This report is based on several months of using
Motorola DROID 2
with Verizon wireless service. The phone is running Android 2.2. The photos and videos in this review are
taken with the phone, not of the phone. Visit
the Motorola Web site for images of the phone itself.
As a phone: Great for areas with weak coverage
The Droid 2 is very smart about power management and offers superb
talk and standby time even in areas of weak coverage.
I live in a suburb of Boston populated by the Millionaires for
Obama. One of the sacred tenets of Millionaire for Obamaism is that
living next to cell phone towers is for the "small people" (as Tony
Hayward, the chairman of BP called them). Therefore any mobile phone
call made from our town necessarily connects to a tower in a
neighboring village. Verizon offers the best service, but it still
isn't good enough to work well inside a house. Trying to latch on to a
weak signal causes a lot of phones to boost their output and exhaust
their battery with just a few hours of standby. Somehow the Droid 2 is
able to keep one bar of service, ring within the house, and yet still
have plenty of battery power left at the end of a day.
Driving around the Boston area and using the phone through a
Bluetooth-equipped car, dropped calls are extremely rare. The Verizon
voice network is plainly much better than the T-Mobile network.
I've almost broken every phone that I've ever owned, except for a
couple of Motorolas. I keep the phone in my front right pants pocket
where it is subject to heat, humidity, and contact with keys and
coins. The Droid 2 seems to be a worthy successor to the Motorola
heritage of durability. Despite being dropped onto concrete and used
in the rain and snow, the machine continues to function perfectly. It
can be hard to use the phone in moderate rain, however, because the
touch screen does not work well when wet.
Here's what happens when you combine a touch screen and slide-out
phone alerts you to a new email
use the touch screen to read it
decide you'll respond using the slide-out keyboard, which
means pushing up on the edges of the touch screen
your fat clumsy fingers, in trying to separate the touch screen
from the keyboard, accidentally push the "archive", "delete", "next",
or "previous" buttons at the bottom of the touch screen, right where
you're supposed to push
press "undo" on the touch screen to undo the delete
start typing on the keyboard
I'm not sure what the solution to this is, but I think it would be
better if the phone ignored presses on the touch screen starting about
0.1 seconds before the slide and until about 0.1 seconds after the
slide ceased. If Google has all of the world's smartest people, how
come their software is happy to delete a message at the same time that
the phone owner is sliding open the keyboard? Does it really make
sense that a person would slide open the keyboard to answer a message
that in fact he really wished to delete? If Watson can win Jeopardy, why is this
software so stupid?
My love for the keyboard is reduced significantly due to three issues:
not enough clearance between top row of keys and the edge of the
sliding touch screen, thus obstructing typing
a shift key on either side of the keyboard, rather than just one
(Motorola seemingly wishes to encourage everyone to type in
all-lowercase, like a cool teenager)
a dedicated row of number keys rather than making the owner use
the ALT button
What's the net typing speed? I timed myself next to an expert Apple
iPhone user in
this video and came out at 25 seconds, 2 seconds behind the iPhone
wizard. It took me 7 seconds to type the same phrase on my desktop
computer's standard keyboard.
Browsing the Web
Browsing the Web on the Droid 2 works remarkably well. The 854x480
screen resolution is adequate to most tasks, though not competitive
with the iPhone 4's 960x640. Display brightness is comparable to the
iPhone and contrast is much higher, as measured by Anandtech.com. If
links are crowded together on a page, the keyboard arrow and "OK" keys
are very helpful for navigating Web browser. The Verizon 3G service
has been excellent in a wide range of urban and rural areas across the
The camera on the Droid 2 offers similar image quality to cameras on
other smart phones, which is to say it is pretty good for outdoor use
and pretty grainy for indoor use unless you're willing to leave the
on-camera LED "flash" engaged. As with the iPhone4, the camera is
located in a corner of the back, i.e., exactly where one of your
fingers is likely to be.
For patient documenting of a static
scene and emailing to a friend, the camera works quite well. For
capturing action, it falls short. It takes too long to bring up the
camera application and the time from pressing the shutter release to
the photo being captured is too unpredictable. A second or third photo
may take a long time to capture, possibly because the phone's
processor is busy converting the sensor data from previous photos to
JPEGs. About 5 percent of the time, a photo taken rapidly following an
earlier photo is corrupted and stored as a JPEG that neither Google
Picasa nor Adobe Photoshop cannot read. For taking pictures of a
moving dog or child, the camera is simply not a substitute for a
standard point-and-shoot digital camera.
The default camera setting is "widescreen", which creates images that
are 1456x2592 in size, matching the screen aspect ratio, but, at
3.56:2 looking rather odd compared to the 3:2 ratio of a standard
As it is not possible to record what Cartier-Bresson called "the
decisive moment", it makes more sense to use video when the subject is
[See the full range of photo examples below.]
Here's the kind of important email that I tend to get:
From: ned harrison <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 4:20 AM
Am Mr.Ned Harrison and i would like to order ROPES from you and would
like to know the types and sizes you have in stock as well as the prices and
the types of credit cards that you take for payment.Thank you and waiting to
hear from you as soon as possible.
From: norman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 3:11 AM
Subject: diving trip
I am . Norman Kings and the resident doctor for South-side Consultancy
here in the UK.We are delighted to book for a group of 6 guests.could please
check your availability calender and inform me as when you have availability
for 6 consecutive days from Feb,to Apr 2011.
