Motorola Droid Pro Android Phone Falls Short of BlackBerry

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-11-19

Motorola Droid Pro Android Phone Falls Short of BlackBerry

Motorola's Droid Pro, which Verizon Wireless is selling now for $179.99 after a $100 rebate with a two-year deal, presents a case study in smartphones that look great, feel great in the hand, but whose user experience is wanting.

That sums up the Droid Pro hardware, which I will circle back to after covering the basics of the device and what worked for me.

Weighing at an industry average 4.73 ounces, the Droid Pro comes with a 1 GHz processor and measures 4.7 inches long, 2.4 inches wide and about a half inch thick. The screen is a compact 3.1-inch, HVGA 480 by 320 pixel display.

I used the Droid Pro as my main phone during a trip to San Francisco this week, grabbing directions and recommendations aplenty from the phone.

Web browsing was decent and I tested the Flash support by frequently using Google Search, voice search and Google Maps did not disappoint, but the real fun happened with the new Google Places widget highlighted as a Google app.

The local search app aims to connect local businesses with consumers on the go. The app taps the user's coordinates to help them find not only restaurants, bars and other establishments nearby, but reviews, ratings and other info about those places.

I'm not entirely unfamiliar with San Francisco, but Places helped segment eateries by cuisine type, whether they were open and how far they are from us. See it in action here

I quickly installed the new Twitter for Android and Facebook for Android apps from the Android Market, both of which were improved from the last handset I tested, the Samsung Fascinate.

These apps are looking more and more like their desktop counterparts. I used the Droid Pro to easily sync these feeds with Motorola's social networking app.

I find on these Android gadgets that once you sync your social feeds by entering your ID, it makes life a lot easier to sit back and wait for the streams to come to one of the five homescreens. You never have to dial up the app on the browser.

Calls were crisp and clear; I didn't get any dropped calls in San Francisco or here in Connecticut on Verizon.

The camera, a standard 5 megapixel utility, was serviceable, as was the video, which is listed at "DVD quality."

However, I really felt the degradation after using the 8 megapixel camera and HD videos apparatus offered on the Motorola Droid X and HTC Evo 4G. That was to be expected; this is not a media-savvy phone.

I still enjoyed snapping photos with the virtual camera button -- there is no physical button for the camera (more on that later) -- and "quick uploading" them to Facebook, Gmail, etc.

Battery life was below what I've been accustomed to of late with other Android units, but accurately reflected its list life of 390 minutes. I turned it on at 8 a.m. and had to recharge it by 6 p.m.

Droid Pro Keyboard Is Hard to Handle

Also, the Droid Pro felt really hot when I held it up to my ear later in the day. That can't be good, especially for such a little phone.

But this is a business phone, so let's get down to business. There is 2GB of internal memory, useful for e-mail, text and applications.

There's a 2GB microSD so you won't lack for room for your content. The device is also "global," meaning it will run in 220 countries for voice and 200 countries for data, courtesy of the GSM and HSPA radios

I easily linked Gmail, social network updates and Exchange accounts through the Motorola messaging widget, similar to the social network stream.

Corporate directory look-up, unified Outlook calendar and sync with Google Calendar was standard, accessible by a button the right side of the phone -- the one normally used for picture-taking.

I didn't test these, but I understand there is "AuthenTec IPSec multi-headed VPN integration," remote wipe of both the device and SD card, and complex password support.

The Quickoffice Mobile Suite also comes standard on the device. One tap of this widget surfaced buttons for accessing Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files, as well as Adobe PDFs.

I expect most of us corporate road warriors still use some or all of those on-premise apps (sorry, Google), so having them so readily accessible was a bonus.

Here are my main problems with the Droid Pro and why I wouldn't be able to use it for work or play. The hardware is handsome and fit snugly in the palm of my hand, bracketed by a metal band around the device as if it were a gladiator's belt.

The small display made it tough to work with after using the 4-inch Super AMOLED screen of the Samsung Fascinate, and was positively dwarfed by the 4.3-inch palettes of the Droid X and Evo 4G.

But the typing experience on that Qwerty keyboard, which goes for the RIM BlackBerry experience, was terrible for me.

Despite the bevels, my average-size fingers kept slipping off the keys. I would try to type a question mark, but would activate the voice search button instead.

Whether typing a business e-mail, a tweet or Facebook status update, I longed for the flat keys on the Droid 2 I used this summer. So I was stuck sucking it up because, unlike the Droid 2, the virtual keyboard appears only when you go into landscape mode.

I thought it was me. But my 11-year-old couldn't get a handle on the Droid Pro keyboard, either. We were stuck and you will be too unless you can master the keyboard.

At least the BlackBerrys are equipped with trackballs for navigation. Overall, this was not my favorite Android phone. I loved the software, loathed the keyboard.

Want a work phone for messaging, calendar sync and top-shelf security? Go for the BlackBerry Torch, Bold or almost anything else by RIM.  

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