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Verizon's Droid X: differences without distinction

Verizon Wireless has yet another "Droid" smartphone going on sale today, Motorola's Droid X.

Don't draw too many conclusions from the X's robotic moniker. The Droid X, $199.99 for new or renewing customers who sign a two-year contract, departs from the features and functions of Verizon's earlier HTC Droid Incredible and Motorola Droid in some significant ways.


And not all of these changes count as upgrades from Verizon's other Droids, or from other smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

The X's roomy, 4.3-inch screen could lead its selling points, with its 480-by-854-pixel resolution. But that display also makes this phone -- like Sprint's equally slab-like HTC Evo 4G -- a little large for some pockets.

Like on the Evo, the Droid X's large display makes it easier to type on its touchscreen keyboard. (If you dig into its settings menus, you'll find a brilliant extra option: Swype's gesture-based keyboard, which lets you "type" by sliding a finger from letter to letter.) But like the Evo, the X leaves out the trackball or touchpad most other Android phones provide for finer navigation. The X also doesn't match the helpful pop-up menu HTC added to the Incredible and the Evo for selecting, copying and cutting text.

Motorola's latest does, however, avoid the Evo's weak battery life -- mainly by not including the power-draining 4G wireless mode of Sprint's phone. (Verizon won't launch 4G service until later this year.) After 36 hours of standby, with the phone checking two e-mail accounts and one Twitter login in the background, the X still showed 60 percent of its battery intact. Later, it played a Web-radio stream with its screen on for about five hours.

The fastest way to drain the X's battery should be using its 3G Mobile Hotspot application to share its mobile-broadband connection with nearby computers.

That feature, however, costs an extra $20 a month. A minimum bundle of data and 450 minutes of anything voice calling costs $69.98; add $5 for Verizon's cheapest text-messaging add-on, plus $2.99 for visual voicemail (or use the clever voicemail service Google provides with a Google Voice account for free).

Verizon's software bundle includes links to multiple social networks, including Twitter and Facebook but not LinkedIn. The carrier also throws in a player for Blockbuster's video-streaming service (one for Netflix or Hulu would have been more appreciated) and a Backup Assistant utility that only copies contacts to and from Verizon's servers. To safeguard more of your data, you'll need third-party tools -- until Google's "Froyo" Android 2.2 system update arrives for this model.

Unlike the Incredible, the X doesn't come with software to sync calendars and contacts with Microsoft's Outlook.

The X includes an 8-megapixel camera with flash, but without a second camera on its front it can't match the Evo's buggy video-conferencing support, much less the iPhone 4's far superior FaceTime. That camera can take great photos in natural light, although some illumination leaves pictures looking a little misty, and records high-definition video clips that may look more like standard definition in practice. (Read after the jump to see examples of each).

More quirks surface when you share media from the device. The dialog it presents when you connect it to a computer with a standard micro-USB cable should have been edited to remove some of these apparently overlapping choices: "PC Mode," "Windows Media Sync," "USB Mass Storage." (Choose the third in most cases, or all the time if you use a Mac.)

If you put the X on the same wireless network as computers or gadgets that speak the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standard, you can share photos, videos and music wirelessly. After puzzling through a dialog or two, I was browsing the photo's media on a Sony HDTV.

The X also includes a micro-HDMI port for a direct cable connection to HDTVs, but Verizon doesn't include this cable with the phone.

If you buy a smartphone by its specifications, the Droid X can seem impressive. But after a couple of weeks of testing one loaned by Verizon's PR department, I prefer its older sibling, the Droid Incredible. That may explain why Verizon still can't meet demand for the Incredible, months after it shipped.

Here are a few sample shots taken with the Droid X around D.C., plus an embedded YouTube clip showing its video recording capability (make sure you select "HD" from the clip's pop-up menu or use this direct link instead).





By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 15, 2010; 1:08 PM ET
Categories:  Mobile  
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Next: Reports: Steve Jobs ignored warnings on iPhone 4 antenna design


Yeah, but have you found the antenna and tried testing a "grip of death" on the thing?

Posted by: prokaryote | July 15, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Nice review. I'll have to look at the Incredible.

Posted by: Bob_Dobbs | July 15, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Rob - is the self-destruct eFuse feature if you try to root/mod the phone real?

Sadly this feels like it would have been a satire topic, but appears mildly credible when appearing in PC Magazine and mobilecrunch.

Posted by: sniz15 | July 15, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line is that if you want a big screen get the X. If you want a more pocketable phone get the Incredible.

You forgot to mention that the X's OMAP processor has much better 3D capability than the Incredible's Snapdragon eventhough they run at the same 1ghz clock rate.

The X also has a multitouch keyboard and will be getting Android 2.2 (with flash support)several months before the Incredible will.

The Droid X also has a locked bootloader so while it can be rooted, you can not put a custom rom on it.

I suggest these much more comprehensive reviews.

Posted by: gwlaw99 | July 15, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"Rob - is the self-destruct eFuse feature if you try to root/mod the phone real?"

