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Summary:

Verizon Wireless loaned me a Motorola Droid X, which arrived yesterday. Readers are already asking about this new handset, so here are five reader questions answered. You might be surprised by the most innovative feature offered by Droid X — I wish every phone had it.

Motorola’s Droid X arrived at my home office yesterday, on loan for a month from Verizon Wireless. I’ll have a full review shortly, but thought to share a early taste of the newest Android 2.1 handset. To that end, I asked folks what they wanted to know about Droid X and they replied. So here are my answers to your questions, along with a few additional impressions.

“Does the Droid X have a physical keyboard?” — Unlike the original Motorola Droid, this new model only offers an on-screen, or soft keyboard. While that may turn off those who prefer a hardware keyboard, I’ve already found that I can type faster on the Droid X than I can with my Nexus One — and I’ve had 6 months to practice on the Nexus One. I think the large 4.3-inch display has much to do with the better typing experience because even my small hands don’t feel as cramped when tapping on the software keys. The Droid X comes with Swype pre-installed as well — with this input method, you trace your words on keyboard and lift a finger between each word. The Swype software is extremely accurate and, with minimal practice, speeds up text entry.

“How’s the performance compared to your Nexus One?” — Good question since my personal handset uses a speedy 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm. The CPU in the Droid X clocks in at the same 1 GHz, but the chip is a Texas Instruments OMAP 3630. It’s early yet, but I find overall performance of the Droid X to be very comparable to my Nexus One. And the Droid X will gain speed when it receives Android 2.2, aka Froyo, in a over-the-air update expected later this summer. I don’t find any lag in the interface, which is a lightly customized version of the stock Android UI: you tap and Droid X does.

“What’s the most innovative feature of Droid X?” — Everyone will have a different answer to this question, but I think the most innovative feature has to be the camera’s Panoramic mode. It walks you through taking a series of six photos, either horizontally or vertically, and stitches them together into one picture using software. iPhone owners have enjoyed this type of software solution for some time, and I’ve been searching for the same on Android. Although it’s not quite a perfect super-wide angle photo, it works very well and is simple to use. Here’s a sample shot of my home office; click to see it in full size.

“How is the large display and does it make the device too big?” – I’ll admit that I initially thought a 4.3-inch display wouldn’t offer enough benefit to compensate for carrying a larger phone, but after using the Droid X for a short time, I see I was wrong. The larger screen — with 854×480 resolution, currently the highest supported by Android — is a joy to use and even though the device is larger than I’m accustomed to, it’s still quite pocketable, and easy to carry at 5.4 ounces. Colors appear less vibrant than on my Nexus One but that’s because Droid X uses a standard LCD instead of OLED (that also makes the phone more usable outdoors). The Droid X screen looks clearer as well — text appears crisper, and of course, there’s more of it to read due to the larger screen size. I haven’t seen an iPhone 4 display, so I’m not able to make a comparison at this time.

“Did Verizon load the Droid X up with crapware?” — Aside from the Verizon logo on the front of the Droid X, there’s little that tells you this is a Verizon handset. Instead of pre-installing the phone with a bunch of Verizon applications and services, the Droid X is fairly clean. But if you want access to Verizon’s VCAST or the MyVerizon application, for example, you can find them under a Verizon tab in the Android Market. I like this approach because it doesn’t require folks to uninstall software they didn’t want, but makes it easy to find carrier apps they do want. And the Droid X does come with Skype Mobile pre-installed, currently a Verizon exclusive on Android, as well as the 3G Mobile Hotspot software that shares a 3G connection with up to five devices over Wi-Fi. The hotspot service will cost $20 extra per month.

I did receive a few other questions, so I’ll incorporate those in my full review. If you name a recent smartphone I can bet someone asked me if the Droid X beats it. Unfortunately, choosing a phone is a highly personal experience — and I don’t have every brand and model of hot new device out there. Suffice it to say for now, that Droid X will make many Verizon customers happy overall when it becomes available next week. It’s not perfect, but based on the short amount of time I’ve had with hit, there’s little that will disappoint.

 

Additional facts about the Droid X:

  • Memory: 8 GB internal, 16 GB memory card included, 512 MB of RAM
  • Size: 2.6-inches x 5-inches x 0.4-inches
  • Camera: 8 megapixel sensor with support for 720p video recording and HDMI-out for video playback
  • Battery: 1540 mAh, user replaceable
  • Launch date and price: July 15 for $199 after $100 mail-in rebate, with new 2-year contract

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d):

To Win In the Mobile Market, Focus On Consumers

By Kevin C. Tofel

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  1. What about battery life. With such a large, vibrant screen and other toys, how much better is the battery performance?

