Motorola (s mot) is the phone maker that has not rested since jumping on the Android (s goog) train. It is almost as if they want to keep up with the frantic pace that Google is setting with Android development. Motorola’s latest member of the Verizon Android family is the Devour, a big smartphone with the MotoBlur feature. Will this phone devour the competition?
The Devour puts a 3.1-inch touch screen (320×480) on a body that houses a sliding QWERTY keyboard. The phone is just over a half inch thick, which is much bigger than phones without the keyboard. The Devour fits comfortably in the hand, but it feels extremely heavy even though the actual weight is just under six ounces. Since first picking up the phone, I have not gotten used to the weight, which doesn’t bode well for long term use.
The only physical control on the front of the Devour is a small touch trackpad used for navigating around the screen. It is also a button for executing tasks in one smooth motion. There are three touch-sensitive (not physical) buttons under the screen: Menu, Home and Back. To the left of these three buttons is a tiny blue LED activity indicator. There is a large black Motorola logo on the upper left of the handset which looks like it should be a button, but isn’t.
On the top of the Devour (in portrait orientation) is the power button and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The power button sits flush with the phone body, and is hard to find without looking.
The right side of the handset has four buttons from top to bottom: Volume up, volume down, voice dial and camera button. The camera button fires up the 3 MP camera and serves as a shutter button when active.
On the left side is the microUSB slot for charging and connecting to a PC, and a sliding door the length of the phone that houses the 1400 mAh battery and an 8 GB microSD card. The door is a bit hard to put back once opened.
There is nothing on the bottom nor the back of the phone. The phone is very sleek with a spartan, somewhat industrial look to it. I find it is an attractive handset, more so than its big brother the Droid.
The best hardware feature on the Devour is the sliding QWERTY keyboard. The screen slides up to expose the keyboard sitting between the two rails that supports the screen. The keys are small black bubbles of plastic with a decent amount of space separating them. All 42 keys are the same size with the exception of the space bar, which is a decent size. The top row of keys contains the number keys and the backspace key. It is very useful having the number keys accessible without having to hit another key as on some other phones. The keys have very little travel which caused me trouble at first, but I quickly adjusted to it. I find it a very good keyboard for knocking out text.
The Devour is an Android phone, but disappointingly, Motorola used version 1.6. There are two major versions more recent than 1.6, and I wonder if Motorola has gotten MotoBlur to run on anything newer than 1.6. It’s a shame that a new phone like the Devour didn’t come with at least Android 2.0 onboard.
The interface is typical for Android with the addition of the MotoBlur home screen. MotoBlur is the aggregator for all social networks the user configures, to pull all updates that contacts make on any of the networks. MotoBlur can be configured for Twitter, Facebook, Google (Gmail), MySpace, Picasa, Exchange, POP email and Yahoo! Mail.
Updates appear on the MotoBlur homescreen in real time, through three different widgets. One handles the user’s own latest message (Twitter, etc.), one has contacts’ lastest update on any of the configured networks, and one handles direct messages (SMS, etc.) that have arrived. Any of these widgets can be removed like any other Android widget, or moved around to suit the user.
Tapping on any update that appears on the home screen takes you to a full screen app for viewing the updates. Swiping left and right make it easy to spin through all the updates that have been received. It is a pleasant way to kill some time by checking Twitter and Facebook updates.
There are five home screens that can be customized with widgets and program shortcuts. They are traversed by swiping left and right to spin through them. Motorola gets kudos for including a couple of widgets that display a slick “getting started” guide and a “Tips and Tricks” guide, both using the MotoBlur reader. These guides are very useful and should be appreciated by new owners.
I am loving Android on the Devour, especially with all of the useful free widgets in the Market. There are widgets that do just about anything you could want, and it’s great having five home screens to customize.
Using the Devour
Motorola has done a good job with the out of box experience on the Devour. Just five minutes after powering it on the first time all of my social network and email accounts were up and running. It was the smoothest and fastest new phone start up I have seen.
I was concerned that the performance of the Devour would not be great, but that is not the case. It runs as snappily as any Android phone I have tested, and it is a joy to use. Things happen instantly as desired, and I have not seen any lag yet. That is impressive because I have been banging on it pretty hard as I always do with a new phone.
The phone feels heavy in the hand, but I hope I can get used to that. It is a fairly large phone, without being so big to be awkard to use. The screen is a decent size for working by hand, and the keyboard is nice to use.
The web browser is the Android version that ships on all Android phones. There is no multitouch in the browser, as is the also case of the Droid. It’s not a deal breaker, but would be nice to have. Multiple windows are handled nicely in the browser, with no loss of performance. The onscreen keyboard pops up when needed when the physical keyboard is not exposed. I find typing on the screen to be a passable experience, and it’s nice to have the big sliding keyboard when needed.
The optical trackpad on the front of the phone is a nice interface design. I am finding it more useful as time progresses with the phone. It is easy to move the cursor around on the screen by sliding the thumb over the little trackpad, and then clicking it to push the button. It becomes very natural quickly, the mark of a good interface control. It is great for moving around in the browser.
Motorola has continued to refine the Android phone line with the Devour for Verizon. The phone is aimed at those who need a physical keyboard, but who still want a big touch screen display. The performance of the phone is fast with no noticeable lag, and while an older version of Android was used the phone handles it nicely. I have only been playing with the Devour for a few hours, but I already like it a lot. The Devour is not showing up on Verizon’s web site yet, so no pricing information is available at this time.
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