My life with the Motorola Droid....

So I have been using the Motorola Droid for almost a month now. I have to say it has taken the top spot as best gadget I have ever purchased from my Ipod Touch. It is the best and most useful phone I have ever owned.

So what phones have I used? I traded up from an LG Chocolate. Not really a smart phone or fair comparison. So I am comparing my employer prodvided phone a Blackberry Curve and I own the IPod Touch and have several friends and family members with the IPhone. I will be comparing them to the Droid since everyone else seems to.

Let me start off by saying that the IPhone, Maemo and Android  based phones are what I have best heard described as application phones. Which seems a better title than smart phone in my opinion. The phones aren't just smart they are computers all to themselves.  Maemo isn't in wide release so why am I giving it a nod site unseen? Because Nokia owns a really large chunk of the cell phone market. Maemo is not their first attempt to make an application phone operating system. They are quick to change and have amazing brand loyalty both inside and outside of the US. This will draw developers and that will let them catch Apple and Google's App store counts without much effort.

OK back to the review now.

What do I love about the Droid?

It just works. It does what it's supposed to do when it's supposed to. It makes really clear calls and gives me the option to call either with my Google Voice Number or my regular cell number. It is amazingly fast both for browsing and non-browsing tasks. The Voice Recognition is amazing.

It's easy to do stuff. I had all of my Facebook and Gmail contacts in my phone before I left the store. When I make a change to those contacts on either the phone or the website they stay synched. I have three E-Mail addresses I am currently watching for new mail and all of them are setup and syncing with my Droid. (All of the accounts say "Droid" when I get new mail. It gets an eye roll from my wife which just makes me love it all the more. :))

Multitasking applications are amazing. I love listening to Pandora while I am looking at the Navigation app and then switching to an E-Mail or Message coming in without having to shut anything down. It seems like a little thing until you have it. Then you can't live without it. Apple needs to remove this restriction from the next version of the IPhone/Touch software.

The Navigation on the phone will replace the both the Garmin Nuvi I own and the one built into my car. It's just that good. It is so cool to look up a business in Google Search or  any search engine, click on the address and get a pop-up to start Navigating there. It's really that easy. I raced my wife the first day and I not only beat her and the Garmin Nuvi but was 5 minutes down the road before they even found where we were going. It is accurate, useable, and fast. The GPS in the phone is good when you are in the car or outside.

Want to know what is sucking up all of the batter on your phone? There is an app for that. You can see what app is stealing all of your power. This let's you see that the video you were watching on YouTube drove the screen hard while you watched it and had left in battery almost dead.  Luckily the battery charges fast because if you are watching video and playing games the battery drains quickly.  During normal use, even with Pandora running, the battery easily lasts me all day.  The big beautiful screen is what kills the battery most often.  So if you are just streaming music or listening to podcasts downloaded to the phone it easily  lasts you more than a day.

What I have heard about my beloved phone but I don't agree with?

The keyboard sucks compared to X phones keyboard.

Let's face it folks the full keyboards on any phone sucks because of how small the keys just have to be to fit in your pocket. The one on the Droid is no better or worse than either the physical one on my Curve or the virtual one on my Touch. I mistype just as much with all three of them. What I like about the Droid over the Blackberry Keyboard is that it's laid out like a keyboard. I don't mean it's qwerty I mean it's square like I am used to on my keyboard. The lack of that slight curve just feels more natural. Contrary to several reports the keys are easy to tell apart  as long as your thumbs calloused for too  much game playing. The visual keyboard isn't really any better than the IPhone/Touch one. What makes it better is the predictive word list which is in a scrolling list and you have to click to choose a word it doesn't choose a word. It seemed like a small thing to me when I first tried it but it's amazingly useful.

The App Store doesn't have enough apps.

Really how many farting, calendar, alarm clock and lighter apps do you need? The Droid Market place may be smaller but the number of apps I miss from my Touch on my Droid is two. The folks at Squarespace(hosts of this blog) and Tweetdeck desperately need a Droid version. While I wait for Tweetdeck I have been trying out several different options but still miss it. I have plenty of free games to play on both the Droid and Touch. The Curve isn't really in the same league here. There are apps out there for it but they are no where as easy to get on the phone. Never underestimate  the pleasure you can get from downloading a new app or game while waiting for something else to happen. Click, download, click to run and your done. Both the iPhone/Touch and Droid make this so simple and easy.

What don't like about it?

There are a few coding standards I would like to see all of the app developers follow.

  1. Add an exit/quit choice in every applications somewhere. I want to be able to quit your app without having to use the brute force kill app choice to kill your app.  Pulling up the Google Kill App and seeing 20 some apps running because I can't stop them.

  2. Remember its a phone. The real first purpose is to be that. One of my apps, a game, somehow blacks out the screen when a call comes in. So you can't see exactly where the on screen buttons are to answer with. They are there and when I guess right still work. It's just annoying.

A lot of the options are burried in menus several levels deep. I haven't counted yet but it's more than the three I think it should be maxing out at. This makes the phone seem a bit intimidating.

Neither sliding the keyboard out, touching the screen or home row buttons wakes the phone up. You have to hit the power button to start the screen. It's minor but can be annoying.

Battery life is a bit short. I make it through the day but as the battery ages I suspect I may have days where it won't. I can probably address this with the user replaceable batteries.

The UI isn't always as intuitive  as it could be. In handing the phone  to several Technical and non-technical friends there were struggles at several points with each of them. So they seem to have a slight learning curve with the interface. This isn't a problem that the IPhone/Touch for the Curve has faced for me in the past.

In Conclusion:

If you have the means and desire to buy an Application Phone I think the Droid is it. If you are going to hand it to your mother who isn't at all tech savy  you may want an IPhone. It works and works well. You do need the data plan because the usefulness of the phone is the internet.

Will the Droid or any android phone unseat Blackberry in the corporate arena? Not at this time but it will be a contender. The number of useful apps is growing by leaps and bounds on a weekly basis. If I could get my corporation to allow me to use my phone on the internal network I might not need my laptop to do my job away from the office. At least most of it.  Before anyone get's to excited about replacing laptops with Droids, I am a Linux Admin and don't need any of the Microsoft tools.  It won't be long until someone comes out with a Remote Terminal app for this phone. 

Brian Wagner

Brian started working with *nix in while a student at Kent State University in the early 90's. In 1995, as an E-Mail Administrator for Caliber Technology (now part of Fedex) he was tasked with administering Sendmail on both Slackware Linux and Solaris Systems. His first home install of Linux was MkLinux DR1 in 1996 on his 60 Mhz PowerMac. Since then Brian has been working and consulting on Linux and it's uses in the Enterprise to support everything from E-Mail, Firewalls, Web and File serving to custom cluster solutions and grid solutions. Brian has had the opportunity to work in both Fortune 500 companies and small 2 person organizations. This has given him the unique insight into the differences every size business faces.