We will like to book for six (6) consecutive days for 6 guests/divers.Kindly
note that we are flexible on our dates and do inform us when you will have availability.
Also our mode of payment is 100% payment via visa/master credit card.
I shall be waiting for your prompt response.
Especially with the second email, the SCUBA divers who would like to
come to Boston and enjoy our warm February ocean water, it would be
nice to be alerted to this important business opportunity as soon as
possible. If you're talking on the phone, Android 2.2 is smart enough
to suppress the loud "new email" sound and simply show an icon at the
top. How about if you're capture a 30-second video? The phone's
speaker will generate the alert sound, which will be immediately
captured by the phone's microphone and placed, 25 decibels louder than
anything else, on the sound track of your video (example).
Some example videos from the Droid 2:
Uploading video to YouTube
The phone has a very convenient interface for uploading a video to
YouTube. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be practical unless one
is on a WiFi network; 3G is so slow that the upload invariably fails
and the phone is left with a mostly-discharged battery.
How does the bundled Google Maps navigation compare to the $2000
system on my 2007 Nissan?
For one thing I can simply speak "Navigate to "
and the voice recognition software will pick the closest reasonable
match. For example, if I decide that I need to spend $100 on
free-range carrots, I can say "Navigate to Whole Foods" and the phone
will not only recognize this, but pick the closest location out of the
hundreds possible. If I say "Navigate to Whole Foods in Cambridge,
Massachusetts" the phone will offer me a menu of the three locations.
How about the $2000 factory Nissan system? First, despite my having
recently spend $140 on a new DVD-ROM database, about half of the
places that I want to go aren't in the database. Second, when one does
go through the laborious process of typing in "Whole Foods" it will
offer locations hundreds of miles away just as readily as one around
I expected the GPS on the Droid 2 to be less reliable than the Nissan
factory GPS, due to the factory system's advantage of an external
antenna, but even when the phone is located low in between the two
front seats the GPS reception seems to be excellent.
The phone and software are smart about providing navigation during a
call. If you're holding the phone up to your ear and talking, the
software gently overlays a turn instruction over the conversation.
works wonderfully well. As soon as you slide the phone into the dock,
which can be powered from a 12V socket, the phone pulls up its CarDock
app. This gives the driver an interface with just six huge buttons on
the touch screen, including Voice Search.
The Droid 2 functions competently as an MP3 player, either through
standard headphones via a 3.5mm jack (larger than the 2.5mm standard
phone headset jack) or via Bluetooth to a car or headset such as the
(good sound quality; wish it had electronic noise-canceling).
Loading music onto the Droid 2 is simple: connect the phone via a
micro-USB cable to your computer; drag folders of MP3 (or AAC or OGG)
files onto the phone. The phone comes with a 16 GB microSD card and
the main limitation on its function as a music player is the capacity
of this card (you can replace it, but the largest microSD cards are 32
GB; the larger capacity SDXC cards are not supported). The phone comes
with "Motorola Media Link" software, but I did not try it because it
is very simple to use the standard Windows File Explorer to maintain
files and folders on the phone.
If you're asleep and set the phone to vibrate so that you're not woken
up by the ringer, but set an alarm for, say, 7:00 am, what happens?
Android is smart enough to play an audible alarm. Touching the screen
will snooze the alarm for five minutes. Sliding "dismiss" will silence
it. When an alarm is set to ring in the future, an icon appears on the
status bar at the top.
The Droid 2 Global includes a GSM radio for use in foreign countries,
nearly all of which use a different communication system than
Verizon. What does roaming cost? If you have to ask, you can't afford
it! It is possible to swap out the sim card with a foreign sim card
and save big $$, but you'll need to get unlock codes from Verizon tech
As of February 2011, the phone is free with a service commitment. The
minimum monthly bill for voice and data seems to be $40 for 450
minutes of voice and $30 for unlimited data or $70 total (plus an
array of taxes that will be painful indeed). The monthly service
charges are currently the same for all Verizon smartphones.
A great phone for those who like a physical keyboard and a great
network. It really could use a dual-core processor, though, so that
the response time when running a background application was more
has the dual-core CPU, but sadly lacks a
physical keyboard. Folks who use the Swype keyboard on the Droid X
swear by it, so perhaps the Atrix will be the ultimate phone... until
All of these thumbnails link to the original unedited photos that came
out of the phone.
The included 5 megapixel camera is at its best for outdoor use with a
mostly-static subject, such as this Japanese garden in San Diego or
the sign and pumpkins from Concord, Massachusetts:
Indoors, without any warning, the camera will select a slow shutter
speed, e.g., 1/15th of a second, that will result in blurry handheld
photos (image at left below). By bracing one's body against a column
or door frame, it is possible to capture acceptable photos at this
shutter speed (below right).
Photos in dim light will be plagued by noise. In the example below,
the phone apparently knew that the results at full resolution were
going to be ridiculously noisy and cut resolution down to
1024x576. Here's a typical iPad customer, who spent $700 to enjoy a
simplified digital life and now carries his laptop computer (for when
he needs to type or create something), the laptop computer charger,
the iPad, and the iPad charger:
Thanks to ample shutter lag, nearly all of my photos of moving animals
(human and canine) were captured a second or two after the expression
that I wanted. If you can't nail your subjects to the floor, a
digital SLR will be a much more useful tool.
The BP guy who made the remark about "small people" wasn't Tony Heward, it was chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. And he deserves to be forgiven for that. He's not American, and he's not a native speaker of English.