Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

November 16, 2009 • Reviews

Living With A Motorola Droid: My First Week

Motorola Droid home screen 3

Actually, make that “Living With Motorola Droids.”  Yes, Droids, plural.  My initial intention was to post my first impressions of the Motorola Droid after just a few days with it.  However, the first Droid that I picked up started locking up and spontaneously resetting itself on the first day I had it, and it continued to do so two or three times per day.  A few times it wouldn’t power on at all, and I had to pull the battery in order to get it to restart.  The upside, if there is one, is that none of the resets seemed to result in any data loss.

I tried uninstalling the few programs and widgets that I initially installed, thinking that perhaps one of them wasn’t working well with Android 2.0, but that didn’t eliminate the problem.  Next, I tried a factory reset.  Still didn’t solve the problem.  After checking a the forums on a few Android sites, it was apparent that a few other new Droid owners were experiencing the same problem.  So, I took the Droid back and exchanged it for another unit, which so far seems to be behaving just fine.  After this disappointing start, things got much better.

The Hardware

In addition to the phone, included in the box were a quick start guide, a bunch of legal paperwork, and a USB cable that doubles as a charging cable when connected to the included plug adapter.

I thought the Droid would be larger; it is not a very big device.  Before I actually saw the device in person and held one, I had been expecting (perhaps hoping for) something that felt more tablet-like.  The Droid is very compact.  It feels very solid in the hand, and it’s also fairly hefty.

The display is super-sharp.  It’s quite impressive.  I’ve left the brightness set to automatic, and the Droid has quickly adjusted to any lighting situation, including good outdoor viewing. I didn’t have a screen protector when I picked up the Droid.  During that first day or two, I noticed that for some reason this screen seems to show more smudges than other touch-screen devices I’ve owned. Not a big deal unless you’re like me and would find yourself constantly using your shirt to polish the face of your phone.

The Droid features the normal buttons:  a power button and 3.5 mm (yeah!) audio jack on top, a volume rocker and camera button on the right side, and a micro USB connector on the left side.  The bottom edge of the device is devoid of buttons or connectors.  The speakers are actually on the back of the Droid, just below the battery door.  On the face of the screen are four soft buttons:  Back, Menu, Home, and Search.
Motorola Droid left side
Motorola Droid right side
Motorola Droid soft buttons

Sliding the screen up to expose the physical keyboard automatically puts the screen in landscape mode.  The sliding action is smooth and the screen locks into position firmly.  The quality of the keyboard is okay; not great, but okay.  There is not much travel on the keys.  Because it is shifted to the left to accommodate the 5-way button, I’ve found myself using my left thumb to hit keys that I would normally use my right hand to reach on my BlackBerry.  My hands are relatively large, but I don’t find the keyboard cramped, at least not in terms of the sizing of the keys.  I do find that it is sometimes difficult to press the top row of keys because there isn’t much distance between the top keys and the bottom edge of the screen.

Motorola Droid physical keyboard

I haven’t measured the battery life yet.  Short battery life always seems to be an issue for these devices as manufacturers continue to add features to the phones while making them ever-slimmer.  On the plus side, I haven’t paid much attention to the battery life, meaning it hasn’t been an annoyance, despite having several email accounts set up on the phone, each of which is set to automatically check for new email on a regular basis.  Charging, when necessary, is fairly quick.

The Software

This is my first experience with Android and I have to say that overall I’m impressed with it.  The strong integration with Google services is great for individuals who use Google for email, contacts, and calendar functions.

One of my favorite things about Android so far is the ability to use widgets.  Not that I have a ton of them on my phone, but I like having these little tool sets available (I felt the same way about being able to add things to my home screen in Windows Mobile).  Unfortunately, the Droid has but three screens for widgets and shortcuts.  I hope that is something that will be changed in future updates because it is pretty easy to fill those three screens, particularly given that there is a decent buffer of space required around each widget or icon.

