The Motorola Droid Does…

Earlier this year my Verizon “new every 2” deal came up where I get a big rebate on a new cell phone so I decided to update my phone. My Blackberry 8830 had served me faithfully for two years and was sill working just fine, but I was over the small ass screen. I really like the BB because it is very easy and efficient for use as a phone, calendar, email interface, and instant messenger. I'm not a huge use multimedia on the phone kind of guy, but a BB can do the basics playing videos, music and taking pictures. I didn't really NEED a new phone so that made the choices slightly more difficult. The choices at the time were 1) Do I leave the land of Blackberry and try a Motorola Droid? 2) Do I leave Verizon, get an iPhone, and be like everybody else? or 3)Do I get a newer Blackberry like a Storm2 or Tour?

My faithful Blackberry 8830 was dropped, thrown, and cracked but still worked fine until the trackball ate shit at about 19 months. Verizon replaced it free of charge with a refurbished unit because of my insurance plan. The 8830 was also the only Verizon phone that could work internationally (it has a SIM card too) for the longest time because of Verizon's CDMA network and lack of support from international carriers. If you travel a lot internationally, you'll want an unlocked GSM carrier like T-Mobile.

Since no other network can match the performance of Verizon's, I quickly ditched the iPhone idea. I imagine you can ask just about anybody who smoked themselves when they moved away from Verizon. If they say AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint's service is better than Verizon's then they're just lying through their teeth or have never experienced the radness of Verizon. I have friends all over southern California that have moved away from Verizon and they almost all get dropped calls when on the road. Most of them regret the departure from Verizon dearly, but find solace in the fact that their iPhone is so damn good for everything else other than voice calls. On the flip side, Verizon probably has the shitiest phone selection in the industry. I don't really have a choice because where I live only Verizon phones get any kind of decent service and I've had all the networks that matter (in LA) through the years: Nextel, Sprint, and T-Mobile. My office is inside of a concrete building so it's the same deal there too.

I ended up leaving the world of BB, regrettably, and got myself a Motorola Droid. I say regrettably because the Droid is aimed toward more of a multimedia user rather than a smartphone power user like myself. I define a smartphone power user somebody who prioritizes and multi-tasks email, calendar, phone, and messaging. Pictures, video, YouTube, music, apps, etc. are secondary if a concern at all. It is my opinion that a smartphone power user should never depart from the world of Blackberry. A Blackberry is most efficient at email, calendar, phone, and messaging than any other phone in the world. Yes, it is even more efficient than your iPhone, but it just doesn't have that pretty interface while doing it. The BB = efficiency, but not necessarily pretty. Having a keyboard and the track ball/pearl thing on the front is what makes all the difference in the world.

The Droid's build quality is excellent. It feels very solid albeit a bit heavy. It has a heavy battery since the phone is meant to be used intensively with 3G and WI-FI. The Droid uses Google's Android operating system. Other manufacturers also use the Android OS and can implement the OS differently. As an example, I thought the HTC Droid Eris actually had a superior implementation of the Android OS compared to Motorola Droid, but HTC phones suck massive ass when it comes to battery life (the wife had several previously). I was thinking that I would eventually get used to the Motorola interface and it was just me getting old and inflexible. Anyhow, my Droid was delivered with Android OS v2.01 back in January, but there was an update about 4 weeks ago to v2.1. Great strides have been made in v2.1. Now there is multi-touch for iPhone like operation for zooming operations and subtle refinements that make the phone and OS more well rounded. But still, the Droid is far from the superior Blackberry in many ways.


Here's what I did at first to use the Droid as a phone:

  1. Hit the button on top of the phone to light up the screen.
  2. Swipe your finger across the bottom screen to unlock the phone.
  3. If it's not already on the phone mode (which it probably is not unless you are anal and return the phone to the home screen before the screen times out), then you need to go to the home screen or hold down the home button for two seconds for a “quick change” sub-menu.
  4. Hit the phone icon.
  5. Hit the contacts icon at the top of the screen.
  6. Find and select your contact by either hitting the search button or by scrolling down. The Android 2.1 update makes the scrolling feature much quicker with a quick scroll cursor. Before you pretty much had to use the search button or scroll for days.
  7. Select which number to dial from your contact's numbers unless you've previously setup a phone number as a default for that contact. 

You can imagine that I was pretty frustrated because this was just straight up dumb. I found a shorter way to use the phone which involves searching from the home screen. Since this is a Google OS, you have to put your faith in search.

  1. Hit the button on top of the phone to light up the screen.
  2. Swipe your finger across the screen to unlock the phone.
  3. If you are on the home screen then hit the search icon at the bottom of the phone. If you are not on the home screen, then hit the search icon at the bottom of the phone twice wherever you are.
  4. Type in the first several letters of your contact's name.
  5. Select contact name.
  6. Select contact's number you want unless you've previously setup a phone number as a default for that contact.

Ok, this is still pretty damn lame right? On a BB, all of the controls are localized within your thumb's reach and once again the keyboard is there in plain view so there are no buttons to press just to get a keyboard on the screen. So on a BB, if you've assigned shortcuts for the contacts you frequently call it would be something like this:

  1. Unlock phone (two keys).
  2. Hold down the shortcut key assigned to your contact for two seconds. The phone will automatically dial and you're are DONE.

You can see the advantages of having a physical keyboard on the phone's face. The BB iis designed for people who don't have time to poking at a big screen for an eternity just to dial a phone number. On the Droid you can assign functions to keys (e.g. A = phone, B = music, etc.). But then you need to slide the screen up to expose the keyboard and that's another step in itself. It could be that I am entirely super lame so if somebody knows how to use the Droid as a phone much faster than I have listed above, please let me know. Summary: the Droid is cumbersome to use as a phone.

