Monday, November 16, 2009

Is this the droid I've been looking for? (UPDATED)

Earlier this week, I bought a Motorola Droid. For the uninitiated, that means I bought a new smartphone, or a combination phone and personal data device. I have spent the last couple days getting used to the device, and today I will finally post some thoughts on it.

First of all, this is a fun gadget. I love being able to access YouTube and to watch all those videos on the go. Also, just tonight I took the google star map out for a spin, and it is great! I'm sure there are other great apps available that I hope to find over the next days and weeks.

The phone uses the Android OS, and if you're looking for a lengthy discussion of that system here, you'll be disappointed. My knowledge of Android is this: there were earlier versions; the droid uses v2.0; and the system is pretty quick. I don't know how powerful the OS is because I haven't really taken it through the paces, but so far I haven't been left wanting.

The hardware is a tad bulky by current market standards. The incorporation of a qwerty keyboard means an increase to the form factor over some competitors, including the Droid Eris, which is another new phone offered for Verizon customers. Still, this phone feels good in my hands.

It should be noted that my prior phone was a Palm Treo 680. I've spent the last several years looking for a smaller smartphone--only to find myself taken with a phone that is noticeably bigger than the Treo. The Treo is much thicker, however, and the droid doesn't feel as bulky as what I'm used to. That doesn't mean you won't find it to feel "big", though.

While I'm comparing Treos to droids, I have to point out one big difference between the two: single-hand texting. It's pretty easy to go one-handed with the treo, but it's a non-starter on the droid. I know, not a show-stopper or anything--but it is worth mentioning. Also, the treo's default phone app is much more intuitive than is the droid's, and the screen of the treo is easier to use in sunlight. In fact, the droid's phone app screen is almost unuseable in direct sunlight--a situation that I hope to remedy soon.

But the droid is the new car in the driveway, and it provides great bang for its buck. Yes, single-hand texting is gone the way of the do-do--but in its place is the aforementioned sliding qwerty keyboard and a dual-aspect virtual keyboard. Several reviews have panned the hardware's keyboard, and I will join their chorus. I just couldn't get the thing to type right, so it is already relegated to back-up mode. The virtual keyboards fare much better--in fact, I am writing this on the landscape-oriented virtual keyboard.

The droid is an excellent internet device. I am able to surf my favorite sites with only minor inconveniences brought on due to the device's size. Surfing speeds when on the 3G network are excellent. I am able to do just about everything I used to do on my desktop, to include check e-mails, check out facebook, and blog. Did I mention that I'm writing this post on the droid? Just thought I'd throw that in there.

The camera on the droid has received a lot of attention, too--with a fairly even split of likes and dislikes. I am in the like column--but I'll be upfront in telling you that the droid is only a good alternative to a real camera rather than a primary device for capturing photographic memories. The pics I'll post with this article were taken with the droid in good lighting conditions and using the zoom feature (the pics were taken from about 60 yards off the playing field). The camera does have a flash, but it hasn't been very practical for me.

The battery is sufficient for a couple hours of use--if you set up the display for lower battery consumption modes.
In sum: I do like the droid. . .but I can't help but wonder if the Eris by HTC is a better option. There are some bells and whistles that you get for springing the extra dough on the droid (qwerty keyboard, built-in google maps), but the eris provides the big benefits of the droid--big screen, android OS (although right now the eris is running v1.6), and the 3G network. All of that in a smaller handset at a smaller price. . .yes, the eris is worth checking out. And if that doesn't answer your bell, try the droid. I bet you'll like it!

UPDATE: I decided to follow my own advice, and one week to the day after I got the droid, I turned it in and brought home an Eris. So far, there is no doubt in my mind that it was the right choice. The selling points for the droid over the Eris are really only twofold: the on-board keyboard and the upgraded version of the Android OS. Well, I never did get to liking the droid's keyboard (and trust me, I tried), and the 1.5 OS is treating me just fine. There are some apps that I used on the droid that I haven't been able to utilize on the Eris (Camera Magic most notably), but everything else is great. Smaller form factor, less expensive, and just about as capable--yes, the Eris is the right one for me.

UPDATE x 2: I like the Eris so much I just got one for Mrs. Otranews. Verizon has a sweet deal going on right now that I just had to take the plunge for her. This is a great phone!


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