Monday, November 09, 2009

Review: Google's Droid could be iPhone killer

Apple’s iPhone has dominated the smart-phone market the past couple of years, tearing down would be “iPhone killers” almost on a monthly basis.

This could soon change with the new Droid. Coupled with Google’s open-source software, Verizon's blazing network and Motorola’s new-age design, the Droid makes for a powerful Apple-directed dagger.

The phone is made up of two main pieces, the large, glass display up top, and the slightly longer keyboard / mainboard lower half. Above the 3.7-inch touch screen -- a full glass display with a large 480-by-854 resolution (slightly bigger than the iPhone).

There are four main buttons at the bottom of the display: back, menu, home and search. The top section slides smoothly upward to reveal the QWERTY keyboard.

The phone also has a 3.5-mm headphone jack and a power / sleep button, and camera button, a micro-USB port; a 5-megapixel camera (and flash), a thin, gold crosshatch strip that hides the Droid's speaker.

The thickness of the Droid is striking. It's just a bit thicker than the iPhone 3GS, which is impressive, considering it sports a full keyboard, a bigger screen than the iPhone and a flash-based camera.


The Droid sports a 600 MHz Arm Cortex A8 CPU 600MHz, with 256MB of RAM. That’s enough to browse the Internet, take a call on the speaker phone, while chatting it up on G-chat.

The phone was consistently responsive to opening and closing applications, switching between landscape and portrait modes, and multi-tasking. Users can further speed up their phone by turning off animations and effects.

The Droid’s built-in keyboard is a blessing for those still not comfortable with the virtual counterpart. The keyboard has shallow, but responsive click keys.

Although the keys can feel a bit cramped, typing on the Droid is an easy experience that will come naturally after a couple of days of use.

If you’re into the onscreen keyboard, you won’t be disappointed. The buttons are relatively large, and most importantly pretty accurate. You won’t be using the delete button as much as many iPhone users complain they must.

Motorola has outfitted the DROID with a 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash. The camera features the Android software that controls auto focus, flash settings, white balance and effects.

The biggest problem is that the camera is e painfully slow to focus and take pictures. Users can tweak the settings between close-ups and landscape photos to try to speed up the camera speed, but it's not an easy thing to do on the fly.

The quality of recorded video is one of the Droid's biggest assets. The Droid shoots at 720-by-480 resolution that produced some impressive shake-free videos and clear videos. The camera was able to handle shooting in bright sunlight, at night and even on a rainy day.

The Droid won’t replace the camera you use for weddings or formal social events, but it’s one of the sweetest phone cameras around.

So what did Google do to support all the hardware pushed by Motorola? The biggest thing that will jump out to iPhone users is the multi-application support.

Users can read their Gmail, while listening to Pandora radio, while the built-in GPS tracks their location.

Gmail and Gchat setup is as easy as signing in to your Google account during the initial setup. After that, the phone will be continually connected to both (unless you choose otherwise). Users can also easily setup POP / IMAP / Exchange email accounts on the Droid.

Facebook account integration is built into the Android, so that all your friends will sync on your contact and calendar list. (Thankfully, this is only an option.) As for the application itself, you get a widget with the news feed, photos, friends list, profile, notifications, and an option to take a picture to post.

The contact list is straightforward. The quick contact function allows users to tap on someone's name and get a menu with jumps to the various ways you can reach out; if you're friends with someone on Facebook, you'll be given an option to message them there, along with SMS, phone, and e-mail choices.

At the opening bell on Friday, the Droid will have about 25,000 (free and paid) applications available, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to hundred of games.

While the iPhone claims over 100,000 apps, it will only be a matter time before the Droid hits the six figure mark. With Google’s Android’s open source software, it will probably be sooner than later.

The Web browsing might be one of the biggest selling points of the Droid. Surfing the net on this thing is virtually painless. Compared to the Apple’s ATNT network, the Verizon 3G network is blazing.

The Droid’s browser had no problem quickly loading graphic intensive sites like

Coupled with the Droid’s massive display, its responsiveness, and speed, browsing and navigating the Internet is pretty easy and painless.

The Droid features fully realized turn-by-turn navigation which integrates with Google Maps. If you're familiar with Google Maps, the navigation is intuitive and easy to learn.

Google has gone all out with the GPS extras, providing a rich mixture of its satellite, map, traffic, and location info with text-to-speech directions.

Google also added layers like parking info, ATM spots, restaurants, and gas station locations like most dedicated GPS devices.

Probably the most important part of the Droid’s GPS services, its free.

My biggest disappointment with the Droid was its relatively short battery life. If you’re thinking of using a lot of screen time or heavy application usage, the phone will let you down.

About 30 minutes of listening to Pandora radio through a headset, pretty much drained most of the phone's battery. If you’re considering the Droid, be prepared to buy a couple of sets of chargers (home, office, vehicle).


The Droid is an excellent smart-phone with many of the features that a modern user would expect, and for Verizon customers, there isn't a more action packed device on the network.

Coupled with Google’s smooth software, Verizon's killer network, and Motorola’s new-aged design, the Droid makes for a powerful tool.

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