Here's the Droid with the screen slid up to expose the Keyboard. The Keyboard does take some getting used to, but once you're used to it, it is very fast to use and logically laid out. The control on the right side is for cursor movement and “right click” functionality.

If you want to use the Droid with POP3 email accounts you should look elsewhere. The Droid SUCKS MASSIVELY for POP3 email. It will download mail from your POP3 servers about 40% of the time which isn't good enough to be considered reliable. When you sense (yes, use the force, Luke) that it stops downloading email, you have to power cycle the phone which is a big pain in the ass because that's a 2 minute procedure. Even when POP3 email is working, the Droid will often re-download emails that you already deleted from the phone which is irritating. I noticed that POP3 email stops working sometimes when the phone switches between WI-FI and 3G modes which completely blows also. The only real reliable way to get emails is to use a Gmail account to grab your POP3 emails. As you would expect, Android OS phones work really well with all things Google. Summary: the Droid sucks for POP3 email unless you use your Gmail account to grab your POP3 emails.

This is where the Droid shines. The Droid automatically syncs with Google Calender, Gmail and your contacts. Syncing your contacts comes in handy if you should ever loose your phone (I lost my first Droid when it was a 6 days old). The seemless integration of all things Google is what makes the Droid quite useful. This goes for any Android OS phone and not just the Motorola. So if you use a Google Calendar and Gmail then this phone is for you. If you don't use Google Calendar you should probably give it a try anyway since it's pretty damn good. Gmail is ok, but if you plan on using your Droid with POP3 emails then you'll definitely want to set up a Gmail account to grab your POP3 emails for you. The Droid's integration with Google Maps is also pretty awesome. The navigation feature in Google Maps when used with the Android OS is also very good except for the robotic female voice. The voice has bailed me out a couple times though. Summary: if you're a hardcore Google fanboi, the Droid is for you. If you're not a Google fanboi, the Droid wil turn you into one because the phone and Google web interfaces really do complement each other. Summary: Android is conning Android OS phone owners to become Google addicts, but Google is the bomb so you might as well succumb to it.

The Droid as a music player is pretty good. The stock player interface is simple and does the job. The sound quality is quite good too although it seems to be pre-equalized with extra bass and treble. The thing to do would be to download another player app with a built in equalizer, but it's not a deal breaker. I plug the Droid into the Maxima or Armada using the headphone jack and the sound is as good or better than an iPod. The included 16gb microSD card comes in really handy here so you can download all the MP3s you want (I use You can configure playlists, played recently added, and all the basics. Summary: the stock music player does the job.

The 5 megapixel camera is excellent in daylight. It's not bad in brighter indoor situations either (but is a little grainy probably due to the ISO getting cranked up). In dark situations where the the LED flash is used, the results vary. Sometimes you'll have to take a picture twice or else you'll end up with eerie whitish glow. Naturally it has something to do with my being a shitty cameraman, but being this is a phone for the masses you would think that Motorola would make it possible for the masses to take good low light pictures. If you get the crazy glow, then back up a little and tweak the angle slightly. Then the LED glow lessens. LED doesn't suck up battery life, but it isn't the ideal flash medium either. Examples below:

The eerie LED glow is definitely in effect here. While you're staring at the image, notice how nice the tubes are joined in the inside of a Full Race exhaust manifold collector.

You can still see the eerie glow, but much there's less stuff in the picture to reflect light. The same thing seems to happen to people skin too, but I usually take pictures of engine parts rather than people. I still use the Canon point and shoot for people. Summary: the camera is good in the daylight, but is mediocre in low light.

This is another place where the Droid rocks. Android v2.1 adds multi-touch to the stock browser for iPhone like functionality. When the Droid is connected to a wi-fi connection the browser absolutely ROCKS. You can have multiple browser windows and flip through them super quick. On 3G, the browser isn't bad, but only because it seems slow compared to wi-fi. As a web browser, the Droid destroys any Blackberry and it is definitely faster than an iPhone even on 3G. Some of my friends and I did some browser racing and the Droid rocked house hands down. Unfortunately just like the iPhone there is no Flash…yet.

I'm probably not the best one to discuss Droid apps since I'm not a heavy app user, but in the Droid Marketplace there are a ton of apps. I use Shazam, Pandora, Skype, Google Maps, DroidLight (a flashlight using the LED flash), Quote Pro (stock ticker), OpenSudoku (to get the brain cells working), Simple Stop Watch (to time cars at the track for fun), Facebook (rarely), and GTalk. The awesome thing about the Droid? MULTI-TASKING. This is where I believe the Droid rocks the shit out of the one app at a time iPhone and Blackberry.

Instead of throwing it back into the Verizon store window after discovering the Droid's many flaws, I decided to give the phone a chance. I believe that Google is going to constantly improve the Android OS in an attempt to dethrone the iPhone. Since I am not an Apple fan, I hope this happens in the near future. Sometimes I still wish I had a Blackberry, but I think I'll get over it. I find myself using the Droid's web browser more and being more open minded to apps with the Droid because it is really good at browsing and is very app capable. With a Blackberry I just stuck to the basic smartphone functions because a Blackberry is super efficient at those functions. I'll never get an iPhone as long as it is stuck to AT&T service. I imagine the next generation Motorola Droid coupled with the Android OS 3 will be an unbeatable combination, but for now it isn't as efficient as a Blackberry and it isn't nearly as polished as an iPhone. Would I buy a Droid knowing what I know now? Probably not, but I already have it so I'll give it a chance. I'll write an update in a year or so.

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