Hello, Droid!

Justin Grammens sent me an email a couple weeks ago letting me know that Albert Maruggi might be contacting me about “testing a new Android device”.

Being the Android fanboy that I am, I just about jumped out of my shorts.

Two days passed and Albert contacted me, talking about “Verizon…Android…device…hands-on” (those are the keywords that stuck out :) I was excited to be able to SEE the device, let alone be able to play with it. I made the comment “Can we go for a ride to try out the Navigation?”. I was surprised to hear “You can take the phone for the weekend”. I played it cool. When I got to my car, there was a grin from ear to ear.

Let’s start with the hardware.

Running around the edges, we find a dedicated camera button (YES!), volume rocker, 3.5MM headphone jack and a micro USB connector for charging and data transfer.

On the face, there is a BEAUTIFUL 3.7″ screen, which is longer than most screens out there. The resolution is phenomenal. The standard Android button arrangement (HOME/MENU/BACK/SEARCH) are just below the screen and are touch sensitive (capacitive). They offer a bit of haptic feedback when touched. Also on the face is a multi-colored LED, an ambient light sensor, the earpiece and microphone (which is on, what I’ve been calling, the anti-chin).

Flip it over and we find the 5MP AF camera WITH flash. The flash is better than most, and tons better than the cheap LED flashes on featurephones. The speaker (used for notifications, speakerphone and music) is LOUD. In fact I had to turn the notification volume down to about half. While it was annoying for notification, it was great for music. I would argue that the audio quality was better than most laptops that I’ve owned. The battery door on most mobile phones is hard to get off. This isn’t true for the Droid…almost to a fault. You might want to ‘adjust’ the locking tabs to keep it in place. I’ve flung the battery door half way across the room when taking it out of my pocket. The entire back has a soft-touch grip on it.

Hidden under the screen is a full QWERTY keyboard and directional pad with a ‘select’ button. The keys are rather flat, but it didn’t take long to get used to them. The d-pad on the right kind of shifted the keys off center. That took some getting used to. It also took me a couple hours to find the question mark…which turned out to be a primary key (doh). The slide mechanism has a reassuring click when sliding up and down.

Overall the phone feels great, is easy to navigate, and feels comfortable against the ear. The shell is partially metal and it shows. It’s hefty, but that’s ok. Some phones feel like toys. The call quality was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G…but I kind of figured that would be the case (there’s a map for that).

Most carriers will customize their phones to include branding and their exclusive services. The only thing that indicates that this is a Verizon phone, is the modest logo on the front, and a special tab in the Android Market for Verizon. This will probably fill up with Verizon content and of course their V-Cast services. Today there is only a Visual Voicemail app in the tab.

That being said, the operating system is virtually stock Android 2.0. I’m fine with that. It has all of the standard “with Google” apps that we’ve come to love on Android. A few highlights include the ability to sync multiple Gmail/Google Apps accounts (I had three configured), a sweet, new contact popup that works anywhere you see the contact’s picture, Exchange support, and Google Maps Navigation Beta.

In addition to the Navigation, Google Maps allows you to display more layers. Of course there’s traffic, but you can also show any of your saved My Maps. Looking for a new apartment? Create a new My Map of all the potential apartments, while you’re kickin’ it on your couch. Then, hop in your car, turn that Map on as a layer, and navigate to where you need to go.

You can even pop the Droid into a car dock for ease of navigation. There is also a home dock that turns the phone into a bedside clock with a media interface.

The hardware is solid. The OS is solid. Developers are already updating their apps to be optimized on the new screen resolution. The Droid IS the Android phone to have.

I want to thank Albert, Karen Smith from Verizon, and of course Justin for putting my name out there.


By the way, if you’re in the Twin Cities on November 17th, your should stop into the Mobile Twin Cities meeting. November is the month for Demolicious! Local mobile companies will be showing off their wares. There might just be a Droid and Droid Eris there as well ;) (more to come)

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