Review: Motorola’s Droid X is a high-quality smartphone, but with so many Android 2.1 devices launching on the market the device would have best been served with Android 2.2, which boasts browser speed, enterprise messaging and other improvements.
I covered the launch in New York City and know full well the Droid X, which is launching on Verizon Wireless’ massive network July 15 for $199 with a $100 mail-in rebate, is being upgraded to Android 2.2 this summer.
Like its Android 2.1 predecessors that require enough processing power to handle the OS and apps, the smartphone is powered by a 1 GHz processor. It also has 8 GB of onboard memory and a 16 GB memory card, expandable to 40 GB.
The device, at 5 inches long, 2.6 inches wide and one-quarter inch thick, fits just comfortably enough in the average hand. A black, rubbery enclosure keeps it just light enough, at 5.47 ounces. This backing accommodates the glossy glass display, which is unfortunately a ripe haven for fingerprint oils.
The phone boasts a beautiful 4.3-inch screen (another nod to Evo 4G) with WVGA 854-by-480 resolution to let users capture high-definition videos at 720p for playback on HDTV. Eventual Flash Player 1.1 support will only make this display more useful.
I tested the video quality and found it to be often great, but sometimes grainy. Folks writing about how these new Droid and iPhone gadgets could put Cisco’s Flip out of business may be onto something. I have an older model flip sans HD and the Droid X blows it out of the water with video recording and playback. The sound is crisp, but I’ll note more on that later.
The device has an 8-megapixel camera capable of 1/1,000-second shutter speed. Honestly, picture quality put my Canon PowerShot to shame, and using the panoramic view and slideshow mode for videos and pictures together in a seamless fashion demonstrated just how much of a delight this device can be for amateur photographers.
The Droid X has three microphones. One mic is for speaking into the phone for voice calls, another faces out to pick up voice for video shoots. The last one is a noise cancellation mic, which is crucial for quality calls and video shoots.
Call quality was excellent. I used it in the quiet of my own home, in several car rides and in a busy mall and restaurants with no issues. I only dropped a call once made from the woods of a mountain in western Massachusetts, where I lost total signal for one minute.
That car ride to Massachusetts from my home in Connecticut was where I put the Droid X to the test this past weekend. I turned on the Droid X at 8 a.m., made some calls but put the device’s battery to serious task by using Google Maps Navigation to direct me to a campground buried in the woods.
Why I Prefer the Droid Incredible to the Droid X or Evo 4G
Google Maps Navigation got me there and back smoothly. On the return trip home, and with the GPS app guiding me in the background, I checked the play-by-play of a Mets baseball game on ESPN, browsed the Web, watched YouTube clips and made a handful of calls for three hours.
The phone’s 1540mAh battery conked out at 6 p.m., after 10 hours of sometimes light, sometimes heavy use. This proved much better than my experience with the Evo 4G, whose battery life was quickly depleted on a 90-minute Metro North train ride on one occasion and 15 minutes of watching tennis on ESPN Mobile on another.
For me, the other part to calling is texting, which means using the virtual keyboard. Google and Motorola have done something wonderful here. The virtual keys are, for the first time on an Android phone, almost iPhone-like in their wideness and ease of use.
I have small, but somewhat clumsy fingers and I had a hard time using the virtual keyboard on the first Droid. The improvement, even over the Droid Incredible and Evo 4G, is amazing. Typing, texting, anything with the keyboard was a joy. With keys like this, a slideout QWERTY keyboard seems superfluous.
Moreover, the preloaded Swype app will help users type even faster allowing people to execute swipe gestures across the virtual keys, typing up to 50 words a minute.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t type 50 words per minute or anything. From my experience, Swype, while easy to use, takes a day to get used to. Practice will make you better, but you have to be patient with the new app.
The Droid X also sports several other preloaded multimedia apps, including Skype for Mobile, NFL Mobile and a Blockbuster mobile application, all of which worked well in the demonstration pit at Verizon’s launch June 23.
The Google app assortment of Gmail, Maps, YouTube and Talk is also ready and waiting, as is the always-improving Google Search by voice and the growing Android Market, 65,000 apps and counting.
One knock on the phone is the Motoblur user interface. While I used the HTC Sense UI on the Droid Incredible and Evo 4G with great facility, I found Motoblur to be a bit of a drag, with big, ugly widget buttons pointing some things out on the seven homescreens that are thankfully customizable. I wasn’t the only one who had an issue with this UI.
I also did a lot of hunting and pecking to jump from one app to the next, or searching for this feature or that. It felt like features were hiding. I eschewed the preloaded social networking widgets, which serve as the counterpart to HTC Sense’s fine Friendstream, because I didn’t feel comfortable with MotoBlur. What would it do to my apps?
I didn’t get that sense of fear, uncertainty and doubt from HTC’s Sense. But to be fair I’ve used the Sense UI extensively back to back on the Droid Incredible and Evo 4G, so there may be some user bias on my part. Maybe I had a hard time flitting around Sense on the Incredible and just got better from practice for the Evo 4G.
The Droid X will also serve as a WiFi hotspot, connecting up to five WiFi-enabled devices for $20 extra per month for 2 GB of data usage. Verizon’s standard $29.99 smartphone data plan also applies.
Would I buy the Droid X? No, but that’s not because I don’t like it. It is a fine, fine phone. But having tested three Android 2.1 devices before it, I prefer the HTC Sense UI better and prefer a smaller display, making the Droid Incredible still my favorite Android device to date.
Putting aside network allegiances and contracts, given a choice between the Droid X and the Evo 4G I might take the Droid X. That’s due to my aversion to Motoblur and because of the great battery life compared to the Evo 4G, which burned down too quickly for my taste.
Need any other impressions to help make a decision? Drop me a line in the comments. I’ll be playing with the device for the next three weeks.