Verizon’s Coolest Phone Ever: Hands-on with Motorola Droid

headerThe Storm2 didn’t stand a chance. Verizon Wireless’ first Android device eats BlackBerry’s much improved but predictable sequel for lunch. This smart phone has a bigger screen, much better browser, and free GPS. The sliding mechanism is a little stiff for our tastes, and the phone itself is a bit large and hefty, but we like what we see so far. A lot.

Design

From its gloss black front to the matte black keyboard paint job with gold colored accents, the Droid looks like a luxury handset. The front of the 4.6 x 2.4 x .5 inches device  has four touch-sensitive buttons, one to return to the previous page, a menu button, a home button, and a search button. It seems awfully odd to us that there aren’t send/end keys. At 6 ounces, the Droid is not exactly light, but since it’s thin it didn’t feel too bulky in our pocket.

Its 3.7-inch 854 x 480 display is large and bright, and when we slid out the keyboard it felt very solid and well built. Our only current gripe is that pulling the keyboard out feels a little sluggish; we’re hoping the mechanism loosens up with continued usage.

Read on for a video, full gallery, and more thoughts on DROID.

The hardware keyboard reminds us a bit of the HTC Touch Pro, and it’s easy and comfortable to type on, but it’s not perfect. The keys are small and a bit cramped. Each key offered good feedback and bounce. There’s a 5-way directional pad to the right of the keyboard with a gold center button that makes it easy to navigate around large pages or around menus.

The 3.5 mm headphone jack is up top with the power button, and the thin volume control and camera launch key are on the right side.

Android 2.0
The Droid is the first smart phone to run Android 2.0. Some of our favorite additions include the ability to sync multiple Google accounts instead of just one, as was the case with prior versions. A new Quick Contact feature also lets you tap a contact and choose a variety of methods to contact them with, whether it’s e-mail, chat, SMS, or Facebook.

The marketplace UI has also been revamped and tweaked a little for Verizon Wireless.  The top menu has three sub-sections, Apps, Games, and Verizon. You can download Verizon Wireless’ Visual Voicemail app for Droid under the Verizon tab.

Google also improved the software keyboard by changing the layout slightly. We found it a little easier to type on but generally didn’t see much of a difference.

Other changes include support for HTML5 in the Web browser, double tap for zoom instead of simply using the on-screen zoom buttons, small calendar tweaks, and full Bluetooth 2.1 support. Surfing on the Droid felt similar to other Android phones in terms of page loading times, but thanks to its high-res display, we saw more of each Web site, so we didn’t have to scroll and pan around as much. And when you do scroll it’s fast and responsive.

Camera
The Droid rocks a 5MP camera that can shoot DVD quality video. Initial shots looked a bit washed out, and the camera still feels as sluggish as it has on other Android devices. On the other hand, we saw a video recording of  Yankees ALCS game from the other day play at full screen and it looked fantastic. Stay tuned for posted photos and videos.

Google Maps Navigation
When we held the search button on the front of Droid we were able to speak a search command. We told the phone to “Navigate to Starbucks,” and it automatically launched Google Maps Navigation, and began searching for local Starbucks coffee shops. We chose one down the block, and after 3 seconds DROID began routing us to our destination. Without a GPS signal in our office, we had to read the on-screen directions. We’ll revisit this in our full review.

Docks
You can purchase additional docks for the Droid, one for navigation and one for charging. When you place the Droid in its charging dock, it automatically displays the time and weather, and you can quickly access your music, turn it into bedside mode, or view your photos. When you place the Droid into its Navigation dock, it automatically launches Google Maps Navigation. We love this added functionality.

Early Verdict
The Droid is a drop-dead gorgeous device, and it seems faster than other Android smart phones. While it feels a bit heavy, we’re impressed by how thin the phone is despite packing a full QWERTY keyboard. We can’t say we miss Motorola’s BLUR user experience that much, considering that Android 2.0 makes it easy to stay in touch with friends across clients and Droid does pull in your Facebook contacts. We’ll have our full test results and review soon, but, in the meantime, check out our hands-on video and photos.

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  1. dcd62m Says:

    Will the Android 2 software and Droid hardware be able to perform apps WITHOUT network connection? Or is the device a “dumb” box that requires all functions to be done off the device and from a network?

  2. Todd Haselton Says:

    that depends what the application is. games don’t require an internet connection, and you don’t need one to view your calendar or inbox either. But if you want the latest updates, tweets, etc, you’ll need one.

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