We’ve taken the reviews from five (count ’em – FIVE) different sites that have reviewed the newest smartphone running the Android 2.0 operating system – Motorola’s DROID on the Verizon wireless network.
For you, dear readers, we have sorted through and organized the reviews to tell you what you want to know and to give you our take on the newest Android cellphone on Verizon network!
Pogue (NYT): The gorgeous screen is slightly bigger than the iPhone‚Äôs; on close examination, its higher resolution (854 x 480 pixels) make text look sharper and curves smoother.
Mossberg (WSJ): The Droid’s large 3.7-inch screen looked great, but it lacks multitouch features, such as two-finger zooming, and it seemed less responsive than some other touch screens I’ve tested.
Scobleizer: It has a FAR better screen. The screen is amazing on the Droid. The Palm Pre is similarly sharp but is very small. No multitouch. I just talked with Dave Winer about this and he says it‚Äôs the number one thing most people mention to him after he shows them his Droid. It doesn‚Äôt make sense, either, because other Android phones support multitouch (pinching to make things zoom in and out). If you really can‚Äôt use multitouch you MUST provide a better UI to zoom in. Last night I was at the Ritz with my Droid and tried to show some people some photos of Mavericks. I could not figure out how to zoom in. Later I found that the zoom control was hidden in the corner. Nice way to make me feel stupid. iPhone never had this problem.
Gizmodo: Droid’s 3.7-inch, 854×480 display with an eye-popping pixel density of 267ppi, is the kind of screen you ache for. An analogy: Do you remember how amazing you thought Nintendo 64 games looked, ten years ago? Have you looked at them lately? Do you remember the sinking feeling you got, realizing just how ugly they are now? That’s how’ll you’ll feel looking at every other phone with the now-standard 480×320 screens we thought were so gorgeous a couple of years ago. They’re lo-fi and lifeless by comparison. It’s the clarity of the text that captivates. It’s true, there’ve been Windows phones with excellent screens that have the same resolution as Droid, but the font rendering has always been too weak to take advantage of them. Reading ebooks on an iPhone has always given me a headache (so I don’t), but with Droid’s pixel density, I could read on it for hours. It’s that good. The color’s fantastic, too, though not Zune HD OLED level. Touch response is mostly effective. When there are misfires, like getting no response when you flick your finger to pull out the app menu, it’s hard to tell if it’s the phone or the software‚Äîat least until more Android 2.0 phones are out there. But no serious complaints.
Engadget: The screen on the DROID is a 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen — a full glass display with a WVGA resolution clocking in at a handsome 480 x 854. We found the responsiveness on the DROID to be on par (if not better) than most of its Android contemporaries; gestures and flicks registered with little to no lag. Whether that can be attributed to Moto’s screen technology, Android 2.0 improvements, or just the speedy CPU inside the DROID is anyone’s guess, but we certainly won’t knock the phone for it. Another perk to having that big screen is seeing webpages how they’re meant to be viewed (or at least closer), and browsing on the DROID is a solid experience. Those additional pixels definitely come in handy when you’re looking at something graphically intensive or wordy… such as Engadget. As you have probably heard (or guessed), there’s no multitouch on this device. That’s clearly an issue with Android 2.0 and choices that Google is making about user interface — we’re fairly certain there’s nothing technically holding back the DROID from utilizing multitouch input, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see some tweaked ROMs hit the information superhighway with the functionality onboard. Regardless, the resolution, materials, and clarity of the DROID display make it an absolute pleasure to keep your eyes on. Motorola gets a +1 for the bump in resolution, and we can only hope everyone else follows suit.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Everyone appears to agree that the size and resolution of the screen is fantastic with a couple caveats to the fact that there is no multi-touch option on the Droid (except MILESTONE European version). In general, multitouch implementation is a big mess on android.
Pogue (NYT): Anyone who hates typing on glass will love that the Droid gives you a choice: on-screen keyboard or illuminated, slide-out physical keyboard.
