Motorola has just released the latest addition to their popular Droid phone line. You may know it as the latest “BlackBerry Killer” — The Motorola Droid Pro is available exclusively for Verizon and is geared towards business professionals. The phone’s form factor is similar to a BlackBerry Bold or Curve; candy bar form-factor with a full QWERTY keyboard on the bottom. The painfully obvious difference is that the Droid Pro features an extremely responsive (and relatively large) touchscreen and sports the ever-so-powerful Android Froyo 2.2 operating system, and the other one does not. Droid Pro is also a world phone, so it will work internationally, and it runs on both GSM and CDMA networks. So is it time for BlackBerry users to give up on their beloved BBM app, and make the move to Android? You’ll have to be the judge…
What’s in the Box:
-Motorola Droid Pro
-Standard Lithim Ion Battery
-2gb Micro-SD card (pre-installed)
-Sim Card (pre-installed)
-Micro-USB Sync Cable
-Micro-USB Wall Charger
-International Power Adapter G – Australia
-International Power Adapter F – Great Britain
-International Power Adapter C – Most of Europe
Droid Pro certainly dresses for the part of a business professional phone (but don’t let the attire fool you–it’s so much more then just a business phone!) It’s designed similarly to the candy bar BlackBerry’s with QWERTY keyboards. They keyboard is about the same size as most of the BlackBerry’s, but the screen is much larger. That said, its 3.1″ display is also a lot smaller than many other Android smartphones on the market, but a smaller screen size allows the device to stay compact even with a QWERTY keyboard stuck to the bottom of it. On the bottom bezel of this screen are four soft touch buttons which are common to most Android phones. The haptic feedback works well at acknowledging when one of these buttons was hit. Aside from the 4-row, 35-button keyboard, there are physical buttons for volume up and down, lock, and a user-customized side button which opens your calendar by default. The microphone is on the bottom of the phone. The headphone port is on the very top of the phone, a perfect location. The speaker is on the underside of the phone, a not so perfect location. This muffles your music, or forces you to place your phone face down. The charging port is also in a, questionably, poor location. It’s on the bottom left side. This makes it extremely difficult to comfortably hold your phone with your left hand. Other then those couple issues, the design of the phone is quite handsome. The speaker is a thin mesh metal grill. The front frame is gun metal gray, the sides are chrome and the back battery cover is black with a wave-like design. On the top of the phone’s face is a status light that will blink green or red. There’s also a frame around the charging port that is softly illuminated. This is a cool detail that comes in handy when plugging in your phone in the dark.
Considering the screen isn’t one of these ‘next generation displays’ like the retina display or OLED, it still is pretty darned good. It gets very bright and the colors look vivid and crisp. Text is very clear. The blacks are deeper then the HTC Evo, and not too far off from Nexus One and iPhone. The screen on Droid Pro is a 3.1 inch TFT display with a HGVA – 320 x 480 resolution which is ok, but certainly not mind-blowing. The display’s viewing angle is great from all directions, with no washed out colors. The screen is also capacitive touch screen and it’s very responsive to touch, which is complemented by a speedy processor and great OS. The multi-touch gestures, like pinching and zooming, work just as well as on the iPhone. The auto brightness is very responsive to ambient light too, so it did a great job of always adjusting to an appropriate brightness level.
Droid Pro screams ‘performance’. Its 1GHz processor makes the phone very zippy. Apps pop right open, websites render quickly, transitions are smooth, applications download and install in no time, and the multitasking capabilities are phenomenal. The Quadrant Standard Android application bench marked this Droid Pro and ranked it higher than the other popular Android phones on the market right now. According to Quadrant Standard it’s faster than Nexus One, Moto Droid, HTC Evo, Moto Droid X, Samsung Galaxy, HTC Desire, and it even earned a better benchmark score than the previous reigning champ – the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G.
Motorola did a great job incorporating a QWERTY keyboard on to the Droid Pro. The keys are large and easy to type on. There is no spacing between the keys, so it is cramped but it’s still easy to feel out the keys because they’re all pitched, or angled. At first glance it might seem like the keyboard is on the small side, but even people with big fingers should do ok it. The left half of the keyboard slopes towards the left and the right half towards the right.Yes, this is similar to the BlackBerry Bold’s signature keyboard. Coming from a user who has exclusively used a touchscreen keyboard for three years, it doesn’t take long to become a speed-demon on the keyboard. Android’s autocorrect and word suggestions eliminates the need for flawless typing. The keyboard is backlit; letters in white and numbers/characters in blue. On the bottom row of the keyboard is a button to activate voice recognition in case it’s not convenient to type. This feature works pretty well. There’s no on-screen keyboard, although there’s technically enough space for one. The great thing about having a physical keyboard on Android is the shortcuts, which you can customize. Menu + a key can act as a shortcut for anything. If you’re on the home screen you can just begin typing and it will go straight to the Google Quick Search Box, which can search the internet, contacts, applications, text messages, apps, and so on.
