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Ten Really Dumb Engineering Mistakes About the Motorola Droid

Wed January 06 2010 8:43 am
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The Motorola Droid has some nice features and does some tasks with excellence — for example navigation. Tell it to navigate to an address and it finds your geographic position and starts giving you instructions with the speakerphone on. You can pretty much use that feature with confidence.

Now for the bad news. The Droid is not holistically designed, which means it doesn’t act how you would expect, it doesn’t act consistently and it doesn’t feel reliable at all times. It doesn’t perform like its all there, so when using it, the user might miss that stable free and easy feeling. If you have ever watched someone exercise on a stability ball or a BOSU as opposed to a flat floor, that might be a good analogy here. Or simply put. You always have to keep an alert eye to see that it is doing what you expect it to do.

Here are the top ten examples of shoddy engineering. Probably fixable, but too bad the engineers and designers didn’t get it right the first time.

1. The battery cover falls off. Pull it out of your pocket and you just might be staring at the back of your battery. Then you go fishing for the cover in your pocket. Other times? You get out of your car or get up from a seat and look back to make sure you didn’t forget anything … you know how you do that? Anyway you look back to make sure you didn’t leave your keys or something — and there’s your battery cover to your Droid sitting on the seat of the chair. Hmmph. The best solution? Get a skin that covers the back of the device Get a case, like the Body Glove snap-on. But, and this is a big but. The Body Glove case infringes on the margin of the top row of the keyboard. So there is a little more effort required targeting the top row of keys while using the keyboard.

2. The keyboard is not tactile. There is not much travel (depression) of the keys. Part of the reason people don’t like touchpad-only keyboard interfaces is that they like the feel of the keyboard. Well, Motorola gave the Droid a keyboard, but it kinda feels like a touchpad.

3. Accidental clicking of the touchpad/failure of the touchpad to activate a key. Imagine this. You worked late until 2:00 a.m. and you are putting your phone down to charge it. Suddenly you realize its calling the cell phone of the last client you talked to at 5:00 p.m. Why? Because if you cup your hand over the touchpad side of the Droid with you fingers on the hard edge of the case, you will eventually learn that your MP joint can activate your touchpad without even touching the touchpad. What is your MP joint? That’s the metacarpophalangeal joint — the joint that joins the base of a finger to your hand. I am pretty sure the culprit was the MP joint of the second finger — that’s your index finger, next to your thumb. The kludge response to prevent accidental activation of elements on the touchpad is to make sure you hold the Droid with your palm at the back of the device.

On the failure of the touchpad to activate a key. Now — as I am writing this post — I thought I might be a little too hard on Motorola and the Droidsters in this next one. But here’s the sign from the Heavens. I had to make a quick phone call, and I was dialing (just now) the area code 8-4-7. Guess what my Droid displayed after three direct hits on the proper keys — 8-7. Where’s the freakin’ ’4?’ Dear Droid dudes: If you’re going to let a Droid fly into market with accidental activations with my MP joint, you could at least have it be accurate with direct hits from the end of my finger!

  “The Motorola Droid
has some great applications.
Google Goggles,
and the integration
with Google Calendars
and Google Maps are
favorable highpoints.”

4. SMS Text messaging is really screwed up. Each person you send a text message is considered a thread. The most recent message of the most recent thread sits at the top of the screen when you open the SMS application. When you click on the most recent message, the list of messages (if there is more than one message) is displayed. I’d expect the most recent message of that thread to be at the top, right? NO! The most recent message of the thread is at the bottom — inconsistent with the previous display. Getting into the SMS Text messaging application is screwy, too. When I hit the application’s icon on the home screen, I would like to see the list of threads open the SMS application. Instead, I see the last thread that I had open — even if it was somebody I messaged three days ago. You start to get a little confused and frustrated with the Droid. The Motorola Droid boasted as having such flexible software. Well give us some control over the SMS application. Let us decide how we want our our SMS application to open. Or if you are going to be goofy about the default sorting, let us be able to sort it out how we want to sort it out. And let us put all threads in one thread if we want. I have situations where multiple senders are reporting in on the same topic. It’s confusing to have one topic spread out in different threads. To me the whole SMS experience with the Droid is kind of like the same feeling you get when you can’t untie a tight knot in your shoelaces.