Mossberg (WSJ): Unfortunately for lovers of physical keyboards, I found the one on the Droid to be pretty awful. It has flat, cramped keys that induce too many typing errors, yet lacks auto-correction. I found myself using the virtual on-screen keyboard, which was pretty fast and accurate for me, and did include auto-correction.
Scobleizer: The keyboard and cursor control just don‚Äôt come up to the standards set by the Blackberry I had 10 years ago. It‚Äôs a low-cost glued on keyboard that just doesn‚Äôt offer that many benefits over an optical keyboard.
Gizmodo: The keyboard is okay. I liked it a lot more on Day 1 than I do today, and that’s because I never got any faster. The problem is that the key landscape is too flat and homogenous‚Äîa necessary sacrifice for Droid’s remarkable skinniness‚Äîso there’s simply no way to feel out precisely what key your thumb’s on, meaning I never broke out of having to stare at the keyboard while typing. I found the actual layout to be excellent. Overall, the keyboard works, but you’ll probably never fly on it. I’m faster on the landscape touch keyboard, personally. The d-pad’s not as dandy as a trackball for getting around, but for navigating around text, it’s better than I expected‚Äîdespite its puniness, I never pressed the wrong button. But I hate the four soft touch buttons on the front of the phone. For one, there are no dedicated phone or end call buttons, so if you accidentally call somebody at 4am, you have to figure out how to end the call exclusively via the software interface. For two, the lack of feedback is annoying, especially if you’re holding down the search button trying to activate voice search and it’s not coming up. Did you miss the button? Are you pressing it wrong? Who knows? If Android’s going to rely hard on these four buttons, the way iPhone relies on the home button, they need to be actual physical objects.
Engadget: We think the closest case for comparison with the DROID’s version would be the G1; both have shallow, clicky keys, and both force your right hand into a bit of an awkward position. On the G1, it’s due to the placement of the “chin,” and with the DROID, it’s all down to the five-way rocker living next to the ‘board itself. We’re happy to report, however, that after a short adjustment period, typing on the DROID is a reasonable experience. Visually, the keyboard is an easier read (and more aesthetically pleasing) than those other QWERTY phones too, though sometimes the keys can feel a bit cramped. Additionally, we had major issues with the auto-dimming on the DROID. If we left the screen in auto brightness mode, the constant on / off dimming of the keyboard was intolerable; eventually we had to just switch the auto dim off altogether. We also had issues with the keyboard not lighting up at all in some instances, requiring us to close and open the pad again. Not a huge deal, but annoying when you’re trying to quickly tap out a message.
iSmashPhone Verdict: The physical keyboard on the Droid doesn’t seem to be all that and a bag of chips.
Pogue (NYT): The camera has an LED flash, which helps at close range at night, but the camera itself is balky and slow to focus and fire. You can record videos (at a high 720 by 480 resolution, although they don‚Äôt look any sharper) and upload them to YouTube, but you can‚Äôt trim the dead air off the ends first.
Mossberg (WSJ): The Droid also has a higher-resolution camera than the iPhone’s: five megapixels versus three megapixels. And the camera has a flash, which the Apple lacks. In my tests, pictures came out OK, though not dazzling, and videos I shot were quite good.
Scobleizer: The camera sucks. First of all, it‚Äôs crashed on me several times. The iPhone and Palm Pre cameras have never crashed on me. Second, the iPhone camera seems magical. You can touch the screen to tell it where to focus. Don‚Äôt care about that? Yeah, the Droid has a flash but the flash in the Palm Pre works a LOT better (we took pictures last night in near darkness to compare). The iPhone also has a much better selection of photo apps to use and manipulate your images. Since the camera is an integral part of the experience, this one will leave most people unsatisfied. I do love that the phone says ‚Äú5 megapixel‚Äù right under the camera. The iPhone doesn‚Äôt (it‚Äôs only a 3, but I found the camera quality to be about the same so far, so even the extra megapixels amount to little more than talk without action).
