Motorola Droid 2

a long-term test by Philip Greenspun, February 2011

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This report is based on several months of using a 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.

For email

Here's what happens when you combine a touch screen and slide-out 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:

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 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 United States.

Capturing photos

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 digital camera.

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 moving.

[See the full range of photo examples below.]

Capturing video

Here's the kind of important email that I tend to get:
From: ned harrison <>
Date: Wed, Dec 1, 2010 at 4:20 AM
Subject: Order

Dear Sir/Madam
        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 <>
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.

Norman Kings,
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 the corner.

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.

Car Dock

The Motorola Car Dock 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.

Playing Music

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 Sony DRBT50 (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.

Alarm Clock

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.

International use

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 support.


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 consistent. The Motorola Atrix 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 next year.


Photo Examples

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.

Text and photos copyright 2010-2011 Philip Greenspun.

Reader's Comments

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.

-- Phillip Griffith, March 5, 2011
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