5. I was going to stick this next SMS problem in with other SMS application problems, but I decided it was so ridiculous that it should have its own listing. The FONT SIZE of the of the time stamp of the text message is a 3 POINT FONT. That is microscopic. A 3 point font is the size of a gnat (no kidding).

6. Another SMS application folly: If a text message is received before midnight past, there is no time listed — just the date. Why is the time of the message from yesterday less important than the time of the message today? Again, if you’re going to have a silly default, give us the option of getting the date AND time of all SMS messages.

7. Visual voice mail: Less clicks is better. When you open visual voice mail, the user still has to go to one more click to the menu button to get to the speakerphone, even though there is room for a speakerphone icon at the bottom row with the CALL, REPLY or ERASE icon.

8. Only three home pages? Come on … don’t be so cheap. Users can somewhat overcome this by creating a folder and putting icons in the folder, but what if you want a bunch of widgets? You can’t put widgets in a folder. Don’t know how to create a folder? Hold down your finger on the background. A menu pops up. Now the hard part — renaming the folder — because you don’t want to have a bunch of folders named ‘Folder’ on your screen. I spent about an hour trying to figure this out. Fortunately, one day I went into a Verizon Wireless store and was told how to do it. To rename a folder on the Droid, you hold down your finger on the title bar of the open folder. A popup will get you through the rest.

9. Not enough standard ringtones and many are not loud enough. Enough said.

10. The power adapter cord is way too short. Shortest of any phone I’ve ever purchase. I would expect better treatment than to have such a short cord as standard equipment on a top-of-the-line phone.

The Motorola Droid has some great applications. Google Goggles, Navigation, and the integration with Google Calendars and Google Maps are favorable highpoints. Hopefully the 10 follies mentioned above will find fixes soon. When is the next OTA update?

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3 Responses to “Ten Really Dumb Engineering Mistakes About the Motorola Droid”

  1. kluum says:

    ouch! that’s bad!

  2. Greg says:

    wow… i bet if you took the time to learn to use the phone you wouldnt have any complaints… every complaint you listed may be resolved and then some with the addition of an app, or changing a setting. I love when the media is narrow minded. The whole purpose of this phone is to be open, customizable, and offer endless possabilities. In my opinion, they hit the nail on the head. My gripes… no docking capabilities, its square, and it only comes in one color – all of which i dont mind personally, but i could see some materialistic people having an issue with. How much more of a tactile keyboard do you need? are your thumbs the size of an elephants hoof? with no nerve endings? Accidentally calling people.. do you know there is a lock button on the top of the phone? if so, use it! The charging cord.. its a usb cord, i dont want to have a 6 foot usb cable everytime i connect my phone. They also make longer cords, moto was just appealing to the masses. Home ++ or any other app for the homescreens. and the folder issue you mention.. read the manual! its on motorolas website and is referenced in the quick reference panphlet that comes with your phone. So instead of taking the time to learn something new, you will just give it a shot and then bash it (again i love the media). Smart phones are not for everyone, you sir need to stick with the basic phone and a laptop if you wish to have the best of both worlds and not learn any new tricks. The droid is a wonderful device and like all devices, they are not going to work for everyone. Some people like sedans, others suv’s, and others sports cars. No need to bash a phone that doesnt fit your every desire (it probably does, you just dont know it yet). For anyone else frustrated, lose the attitude, open your mind, and if need be, visit your local coporate verizon store (not an authorised dealer) and take the time to learn your device. You will get to enjoy your investment of a device ten fold and simplify your day with all it has to offer.

  3. Dear Readers,
    We are responding to Greg because he is wrong on many points that we made in our article.

    We well admit that we held the Motorola Droid to high standards because of Motorola’s ‘Droid Does’ campaign that implies it does way more than the Apple iPhone. But we still like it. We’re just sayin’ we’re a little frustrated by some of it quirks and shortcomings.

    Now, let’s take on Greg’s statements:

    GREG: “every complaint you listed may be resolved and then some with the addition of an app, or changing a setting”

    CARDINAL: Not true. First, the battery cover falling off randomly cannot be fixed with an app or by changing a setting. The defect is just plain shoddy workmanship. We fixed it by purchasing a DLO rubberized case, which worked great — would have preferred not to have been forced to get a case and pay the extra money. But It turns out we really like the case, and it helps keep a safe grip on the Droid.

