Motorola Droid 2: Best-Selling Android Phone Gets Better

13 Comments

Motorola (s mot) is not content to rest with the best-selling Android phone (Droid); the updated Droid 2 is now available on the Verizon (s vz) network. Motorola wisely chose not to change the Droid 2 too much given its popularity, while making enough improvements over the original to make it a compelling choice for consumers. Verizon is selling the Droid 2 for $199 with a new two-year contract, and a monthly data plan of $29.99 (and up) is required with the phone activation.

I’ve been using an evaluation unit for a few days, and my impression so far has been favorable. Let’s take a look at the hardware of the Droid 2, and then visit the software side. The Droid 2 retains the form of the original Droid, including the 3.7-inch display running at a resolution of 480×854. The sliding QWERTY keyboard has been retained in the new model, but it’s vastly improved over that of the original Droid. The giant D-pad on the Droid keyboard is thankfully gone on the new model, and the keys have rounded tops that are much better for typing.

The second area of improvement over the original Droid is the faster processor. Motorola has upgraded the Droid 2 to the TI OMAP processor (1 GHz) coupled with a faster GPU. Performance is noticeably faster on the new phone as a result of this change. The new processor is coupled with internal storage of 8 GB for operation, and Verizon is including a user-replaceable microSD (8 GB) preinstalled in the phone.

The Droid 2 fits comfortably in the hand, due to the thin and narrow case. The display is vivid, although the glossy screen can be hard to view outdoors in bright light. The sliding keyboard mechanism is solidly constructed and is easy to open and close. Exposing the keyboard causes the display to rotate automatically into landscape orientation, even on the home screens, something not possible on most Android phones without a physical keyboard.

The 5 MP camera takes adequate still photos, but it won’t win any awards. Motorola has included an assisted panoramic landscape photo mode, which makes it easy to take good landscapes. With a maximum resolution of only 480p, the video recording of the Droid 2 doesn’t push the envelope. This falls short with many phones today capable of shooting 720p video. The video quality is best described like the still recordings: adequate. You shouldn’t buy a Droid 2 to replace your pocket camera.

The Droid 2 is the first handset shipping with Android 2.2, aka Froyo, which makes for snappy performance when coupled with the processor update. Motorola has included a much-improved Motoblur interface, which is a collection of widgets to allow customization of the seven home screens. These widgets provide easy access to hardware settings and social networks, but it’s up to the user whether to use them or not. The phone has a relatively stock Android interface — aside from these widgets — to appeal to platform purists.

The argument over whether Flash 10.1 is a benefit or liability is moot with the Droid 2, as it ships with it pre-installed as part of Froyo. While Flash performance is hit or miss in my experience on Android, the web browser is top-notch in all other areas. The browser is a full WebKit-powered app optimized for touch operation. Web pages render quickly, and the phone yields a desktop-like browsing experience.

Verizon has included a V-Cast tab in the Android Market app on the Droid 2, providing access to optional apps and services rather than pre-install them. This is a much better route than loading up the phone with crapware the owner likely doesn’t want. The apps in the Verizon aisle of the Market include NFL Mobile, Skype Mobile and VZ Navigator for Droid2.

The Droid 2 is a good example of a second generation phone. Motorola has kept things the same except for those that make sense to update: OS, faster processor and the (much) improved keyboard. My experience with the phone has been positive, with just a couple of little things I didn’t like. I wish there was a dedicated row of number keys, as it’s a pain to hit the Alt key to type a number. This lack is almost certainly intended to make the keys on the keyboard as big as possible, so it’s a tradeoff. I also find the top row of keys somewhat hard to hit due to the proximity of the display unit. This is also a concession to keep the phone as small as possible.

Our “first-look” video of the Droid 2 gives a good view of this newest member of the Motorola Android line. Motorola launched its line of Android phones at our Mobilize event last year, and the next event is happening next month, so don’t miss it.

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d): To Ship or Not to Ship — Product Launch in the Smartphone Era

13 Comments

Friday Jenkins

I’ve had the D2 for a couple of months and it is perfect. I’ve used Evo, DX and Epic and they are as good but not better. Apple douche needs to relax; Iphones are in the same boat, just as good as droid 2.2 but both have their advantages. Everyone should stop acting like there can only be one good phone in the world.

Travis

My HTC Droid Eris rotates the screen to landscape when I hold the phone in landscape position and it doesn’t have a hardware keyboard.

Can you remove the “crapware” Verizon installs on the phone?

onecallednick

Yes. Go to XDA-developers.com and learn how to flash a custom ROM. It’s the best way to get the most out of your smartphone.

OH, except if you have a Droid X or presumably a Droid 2. Because Motorola, the same company that manufactures the bomb fuses that so efficiently slaughter Palestinian women and children, has chosen not to give you the ability to modify your phone’s software.
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/section.php?id=209

As someone who regularly flashes their N1, James, I expected you to remind readers of this serious shortcoming in Motorola’s offering. A lot of people flash their phones, or will want to down the line when the updates stop coming to their perfectly serviceable phones.

James Kendrick

I don’t have a Nexus One nor have I flashed an Android ROM on any phone. I don’t have a problem with doing so, but haven’t myself.

Travis

When will XDA-developers.com have a custom ROM for the Eris?

I think Kevin may have flashed his N-1.

onecallednick

My apologies, James. I got you mixed up with Kevin.
I’d be really surprised if there were no ROMs for the Eris, but I don’t know as I’m still holding onto my G1.
@Travis – here’s the directory for all the hacks you’d care to try on your Eris. There’s a Cyanogen-based Android 2.2 build available too! http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=756775

Jasmine

Certainly the D2 is better than the crummy N1. Myself is considering purchasing the Epic 4G superphone.

toby

ok so my battery won’t stay charged, and today when it said that I have to charge my battery, i put it on the charger and it didn’t charge….then turned off altogether. I have purchased 3 chargers for this phone and none of them work. Whats with al the freaakin apps opening all by themselves ? this is EXTREMELY ANNOYING, AND WHEN I CONTACT VERIZON THEY TELL ME “THATS THE WAY IT IS” and then you can’t delete the preloaded apps…such as SKYPE MOBILE…this app sucks…..don’t want it on my phone…guess i will have to go the sh@#$#@ IPHONE…at least they treat me like they care about their product!!

Joe

Are you using the Motorola chargers designed for the D2? I haven’t had any issue with mine; I use the multimedia stand/charger overnight, and it’s still at 80% now at 4pm. I’m sure Verizon would consider it a serious problem if your phone won’t charge; there’s nothing normal about that.

I’m not sure what you mean by apps opening themselves. Are you sure you’re not touching the widgets? They start on one touch (e.g. not a double-click).

You can’t remove Skype Mobile from the phone, but you can remove the widget from the screen. If it bothers you that it’s still in the App drawer, you can switch to Launcher Pro from the market, which allows you to hide apps.

Travis

Hiding an app is not equal to removing it, it still eats up storage.

Caitlin

Wow, I know this is WAY late but there is an app called TasKiller and if you had that then all those apps wouldn’t be popping up. With this app you just tap it and the un used apps exit. The guys that set my phone up installed it for me and it’s an AMAZING app.

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