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Following up: A month with Verizon's Droid

Since I reviewed Verizon Wireless's Droid -- its first phone to run Google's Android software -- in early November, I've been getting a steady stream of questions about it. Fortunately, the folks in Verizon PR haven't made me give the loaner phone back yet, so I've been able to keep testing it.

Here are some of the things I've learned about it in that time:


* Motorola didn't build the sturdiest phone ever. As you can see in the photo, the paint on the top edge of the Droid has already begun to wear off from sharing the occasional pocket with change or car keys -- a treatment that has yet to inflict any scratches on the iPhones Apple has loaned for my reviews. I've also noticed that the Droid's battery cover slides off too easily.

* The Droid's slide-out keyboard feels a little too spread out and too flat for fast thumb-typing, compared with the models on such competing Android phones as Sprint's Samsung Moment or T-Mobile's Motorola Blur. This has been the No. 1 complaint I've received from readers about this phone.

* The Droid's voice-search feature is borderline amazing -- it correctly heard me say "directions to Washington National Airport" in a crowded bar -- but beware of invoking this option accidentally by holding down its search button.

* The lack of traditional green and red "send" and "end" buttons can confuse people the first time they use this thing.

* The lack of multi-touch gestures to zoom in or out of Web pages, however, doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Double-tapping the screen to zoom in or out seems to function just as well in daily experience.

* Although I've found some ways to work around the lack of an iPhone-like sync between an iTunes music library and the Droid's music player, I'm still looking for something simple and reliable. Any suggestions?

* My wife and I used the Droid's wonderful Google Maps navigation software for our drive to and from New Jersey over Thanksgiving weekend. It was almost scary how accurately it predicted traffic jams on I-95 on the drive up -- but the drain inflicted on its battery by full-time GPS use left it almost out of power by the time we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge. From then on, we had to resort to a more traditional form of traffic avoidance: My wife looked up Google Maps on her phone, called out traffic jams and, when they looked bad enough, I exited the turnpike and let our car's GPS point us north on an alternate route (U.S. 130 was, once again, a good option).

* Between Android versions of such iPhone favorites as the Shazam song identifier and the Slacker Web-radio program and Android-first or Android-only applications such as the ShopSavvy price finder and Google's Google Voice and Google Sky Map, I don't find I miss the iPhone's App Store. (I would, however, like to see the Layar "augmented reality" viewer updated to fix whatever bug stops it from working on the Droid.)

For still more about this phone, have a look at Ars Technica's typically detailed evaluation, posted late yesterday. Or write your own in the comments here: If you've bought a Droid, talk about how it's been working out. What do you like about your purchase? What do you regret about it?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 3, 2009; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Feedback , Gadgets  
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Thanks for the info. I am looking to upgrade my EnV2 soon and wondering whether the Droid is worth an extra $15/mo in fees. It sounds like if I found a good cover for it to fend off scratches and keep the battery cover in place, it is a good deal.

Posted by: ramgut | December 3, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I'll be getting one of these over the weekend. I tried it out at the store and I wasn't thrilled with the keyboard either. Is it something that you get used to? I've gotten pretty good at typing on a blackberry.

Posted by: slar | December 3, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

One of the cool things about the iPhone is the number of accessories available for it, for instance docking stations with speakers and alarm clocks. I'm almost certain that they won't fit Droids. Has anybody come out with an adaptor to make Droids compatible with iPhone/iPod accessories? If not, what are the chances that someone will? Thanks!

Posted by: scubahoya | December 3, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

On the power issue, the Droid uses a USB connector, right? If so, car adapters for USB are pretty plentiful and cheap. I have one in my car and then can recharge my G1 when I'm driving. And now that the turn by turn navigation is available for the G1 as well, I can have it navigate without worrying about battery.

Posted by: David_Alpert | December 3, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I've had a Droid for about a week and a half. So far so good BUT the lack of official support for Yahoo mail is mystifying. Yahoo mail will only work via 3G and NOT over Wifi. Not my primary email, so I'm not too bothered, but it's just a weird bug to have.


Posted by: Ronnie76 | December 3, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Rob, overall, does iPhone still win out in your opinion? Or does Verizon service and free Navigator push it over the edge?

