When my already-outdated Palm Treo started giving me the death rattle last week, it seemed the gadget gods on high were sending me a signal. After all, the Motorola Droid hit the market earlier this month, I was already on Verizon, and why yes, I do like Google! It probably didn’t hurt that every mention of “Droid” brings about the obligatory LucasFilm trademark message. Why can’t I quit you, Lucas? Being out of warranty and a good 6 months away from my ‘New Every Two’ point, I went ahead and popped for the Motorola Droid. With the exception of adding the couple extra dollars a month for Visual Voicemail (which I’m still on the fence about keeping), I didn’t have to change my service one whit. Lo and behold (after some confusion from FedEx), I soon had a sexy new Droid in my hands.
Let’s get this out of the way: While I ratchet up the rhetoric to tweak out my Mac-friendly co-workers, I’m just not a fan of Apple. I’m a fan of their overall design style, and I certainly applaud their simplicity approach, but frankly the fruit of Steve Jobs’ loins tends to leave me cold. The iPhone is a sexy little number, I’ll admit it, but Apple + AT&T = Not a chance in hell for this monkey. So I just don’t consider the iPhone the gold standard of phone experiences, and I have no need to compare it with the Droid. I’ll leave that to the far-more-obsessed gadget fetishists out there.
Here’s how I judge a phone:
How do the calls sound? My rock-blasted ears are just a couple years away from Pete Townsend’s blown-out-speaker setup, so quality of audio matters. Good news! Not only do the calls sound clear and crisp, the Droid transmits your own voice back through the speaker as well, meaning that you get closer to a landline like call experience. With the odd exception of my own home, there are no dead-zones in normal haunts, and I’ve yet to have a call drop on me. On top of that, the base audio quality is beautifully distortion free. I typically go for person-specific songs for ringtones, and they sound fantastic. I popped my big bad recording headphones into the 3.5 jack and listened to MP3s for a bit, and I was flat out astounded at how well they played back. Am I going to spend a lot of time listening to music on it? No, but I’m happy to have an option beyond trudging along another device if I find myself airplane bound.
Readability: Sweet Jupiter’s jellybeans, but this screen is gorgeous. Color-depth is great, and text looks clean as a whistle. This is hands-down the first phone I’ve seen myself able to actually READ on. Browsing text-heavy pages (or long-winded e-mails from the Cap’n exposing the glories of Church Whedon) gave me no eye-strain, and I found myself actually ENJOYING reading mail on my phone, as opposed to considering it a chore. The image quality is beyond impressive, and my only problem now is figuring out exactly which image of rainbows and unicorns needs to be my permanent wallpaper. Seeing as I’d been living with the ‘everything needs to be kinda faded’ world of my Windows-Mobile powered Palm, it’s a revelatory experience.
Interface: Speaking of my now-the-twins’-toy-phone Palm, I have to say: I dug the familiarity of the Windows Mobile system, but Droid has one seriously sexy UI. While it’s absolutely not an intuitive experience out of the box, the level of control that’s available to you (once you figure out how to get to it) is impressive, and definitely up this monkey’s alley. Messaging, checking e-mail, browsing contacts, setting alerts and notifications are all simple procedures that give you the option to tweak your heart out with the press of a button.
I love the combined Inbox for e-mail, though I was creeped out when I looked in my contacts and saw that it had sync’d up with not only my Gmail account, but Facebook as well. I miss having dedicated Outlook support, but that’s just more motivation for me to get the office Exchange server (which Android 2.0 supports) up and running.
Tapping to zoom in/out feel intuitive to me (more so than a pinch/two-finger goatse maneuver), and I’ve already cut down my mis-taps to zero just 5 days in. The glasstop feels solid, and I’m already fully aware that I don’t ever want to go back to a non-touch screen phone again.
Keyboard: I’m torn on the slide-out QWERTY keyboard The keys are a bit too mushed together, and the lack of auto-complete when using the physical keyboard means for a less-than-stellar getting to know you period, but even just 5 days in I’m faster and more comfortable on it than I was on day 1, and I really like the D-pad for navigating. Though I suspect messaging will mean using the on-screen keyboard for corrections, I can see myself using that keyboard almost exclusively for everything else. That’s saying something, considering my clumsy monkey fingers.
Apps: I don’t care that Apple has a 10-1 ratio for apps over the Android Market currently. What’s there is exactly what I want. Google Sky Map is a nerd’s wet dream. NASA Image of the Day? Oh, hell yes. NES and SNES emulator (that runs all the ROMS I already have)? Check and motherfucking CHECK. I predict many a meeting will soon become:
“Monkey, what do you think?”
“Don’t care. Castlevania time.”
I’ve yet to try out the WordPress app, but I like having the option. Considering I have one hell of a desktop rig at home and a beast of a laptop otherwise, I don’t need my phone to be overly app-heavy. Android Market has the stuff I like (though I would like to be able to browse the market from my PC instead of from my phone), and that’s all I care about. So I call it a win for the Droid.
Camera: Yeah, it’s 5 megapixel. Yes, it’s also kind of a pain to frame your shots well due to the auto-focus. But you know what? I don’t really care, because having a camera on my phone is just an annoyance for me in the first place. I already have a camera, and I don’t want a phone to replace it.
Overall feel of having the thing in my hand and using it for its intended function: Once you’ve got this bad-boy in your palm there is no doubt it’s a powerful little machine. It has a beautifully balanced heft, but even after the silicon gel snap-cover was put on (because I am a clumsy, clumsy monkey), it doesn’t feel cumbersome of awkward. It fits will in my hand, I love the call quality, and frankly it’s the first time I’ve ever thought “Hmm, I could just leave the laptop at the office and I’ll be fine”. Honestly the Motorola Droid is by far and away the best damn phone I’ve ever put my hands on.
Kudos to you, Google. Kudos to you, Motorola and Verizon. Granted this may well be the opening salvo in a psychological campaign to sway me from my staunch NO ROBOTS stance, but so far I’m more than okay with it.