Gizmodo: The camera is complete garbage. It takes 10 years to start up, 2 to focus, and another 4 to actually take the goddamn picture. And there’s no distinct visual feedback to let you know a photo’s been snapped. And the photos suck. That pumpkin shot, in decent lighting, is as good as it gets. Like I said in the Android 2.0 review, I don’t know if it’s the hardware or the software, but it’s inexcusably bad. Video’s not terrible, though, beyond the fussy format even VLC doesn’t even like playing.
Engadget: While the camera certainly seems capable of taking great looking photos, getting everything to play nice isn’t as easy as it should be. First off, the camera is painfully slow to focus and snap pictures — and when it does, the results can be unpredictable. Strangely, the lens seems to be able to take pretty sharp macro photos (it’s even a setting in the camera app), but it struggled with getting adjusted to close subjects, even in broad daylight. Sometimes we got lucky and cranked out a decent pic, but the process was frustrating. Furthermore, the new settings Google has added to 2.0 are contained in a hard to get to and counterintuitive menu which sits to the left of your viewing area. Video, on the other hand, was somewhat of a pleasant surprise. The DROID is capable of shooting at a 720 x 480 resolution, and in our tests, produced watchable — if not totally shake-free — video. The phone definitely fares better in this department than with stills, and we could easily see using the DROID as a stand-in for a flip cam.
iSmashPhone Verdict: As a stand-alone camera, most of the guys agree: it sucks. But the video is some what acceptable. Definitely room for improvement.
Android 2.0 cannot spell – image credit
Operating System (Android 2.0):
Pogue (NYT): And the Droid multitasks ‚Äî it can keep multiple programs open at once. Now, the usual response to this subject is: ‚ÄúOoh, so you can check your calendar or e-mail while you‚Äôre on a call! You can listen to your music while surfing the Web!‚Äù True, but even the ‚Äúnonmultitasking‚Äù iPhone does all that. Still, the Droid‚Äôs multitasking pays off in two situations: when you want to listen to Internet radio while you work in other apps, and when you‚Äôre switching between programs a lot. Since they‚Äôre already open, you don‚Äôt have to wait for them to start up again with each switch. Meanwhile, Droid brings all the advantages of Google‚Äôs open, customizable, now more refined Android software: a single Inbox can consolidate all of your e-mail accounts; the software now handles corporate Microsoft Exchange e-mail/calendar systems; there‚Äôs a system-wide Search command (and a dedicated button) and voice search; you can put a Facebook widget on your Home screen; and so on. The Droid‚Äôs Web browser is good, but slower than the iPhone‚Äôs. And you have to zoom in and out by tapping +/- buttons or double-tapping the screen.
Mossberg (WSJ): The Droid is also the first phone that runs the 2.0 version of Android, which sands off some of the rough edges of Google’s platform and adds some features‚Äînotably, a free voice-prompted turn-by-turn navigation program. Android still isn’t as slick or fluid as the iPhone’s OS, in my view, but it has some functionality Apple omits, including the ability to run multiple third-party apps simultaneously.
Gizmodo: The main attraction for Droid is Android 2.0, the remarkably updated mobile OS from Google. It’s what makes Droid so great‚Äînew navigation app, new contacts/social network syncing, better email management, better browser‚Äîbut also why Droid still falls short of the iPhone, particularly when it comes to managing music and video. While definitely stable enough to use as an everyday phone, we did run into a few bugs: GPS accuracy was wildly off-target on more than one occasion, pinpointing our location hundreds of miles away, and the only way to fix it was to reboot the phone (I assume that’s a software issue, not a hardware one). We also had one complete crash after finishing a phone call that required a reboot. And more apps stopped responding more often than we were used to on previous versions of Android, requiring a force close.