    GREG: “visit your local coporate verizon store (not an authorised dealer) and take the time to learn your device”

    CARDINAL: We DID visit a Verizon Wireless Store. That’s where we learned how to rename a folder. But the experts didn’t know how to change the ridiculously small font size in the SMS texting application. And they didn’t know how to make the time stamp show on a text message received before midnight or any previous day.

    GREG: “Accidentally calling people.. do you know there is a lock button on the top of the phone?”

    CARDINAL: Yes, we knew there is a locking button. We just didn’t expect a knuckle about an inch away from the screen to activate the screen and dial a client at 2 a.m. The accidental dialing doesn’t happen when its in a pocket. It happens merely while holding it or switching it from one hand to the other. The use of the locking button is a good workaround, but false activation can still happen while switching hands. We hope Motorola engineers can fix the long distance activation of the touch screen. And we hope Greg is not a Motorola engineer.

    GREG: “The whole purpose of this phone is to be open, customizable, and offer endless possabilities (sic) … Smart phones are not for everyone, you sir need to stick with the basic phone and a laptop if you wish to have the best of both worlds and not learn any new tricks.”

    CARDINAL: Open, customizable is great for a phone. BUT, there needs to be a safe, reliable fundamental mode, and then a more customizable mode. The area in between should not be a gray area. The Droid has a big gray area in between. It’s a decent phone and it has great potential. But we still stand by our complaint it is cheap for having only three home screens. The HTC has more home screens, why doesn’t the Droid? We don’t want to trust some third party app for something so fundamental and integral and something that is used so often (every day) to some unknown developer with no credentials or certification available for review.

    Greg, we don’t need to stick with a basic phone. We do some pretty amazing things with laptops, smart phones (Droid and iPhone), digital cameras, remote operations, security and surveillance, mobile operations … and with some things you have never heard about — we are within miles of Motorola headquarters in Schaumburg, and we know people — very interesting people who know about very interesting products. Yes we are product testers. And yes we sign non-disclosure documents. And since we have Motorola friends, we are not enemies of the Droid.

    Now back to Droid business … you were saying, Greg?

    GREG: “The charging cord.. its a usb cord, i dont want to have a 6 foot usb cable everytime i connect my phone. They also make longer cords, moto was just appealing to the masses.”

    CARDINAL: Well we want a longer cord. We’d like Motorola to supply a cord that is up to par with the length of other phones. Then Greg, you go pay your hard earned money for a shorter cord, if you want one so bad.

    GREG: “Home ++ or any other app for the homescreens.”

    CARDINAL: We did a search in the “Market” app on Home++ … We found Home++ beta. No thanks. Here’s a note from the developer: “Updates: was a failed try, but I won’t give it up! Here is the rolling back if you have installed it.” Then we read the Comments section. From Tyler: “Force closes* sometimes. But definitely my favorite home screen replacement, and from David: “Sadly uninstalled due to many forced closures and often wont scroll screen to the left. Otherwise awesome app. Usind (sic) Droidz” We don’t want to mess around with a beta app on such a critical and fundamental function of the phone. We need the Droid phone to work 99% to 100% of the time. A force close or freeze is unacceptable. You see Greg, we use the phone, many times in emergency situations, not just in constructing critical tech articles or putting on pretty wallpapers for the home screen. We follow this fundamental rule: A PHONE SHOULD BE A GOOD PHONE FIRST — NOT A NERD’S PLAYTHING. [*FORCE CLOSE is a euphemism for CRASH or temporary loss of function of device or software]

    We also consult for emergency public safety agencies, so you’ll have to pardon us for being a little uptight about things working tight and nice and user friendly. Reliability is a beautiful thing [FORCE CLOSE] …………………… when seconds count.

    We didn’t say we hated the Droid, or tell people not to buy it. We pointed out its shortcomings. We want Motorola to make it better. And they will.

    Whew, people these days! We got this reply that insulted our fingers and our intelligence, and our lack of diligence in reading the manual or taking a visit to the Verizon Wireless store. And we were told to lose our attitude, just for exercising our free speech and expressing our wishes for a better Droid phone.

    Go Droid, go iPhone! They are both in our toolbox.


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