Review: Droid 2

Posted: August 15, 2010 in Droid 2
Tags: ,

It’s arrived.  The Droid 2 was released this past Thursday, and with that it’s review time!

I don’t have the disposable income to just go buy every new phone that comes out (contrary to what some friends and co-workers may think) so like many reviewers that don’t get a review phone, I simply stopped into my local Verizon Wireless store on Friday and asked to check it out.

For not really having any gripes about the Droid 1 (which I used for 8 months) I really wasn’t expecting any “wow” factor to be involved here, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.

Let’s start with the physical design.  The Droid 2 is pretty identical to the Droid measuring at roughly 4.5 by 2.5 by 0.5 inches, and 6 ounces. The biggest noticeable differences off that bat were the colors (Navy blue instead of black on the outside) as well as the bottom lip is more curved and form-fitting to the phone.  The mic, usb micro charger, power button and headphone jack looked to be in the same place as on the original Droid 1. Just to get the color aspect out of the way too, the keyboard when slid open now features a silver casing as opposed to the black as well on the Droid 1.

So speaking of the keyboard, it was a much needed improvement that was heard loud and clear by Motorola, and they delivered.  The keys are more responsive, and have a raised button effect rather than the flat keyboard from the Droid 1.  The big directional “square” from the right side of the Droid 1 keyboard has been removed, and replaced with four individual arrow buttons that fit nicely into the bottom corner of the keyboard layout.  All this leaves more room for slightly bigger keys, as well as and offset row layout (like on a computer keyboard), as opposed to where all the letters were lined up on top of each other on the Droid 1.

So those are really the only physical differences you’ll notice or see with the Droid 2, compared to the Droid 1.

The real changes to this are under the hood.  And it shows once you power this miniature beast up for the first time. Once you’re loaded into Froyo (yes it comes shipped with Android 2.2 Froyo along with a pre-installed version of the current flash player) you’ll be amazed with how responsive and fast this device is.  You command, it listens.  That can be taken literally as well with Froyo’s advanced voice commands feature, which as every other review has pointed out already, is quite simply amazing.  It works so well at times you wonder if someone at good is actually listening to what you’re saying then commanding your phone to do it. So what makes this little beast run so well?  It’s packing quite a punch running the OMAP 3640 processor at 1ghz, has 512MB of ram, 8 gig’s of on board memory and a pre-installed 8 gig micro SD card (Upgradeable to a 32 gig card for a total of 40 gigs.)  This lets it match the Droid 1’s 16 gig storage capacity at shipping as well, but leaves more room for an upgrade, as the Droid 1 had no on board memory and simply came with a 16GB pre-installed microSD card. You’ll also find that with Froyo’s JIT (Just In Time) compiler it’s able to compile and process things up to %400 faster than Android 2.1 (eclair.)  This makes for an experience you can’t help but smile at while using this phone.

The biggest difference you’ll notice visually after starting up this phone (other than the changes from Froyo) is the fact that, unlike the Droid 1, this is running a version of MotoBlur, just like the Droid X has.  This is a big downfall for some as they liked the “vanilla” android experience that came on the original Droid.  Motorola flat-out stated that the Droid 1 was classified as a developers phone and is why it was designed out it was.  This was before the Nexus One was made available, so now that Google has its own branded developer phone, Motorola doesn’t feel the need to make one any more.  So now we have the new and improved MotoBlur on their phones. Honestly, I don’t like it.  I don’t like the app drawer button, I don’t like the giant call and contacts button either.  I don’t like the home screen changer that appears and disappears when changing screens.  It also seems that (just like on the DX) the screens have a little bit of lag on them when switching from screen to screen, even with all widgets pulled off.  Luckily there is a cure for this.  It’s called launcher pro.  You don’t need to be rooted or anything to use it, and it replaces you’re entire home launcher which lets you have it look more like a stock Froyo launcher, or can customize it to look however you want. So that shouldn’t be an end all decision when you purchase this phone.

Motorola also included their own custom widgets and applications for managing social networks and emails.  This has gotten some positive reviews, however I personally greatly dislike the integrated apps.  I do however like the custom widgets.  The integrated apps take all your social networking (Twitter, Facebook, etc…) and puts all updates, tweets, and your e-mail into one unified inbox.  You can separate the inbox’s and view just which ones you want, but considering I use my phone for business, I can’t stand to have my friends tweets and status updates mixed in with my personal and business email.  It just doesn’t work for me.  Luckily you have the option to simply not use that and just download the regular Twitter and Facebook apps. You have no other choice preloaded however for any corporate or personal email outside of Gmail which obviously has its own integration.

Droid 2 did screw up Bluetooth voice dialing support however. While you can trigger voice dialing over a Bluetooth headset, you can’t issue the commands over the headset, leaving it just the same as any other Bluetooth equipped droid (or even less if said Droid has received the Froyo OTA update!)

One nice added feature is that your new Droid 2 has the ability to connect to wireless n networks now as well as the standard b/g. You also have the capability, just like on the Droid X, to have your phone act as a mobile hotspot for up to 5 devices.  This will run you an extra $20 a month however.

The bottom line with the new Droid 2?  If you need to have a physical keyboard on your phone, then this is definitely the smartphone for you, as the keyboard is usable as compared to the Droid 1, however I still have to side with my trust Droid X as my phone of choice.   Essentially the Droid 2 is packing the same horsepower under the hood, but the Droid X gives you a 4.3″ screen compared to the Droid 2’s 3.7″ screen.  This is a big difference on small phones, and the multi-touch keyboard on both phones works exceptionally well on the Droid X because of the added screen real estate.

So if you’re just in the market for a new smartphone and want a powerful device that will do what you want, and can live without a keyboard, we recommend you go with the Droid X hands down.  However, if you feel you can’t live without the physical keyboard and still want the same blazing speed and responsiveness as the Droid X, and maybe a little smaller to fit in your pockets and meetings and on business trips, then the Droid 2 should be your phone of choice.

And so we’re clear, I didn’t use Froyo as a deciding factor between this and the Droid X since Motorola and Verizon still claim it will be coming to the Droid X in just a few weeks.


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