Engadget: The first thing you should know is that Android 2.0 isn’t drastically different than 1.5 or 1.6, save for a few notable features and tweaks that have significant impact. True to form, Google hasn’t gone for visual flair or wild embellishments for the sake of a few dropped
jaws; most of these changes are about functionality and usability. One of the first major changes Google has made is support for multiple Gmail or Exchange accounts, and a new universal inbox which allows you to get a look at your electronic correspondences in a single view. Facebook account integration is now built into 2.0, and there should be more of that coming, as Google has created “sync adapters” which allow third parties to plug into the contact and calendars of your phone. Speaking of contacts, Google has made some big and thoughtful changes to how contacts are handled (and used) in Android 2.0, most notably adding a “Quick Contact” menu to your contact list. The quick contact function allows you to tap on someone’s name and get a context menu with jumps to the various ways you can reach out; if you’re friends with someone on Facebook, you’ll be given an option to message them there, along with SMS, phone, and email choices. It’s a brilliant little touch that makes quickly pinging someone a cinch. Android 2.0 also improves the SMS and MMS experience by giving you the option to search your messages, and also allowing you to set a limit on how many SMSs to store before beginning to delete old threads. It’s not groundbreaking stuff, but nice choices to have (finally).
iSmashPhone Verdict: Android 2.0 showed us the future, but it still needs improvement. Multimedia capabilities are weak. Inconsistency with some design elements is just painful at times (see some spelling errors in image above).
Pogue (NYT): The Android Market may offer 12,000 of them, but the iPhone store has 100,000 ‚Äî and over all, they seem to be more useful and imaginative. Shopping is more awkward on the Droid, too, because you have to do it all on the phone; you can‚Äôt use your computer, as you can for the iPhone. There‚Äôs not much room for the apps on the Droid, either.
Mossberg (WSJ): Currently, Android offers over 12,000 apps. That is just a fraction of the 100,000 apps available for the iPhone, but it’s well above what the newer BlackBerry or Palm phones offer. The Droid’s screen has only three panels for displaying apps, versus 11 on the iPhone, and some large apps, called widgets, hog much of the space on these panels.
Scobleizer: There are some apps that are dramatically better. Google‚Äôs Voice and Google‚Äôs Sky Map are two that have already stood out. Other apps are noticeably not even close to as good. Facebook and all the Twitter apps, for instance, are a LOT better on the iPhone. But Facebook‚Äôs UI sucks on Droid compared to iPhone. Most people will see this and say Droid sucks. Just this one app will affect millions of people‚Äôs decisions as to whether or not the phone is a real product. If I were Google I‚Äôd make sure that Facebook had BY FAR the best app on Android and if they weren‚Äôt willing to play ball with you I‚Äôd build my own and put my best engineers on it. The best Twitter app on the Droid sucks (everyone told me that Twidroid was the best app on the Droid for Twitter and, indeed, it has the highest ratings in the app store on the Droid). It does not even come close to ANY of the top five apps on the iPhone, not to mention my favorite, Tweetie.
Gizmodo: No direct mention.
Engadget: A few of the obvious spots include the music player, which is quite frankly a mess; not only is the navigation poorly thought out, but the application is just straight-up ugly. It’s not easy on the eyes, and not much fun to use either. The same goes for the phone app — the remnants of a hastily thrown together interface are plain here, and the functionality of the phone itself gave us some issues. Often the screen was confused or unresponsive during calls, as if the hardware and software weren’t communicating with each other properly. It seems obvious to us that some portions of Android need a serious, ground-up reworking… but they don’t get them here. Another annoyance was the home screen — unlike with HTC’s tweaks (or even Motorola’s BLUR), you only get three screens for icons and widgets. Furthermore, the DROID doesn’t come equipped with even the most basic widgets you see in most new builds, like
weather. The weird thing is that there is a weather app in the dock display, but no way to access the application in standard phone mode. One of the biggest pieces of news (perhaps the biggest) to come out of the DROID launch was the introduction of dedicated, fully realized turn-by-turn navigation which integrates with Google Maps. The DROID makes further use of this functionality by switching into a nav mode when snapped into a dock (you can also enter the application normally, sans dock).
iSmashPhone Verdict: Definitely, the lack of apps makes the Android Market less endearing than the iPhone’s Appstore, but the ability to see what types of apps work and are popular for iPhone users can be of use to Android App developers. Oh, and did we say that Droid comes only with 560Mb for app storage?