Motorola Droid home screen additions and widgets

One of the first things that I did was download the Google Voice app from the Android Market.  I don’t use Google Voice (GV) extensively, but that’s in part due to the fact that my phones haven’t integrated GV all that well.  The app allows the user to set the phone to automatically use GV for all calls, only international calls, to ask before each call, or not use GV at all.  Your GV voice mails appear in the app, but for dialing one just uses the normal phone dialer.

Android Market on Motorola Droid

Setting up accounts for email was a snap.  GMail uses a dedicated app, and you’re now able to add more than one GMail account, something that I understand wasn’t always allowed in Android.  When you add your Google account to the Droid, you can select which services you synchronize.  I’m currently synchronizing calendar, contacts, and GMail.  The calendar synchronization seems to work well, but I’ve had problems with contacts synchronization – and this problem occurred also when I tried to synchronize with my work Exchange server.  My Google account has over 400 contacts in it, but the Droid only synchronized 389 of them.  I haven’t been able to figure out a pattern – if it only synchronizes contacts with phone numbers, for example – but it has been annoying.  The other thing I haven’t yet been able to figure out is how to organize my contacts by last name.  Whether synchronizing with my Google contacts or an Exchange server, the contact are inevitably sorted by first name.

Like my Google and personal email accounts, I didn’t have any problems establishing a connection to my corporate Exchange server, other than the aforementioned contacts syncing problem (this time I was able to sync 399 contacts).  I found it a bit interesting that the Droid contains separate programs for what would seem to be the same type of service.  I already mentioned that GMail gets a separate app from regular email.  The same thing is true with a corporate calendar.  If you establish a connection with an Exchange server, your Exchange calendar is shown in the Corporate Calendar app.

Entering information in the Droid is done by using the physical or on-screen keyboards.  In landscape mode, the on-screen keyboard works fine for me and took only a little time to become comfortable.  Due to the narrowness of the screen, however, using the keyboard in portrait mode has been challenging.  The keys are tall and narrow, and just a little too close together for me to hit accurately.  The on-screen keyboard is responsive, and I don’t notice any lags when using it.

Motorola Droid keyboard portrait

Lacking a connection to iTunes, the Droid instead offers access directly to Amazon.com’s mp3 store.  Among the other apps included with the Droid is an integrated Facebook client that will sync with your contacts if you so choose, a Google Talk client, a text/multimedia client, photo viewer, alarm clock, calculator, music player, You Tube client, and programs for voice dialing and voice-initiated searches.  The improved Google Maps software, offering turn by turn voice directions, has gotten a lot of attention and for good reason.  The Droid found my location quickly and effectively routed the trip between my house and my office.

Motorola Droid app screen

The Decision So Far…

After a week with the Droid, I’m thinking it’s a keeper.  Early adopters always take chances (BB Storm, anyone?), and the Droid seems like no exception, but the hardware feels good in the hand and appears to be well-made.  For someone like me who has been using the iPhone and BlackBerry operating systems for the past several years, Android is rather intuitive and, heck, it’s fun to play with a different operating system after several years of those other devices.

3 Responses to " Living With A Motorola Droid: My First Week "

  1. Like any early adopter.. some good and bad. RT @GearDiarySite: Living With A Motorola Droid: My First Week http://bit.ly/2hXFNa

  2. Mark Chinsky says:

    The question is, if you were only allowed to keep and use one device, which would be your ‘keeper.’ Remove the ‘boredom’ factor since that is specific to you.

  3. Jeff Frantz says:

    Actually, Mark, I don’t agree that that is the question. Everyone uses their device – or devices – differently, and some individuals carry more than one device or like to switch frequently. That, like the boredom factor to which you refer, is subjective. Most of the reviews of the Droid have inevitably compared it to the iPhone, spurred on by Verizon’s ad campaign, which did the same. Rather than saying I’d be willing to use the Droid exclusively over the iPhone, BlackBerry Bold, or some other smartphone, I’d prefer to just discuss it on its own merits. My only comment relative to those other platforms is that I found it fun to play around with Android, with which I was unfamiliar.

Leave a Reply