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First thoughts on the Droid

I've been trying out the new Motorola Droid from Verizon Wireless for the past few days.  Although I love gadgets, I didn't try it just to test out the newest thing.  I had a few reasons to give it a try:

  • I've been living with two cell phones for a while.  Our family has our plan on Verizon Wireless, and we've generally been happy with it.  I've used a simple flip phone that is my main cell phone number and is small and convenient.
  • My second cell phone has been a Windows Mobile Samsung Blackjack II on AT&T.  I've generally been happy with it, although I don't generally use it as a phone.  It was great on my Japan trip, and AT&T has been a good provider.  I need a smartphone of some sort to do email and for mobile web access while traveling.
  • I was intrigued by the iPhone, but couldn't get comfortable with the touch-only keypad.  I couldn't type on it very well.  I needed a keyboard.
  • The Droid had everything I was looking for -- reasonable form factor, large touch screen, decent keyboard, music player, GPS, open operating system with lots of applications, etc.
  • I decided to get rid of my AT&T account, the separate smart phone, my add-on GPS service on AT&T, and the multitude of chargers to consolidate in one device.

So far, I've been happy,  It's not perfect, but with the open operating system and application ecosystem, I expect things to get better and better.  There are already some software updates planned for the Droid, and some applications I've tried have also already issued updates.  The update process if automatic and painless (so far).

Here's what I like about the Droid so far:

  • Very fast
  • Beautiful and bright screen
  • Rich user interface with lots of shortcuts -- I still haven't figured out all of the quickest ways to do things
  • Many useful apps already available
  • Can run lots of apps at once without performance hits
  • Full featured web browser
  • The GPS navigation application is outstanding.  It uses Google Maps, including satellite view and Street View, with traffic information.
  • All the functionality I've tried has worked without any real issues

Here's what's only OK:

  • The keyboard has good tactile feedback, but the smooth surface could have the keys a bit more differentiated.  But, like any other keyboard on these kinds of things, I've adapted fast.  I can certainly live with it.
  • Outlook/Exchange synchronization works fine, but lacks some key features for me -- moving emails to folders, responding to appointment requests, sync'ing tasks and notes.  I'm testing out a replacement program that solves some of these problems.
  • Some programs have temporarily frozen, although they restart automatically and no data has been lost.
  • Battery life could be better, although I've been using it intensively to test things out, download applications, etc.  I think that it will be OK in more normal use as it was when I was traveling over the weekend.  Face it, battery life on these things can always be better.
  • The three screen desktop doesn't give you enough room for all the shortcuts and widgets you'd like.  I tested out one replacement that expands this, but it wasn't reliable enough (although they promise to have an update soon that fixes this).

Overall, I think that this device is a winner.  All the software shortcomings should get addressed through various updates.  It's a very impressive first Android device for Motorola, first Android 2.0 device in the market, and first open device for Verizon Wireless.  After suffering through the lack of Bluetooth transfer functionality in my old Verizon cell phone, it's impressive to see this with Wifi, easy file transfer to PC, Bluetooth, application market, etc.

For those who are curious, here is a list of some of the apps I've been using so far:

GPS navigation with special car dock, multimedia dock/alarm clock, ASTRO file manager, browser, calculator, camera (two different apps, including one add-on), Facebook, Photo Gallery, Google Voice, LinkedIn, Listen (podcast player), Messaging (Texting), Music Player, NewsRob (offline Google RSS Reader), OpenTable, Pandora, Ringdroid (makes ringtones from song snippets you edit on the phone), ScanLife (barcode reader -- much more useful than I expected), SportsTap (sports portal), Sudoku, TouchDown (testing this Email/Calendar/Contacts replacement for better Exchange/Outlook synchronization), Twidroid (Twitter app), Weather, Where, Where Did We Park? (remembers where your car is parked and uses GPS to get you back there!), and YouTube.

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