Just a short time ago Motorola appeared to be on the ropes. That all changed when Motorola found Android. Less than a year ago Motorola released and sold millions of their first Android device, the Droid on the Verizon network. Since then, they have brought out the Cliq, Cliq XT, The Flip and the Droid X. Today I am reviewing the sequel to the Droid, the Droid 2.
The Droid 2 has similar looks to the original Droid. It is a little less blocky, but it’s almost identical to the original Droid in size, weight and thickness. The front has chrome trim on it, and feels a little less plasticky than the original especially around the screen. When gripped, there are no creaks, and it doesn’t flex when torqued. Overall, the build quality is excellent.
When you slide the screen to expose the keyboard, most Droid users will notice the lack of a d-pad on the right. Eliminating the d-pad allows the keyboard to be a little larger. In place of the d-pad are a set of cursor keys. The keys also are domed a bit making it easier to use than the flatter keyboard on the Droid. This is a welcome improvement that makes the keyboard much more usable, and those who want a physical keyboard will welcome it. I do have to add here that when you use the physical keyboard, you’ll have more screen room for content, which is a plus for me because of the way I use the phone.
The internals on the Droid 2 have more in common with the Droid X than the original Droid, having the same 1 GHz TI OMAP processor that the Droid X has. Like the Droid X, it also has 512 MB of ram and 8 GB of internal storage. Verizon has also pre-installed 8 GB SD card instead of the 16 GB that the Droid X ships with. The Droid 2 has a 5 MP camera that can record video at a D1 or 720×480 resolution versus the 8 MP sensor on the Droid X. The screen is the same resolution as the Droid X at 854×480, but the Droid 2’s screen is 3.7 inches versus the 4.3 inch screen on the Droid X. Droid 2 also has Bluetooth and WiFi
The Droid 2 also is the first device to ship with Android 2.2. Android 2.2 is really nice on this hardware. The launcher and apps all launch near instantaneously with a few exceptions. Overall, I have to say Google has done a great job making Android perform better with this release.
The Droid 2 also has a similar launcher and set of widgets to the Droid X. The widgets are similar to MotoBlur, but not as in your face, and they do not require you to have a secondary login. Part of this widget set is the Social Network integration. You can add Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Picasa and other social networks. Once you add a network like Facebook, it will let you use it as a source for your contacts images as well as contacts. The integration doesn’t end there. When you are looking at a Contact, their social network links are also available. When someone in your contact list calls you, not only do you see their number, but you see their picture from your social network as well as their last status. Also, if you have a friend that isn’t a contact in Gmail, and if they have a phone number accessible to you on Facebook or MySpace, you can now call them at this number as a contact. These contacts do not make their way back to Gmail, thankfully. I kind of like this integration, but some may not like this linking so I recommend they reject the link when setting the phone up. The bad thing about this integration is it occasionally makes the contacts app very slow. I assume that is a bug with this current ROM that will be fixed with an update.
One other issue I have with the Droid 2 is the shipping of pre-installed apps. Verizon and Motorola ship Blockbuster, City ID, Need for Speed Shift Demo, Skype, DLNA, Visual Voicemail, Kindle and others apps pre-installed. While some of these are useful like the DLNA and Kindle apps, the game demo and City ID aren’t as useful. City ID will identify any phone number that calls you by telling you what city and state they are from. You get a 30 day demo, but after this is over, it will cost $1.99 a month. This app is kind of useful, but not enough to get me to pay a monthly fee for something many other phones do for free. The bad part is that after the trial is over, you cannot remove the app. I like having some of these apps pre-installed, but would rather have the option to delete them so they don’t clutter up the menu.
I played some music with both wired and bluetooth headphones and I was impressed with how it sounded on both headsets. When listening with the screen off for about a 2 hour period, the battery hardly dropped at all and it sounded great. When pairing up the headphones, I didn’t even have to enter a code. All I had to do was put my headphones into pairing mode, find it in the Bluetooth settings and it automatically paired up with no other intervention needed.
