Your 5 Motorola Droid X Questions Answered

51 Comments

Motorola’s Droid X (s mot) arrived at my home office yesterday, on loan for a month from Verizon Wireless (s vz). 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 (s qcom). The CPU in the Droid X clocks in at the same 1 GHz, but the chip is a Texas Instruments (s txn) 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 (s aapl) 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

51 Comments

Justin P Couch

I can’t sync my droid to my computer…it keeps telling me that my sd card is not being read, but when I unplug the USB cable my phone all of a sudden detects the SD card….Help

Dulcie

I have a question, actually several, if anyone can help me. I have a droid X and I really do love it, however, I’ve noticed over time that when I hit the ‘camera’ icon and go to see my photos, at times the screen goes totally blank…and I have to power the phone off to get it to work again. Anyone else have this issue and know how to combat it?

Also, I’ve found when typing on the pad, the letters will ‘balloon’ up to let you know you’ve hit it, the ‘T’ balloons up, but doesn’t actually register on the screen. So, words like ‘the’ come out ‘he’ and ‘then’ come out ‘hen’. Anyone else with this problem too?

I tried making a call a minute ago, it refused to connect. Again, I had to turn it off and then it was fine, and also notified me that I had a message and a reply to something else.

This is my first foray into the smartphone arena. I love what it can do and being connected but my cheaper phones never had these glitches. I wouldn’t go back to them, but considering how much I paid for the ‘X’ I’m a tad peeved about the problems. Can anyone shed some light on some of these issues? I’d really appreciate it. =)

Thanks!

D.

dale zalewski

Oh, release 2.2 is in the FUTURE! If it’s not deliverable now, it’s neither hardware nor software nor firmware…it’s vaporware!

Kevin C. Tofel

Danielle, I’ve shipped the loaner unit back but I don’t recall a native voice recording application on it. However, there ought to be some in the Android Market and just today, Google added an improved Voice Search app that will work on the Droid X: http://gigaom.com/2010/08/12/for-google-cloud-is-its-mobile-future/

The new app supports various voice commands including a “note to self” which might work for you, although it creates the voice notes in an email.

*EDIT: the new Voice Search app is for Android 2.2, which the Droid X is due to get next month.

Zubin Gidwani

Disappointed with Motorola’s interface vs HTC EVO

Dialer app does not support T9 and contact integration. So on Droid X, from the dialer app, you need to click on the contacts icon, click on the search icon, click into a text box, then type a contact name, then submit search… while driving?

Compensate for this with Dialer One form the market (free app) it will give you the same capabilities as the HTC interface. from dial pad click 323 and you get DAD and any other predicted contacts, and you have the option form that listing of contacts to lookup contact info, sms or dial right away.

Motorola stock keyboard: No up down right left arrows. Its as if no one at motorola types long email messages, or needs to go back and edit the middle of a paragraph. They must all be precise engineers who get it right the first time…

Still seearching for a better keyboard but there are tons in the market.

Web form management. On the Evo you were escorted from one text box to the next but at any time could minimize input and go back to the full web page. On motorola you are locked into their escort from one input box to the next with the only choice of next, and finally done, which submits your parameters, no ability to back out mid stream.

If anyone has a workaround for that webform management I would be hugely greatful!!!

Steven

You can use the back button to minimize the keyboard and return to full screen viewing. Thanks for the tip on Dialer One

sylvia

with this phone, do you have the ability to text in spanish without having to change entire language format to spanish? I have a few friends that i text in spanish, which is a great option with the blackberry

Cal

About the tethering… You say that X doesn’t support physical thethering, only WiFi sharing. Is this the same as the Hot Spot function that costs $20/month extra? I hope I’m wrong, because a 2GB probram for $20/mo is quite expensive if you want to do some real web surfing… and that would make the Incredible a much more useful device in that respect…

I would appreciate it if you took the time to clarify this…

Awaiting with interest the battery life answer, as asked by Dean K. (The 4G HTC is also a great phone, but battery life is reported to be miserable.)

Thanks for the great reviews…

Zubin Gidwani

You can physically tether via USB or wirelessly over bluetooth using pda net in the market. No need to shell out the $20/month, the free app allows you to look and non https websites, $9.99 purchase app will let you work with secure URLs.

Janine

I just received the Droid X last night and I love it. I am having trouble syncing my Mail with Microsoft Outlook. The calendar and contacts sync with Gmail, but I am having trouble with the configuration for the e-mail from Outlook. Any suggestions?
Thank you and I enjoy your blog.

Rob

Great review of the phone. First place that I had heard of the panoramic mode! I have a question on the HDMI out. I have heard that it only supports native video (which to me means video taken with the camera.) How about You tube or video I have downloaded to the device? Can I see those through the HDMI cable onto my TV? Thanks.

Kevin C. Tofel

Rob, HDMI-out on the Droid X is mainly for watching content captured by the device unfortunately. No YouTube or Blockbuster movies, for example.

Zubin Gidwani

It appears that the DroidX is locked down to prevent anything other than the Gallery from accessing the HDMI port.

Verizon store reps today tried to tell me that it was up to the appmarket developers to update their apps to embrace HDMI, and that Blockbuster and other’s should be updating their apps soon. Well that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Per Blockbuster’s FAQ (http://preview.tinyurl.com/2da997x)

“In general, the HDMI port on your phone is only supported for video that you personally capture on the device (“user-generated content”). The device does not output copyrighted videos such as movies and TV shows using the HDMI port.”