    Also, how is the phone call performance? Clear speaker, good mic??

    1. Battery life is something I’ll have to address in the overall review because it’s not an aspect you can test in a few hours. ;)

      Call quality is excellent, both in handheld mode and with speakerphone. There are three microphones for directional audio capture and noise cancellation.

  2. Interesting. Can’t wait for your Galaxy S review (crossing fingers for a Vibrant review)!

  3. More of the Same Thursday, July 8, 2010

    As typical with Android, here we find ourselves waiting for Froyo 2.2 to fix all of the issues. Then after that doesn’t work, we’ll get all hyped up about 3.0 Gingerbread, then 3.1 and so on.

    Question: Did your new Android red-state-equipped phone come with a fanny pack in which to carry it to destinations like Orlando, FL?

    1. So do you use a phone with a postage stamp sized display that has never seen a software update? Unless you do, I fail to see your point – smartphone platforms evolve: all of them. And if they don’t, they wither and die. Android is no different from iOS4, Symbian, BlackBerry or WinMo in this regard. In fact, it’s arguable that Android is maturing faster than others.

      1. You say a lot of dumb things but thats one of the dumbest. Obviously when Android 2.2 hits the phone is a function of the carrier, handset maker, and vendor, i.e Motorola making the update work. Which is why HTC says they will have Froyo on current handsets in 6 months. Yeah. About the same time Gingerbread is released by Google.

      2. And you appear smart by bringing in HTC on a Motorola phone conversation? ;)

        Moto says they’ll have Froyo for later this summer. If you read the post, you would have seen that the Droid X is lightly skinned and has few Verizon custom bits – less handset-maker and carrier customizations mean faster potential updates for the OS. And as for “when Android 2.2 hits,” it already did. Google released it to partners and handset makers last month.

  4. What about USB plug mini or micro?
    Wire tether or only WI-Fi?

    1. Kevin C. Tofel marc e Friday, July 9, 2010

      It’s a micro USB for charging and connecting to a computer. No wired tethering is supported, just Wi-Fi sharing of the 3G connection.

  5. You are supposed to be the mobile guy and you haven’t seen an iPhone 4 screen yet?

    Java based apps will “gain speed” not the OS with Froyo. Learn what a JIT compiler is. Synthetic benchmarks show a large increase but actual use tests do not.
    All things you should know but don’t.

    1. I beg to differ. In addition to the faster Dalvik JIT compiler (which does speed up Java apps, so you’re correct there), the browser gains a performance boost with the updated V8 engine and the OS provides better memory management, which can improve overall performance.

    2. A large part of the platform is written in Java and runs on Dalvik — everything from the code for parsing and managing the .apks installed on the device, to the window manager, to the code that launches and manages applications. And of course the client-side frameworks that Android apps use are Java as well — the view hierarchy, etc.

      Sure benchmarks are going to show the best performance improvement for tight loops where they can really shine, and most such places in the platform where Java code shows up as a clear performance issue has been optimized and/or moved to native code. But it is completely incorrect to say that the JIT only helps “Java based apps”.

  6. Did you use the “motoblur” for all your networking/mail, or download separate clients from the android market? for example what twitter client are you using in that picture. I’ve heard you really need to decide with one or the other to not overwhelm the phone with notifications?

    1. Kevin C. Tofel Matt Friday, July 9, 2010

      Matt, I haven’t set up the Motoblur bits yet, mainly because I’ve been using 3rd party clients on my Nexus One. I’ll be using Motoblur, however, because I want to see if that affects battery life and how the notifications work. Stay tuned.

      I’m using the Seesmic client for Twitter, which is my preferred Android app – there are plenty of other decent ones, however.

  7. michael mordechaI Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Does it have right to left typing ability to type AND view hebrew characters in. Email and web? That is a huge setback compared to apple.

    1. I can only set locales for English or Spanish, unfortunately. And per Google, Hebrew doesn’t appearing the supported language list for Android 2.1 (or 2.2): http://developer.android.com/sdk/android-2.1.html

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  9. Hope you review the Samsung S Galaxy series – Fascinate in particular for Verizon comparison!

  10. Jason Hammer Thursday, July 8, 2010

    And why would someone want this fugly beast when there is a sexy iPhone 4 to be had ? I thought so.

    iPhone 4 – to simplify for y’all, it is the best phone.

      1. have fun with your awful AT&T service

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