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Motorola Droid Review

 

Motorola Droid Review

 
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It's hard to look at the DROID without looking at the company which brought the device to life. Motorola: for years the name has been synonymous with... well, disappointment. While the industry-stalwart made cellphones sexy with the RAZR, the days which followed have not been especially fruitful or compelling. Over the past year or so, we've seen Motorola beating its way back into the mainstream through a series of smart plays: first embracing Android as a platform, then shucking off the weight of Windows Mobile and finally bringing some desirable (and high profile) devices to market.

With the DROID, the company has perhaps created its most attractive and intriguing piece of technology yet. Forging an alliance with both Verizon and Google, Motorola has come up with a second compelling reason to count the phonemaker down, but certainly not out, while the other two giants have finally found a seemingly worthy device to position against the iPhone. So we must pose these questions: is this the phone which will catapult Android into the mainstream? Is it the device that will pull Motorola back from the brink? And -- most importantly -- is it the lynchpin Google and Verizon have needed to challenge the leader in mindshare in the smartphone market? After putting the device through its paces, we think we can give you the answers you seek -- so read on to find out!

Hardware

The DROID is an odd and beautiful device. Looking at the hardware from a purely philosophical standpoint, the ID of the phone seems staunchly defiant. Instead of taking its cues (and lines) from current contenders in the smartphone space, the DROID is all hard edges and angular slopes. The construction is a mix of plastic and metal, and the phone has a solid, expensive heft to it. Couple that weight with soft touch materials and gold highlights, and the effect is somewhere halfway between a Vertu device and the European version of the Hero -- and it's a good mix.

The basic structure of the phone is made up of two main pieces, the large, glass display up top, and the slightly longer keyboard / mainboard lower half. Above, the 3.7-inch screen dominates, almost filling the space edge-to-edge, though there are four capacitive buttons at the bottom of the display: back, menu, home, and search (which might be tricky for folks coming from other Android devices, since they've thrown the order of the buttons in the blender). The top section slides smoothly upwards to reveal the aforementioned QWERTY keyboard, though unlike other models of this ilk, it doesn't snap automatically into place; rather, it requires a bit of force to move up, then clicks firmly once settled. The keyboard is a wide (though mostly flush) affair, with minimal amount of spacing between the keys. To the right of the four row QWERTY is a 5-way rocker -- a bizarre deviation from the CLIQ's left-sided controls -- and the bottom piece has a strip which juts out from the device with a small mic hole (closed or open). It's almost like Motorola's version of the HTC chin... though tempered somewhat. Atop the phone is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power / sleep button; along the right edge is a volume rocker, and camera button on opposite ends; the left side houses a MicroUSB port; around back the 5 megapixel camera (and flash) are revealed, along with a thin, gold, crosshatch strip that hides the DROID's speaker.

The thickness of the DROID is striking, coming in at just a hair (13.7mm vs 12.33mm) thicker than the iPhone 3GS. The body itself is actually narrower than the iPhone. While thinness is important (though typically not a deal breaker for us), the fact that the phone packs a larger, higher resolution screen and a physical keyboard in such a small frame is notable.

In all, Motorola has pulled off what seemed unimaginable for them just 12 months ago; they've made a device which is truly lustworthy, even next to the best efforts of Apple, HTC, and Palm.

Internals

Inside the DROID beats an Arm Cortex A8 CPU (a 600MHz, OMAP3430 chip downclocked to 550MHz), 256MB of RAM, and 512MB of ROM. If that CPU sounds familiar, it should -- it's similar to the chip inside the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre. If you're wondering about performance, you can breathe a sigh of relief... kind of. Yes, there is a noticeable bump in speed when switching applications on the phone, scrolling through lists, and generally getting any basic tasks done.

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