I had an EVO but had to turn it in due to weak reception issues with the device (cell & wifi) and poor network coverage to my home office. The EVO’s HDMI out would pass signal for Youtube, and third party media players such as YXPlayer. Our media center pc died a while ago and it was awesome to hook up the evo and entertain the kiddos with some you tube clips on the living room tv. Its convenient to use teh phones to capture video and pics while you are out and about, but lets face it we don’t spend most of our entertainment hours looking at scrapbooks, most of us are watching produced media…

I would like to be able to use these HDMI capable phones to be able to display powerpoints via quickoffice and look at various viral and corporate media you find across the web. Yes flash is coming, but if they still have the HDMI port locked down the browsers wont be albe to output to external screens.

What about HDMI HDCP, High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). If the Motorola is an HDCP-enabled signal source it is mandated to suppress output to non-HDCP compliant devices to prevent the device from receiving HDCP-protected content. Per the HDMI spec, All HDMI devices must support sRGB encoding. HDMI can use HDCP to encrypt the signal if required by the source device. CSS, CPPM, and AACS require the use of HDCP on HDMI when playing back encrypted DVD Video, DVD Audio, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc.

We need to make some noise and get someone to unlock these devices, there is so much more potential for the way we could be interacting with these as portable media hubs, not just personal mobile media receivers.

Shannon

Does this phone sync with Microsoft Outlook? The other Droids do not, and that was a deal breaker for me. I don’t use outlook for my email, but I DO use it to store hundreds of business/customer contacts, notes, calendar appointments, etc. I must be able to sync with my laptop Outlook.

Thanks!

Kevin C. Tofel

Shannon, Google Android phones (not just the Droids) aren’t designed to sync with a computer for contacts, nor mail or calendar events, for that matter. The entire paradigm of PC synchronization has changed to a cloud or web-based approach. Meaning: these phones work most effectively when your mail / contacts / calendar are kept on a server and accessed over the web. Microsoft Exchange and Gmail are two examples of this — and Android phones sync seamlessly with both of them over the air, no USB cable to a PC required.

If Outlook works for you, then I don’t suggest you change it. However, I would consider looking at exporting your Outlook data to a cloud-based solution if you plan to use an Android phone.

Ryan

I plan on keeping MS Outlook 2007 for my contacts and calendar and want to sync this to my Droid X when I get it. So is this functionality supported without having to upload everything to Google? I know the Evo allows this with HTC Sync (though I hated the Evo) and I’m looking for similar functionality with the Droid X. Also will it sync contact pictures that you’ve saved in Outlook, for example an image of mom in the “Mom” contact? Thanks.

Kevin C. Tofel

Ryan, there’s no HTC Sync support at launch, although that could change in the future. As such, it won’t pull the Outlook contacts nor pictures. It will sync photos from social services with your contacts, however.

Jeff

The X does not have ANY sync software with Outlook. Change with the masses (such as tracking text ‘conversation threads’ only, akin to a teenager) is inevitable. Similarly putting my data on a cloud is not going to work with me. I should have held onto VZ’s Incredible, but the X’s screen size beyond compelling was a necessity. At least with the HTC Incredible I was able to have a working Sync with Outlook for a Droid (HTC Sync), though only Calendar & Contacts. The mapping of fields was spot-on & contacts were all there. Companionlink is buggy & continuing a fruitless search for syncing with Outlook looks bleak.
Nice initial review though & helpful commentaries on this model Droid, thanks.

Bert

I have a quick question about voice recognition. I was in the Verizon store yesterday and the salescritters there showed me (another Android phone that we won’t specify here) that had voice recognition in its email. That is, while composing an email you could talk into the phone and it would translate your voice into text in the message body. I have not been able to find out if the Motorola Droid X has this feature. Help!

Bert

Just another indication of how much of a novice I am concerning cellphones. Thanks!

Kevin C. Tofel

With the handsets increasing complexity at a fast pace, Bert, it’s hard to keep up with them — even on a full time basis! ;)

Streetglide

This is only the second review I have seen mention the panoramic camera. Even Verizon stores don’t tout it, they want to talk meaningless mega pixels.

Iam off contract with AT&T, never had a smart phone and am considering Iphone & Droid X. These are things that make me want Droid.

HDMI is HUGE. As a realtor I can take panoramic shots like your office and see on a clients big screen if we are going over potential homes.

Google Maps with voice turn by turn for free. Only wish Realtor.com had Android App.

Bigger Screen – getting older and blinder. Saw Iphone 4 screen and while sharp I didnt walk away thinking I have to have it. Droid screen is fine with me.

Burst Camera Mode- yeah it’s only 1MP but its a phone no a camera. I do a lot of horse back riding & its hard to get a good shot. Burst mode of a horse crossing a creek for example gives me a better chance of catching something I can share via email.

While some don’t like dedicated menu button I actually like that.

Surprise – I need a phone I can hear and be heard. I am sure Iphone is Ok but have heard this is better. We will see but either one is a deal killer if its not good as a phone.

DLNA – my TV has it, why not have a phone that can use it?
Plays nice with Google

Voice recognition – great feature

Hot spot – probably won’t pony up $20 a month but like having the option. Wish I could pay for occasionaly daily use ala cart.

Replaceable battery – maybe this is hold over from the old days but I don’t want an expensive devise I have to sent to the land fill or to Apple for a high priced replacement if the day comes.

Those are big things to me & it’s driving to the Android camp vs Apple.

Yacko

If a 4.+” phone is the new normal, how does that impact the Dell Streak? Does a niche for a 5 inch sub-tablet still exist?

Beth Mahoney

This phone looks amazing, I can not wait to get one. I was thinking about the iphone 4, but with all the problems they are having I am going with the Droid X now. My only concern is that this phone may be too big to be convenient to carry around in my pocket, find out soon…

Jason Hammer

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.

CT

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

michael mordechaI

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.

Matt

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?

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

Jomamma

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.

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

Dianne

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”.

marc e

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

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

More of the Same

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?

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

darwin

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.

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

Jack C

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

Dean K

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??

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

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