Software and Apps
This is Android, so when it comes to apps and modifying your phone, the possibilities are endless. Droid Pro comes stock with Android 2.2 (Froyo), which is the latest version of Android. Right out of the box the Droid Pro comes with email support for Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, and IMAP/POP accounts. It can sync with a Microsoft Exchange account to provide calendar, email and contacts. It will do the same for Gmail, and can also sync contacts from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn–all right out of the box! Verizon pre-loads a backup service to sync all of your contacts to their secure server, if you opt-in. Security features include complex password support, password expiration to force you to change your password after a certain period of time, password recovery for IT managers, maximum failed password tries before automatic wipe, and a remote wipe of device and SD card. Other business-friendly applications that come pre-installed are Quickoffice, Skype Mobile, AuthenTec VPN client, Mediashare, and a file manager. It’s crazy to think that I was creating and editing actual spreadsheets (with formulas) right from my phone! The device also comes preloaded with a set of Motorola specific widgets, including: Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, Wi-fi, and GPS Toggle, Upcoming Calendar Events, Contact Quick Tasks, Date and Time, Messages, News, Picture Frame, Social, Networking, Social Status, Sticky Note, and finally, Weather and World Clock. It’s nice that they included these widgets on top of the stock Android widgets, but they’re not very exciting either and can’t be compared to HTC’s Sense U.I. widgets.
Web Browsing and Data Speeds
Verizon’s service on Motorola Droid Pro was always very consistent, which is a good quality. It wasn’t really possible for me to find a dead zone in New York, which is something I can’t say for AT&T. I ran speed tests throughout New York and Upstate New York and I’d always yield download speeds of 25 to 200 kB/s and the same for upload speeds. The average download speed was 85 kB/s and average upload was 97 kB/s. These speeds are just pretty good, but I always had at least 25 kB/s which was very comforting. On AT&T, download speeds were more sporadic, ranging from 0 to 706 kB/s with an average just over 200 kB/s. Average upload was 54 kB/s, lower then Verizon’s and less predictable. The speeds were solid enough to tether Droid’s internet to my WiFi iPad and watch a full length movie, while moving on a bus. During the hour and a half movie, playback stopped just 3 times to buffer. A 3G Mobile Hotspot Application comes standard with the Droid Pro and can support up to 5 other devices.
Android comes preloaded with WebKit, which is a very capable browser. Adobe Flash Player 10 comes pre-installed on Droid Pro, so you can watch flash videos and look at flash websites (take that iPhone!). The flash videos render extremely well for a phone. Controls can be a little awkward because flash wasn’t designed for fingers and mobile use, but you can usually get it to work with some good finger accuracy. Although iPhone’s browsing experience is aesthetically smoother, Android provides a superior browser in terms of rendering and features. Motorola Droid’s data speeds were definitely quick enough for everything I needed the browser to do. Google’s predictive search makes for a more efficient web browsing experience.
Droid Pro has a 5 MP camera with digital zoom and Dual LEDs. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t too impressive. We’re thinking it’s something a software update could fix down the line. Photos, indoor and outdoor, come out fuzzy. You can’t set the focus area, so the clarity of the shot is left up to chance. It is possible to get some pretty good pictures on the Droid Pro, but it’s just not easy. The flash, as with any cell phone, works if you really need it to, but for good shots you need to opt to not use it. The average size is just under 2mb, which is large considering the quality of the shot. As a video camera we were much more pleased. It captures 480p video at 30fps. The videos came out good for a cell phone. The recording doesn’t offer the resolution of iPhone’s 720p video camera, but the videos came out clear with vivid colors. The audio quality of the videos is also pretty good. I did not test out any of the Android Marketplace camera apps, but there’s a good chance they can do the camera more justice then the stock camera app.
