My Motorola Droid Phone Review

Motorola Droid Picture

Motorola Droid Picture

I purchased the new Motorola Droid phone the first weekend it came out after 2+ years of desirable smartphone neglect from Verizon. While all the cool kids had their iPhones, all I could do was complain tirelessly about my BlackBerry Pearl, only to purchase and nearly immediately return my BlackBerry Storm POS-brick-that-did-nothing-right-and-was-useless-as-a-phone-or-anything-else-phone. Additionally, the last cool phone Motorola made was the Razor (or is it RAZR?), which was eons ago.

So it was with much skepticism that I picked up the new Motorola Droid Phone. The initial reviews were overwhelmingly positive, but Verizon has had such a solid track record of disappointment I had to experience it to believe it.

And now, I’m a believer. This phone kicks ass!

I’ve spent the past few days trying to think of bad things to say about this phone, and to be honest it’s been a struggle. It works perfectly – no freezing, no bugs, quick response time, etc. Any complaint I could think of was usually just “user error.” Like any phone, there is a bit of a learning curve, especially to get used to the rather tiny buttons on the keyboard. I’ve seen a few reviews wishing that had eliminated the gold arrow pad and just made bigger keys and I probably agree, but that’s a rather minor complaint.

Now for the features that really “WOW” me.

– Easy & impressive integration with Facebook and Gmail contacts. Within seconds of getting the phone, I logged in to Gmail and Facebook. It pulled in all of my Gmail contacts, then updated them with their Facebook Profile pictures and most recent Facebook Status. No need to ever sync my phone with my computer, as everything is pretty much already synced across Google.

– Determination on Verizon’s (and Motorola and Google’s) behalf to make this phone a success. Within less than 2 weeks of launching the phone, they already have a firmware update on the way to address bugs many (including myself) didn’t even know existed. Compare that to the Storm which went months without a very desperately needed firmware update…that is commitment.

– Google Maps with Turn by Turn Navigation – I purchase the Car Mount (which didn’t come with an included charger as advertised and instead cost an added $30, WTF Verizon?). What’s great is I now have a Navigation system that is better than any OEM or Aftermarket In-Car Navigation system because it connects directly to the internet with traffic updates and detours from Google (traffic prediction isn’t all that accurate though). Here is my setup:

Motorola Droid in Car Mount Holder

Motorola Droid in Car Mount Holder

– Awesome apps – while maybe not as impressive as Apple’s App Store, the Android Market has some pretty damn cool offerings. For instance, the Key Ring app which uses your camera like a bar code scanner to capture your Membership Cards for various places like CVS, BevMo, etc., and can then display them for the cashier to scan, so you don’t have to carry them anymore (please dont steal my BevMo Rewards number, haha)

Key Ring App for Android

Key Ring App for Android

Another great app is Pandora – I can connect my phone to my car stereo and have streaming internet radio (something iPhone users probably have trouble with, since their network is so spotty). Also works great for podcasts, especially since this phone comes packed with 16GB of storage space! Check out Google Listen for a good app to find and listen to PodCasts. YouTube is also awesome on this phone…

– The Screen – although the phone is kinda big, its a little larger in size than an iPhone, the screen is extremely high quality and having a big screen like that makes the Google Maps Navigation & YouTube videos all the more useful & enjoyable. I don’t think I’d want a smaller phone, as I’d rather have the big screen, and this still fits in my pocket just fine. Below you can see the screen on this phone is almost bigger than the entire size of my Pearl.

Motorola Droid vs BlackBerry Pearl

Motorola Droid vs BlackBerry Pearl Size Comparison

– Google Search Bar – this widget on the home screen makes it super easy to search. Anything you want to know, just type it in from the home screen. It also acts as a sort of “desktop” search, because it will search data on the phone like your contacts, files, etc. So if I want to call someone, I can type their name into the Google Search Bar and it will return their contact file – very useful.

I’m sure I’m missing stuff, but at this point, I think you get it. I’d highly recommend you pick one up if you’re on the Verizon Network. It’s intuitive to use, works great, and is an awesome piece of machinery.

The inevitable question is, would I rather have an iPhone? The answer is nuanced, because I still think the iPhone has better apps and possibly a better user interface, but at the same time I think it would really depend on AT&T coverage in your area. I also think the Android Mobile OS will continue to grow rapidly in market share, as Google is basically giving that to any phone manufacturer (Motorola, HTC, etc) and across multiple networks (T-Mobile, Verizon, etc), whereas the iPhone OS will only be on Apple manufactured phones, and for the next year or so still only on the AT&T network. With the HTC Eris (a cheaper but still very capable Verizon Android Phone), as well as slew of other low cost Android Phones on multiple networks, the number of Android users will grow exponentially – and as it grows, more apps will be developed, which will inevitably close the gap between the iPhone App Store & Android Market. And I don’t expect Google to stop innovating and improving the Android OS either, as Google understands the Mobile Web is the future, and the Android System is so tightly integrated with Google Mobile Search that it will provide a huge opportunity in the future.

Finally, I think whether the Droid is an “iPhone Killer” is besides the point – while it may not be “better” than the iPhone, they both have their relative strengths and weaknesses. I think this is the first smartphone where one can say (with a straight face) that this is a serious iPhone contender (even if it’s not an outright killer).

Please leave me any questions or comments you may have. And sorry for the pictures, it’s really hard to snap a decent photo of an LCD screen…

UPDATE 12-03-09: Thanks to all my new visitors, I appreciate you checking out my blog. Here is a great follow up post by the Silicon Alley Insider today with 10 Things We Love And Hate about the Droid & Eris:

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  • Comments (12)
    • Greg Apel
    • November 18th, 2009

    Great review, I only have one question, does this phone have the capability to launch missiles? If not, I believe Jeff Ellis may not approve.

    Also, does it mix a good mizargamotherfuckinrita?

  1. Greg, no missle capabilities yet. We are working on it over here in the booming IT sector and hope to have something soon. I do not approve of Ellis as whole, so that is okay with me for the time being.

  2. Great review! How much did Motorola pay you? :)

  3. haha! I wish. I paid THEM $199 after rebate!

  4. Great review Nick. How about the camera? Heard not so good things….

  5. Thanks Suneet! To be honest, it is a little bit disappointing…for being 5 Mega Pixels, I kind of thought it would be better – it’s not awful, just not quite as good as I’d hoped. That being said, I didn’t expect it to replace my standard digi cam either…I can’t wait for cell phones to get to that point, but I’ll keep my Canon handy for everything other than twitpic and “don’t taze me, bro” moments

    • Brownsound
    • December 1st, 2009

    Awesome review, I love my droid. One thing though, the other Android phone on Verizon is the HTC Eris, not the Motorola Eris :)

  6. Thanks Brownsound – I fixed it! Glad you enjoyed the review

    • Bill K
    • December 2nd, 2009

    Can it play music while operating in turn-by-turn GPS mode?

  7. Yep – I play Pandora in Navigation mode just fine! It can handle running multiple apps at once, although I haven’t pushed it too hard to see just how many apps it can run simultaneously before the music starts to skip.

    Google Navigation will dim the music to give you audible directions to turn, then turn the music back up once completed, so they work together pretty well. Ditto if you get a call, the music will be muted…

    • Bill K
    • December 2nd, 2009

    I had heard that it didn’t really multi task between apps, but that sounds great. Even better that it prioritizes the audio as you described.

    Now I just need to wait for the Rhapsody app, and for my current phone contract to expire in a week.

  8. awesome – be sure to let me know how you like it. Thanks for checking out my blog, Bill.

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