I did a little Pandora and Ustream streaming over WiFi and 3G and this worked pretty well. On WiFi only, the DLNA app makes it easy to stream music to your phone from your desktop or other DLNA enabled device like the PS3. This worked wonderfully on my home network. The DLNA app also lets you copy music to your handset over the WiFi connection. Very handy!
I was also able to play iPod formatted video podcasts on the phone as well in the standard Video application. Watched a little Cranky Geeks and GeekBeat and it looked great.
This phone is a great multimedia and gaming device. Now, hopefully, EA and others will finally start bringing some much-needed gaming action to the Android platform.
The Camera and Camcorder
The camera is basically the same camera as on the original Droid. However, it includes new software for the stills, and it lets you take panoramic pictures just like on the Droid X. That was my favorite part of the camera … otherwise it was pretty mediocre. The camcorder works as advertised with fair quality. While I always want a cam on my phone now, it’s not a primary function for the device for me. If I want something better, I carry a camera as well. I feel like we’re still a long way from being able to ditch dedicated point and shoot cameras.
The same goes with the Camcorder functions. It will not replace a dedicated camcorder at all, but is nice to have on the phone.
The Droid 2 has very good call quality and reception. Once thing I liked was when in a call, the light sensor detects when you lift it to year ear and turns off the display. When you go to hang up, the screen pops back on to let you end the call. This is similar to how the iPhone works, and it worked wonderfully on my Droid 2.
There have been some issues reported on at least one other site about signal issues with the Droid 2. I have seen none of these on my Droid 2, as it always has excellent reception. Maybe those other sites are being extremely picky? I don’t know. I have never been one to pay attention to the bars on the phone, mostly because I know that these are merely a guide and don’t generally mean all that much. Neither Motorola or Verizon have confirmed this issue. Some are swapping their phones and finding that it has “fixed” it. Either way, I’ve never dropped a call or had issues with data connectivity.
Verizon doesn’t actually list battery life on their website for the Droid 2. With that said, this one will require a mid day top off for moderate users. Heavy users had better not roam too far from the wall as they will be charging it every 5 hours or so depending on use. If you are using the 3G Mobile Hotspot feature, I recommend you do this with it plugged in. The best battery life I’ve had was 10 hours with occasional e-mail and app usage, and with the device in the most aggressive Battery Manager setting. This is with 3G and GPS on. You can likely do better than that by cranking the display down as far as you can stand it. I usually have mine set to automatically adjust. I’ve also found that one app had consistently higher usage than the screen, and the Motorola widgets are suspiciously power-hungry — at least twice it was the top power user on my phone. I am convinced that this is a bug in the current version that can be fixed in a future update.
So is the Droid 2 all that and a bag of chips? I say that it definitely is a great phone, and it is the best Android phone with a keyboard on Verizon. If you have a current Droid, you likely won’t be moving to this without paying some big money since most Droid users are not even 1 year into their contract. However, if you have an older device like the G1, a feature phone or an old Windows Mobile device, then I would definitely check this phone out. If choosing between the Droid X and Droid 2, go for the Droid 2 if you want the keyboard and don’t care about HDMI out, an 8 MP camera or 720p video. If you want all the bells and whistles and a huge screen, then the Droid X is the one for you.
The Droid 2 is available on Verizon Wireless for $199.99 after a 100 dollar rebate and a 2 year contract. The data plan is $29.99 a month for Unlimited data. 3G Wireless Access Point feature costs $20.00 per month with a 2 GB cap. (Note: The case you see my phone in some of the pictures is a Snap On Cover available from Verizon Wireless for $24.99.)
What I liked: The excellent hardware, Android 2.2, being able to take Panoramic pictures; the physical keyboard
What I didn’t care for: Pre-installed crapware like CityID and Blockbuster; I would have loved to see a bigger battery and more work on the Motorola widgets with regards to performance and power management