First Look- Droid Phone by Motorola

Motorola Droid Phone from Verizon I just picked up the Motorola Droid phone from Verizon Wireless the other day, and have started taking a look at the features and benefits that the device has (or doesn’t have) over the iPhone, my current sidearm. My point in writing this is not to compare the phone to the iPhone, but to tell you what I found about the Droid so far.

Note to iPhone fanboys: I don’t think this is an iPhone-killer as much as it’s another scoop out of Blackberry’s bucket. This beats the crap out of the Storm, and probably also the Tour. I think the Palm Pre will also get smooshed a bit by this phone, too.

Let’s look at what it can do. (And quick note: I bought this phone with my own cash. This is not a sponsored review.)

For another perspective, I think Bryan Sherman’s reviews are all pretty worthwhile, too.

Easy Keyboard and Touch Screen Input

Verizon DroidThe Droid has both the ability to input information via a touchscreen, similar to the iPhone, but there’s also a slide-out keyboard. The keys feel flat instead of bubbled like a BlackBerry, so you can’t exactly type blindly (BB users know what I mean), but what I do like about the keyboard is that the special characters make a lot more sense, placement wise. There’s also a five-position controller that you can use to scroll around if touch isn’t getting you precisely where you need to go. The touch screen, when just using that keyboard, worked just fine for me, too.


Honestly, the real war will be fought and won over a few spots: the network and applications. I’ll get to the network part, but I’ll start by saying I’m already pretty impressed by the applications. The commercials for Droid say there are over 10,000 apps already (these are Google widgets and android-specific apps). I had no trouble finding pretty much all my iPhone apps for a Droid version, including a beta of my favorite note app, Evernote, SnapTell visual product search, a Twitter client, and more.

Most surprising of the apps was Google’s new Maps with Navigation. I clicked this baby on and suddenly, I had turn-by-turn instructions given in a typical GPS voice, with traffic condition overlays and more. When I say this app pretty much makes the phone a must, it could replace my Garmin (I know that both Garmin and TomTom are a bit uncertain what Google’s new app means for their future).

I’ll review other apps as I get into them, and if they make sense to share with you. For now, suffice to say that I was very impressed with their selection, with one exception.

I had to download an app to close apps that were running on my phone.

What? Unless I missed a really simple instruction in the manual that I didn’t read, that strikes me as utterly silly. (Someone may come here and correct me.)

Google Integration

The Droid seamlessly integrated with my multiple Gmail accounts, including my accounts. It also integrated with my Google Calendar, my Google Voice, and all the other Google apps I run. That was delicious to experience. Having these apps run native on the phone makes them even faster, and even more slick. The calendar, for instance, runs even faster than the web-based version (though I wish it had custom views like the web version).

I’m very impressed with that integration. This, if you’re a Google fan, is a great reason to consider the phone.

The Network

I’ve been using AT&T for over a year now, and switching back to Verizon was a breath of fresh air. The web browsing is markedly faster on the Verizon 3G network. Calls stayed up on the three times I made a longer call while driving. In short, it just worked. iPhone fanboys, you have to admit that’s a weakness.

The network might be the thing that sells more people into trying out the Droid.

The Phone

The phone is loud and clear. The contacts and dialing mechanisms and stuff remind me a lot of the iPhone. It’s really simple and easy to use, and I don’t have anything bad to say about it.

The Camera

I haven’t shot a lot of photos yet with the Droid. The few I took were in poor lighting conditions, but even that was a change, because hey, it has a FLASH. Oooh, modern technology has equipped the Droid cameraphone with something that other cell phones have had for 9 years, but that has eluded my other previous smartphone of choice. Oh, and the camera is 5 megapixels. It also shoots video. You’ll see a test video of that soon enough here, but why rush things?

I’m pretty impressed with the quality. I also used the app PixelPipe (also available for iPhone and also my Mac desktop) on my Droid so that I could shove photos to as many sites as I wanted all at once. (A worthwhile app to get).

What’s Missing – iTunes

The most obvious app/feature missing is something that emulates the iTunes experience of an iPhone. There’s a music player, a video player, and a lot of 3rd party apps (Pandora for Android is quite noteworthy).

But there’s no store where I can blow $1.29 every time a whim strikes me. I’ve got several gigabytes of media on my iTunes account and on my laptop, and I’ve yet to try and port it over, but I’m reasonably sure that won’t really go anywhere. In the absence of that, why hasn’t Verizon led with a similar-to-iTunes or even a better Amazon integration? (You can correct me here if I missed something).

Overall: A Keeper

Today’s Day 2 with the Droid, so let’s not get crazy here. But so far, I’m really impressed. I think it’s a great phone, and will definitely give Blackberry users something to think about. I’m not as convinced that there will be a mass exodus from iPhone over to Droid, but then again, some of the other frustrated masses might just give it some thought.

For me, it’s not as much about a religion. I wanted a phone that worked better than what I was using. The iPhone raised the bar on what I was willing to accept. Thankfully, I feel the Droid meets and/or exceeds those standards.

Have you tried it? Are you considering it?

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