A brief review of the Motorola/Verizon Droid

On the last leg of the return from my road trip, I picked up a Droid from the Best Buy in Salisbury, MD.

In a nutshell: I love it.

And, yes, more than an iPhone.

Why?

The Device

From photos, I had thought that the Droid was just an ugly brick. In the “flesh”, it’s more like an F-22: oblique surfaces but with rounded edges. This results in a device that is comfortable to hold with or without the keyboard open (which, sadly, I could not say the same of my former Palm Pre; it could be painful to type upon).

The Droid is a heft to it. It feels like it means business. And it’s solid: no flimsy plastic casing here that gives when you squeeze it.

The keyboard slides open easily enough, snapping in place when fully open. However, there are no springs involved; the slider requires gentle but constant pressure. The keyboard itself is spacious enough. However, I haven’t seen keys like this since the old Timex Sinclair home computer. The keyboard is covered in a slightly flexible but thick sealed plastic. The keys are only barely raised above the slider with the actuators themselves set in the slider.

While the keyboard takes some getting used to, I can tell that my typing is already improving.

The speaker on this thing is amazing. In fact, audio, overall, is lovely. But the speaker is simply the loudest that I’ve heard in any smartphone – even louder than the Pre.

Oh, and the device uses micro USB. I had never seen this connector before the Amazon Kindle. However, it seems to be becoming more common on contemporary smart phones.

The Software

Speaking of keyboards, Android 2.0 comes with a soft keyboard. However, I’m sad to say that this is not an iPhone keyboard. I could type lightning fast on the iPhone. When I start to work up a head of steam on the Droid’s virtual keyboard, I notice that the virtual keyboard seems to acknowledge that I’m tapping keys; however, the letters themselves do not always make it into the text area that I’m editing. However, I don’t encounter this problem when using the physical keyboard.

Do I really need to tell you about Google Navigation? It’s awesome. Jaw droppingly awesome.

Otherwise, it’s an Android phone. However, that is not a bad thing, as it happens.

Customizing the Droid

Unlike Apple, neither Google nor Verizon put much in the way of restrictions on the Droid. Background apps? Check (although watch that battery, folks). Re-skinnable user interface? Check. Crappy Facebook app? Check (woops. Nice one, Facebook).

Quirks

I’ve had a few minor problems with the Droid in the first 48 hours.

Occasionally, the Droid has a difficult time connecting to my wifi network. That may be because I run an 802.11g network with a range extender; the Droid may occasionally have a difficult time selecting which access point to use.

Also, this morning, I noticed that the devices speaker volume dropped significantly. Rebooting the phone solved the problem.

A few times, I’ve had an app randomly open unbidden while I was in another app. The android revolution begins? At least it didn’t a suction cup, an eye stalk, and intone, “Exterminate!”

And then there’s the virtual keyboard issue that I mentioned above.

Overall

I’m extremely pleased. Yes, so pleased that I don’t miss my iPhone (although I do miss Cultured Code’s Things).

Now if only the API wasn’t pure Java and/or the Dalvik team would fix this damn bug so that I could write Android apps in JRuby (or pick your interpreted JVM language of choice that relies on reflection to get anything done).

In the meantime, it’s time to learn some Scala…

Posted by evan on Sunday, November 08, 2009

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