Given how much I love my iPad and iPod Touch, and that I have constantly had a top-end Mac laptop as well as a PC laptop for nearly two decades, many people assume I would use an iPhone. I don’t – I have used an Android phone since I got the Motorola Droid as my first smartphone when it was released. Since then I have tried the HTC Touch Pro 2, Palm Pre Plus, Palm Pixi Plus, and Droid 2 before settling on the Droid Pro as my ‘go to’ device. The Droid Pro is nearly a year old yet hasn’t been replaced or matched in the market, and is only now being released in the EU, so it is still worth evaluating. How is it? I’ve been using it for the past several months, so let’s take a look!
Droid Pro keeps up with your fast-paced life. A seamless integration of work email, calendar and contacts helps you stay productive, whether you are out of the office – or even out of the country.
Like a mini-office, the Droid Pro by Motorola lets you get your work done wherever you are, and let’s you do it more efficiently.
It’s your phone so customize it the way you like. Access your calendar, email, social network sites and even the news quickly and easily.
Rest easy knowing your Droid Pro is extra secure. With a high level of device and IT controllable security, you won’t have to worry about your information getting into the wrong hands.
TAKE ON THE WORLD
From New York to New Delhi, Droid Pro’s quad-band capabilities allow you to make or take calls from more than 200 countries.
As I said in the introduction, I am not new to Android or to handheld gadgets in general. So I started with the knowledge of core functionality of the Android OS as well as specific applications. The purpose of this review with regards to Android is more about the Motorola-specific tweaks and how it performs on this hardware.
To be honest, when I first brought the Droid Pro into work, my friend (also an Android user) called it ‘the Droid I thought no one would ever buy’. Why? Because as device screens keep getting larger, the Droid Pro has a decidedly small 3.1″ screen. That obviously limits the appeal, but for me it was obviously a calculated trade-off … let’s see how it went!
Motorola Droid Pro – Hardware
There is pretty much a singular reason to get the Droid Pro – you want an Android phone but like the form factor of the BlackBerry. But once you get past that, there is a solid phone that delivers a great Android experience.
First and foremost, the Droid Pro is a tank! Not quite as robust as the original Droid (just ask Carly!), but I have dropped mine several times and the worst that has happened is that the battery cover came off the back. The screen is Gorilla Glass, and the outer frame has a rock-solid feel that doesn’t flex or creak. It is one of the most solid feeling phones I have ever felt.
The screen is not going to win anyone over – it is a 3.1″ capacitive TFT touchscreen with four softkeys in the bezel area between the screen and the physical keyboard. These keys are the typical Menu, Home, Back and Search. The screen itself offers 320 x 480 pixel resolution, again, nothing to set the world ablaze but it does the job of displaying text and images adequately. When you see that resolution – it should be clear that this phone isn’t about graphics performance and gaming.
The physical keyboard is something that you will immediately either love or hate. I have recently been using a HTC 7 Pro Windows 7 Phone … and it has an excellent landscape keyboard. And before the Droid Pro I had a Droid, which had the landscape keyboard. Yet for daily use I prefer the integrated keyboard of the Droid Pro. I can immediately start typing without worrying about the screen changing orientation and so on.
There is one complaint with the keyboard: with a Blackberry there is a wider space below the keyboard, but on the Droid Pro the keys run very close to the bottom. This makes single-handed operation harder than on a Blackberry … but that isn’t anything I usually do anyway. For normal thumb-typing the keyboard is a bit narrower than a Blackberry but still comfortable and highly usable. The upwardly curved keys provide a great sense of location and tactile feedback upon pressing.
Another complaint – the battery. With my Droid, I could charge every other day most of the time. With the Droid Pro I need to charge every night. Turns out that in spite of a much faster processor and more hardware capabilities … they used the same battery. Not just same size or capacity – same exact battery. That is a double edged sword – on the one hand it means I can interchange batteries (which I did on a recent camping trip to extend time between charging), but on the other hand this phone needs a more capable battery. Motorola sells an extended battery, but I haven’t had the desire to go that route.
The Droid Pro has a 5MP rear-facing camera with LED flash. I found picture quality and ease of use about the same as the original Droid – nothing earth-shattering, but functional enough that I use it as my go-to camera that works well enough in nearly all situations.
Finally, in terms of connectivity, the Droid Pro has only two connections: a 3.5mm jack and a mini USB connection. There is a volume rocker on one side, a programmable button on the other, and the screen on/off switch on the top.
Motorola Droid Pro – Android Software
The Droid Pro comes with Android OS 2.2 Froyo, and has seen a single ‘quick fix’ since release. It was released alongside the Droid X and Droid 2, both of which have been updated to Gingerbread (2.3), but it is doubtful the Droid Pro will get the update. That is just the way of Android – OS fragmentation is the rule, and you really need to be prepared to deal with whatever features your phone has today since many promised updates have gone undelivered.
Fortunately Froyo is like Windows XP – solid, performs well, offers loads of features and functionality, and is completely supported by pretty much everything. Unfortunately Froyo is like Windows XP in terms of vulnerability and lacking some newer features. Froyo is known to be fraught with security issues and prone to malware attacks, and the OS still contains some real doozies in terms of poor design implementations. As an example, here is a video I made about the abysmal process of managing applications in Froyo:
One of the best things for me about Froyo is that it runs *everything*. It is still installed on more than 50% of Android devices, so it is the common compatibility point for applications. I have yet to have a problem with an app – they all just work.
Motorola Droid Pro – Motorola Software
As usual, getting an Android phone isn’t getting an Android phone – it is getting an Android phone along with whatever crap the handset maker and carrier pile on top. Fortunately for me the original Droid was a fairly austere implementation, and the Droid Pro follows suit with a relatively tame MotoBlur overlay – at least compared to many other Android phones I see around work.
Some of the things offered are great – I love the simple pane to toggle the various wireless settings, and love having a strip each for weather and news headlines on my home page. But when I first started up there were just too many obtrusive views I had to kill off – it really does slow things down with everything always trying to update and grab your attention … and your data bandwidth!
There is a reason why the world isn’t teeming with phones like the Droid Pro – as my friend at world called it ‘the Droid I thought no one would ever buy’. Smartphones are tuned to a 4″ screen with gorgeous graphics, but the Droid Pro is almost from a different time with a lower resolution small screen. The chicklet keys are also not for everyone – many folks are fine with a virtual keyboard, others want a larger key layout like the Droid 2 or 3. For many, the opinion is ‘if I wanted a Blackberry, I’d get a Blackberry’.
But I don’t want a Blackberry, I want an Android phone. I demand a physical keyboard. And I simply loved the form factor of the Droid Pro from the moment I touched it. After several months of using it … I still love it and wouldn’t want to trade it for another phone – unless it was a dual-core Droid Pro 2 with a higher-resolution screen and a better battery!
Android Phone Review: Motorola Droid Pro
Where to Buy: VerizonWireless.com
Price: $129.99 with 2-year contract (List price $399.99) ()
What I Like: Solid performance; great form factor; built like a tank; great keyboard; solid 5MP camera
What Needs Improvement: Keyboard not for everyone; screen is small and low-resolution for 2010/2011; stuck on Froyo
Source: Personal purchase