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Review: The Droid Arrives

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 12:27pm
Monica Alleven

Do not touch my Droid. That is the first order of business. And it’s not even really mine to begin with. It’s a loaner unit for demo and review purposes.

I had been waiting for its arrival like a kid waits for Santa Claus. When the UPS box arrived, it was light – really light. Surely there wasn’t a demo Droid unit in there, right? I must have received something else – an accessory or something?

But no, it was the Droid after all. After a little charging session, I was off and running.

First off – the touch screen. Just a light touch is all you need – not the finger punching required of the first Storm from Verizon Wireless. (Note to self and anyone else who cares: Verizon didn’t make a big splash about the coming of the second Storm that went on sale earlier this week. No love for Research In Motion? Or just no need to re-do a bunch of marketing for a second-generation device when you’ve got the Droid? Just sayin’.)

I didn’t plan to do this, but immediately went to the Google Navigation app and it showed my location, right down to the neighborhood. Spooky. Clue: This is a mini computer, not a phone.

And that raises the question. How good is the phone? I made a phone call using the slide-out keypad. It was easy with the numbers marked on the top line of the qwerty keypad. The sound quality was fine.

Next stop: Check out the Market, but before I can do that, I have to sign into my Google Gmail account. Done. Nice sound effect with “droid” coming out of the handset. Cute, cute, cute.

How about browsing? Google search comes up, which is fine because I’m a heavy user of Google News on the desktop. A search for “droid” comes up with a review from the San Jose Mercury News: “Annoyances Aside, Droid’s a Winner.” That seems to sum up a lot of the reviews of late. Maybe an iPhone killer, maybe not. Next in the list of stories was one from Geek.com, talking about the “Droid tax” and Verizon doubling early termination fees to $350. Oops and ouch.

I tried to read another story and it immediately invited me to create an e-mail instead. My bad. Back up. OK, back to the story. “Tip: double tap to zoom in and out.” Right-o. It works like a charm, and again, it knows my location. Spooky II.

Good points: easy to use, good sensory on the touchpad. The gentle haptics is a nice feature, generating a light vibration with each move. It’s easy to “Google,” or search with Google. I can see why the navigation companies might be scared – yeah, the navigation feature is cool.

I don’t foresee too many quarrels from consumers about Verizon’s 3G network speeds – in some cases, I think it’s faster than my desktop. Downloading a podcast was super fast and the sound quality was great. I do wonder how much information I’m forking over each time I install an app and it tells me what it needs to access, such as location or phone list, but there’s fair warning. Also, when I tried to uninstall an app, it asked me to “please tell us why you removed this item,” with choices including “I need more space on my phone,” as well as “It’s defective” and “I’d rather not say.” Maybe that’s standard fare these days, but it felt like the Droid was talking to me.

Of course, you’ve got to love Google if you get this device. (And who doesn’t, AT&T?) It has Google all over it. I recently had a conversation with a Bsquare executive about that company’s licensing deal with Microsoft, which reminds me that yeah, the Windows Mobile operating system probably does have some native things that I would be inclined to use on a mobile. Other enterprise people tied to Microsoft on the desktop probably would find useful tools as well. This isn’t a knock on the Droid – everyone’s got their own preferences on various things, and you can access Google docs.

All in all, it’s a cool device, and I could see paying $200 for it. I haven’t spent a week with it yet, and surely that will lead to much more insight about quirks and as-yet undiscovered features, which seem to pop up each time I pick it up. Full disclosure: I don’t own an iPhone, so my colleague who does own one may review this same product and have a completely different view. As the reviews are piling in, it seems to be a much-needed hit for Motorola. And now it’s time to recharge the battery on “my” Droid.

 

 

 

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