The battery life for Droid Pro isn’t one of its best strengths either. You can get a full 12 hours with 3G and Syncing always on, but you need to use it very moderately and stay conscious of applications and processes that are battery killers. A regular user may find 8-10 hours to be a more practical battery life. You could squeeze more then 12 hours out of the battery, but you have to be smart about it. There are battery management applications that help. It’s also comforting to know that you can buy a new OEM battery for Droid Pro on eBay for under $10. Motorola states on GSM it can get 8 hours of continuous usage and 6.5 hours on CDMA. They claim standby is 330 hours with GSM or CDMA on.
Speakers and Call Quality
The built in speaker phone on Droid Pro gets nice and loud. Playing music from the speaker was very clear, and can easily fill a large empty room.There’s not a lot of bass, but it’s a phone, so it’s excused. The only gripe is that the speaker is on the bottom of the phone, so to get optimal sound quality the phone needs to be laying screen down. There’s a
bunch of music streaming apps in the Android market, so its nice to have a phone that can play it over the speaker without sounding tinny or distorted. Phone calls with Verizon on Droid Pro generally sounded better then phone calls on AT&T with iPhone. It sounded more like a landline and less like a cell phone; there was no static. There was one issue, when the caller on the other end gets very loud their voice sounds mechanical, high pitched, and unpleasant. All of my callers reported that the sound quality was great on my end. They reported that there was no distortion and ambient noise was minimal. When I used speakerphone, they said they couldn’t actually tell until I mentioned it. Speakerphone gets loud enough to use in a moving car. Using my ThinkSound TS02+Mic earphones was also another great method for making and receiving phone calls. The mechanical voice issue was not noticeable with the headphones or using speakerphone.
Droid Pro has Stereo Bluetooth ver 2.1 with support for all the popular profiles. The WiFi works with 802.11 B, G, and N. It’s equipped with aGPS and sGPS, and even comes with Google Maps Navigation software, Google Maps Street View, and an eCompass. It also has 2gb of on board storage. The microSD removable memory slot supports cards up to 32GB. There is a built in accelerometer which adjusts the screen orientation appropriately. There is a proximity sensor for detecting if its in a pocket or against your face during a phone call. And finally, there’s an ambient light sensor that adjusts the screen brightness.
Keep in mind this review just covered the Motorola Droid Pro, it barely even touched on the features, and power, delivered by the Android operating system. If you’re not familiar with Android, just understand that the possibilities are seriously endless. This can also act as a drawback for anyone looking for a simple phone. BlackBerry phones are not as complicated to make your own. Operating systems aside, the Droid Pro is an awesome phone. The physical keyboard and responsive touchscreen in a compact and relatively petite form-factor makes for a winning combo. The keyboard is very comfortable to use, and the autocorrect and word suggestions makes it that much easier. There’s no need to waste your time with a little trackball when you have a large, bright and colorful, screen begging to get touched. Personally, I wouldn’t push the Droid Pro as a strictly business professional phone, because it’s so much more than that. Yes, it has every feature available to make it a business phone, but it’s still a very fun phone with games, social networking, theming, and limitless applications/tweaks. Internet Tethering, for instance, is a great application for businesspeople who need to use their laptop to connect to the Internet on the road. It’s just as great an application for anyone trying to stream a movie from their iPad in the backseat of a car.
That said, we can’t understand why they bundled the device with just a 2GB microSD card, that is very stingy, especially for a smartphone that costs $279 before rebate! We also can’t help but bring up the Motorola Charm for comparison, although it’s a GSM phone for T-Mobile<, it sports a similar candybar form-factor with a dedicated QWERTY keyboard. To its credit, the keyboard on the Charm is more spacious, but the Droid Pro has a much much better display and it provides much, much greater performance. The Droid Pro is also more of a premium business oriented device, while the Charm is geared towards being a budget multimedia device.
So--Is the Motorola Droid Pro for Verizon a BlackBerry Killer? Yes, this is a device that can really complete with BlackBerry in almost every category, BUT, Android is still a bit technical for all of the non-techie business people out there. We think Droid Pro will be very popular among the younger generation, ages 15-40. Droid Pro is currently available for new and existing Verizon customers for $179.99 after a $100 mail-in-rebate and 2 year activation.
The Good: Form-factor is nice and compact, solid build quality, Keyboard is comfortable to use, good display, hotspot/ internet tethering app is included, Runs Froyo 2.2
The Bad: Weak Battery Life, 5 MP Camera is lacking, Strange distortion when caller gets loud, display is kinda low-res by today’s smartphone standards, 3G speeds aren’t very fast, only comes with a 2GB microSD Card