Motorola Droid Review

Motorola Droid Review

Aug 9, 2010

The Motorola Droid was my first venture into Android as my primary device. Since the launch of Android, I’ve always carried two phones, my iPhone (hate on it, it’s ok) and usually a G1 (hate even more), but I never really spent any time with just the G1 as my iPhone was my primary number. I should say that I’m glad I’ve waited until the platform matured a bit more before making it my device of choice, as there were major growing pains with the G! that may have actually turned me off from pursuing an Android device as a primary. We can thank AT&T for that jump.


Let’s go from the outside in:

Form Factor

The device itself has some serious weight to it, as someone who switched from an iPhone will tell you. But that weight feels evenly distributed between the whole device. It’s definitely something you’ll notice in your pocket when you first switch to it, but occasionally that’s a good thing. The Droid is a very rectangular device with soft rounded corners which give it a much more friendly appearance. The front of the device is hard plastic, while the back is soft plastic making it easier to grip.

The device has a lip at the bottom that includes room for a tiny microphone hole and a whole lot of Verizon branding. While I’ve never understood the reason for a lip on a cell phone, the Droid pulls it off a lot more fashionably than the G1, to the point where you’ll rarely ever think about it. Pushing the screen from left to right if holding in portrait mode will slide the hardware keyboard into view.

My main objections with the form factor of the device come from the loose battery cover on the back and the distance between the screen and the hardware keyboard. Often times I’ve had the battery cover fall out in my pocket or to the ground when I remove it from my pocket. Luckily I’ve never had the battery itself fall out, but that’s still not exactly the best scenario. The most common fix you’ll see for this is a piece of tape, either inside the case (doubled up) or outside (over the gap). I recommend the first method. With the distance between the hardware keyboard and the screen, when collapsed, you can sometimes press the screen down against the hardware keyboard and make a clicking sound. Out of the three Motorola Droids, all three of them had this issue, but two of them more than the other.

Display

When the Motorola Droid first premiered, the screen was the big draw for it. This 3.7 inch 480×854 resolution screen made the iPhone 3GS look like nothing special. But now compared to the Retina Display of the iPhone 4, it’s definitely a bit less impressive. I’ve found that the quality that this screen displays makes reading on the device, from emails to Kindle ebooks, much easier and much more enjoyable. Watching video on the Droid is crisp and clear, which makes it great for watching short clips or full movies.

In direct sunlight, the screen suffers a little bit. After having an oleophobic screen on the iPhone, you tend to forget how smudgy cell phone screens get (especially when you’re a greasy Italian), but it’s fairly simple to wipe it all away without hurting the screen. After having the device since launch, I’ve yet to put a scratch on the screen at all, but plenty of knicks and scrapes on the casing.

Input

If you’re a fan of buttons, the Motorola Droid is going to leave you completely satisfied. With a QWERTY keyboard, a directional pad, and a camera button for the hardware keys, you’ll have plenty to press down during your time with the device. For those of you less inclined to play with the hardware buttons, there are four soft keys on the face of the screen (back, menu, home, and search) as well as a fairly decent software keyboard (remember, this can change based on your firmware).

For a hardware keyboard, the Droid definitely offers a sturdy and fast solution. If I hadn’t abandoned hardware keyboards years ago, I think I would have actually liked this one. Add in the fact that I purchased my Droid in the winter time, and I have to say that this is the part of the device that I’ve spent the least amount of time with. Every application that uses it, even games, still displays a virtual keyboard on the screen and the delay and extra effort put in to slide the keyboard open can often times be more than is necessary when all you want to type is “OK”. I also can safely say I’ve never used the directional pad seriously. It just has that awkward feel to it, like it shouldn’t even exist, but yet it does.

When we switch over to the more virtual world, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. While, by default, the Droid doesn’t provide multi-touch, certain applications and later firmware resolve this issue. Typing on the screen is fairly easy, but with larger thumbs, you’ll end up fat fingering like crazy. What’s even more frustrating, however, is that the soft keys at the bottom of the screen are very easy to hit when you’re typing away on the virtual keyboard, which will often times launch you out of the application or at least out of what you were typing. For the software keyboard, the spacebar could be a bit bigger, but the real power game for using the onscreen keyboard is an app called Swype, but that’s for a different article.

Camera

I’ve never been a fan of cameras on cell phones (until the iPhone 4 and the Droid X) and the Motorola Droid continues that streak of disappointment. While it sure says 5 mega-pixels on the back of this device, the quality is completely lacking. If the target is anything but still, I find that it’s hard to capture what’s going on at all due to a slow shutter speed and a terrible blur that I can never seem to avoid. Pictures look washed out when using the LED flash but you won’t be able to make anyone out in the picture if the lighting isn’t perfect otherwise. Add in that loading the camera app seems to take forever, and you’ll probably want to bring a real camera with you when it’s time to shoot actual photos.

Battery Life

I’m a power user, there’s no doubt about it. For this phone to even last me a day, I have to keep it charged while at work. In an average day, I probably receive over 150 emails and send and receive close to 250 text messages. Couple that in with Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook, and a few other apps running in the background and the occasional usage of the map, this 1400 mAh battery doesn’t stand a chance against me. I have several friends who decree that the battery is excellent, and I’m not saying that this behavior is anything less than what I expected or had when I was an iPhone user. I would, however, consider investing in an extra battery, extended battery, or carry the cord around with you when you venture out. Unlike the iPhone cable, not everyone has one of these.

Detailed Specs

– 3.7-inch WVGA (854×480), 16:9 touchscreen
– Arm Cortex A8 550 MHz Processor
– 5-megapixel camera with dual-LED flash
– DVD-quality video capture and playback (720×480)
– 16GB microSD (32GB expandable)
– 3.5mm headphone jack
– QWERTY keyboard
– 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS (with Google Maps Navigator)
– 1400 mAh battery
– Android 2.0, 2.1, 2.2

The Motorola Droid packs quite a punch with its specs, or at least it did when it first came out. But what really makes all of the above features sing, is upgrading the device to Android 2.2, Froyo. Since updating I’ve noticed an increase in performance all around, especially speed and battery life. This update should be available over the air for everyone by now and if not, we have an article for how you can manually update to Froyo. If you just got a Droid, play around with it for a bit on the older firmware so that you can truly appreciate just how fast it is on Froyo.

Final Thoughts

The device is solid and was the best Android phone for quite some time. The EVO and the Droid X now definitely give it a run for its money, but for those of you looking for a smaller device or one with a hardware keyboard, this is still going to be a favorite piece of tech. Unfortunately, the Droid 2 is coming out soon, so it’s really up to you on whether or not you want to invest the money into this device when an updated version is on its way so soon.

Motorola Droid Review Rundown

8.0
Form Factor - The device is definitely solid, but the battery cover issue and the keyboard could be off-putting for some.
10
Input - With Froyo, you've really got all the options you could want and a really responsive screen.
6.0
Camera - The delay on the shutter and the washed out look with the LED light makes this a camera you should pass on.
8.0
Battery Life - Nothing special, but no worse than expected.
8.5
Overall - Once the greatest Android phone, now taking a back seat to bigger devices and it's up coming predecessors.
AR Editor
Connect with AR Editor // email