This is actually built into every OMAP processor including the original Droid and has never been turned on by Motorola on any of it's phones.

Posted by: gwlaw99 | July 15, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

This is certainly a promising new device. I think that in a couple of years we are all going to be hooked to our mobile TV/smartphones. Or at least most of us.

Earlier today I saw on that the Droid X is available online for purchase, as well. With a free memory card.

And regarding the eFuse chip--someone will find a way around it. Seems like there's a way around anything, as far as computers go.

Posted by: estatemaster32 | July 15, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

smart phones smart phones smart phones...BLAH

Posted by: BMACattack | July 15, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

I read the headline which was a downer for someone who had pre-ordered a Droid X which was ready for pickup at Best Buy. Then I read the writer say the 4.3" screen is "roomy". Isn't that a bit of an understatement for a screen that's a third larger than the iPhone and the original Droid? Yes the X is a little large if you wear skin tight size 6 designer jeans.

I pick up my X at Best Buy a couple hours ago and am still "bonding" with it. I love my original Droid but this phone takes smart to an entirely new level.I'm not saying the X is better than an iPhone, Evo or Incredible but it's exceeded my expectations.

Posted by: KingofSC | July 15, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I wish someone would discuss the actual functioning of the Droid phones because I've had a real problem with the limited experience with Droid phones doing simple stuff like entering in contact information unless someone "shows me the trick."

Posted by: DJMonet | July 16, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

What a terrible review. If you want well-informed, thorough tech reviews, check out engadget, cnet, anandtech, or laptopmag.

The reason the Droid Incredible is on backorder is because its AMOLED screen is manufactured by Samsung, and Samsung is having a hard time producing enough screens. I'm sure the phone is popular, but it's not THAT popular.

Secondly, the reason the DroidX, like many other Android phones, doesn't come with contact- and calendar- syncing software is because Android relies on syncing one's phone information with Google's cloud. This is a purposeful design function of Android phones. Sure, this aspect of Android and the DroidX may be a drawback for some (not for me because I don't use Outlook, and I keep everything web-based), but if you're going to make a point of the DroidX lacking a feature, perhaps it would be prudent to say why?

It's odd how this review lacks a lot of detail on functions that the DroidX has, but it takes the time to make a point of saying that the Evo's video chat capabilities are buggy, even though the DroidX can't even video chat! (And if you're going to compare the Evo to the iPhone in this area, why don't you also discuss the limitations of each (like how the iPhone can't video chat with non-iPhones).

Posted by: A-lo | July 16, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Nice review, but it left me with one major question: how is the phone service? As in, "can you hear me now"? I thought that was the purpose of telephones ;-)

FWIW, I have an older Droid that has really poor phone quality (and is great in everything else) and want to know if Verizon and partners have been trying to improve this.

Posted by: ifanous | July 16, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article in the LA Times about uninstallable crapware installed on the Droid and other smartphones, except Apple.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | July 16, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I am an original Droid user and love it. Almost went out yesterday to order a Droid X as a test unit. (We develop code for these devices, for internal use only.)

We will not order any Droid X'es, because reading up on the eFuse fiasco led me to an official Motorola post where Motorola itself is telling us to not buy their product.

Suits us fine. I had a good relationship with Moto for the last 35 years of my professional life, but nothing lasts forever. When they change their mind we might come back.

So, let's look at that HTC device again...

M. C. Ertem

PS: Loading that MotoBlur junk on the Droid X's did not help make the sale either.

Posted by: hecknojunkmail | July 16, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

The last time I looked at a Verizon Droid, the email client was not compatible with the domain. (Go figure.) Have the Verizon nerds fixed that yet?

Posted by: hisroc | July 16, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I owned the Incredible & picked up the X last Thursday - Both are great phones. The X has better build quality - it feels solid, the Incredible felt way too flexy/creaky. Battery access is much better designed on the X - the Incredible forces you to unsnap the entire back cover. The X's screen is not only bigger, but is a bit easier to see outdoors.

The Incredible has slightly better audio quality, both for calls and music. Not that the X is tinny/poor quality, but the Incredible's sound has some extra oomph/depth to it.

I've been very impressed with both Incredible & X on voice quality and how quickly they pick up GPS location.

Posted by: lakes-mn | July 18, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I picked up the Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile) on Thursday. I've been holding out for smartphones until they overcame the stutter problem (awkward transitions between screens/apps). HTC Incredible was the first to hit that mark, in my opinon. (I only demo'd phones at the stores.) 4" superAMOLED is gorgeous. No flash on 5mp camera is a disappointment, but seriously, if you want professional looking pics, use a dedicated camera.

I think Samsung's strategy of offering the Galaxy S phones on all four carriers is smart -- and hopefully a step in the direction of separating phones from carriers (not there yet). Point is, this is a QUALITY smartphone, and one will be coming to a carrier near you soon.

Posted by: wdrudman | July 19, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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