The Motorola Droid will be available on the Verizon Wireless network this Friday, Nov. 6., and The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have weighed in on the Android-running, iPhone-provoking device.
"I regard it as a success overall," wrote the Journal's Walter Mossberg on Nov. 5. "It's the best super-smart phone Verizon offers, the best Motorola phone I've tested and the best hardware so far to run Android."
The Times' David Pogue, in his Nov. 5 review, enthused: "Motorola's new team faced a spectacularly difficult task and did a spectacularly great job."
But is it an iPhone killer? Pogue summed up the sentiments of both reviewers. "No, but it's certainly a killer phone."
Both reviewers applauded Google's update to Android 2.0, which, as Mossberg wrote, "sands off some of the rough edges of Google's platform and adds some features - notably, a free voice-prompted turn-by-turn navigation program."
Each was also pleased with Verizon's service, which Pogue called "superior" and free of dropped calls, before continuing, "The Droid is just incredibly fast, so it's a delight to use. Audio quality is superb, both on phone calls and music."
Both liked the albeit Star Wars-esque look of the Droid, with Pogue calling the screen "gorgeous" and Mossberg calling the device "handsome." Though it's 1.4 millimeters thicker than the iPhone, it manages to fit in a slide-out keyboard. "But it's 25 percent heavier, which makes it less comfortable to carry around in a pocket," Mossberg qualified.
Pogue was glad for the keyboard, but Mossberg found it awkward to use and defaulted to the on-screen keyboard. And as for that gorgeous screen, while it's touch sensitive, it lacks multitouch features such as two-finger zooming, which disappointed both critics.
Each was glad for the Droid's ability, like the Palm Pre's, to accommodate several open applications at once, but Mossberg complained, "The Droid's screen has only three panels for displaying apps, versus 11 on the iPhone, and some large apps, called widgets, hog much of the space on these panels."
Pogue found the Droid's browser to be good, though slower than the iPhone's, and noted that the Droid doesn't work outside the United States, like the iPhone will, for a fee, and despite Google having grown its Android Market to now 12,000 apps, Pogue couldn't help but miss Apple's App Store, which has "100,000 - and over all, they seem to be more useful and imaginative."
He was, however, thrilled about Android's 2.0 navigation software. "The real mind blower/game changer? This software is free. All of it." Pogue noted that spirits were likely low at this year's Garmin Halloween party.
Mossberg was happy with the Droid's battery life, liked the optional $30 docks for the car or nightstand, and bumped into just one issue, likely a glitch, in which he couldn't send a multimedia message. Overall, however, he gave the Droid high marks.
"The Droid is potentially a big win for Verizon, Motorola and Google, as well as for loyal Verizon customers," Mossberg wrote. And Pogue agreed.
Settling the iPhone vs. Droid debate prompted by Verizon, Pogue said that the iPhone wins on the fronts of simplicity, refinement, thinness and design, Web browsing, syncing music and video with a computer, accessories and its app store. And the Droid? "The Droid wins on phone network, customizability, GPS navigation, speaker, physical keyboard, removable battery and openness (free operating system, mostly uncensored app store.)"
Which certainly counts for something.
The Droid, also debuting in Europe and South America as the Milestone, will be priced at $199.99, with a $100 mail-in rebate - though at Best Buy the rebate is instant - and a minimum $70 monthly service plan for two years.