Motorola DROID Review Good, But Can Any Wireless Engineers Out There Hit a Home Run?

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Sample video of outdoor scene with the Motorola DROID.

DROID by Motorola arrived Nov. 6, 2009. In the video above, the video and camera quality rate excellent. The camera was pretty quick on the draw — catching deer feeding in Busse Woods near Golf Road and Route 53 near Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

For those of you who want an idea how well the Motorola Droid performs capturing video, check out the outdoor video (above) that captured a surprise sighting of deer near a bike path — pretty challenging imaging because of the motion of the deer and the multiple shades of colors of the field and forest in the background. If you want to know more about DROID (especially as compared to iPhone), check the review below. The undertone in reviewing a phone should be this: Does the phone make your business and personal life easier or harder?

The 5-megapixel camera shoots pretty nice pictures as well — gives the feeling you have a camera as good as any point-and-shoot digital camera. The shutter to image capture is also a little faster than an iPhone (second generation). Camera access is also faster than iPhone, so the time from getting your camera in position to shutter click is acceptable. Getting pictures or video into your computer is pretty straight forward. It is easy to copy your photos from the DROID to a Mac after connecting with a USB connection. Then drag video files from the phone to the computer. It is also easy to email photos to an email account. Many video files will be too big to email. You can upload videos directly to YouTube, but you have to do it while DROID is connected over a Wi-Fi connection, not the Verizon Wireless network.

The DROID DOES campaign, effective or not, is high on what the DROID DOES do and what the iPhone doesn’t do — quick little run-down. The look and feel is about as good as the iPhone, but overall nobody can beat Apple’s human interface design, yet. The DROID interface takes a little getting used to … I’ve had a couple of accidental outgoing callbacks from the phone log — you just have to learn to keep your fingers away from the phone icon on the right of the phone log list. To compound things (and compared to accidental dialing) it seems a little hard to get the phone to dial a phone number sometime.

DROID phone quality and speakerphone are good. Silencing the DROID phone is fast and slick — by sweeping the phone’s unlock interface from right-to-left instead of left-to-right. The screen which blacks out when up close to your face like iPhone, comes back faster than iPhone when you pull the phone away from your face. This is very important when you are trying to use touch tones to respond to menu driven phone questions from automated systems. With the iPhone, you pretty much have to use your headphones/headset when dealing with an automated system because it is difficult if not impossible to get your screen back in time to hit the touch tones to reply to an automated phone system.

DROID integration with Google apps or services works flawlessly so far. Google Mail contacts integration and updating is fast. Google Calendar integration is fast, too.

Map Navigation is much better than iPhone with a free built-in Google Maps app and automatic speakerphone giving out directions. Works very well.

DROID? Why not as many ‘home screens’ as iPhone? Don’t know why Motorola and Android 2.0 chinced users out on that one. Apple’s iPhone has 2+9 screens — that’s a home screen and search screen, and nine additional application screens. Each app is brighter and better spaced on its screen on the iPhone. The DROID wastes space on its screens. There is a whole row that is wasted on the DROID because no apps fit in the row that seems to have the room for a row of apps. Therefore, there are only three rows (four columns) available for apps, widgets and shortcuts in the DROID screen view. The iPhone has five rows (four columns) of apps — that’s five rows when you include the bottom row of home apps that appear on every screen. The apps grids on the DROID screens are disappointing, especially considering the DROID has a slightly bigger display and higher resolution than the iPhone. The designers left too much space between the rows of app, widgets and shortcuts. Also, the Apple iTunes interface is also far superior for organizing apps on its multiple screens from a computer.

There’s a replaceable battery on DROID, but the back cover falls off pretty easily. With the way many people go through new phones for the latest technology, having a replaceable battery is probably not much of an issue. I would go for the sealed battery — much preferred to a battery cover you occasionally find lying on your car seat or worse can’t find at all.

Battery life is good — it’s worked on standby for two days without a charge and with Wi-Fi off. Users beware of a lot picture taking though, especially if the built-in flash is working.

DROID DOESN’T come with earbuds/microphone as DOES iPhone.

DROID DOESN”T have a built-in screen capture function as DOES iPhone.

DROID DOESN’T multi-touch like iPhone, so you can’t pinch and zoom pictures or websites in the slick way you can with an iPhone.

DROID DOES work on a better wireless network — Verizon Wireless is more reliable with better map coverage (‘There’s a map for that’) than AT&T. That means less dropped calls and more widespread use of Internet functions on the phone.

The slide-out keyboard works well, and the D-pad (think trackball) is necessary when scrolling through some applications on DROID.

Music? Nothing beats the iPhone’s iPod interface for listening to music. But giving credit to the DROID where credit is due, there is a nice amazonmp3 app for previewing songs. In addition to Amazon Mobile available on both iPhone and DROID, there is an amazonmp3 app available for the Motorola DROID. Not surprisingly, the amazonmp3 app is not available on the iTunes Music Store.

Getting new apps from the DROID’s Market Place works pretty well, but not as nice and solid as Apple iTunes Music Store. It would be nice if purchasers of the DROID would be directed to a trusted website that lists all apps with reviews of the publishers and their products. The market place seems less trustworthy than the Apple iTunes Music Store for purchasing apps for iPhone.

Online Verizon Wireless support for the phone is, well, kind of dumb. It has some cool graphics and background noise, but take a look for yourself …

You’ll see a high tech flash presentation of a features wheel, but good luck finding information. Some of the text is upside down or grayed out on a black background — had a miserable time figuring out how to get the phone to do direct dialing.

The Motorola DROID phone seems to crash more than an iPhone. It’s done a few weird things like freeze up and not be able to dial. The phone occasionally asks if you want to force quit an application because it is not responding. Also, at one point DROID didn’t have any sound during Verizon’s visual voice playback. It required turning the phone off and back on to hear the visual voice mail.

Text messages stamp the time with something like a 2 point font. The size of the font is nothing short of ridiculous. Good luck seeing what time someone text’d you if you aren’t wearing your glasses. SMS messages from a prior day omit the time on the ‘date stamp’. How come it’s less important to know the time if the message came in at 10 minutes before midnight compared to 10 minutes after midnight? The SMS software also organizes text messages into threads. Can’t help but think that if the Android software is so great, why can’t a user organize a view that shows all messages chronologically from all senders.

Can any engineers out their hit a home run on a cell phone? They haven’t quite hit it with the DROID, but they are getting closer. Bottom line? The phone is acceptable as a smart phone with effective apps. Except for a few disappointments, the phone helps our digital lifestyle — it improves everyday business and personal task handling.

DROID records 720×480, H.264, 24.75 fps
Saves video file as .3gp

3GP (3GPP file format) is a multimedia container format defined by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for 3G UMTS multimedia services. It is used on 3G mobile phones and functions on some 2G and 4G phones. UMTS stands for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System.

Mark Bostrom |

Mark Bostrom is a web publisher, personal fitness and technology trainer and human interface design critic/consultant living and working in Chicagoland.

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