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.
|Motorola Droid 2 Highlights and Specs|
|3.7″ touchscreen with 480×854 resolution|
|1 GHz CPU, 8GB internal memory, 8GB microSD card|
|480p video recording, 5 megapixel camera, auto-assist panoramic landscape|
|Android 2.2 (Froyo)|
|802.11b/g Wi-Fi, BT 2.1 +EDR, GPS, 800/1900, CDMA EVDO rev A, Mobile hotspot ready (optional)|
|4.56″ x 2.36″ x 0.54″, weight of 5.96 ounces|
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