Pogue (NYT): It runs on Verizon‚Äôs superior cellphone network, so it won‚Äôt drop your calls in New York City and San Francisco. The Droid doesn‚Äôt work outside the United States, as the iPhone does (for an added fee).
Mossberg (WSJ): Phone calls were crisp and clear, and I never suffered a dropped call. Verizon’s network was speedy and reliable for Web surfing, email and social networking.
Scobleizer: Verizon is amazing. It didn‚Äôt drop on the usual dead zone on my route home. I have 3G in my house. AT&T? Major fail.
Gizmodo: Verizon’s network is top notch, and being able to actually use the internet on my phone with impunity in New York is revelatory. In both New York and Seattle testing, reception has been excellent, though around Pittsburgh, it was spottier than expected. Voice quality was pretty excellent whenever we
didn’t use Google Voice.
Engadget: No direct mention.
iSmashPhone Verdict: As an AT&T switch-over for the iPhone, I can definitely attest to the need for AT&T to increase and better their infrastructure, even though I live in a major metropolitan area where coverage shouldn’t be a hassle. If Verizon’s network is as strong as these four reviews state, it’s definitely an overall plus. No wonder AT&T is going after Verizon for it’s “There is A Map For That” ads.
Audio quality (music and voice):
Pogue (NYT): Audio quality is superb, both on phone calls and music. There‚Äôs no iTunes-like auto-synching software for the Droid, either, so loading music, photos and videos is a drag-and-drop operation.
Mossberg (WSJ): I copied some songs and videos onto the Droid by plugging it into a computer, and all played properly.
r: The call quality is noticeably better. The voice quality is so much better that I might just use it as my phone and keep the iPhone for other things. I‚Äôm fortunate that I can afford to do that, but if I were forced into picking one, today, I‚Äôd pick the iPhone without hesitating and I‚Äôd recommend the same to everyone.
Gizmodo: No direct mention.
Engadget: The sound on the DROID is second to none — really. In fact, this is simply one of the best sounding devices we’ve ever used. Whether it’s audio through the loud (but undistorted) earpiece, or a speakerphone call — even music — the sound which Motorola’s device outputs is crystal clear. Now, obviously Verizon’s reception has something to do with our in-call sound, but it’s likely Moto put some thought into the aural aspect of the phone.
iSmashPhone Verdict: iTunes has been a headache for iPod users for years and now, using it for the iPhone as well, it’s still old, slow, and feels clunky. To have a drag-and-drop operation that will allow the user to take files directly from their hard drive and put them on their phone is a fantastic idea and I’m glad that Google allows this. This is a HUGE plus.
Pogue (NYT): Although Verizon includes a 16-gigabyte memory card for your music and photos, apps have to be stored in a 560-megabyte chunk of built-in memory. Some Droiders will fill that up quick.
Mossberg (WSJ): It comes with 16 gigabytes of memory, in the form of a removable card, and can handle up to a 32-gigabyte card.
Scobleizer: No direct mention.
Gizmodo: No direct mention.
Engadget: No direct mention.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Removable memory cards is a great idea but to really make this work, the Droid needs to be able to handle over 32-gigs. The 560-megabyte app space is NOT a good idea and limits the number of apps that one can run on the Droid. By comparison, the iPhone can handle all 16 or 32 gigabytes as apps.
