.  Awesome service that allows you to custom create several Internet radio stations based upon artists, music type and more.

    Motorola Droid Screen

    The Droid offers a crystal-clear, 854 x 480 screen.

Email / Exchange Connectivity

My line of work requires that I have constant access to several POP3 and one Exchange email account. That being the case, I am very happy with the Droid’s functionality and am pleased with the wide variety of possible configurations.  As mentioned previously, the Droid requires a connection with a Gmail / Google account and if you are already an avid Google user you have probably configured your account to interact with your POP3 email accounts.  If so, you will find the Gmail application very functional, allowing you access to many of the standard options found in the full web version.

If you are like me and prefer to have your POP accounts not tied in with a Gmail account, you will also be very happy with the way in which the Droid handles them.  POP3 accounts are a breeze to configure (provided you have the generic POP3 info) and when setup you can view the accounts one at a time or in a combined inbox.  Each of the accounts are color coded, making it fast and easy to distinguish the accounts in the combined inbox.  The Droid OS provides the added functionality of marking emails to move or delete them en mass (something the BB Pearl does not offer) and makes the mobile email checking experience quite pleasant.

I found connecting an Exchange Account with the Droid a breeze and when connected, the Droid syncs your Exchange folders, Calendar / Schedule, and Contacts.  Sync with Exchange is achieved wirelessly and does NOT require an additional data charge (beyond the required $30/month) unlike the BB that requires an additional $15/month to do the same thing through the BB Enterprise Server (BES).  At this time, the Droid does not offer direct sync with Outlook Tasks and Notes but this is easily overcome with integration with a Gmail account for tasks and an Evernote account for Outlook Notes.  No matter what route you take to check your email, the Droid offers a myriad of options, making the management of several email accounts a pleasant experience. My previous experience with Palm devices (most recently with the TX) and a Blackberry Pearl (one of the worst BB designs IMHO) led me to believe that nothing short of a direct blessing from “Bill” would ever get my Outlook email, contacts and calendar to reliably sync with my mobile device – the Droid restores my faith in OTA (Over-The-Air) sync.

Web Browsing

This is bar far the most impressive function of the Droid.  The browser is extremely fast and with the bright, crisp display, pages are easy to read and navigate.  It supports secure server connections, tabs, direct phone dialing, cookies, password keepers, and more.  My previous devices are left to stand in awe at the speed and functionality that the Droid provides on the web.

Bottom Line

So would I recommend the Droid? If you’re a bit of a techy and like the latest and greatest then the Droid offers you a level of customization and functionality not seen on any other device in the US.  If you’re looking for a device that just keeps track of your contacts,  schedule and checks your email this may not be the device for you.  The bottom line is that you should do your homework when choosing a new phone or piece of electronics miracle – sometimes the hype is just hype and other times the hype is only the beginning.

If you have the Droid and would like to contribute, please feel free.  If you’re considering a Droid and would like more info, go ahead and post a c0mment.  I am glad to be of help in any way I can.

Thanks for the read and God speed!

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