Posted by: filmjoy | December 3, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I had a Moto Droid for about 15 days before returning it for an HTC Eris. I never cared for the Droid's physical keyboard and prefer the Eris' size and form factor. In addition, the Sense UI seems superior to the Droid's. The only negative is that the Eris ships with Android 1.5 which does not support Google Maps' navigation feature, but an upgrade to 2.1, which will address this limitation, is supposed to ship within the next few weeks.

I think that anyone considering an Android phone from Verizon should look at both devices (and possibly wait for the HTC Passion due in January) to see which they prefer. Motorola needed an Android smartphone in order to remain relevant, but HTC is ahead of them on several fronts.

Posted by: Ebola_22039 | December 3, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

I've had my Droid since it first came out, and am still quite happy with it. I love the autocompletion of words in the touch screen keyboard, which I find faster than the pull out one. I appreciate that it has some heft and weight in your hand so you know you have it. Mine is hold up nicely, but I make a point of NOT putting it in my pocket with other hard metal items. Duh. Would you do that with glasses or other glass/metal devices? Maybe my only complaint is similar to Rob's and that is getting to the phone part when it is on standby in your pocket. A few too many steps to make a call. This being my first smart phone it does more than I'd want out of a phone. As time goes on an more quality apps appear, it will only get better, but for now I am a happy camper.

Posted by: JorgeGortex | December 4, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update Rob!

I love my Droid, probably a little too much. You can hate on the keyboard as much as you like, but it's nice to have a physical keypad for some things, like when you are using the NES emulator. (Nerd alert!) Now that I am used to it, it's fine, I type most of my emails on it.

There are small annoyances that I agree with that you mentioned (battery life in Nav mode, lack of red and green buttons) but there hasn't been anything that I hoped it would do that it hasn't been able to do. Scratch that- the camera is pretty bad but the consensus seems to be that it's a software problem that can be fixed, so fingers crossed there.

My real problem is that Verizon seems to be marketing it to geeks as if it is some kind of personal T-1000. It's pretty user-friendly, non-tech-nerds!

Posted by: SoulPole | December 4, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I've had the Droid for about a month now. It's my first smartphone, but overall, I love it.

I agree that the battery drains quickly when active for long periods of time (calls, games, GPS, etc), and that the batter cover pops off too easily. I also agree that the physical keyboard isn't as easy to use as I'd hoped, but I have quickly grown accustomed to typing on the touchscreen... sure beats a num pad!

On the upside, even though I'm a smartphone n00b, it was easy to sync my Droid to my business and personal e-mail and calendars, and I love the fact that these are kept separate. I've found a few fun and useful apps, and look forward to adding more.

I've kept my Droid out of my change pocket to prevent the screen from getting scratched. So, no issues with chipped paint.

Posted by: fuzzbass | December 7, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Great questions here...

* slar: I think you can get used to the Droid keyboard--but I've also had Google developers express amazement that I use a smartphone for all my note-taking, so I may be something of an outlier.

* scubahoya: The iPod connector is proprietary. I'm sure you could build an adapter for it, but I also suspect you'd get a nastygram from Apple's lawyers for your troubles.

* David_Alpert: Correct, the Droid uses a micro-USB connector for power and data.

* Ebola_22039: FWIW, my colleague Mike Rosenwald is a huge fan of the Eris.

* filmjoy: I saved your question for last because it needs the longest answer.

Considering coverage and choice, Android in general and the Droid in particular easily beat out the iPhone. What Apple's device has over Android, however, is simple and reliable synchronization with the calendar and contact data I keep on my Mac. (I'm not interested in letting Outlook eat that data.) To use an Android phone, I'd have to set up a three-way sync between Address Book/iCal, Google Calendar and Contacts, and Android, and that invites some data-integrity glitches. I'd also lose an easy iTunes sync.

As it happens, there is a program that allows a direct Mac-to-Android sync, Mark/Space's $39.95 Missing Sync for Android. But its current version doesn't sync your calendars; that, along with SMS and call-log syncing, is promised for a future release. Do I wait for that? And will it work better than the Missing Sync for Palm OS software I use now, which can be slow and glitchy?

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | December 7, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I have another question if you're still checking this thread.
If one is using Gmail and Google calendar as your primary applications, is Android significantly better than iPhone?

Posted by: TXAndy | December 8, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

TXAndy: Heck yes - that's the default sync in Android, while on iPhone your standard sync is through iTunes to your computer's own apps (Outlook on Windows, Address Book/iCal on a Mac).

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | December 9, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

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