Pogue (NYT): The Droid‚Äôs battery gets you through one day, just like the iPhone‚Äôs, but you can carry a spare.
Mossberg (WSJ): Battery life is listed at a whopping 6.4 hours, and, in my tests, the Droid easily lasted through the day on a single charge.
Scobleizer: No mention.
Gizmodo: With moderate to heavy usage‚Äîbrowsing, some navigation, push Gmail, moderate app usage, with the occasional app running in the background‚ÄîI managed to make it through a full 8-12 hour day before recharging, each day for about a week, though some days were closer than others. Your mileage will vary, depending on how many apps you’ve got running in the background and how much you hit GPS, but my experience was that it was entirely acceptable for a modern smartphone.
Engadget: We haven’t had a lot of time to put the DROID through its paces when it comes to battery life, but at a glance it seems to be holding its own against the current crop of 3G devices — impressive considering it’s only packing a 1400mAh battery behind that extremely sexy door. In general, you won’t be blown away by the DROID’s staying power, but it doesn’t deviate in any wild ways which should make you take pause. It’s solid, not breathtaking, and it seems better than the CLIQ, which — despite using the same battery — typically manages to just barely eke through a day’s worth of typical use.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Battery life seems to be about standard but the fact you can carry around an extra battery really gives this phone props.
Pogue (NYT): the Droid wins on phone network, customizability, GPS navigation, speaker, physical keyboard, removable battery and openness (free operating system, mostly uncensored app store). The iPhone wins on simplicity, refinement, thinness, design, Web browsing, music/video synching with your computer, accessory ecosystem and quality/quantity of the app store.
Mossberg (WSJ): The Droid is potentially a big win for Verizon, Motorola and Google, as well as for loyal Verizon customers.
Scobleizer: I told Dave Winer that it looks a lot like Windows 3.1. The Mac back then was way better, but we all know that Apple ended up in 1995 with a small market share compared to Windows 95. The thing is, the Droid is Windows 3.1. It is showing the momentum is shifting but now Google has to ship their metaphorical equivalent of Windows 95. It isn‚Äôt this phone.
Gizmodo: Android is evolving more rapidly than any other smartphone platform, both in terms of the hardware and software. When HTC’s Hero came out, it crushed every other Android phone out there. Just a couple short months later, Droid is on top. In four months, we’ll probably see a new champion. That Droid sets such a high bar for everything after might be the best thing about it.
Engadget: Yes, the DROID is an excellent smartphone with many (if not all) of the features that a modern user would expect, and if you’re a Verizon customer, there probably isn’t a more action packed device on the network. That’s not to say the device doesn’t have its faults; the camera was unpleasant to
use, the application selection feels thin in both quantity and quality (despite the claim of 10,000 options), and the phone has bits of basic, non-intuitive functionality that might chafe on some users after a while. But even still, it’s hard not to recommend the DROID to potential buyers eager to do more with their devices. It’s easily the best Android phone to date, and when you couple the revamped OS, Verizon’s killer network, and an industrial design straight from a gadget enthusiast’s fever-dream, it makes for a powerful concoction. Ultimately, the DROID won’t usurp the iPhone from the public’s collective mindshare or convince casual users that they must switch to Android, but it will make a lot of serious geeks seriously happy — and that’s good enough for us.
iSmashPhone FINAL Verdict: We agree that the Droid is definitely on the up and coming and will watch the next few revisions of the phone and the operating system. if you are an iPhone user, keep your iPhone – for now. The Droid isn’t the best phone out there, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on. However, if you’re on Verizon’s service already, it sounds extremely promising!
We can tell this you much: Don’t be surprised in a few months that this blog will be covering android and iphone side by side
Reviews used were:
A Place to Put Your Apps – the New York Times’ David Pogue
Motorola’s Droid is Smart Success for Verizon Users by the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg
Motorola Droid Review by Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan
Motorola DROID Review by Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky