First few days with the Motorola Droid

First few days with the Motorola Droid

I’ve been putting my new Motorola Droid through its paces, and thought I would share some first impressions.

I’ve had smart phones for a couple of years. I really liked my Palm Centro; it was compact, synced contacts, memos and calendar beautifully between desktop and phone; and I didn’t have to have a data plan to use it. (The screen was too small for that anyway. Who wants to surf the Web on a screen the size of a postage stamp? I kid; it was bigger than that, but not by much.) I switched to a Q from Motorola, but I didn’t care for the way I had to link it to Microsoft Outlook. For the last few months, I’ve been using a BlackBerry Storm and I don’t have many complaints about it. When I took the plunge for a data package, it was a pretty good way to see what the possibilities are.

Each of those phones had benefits and drawbacks, and the Droid does, too.

It’s the biggest of the four lengthwise. It will stick out of some shirt pockets. And it’s heavy, weighing 6 ounces. That’s more than the Storm, which is 5.64 ounces. The Q came in at 4.06 ounces and the Centro at 4.4 ounces.

The phone is all angles. It does not have the curves nor the glossy look of the iPhone. I would not call it sleek. But it feels more sturdy by far than my iPod Touch.

I can do without the slider completely. The physical keyboard underneath is offset to the left in landscape orientation. That would take some getting used to. However, the onscreen keyboard is just about perfect – more sensitive than my BlackBerry, but I’m adjusting. And its word prediction is far superior, offering more choices in an easy-to-pick way.

I took it on the road on Monday and calls in Champaign and in Indiana were perfectly clear. But I am not using my phone so much for voice calls. I made 97 calls last month but used only 35 of my plan’s minutes – which tells me I’m making most of my calls at night and on weekends, and to other Verizon users. But I sent and received almost 1,100 text messages. Those come through perfectly – though the default sound signaling their arrival on the Droid got annoying in a hurry. (And I can’t figure how to set custom sounds for texts from specific people.)

The button to wake the phone is awkwardly placed, recessed in the top right. The wake button on the iPod Touch is elegant in its simplicity; this is the opposite: a little toggle switch that’s difficult to reach. I can see the reason for that – it does indeed make it difficult to wake the phone accidentally. But I’ve already gotten a butt call from a Droid, so it’s not that effective.

The real win with the Droid is its use of the Internet and its computing horsepower generally. This thing is blazing fast. Facebook and Gmail load quickly. Web pages load faster than they did on my BlackBerry. I don’t need to push email to my phone, but I might, just to see how that works.

Applications from the Droid Marketplace are terrific and numerous. I had to stop looking because I was out of time. Truth is, I probably won’t use most of these any more than I use most of the apps I download to my iPod Touch. Installation is a breeze, and a bit easier – there’s no signing in to the iTunes store to download a free app.

Moving icons around is much easier than with the iPod Touch. And I really like that I can have a “home page” of icons for contacting my family members and a separate one for work. The Centro had something like this, but it was more awkward to set up and not as simple to navigate.

The Google connection really is terrific. While getting ready to take my mom to Indianapolis on Monday, I did some searching with Google maps, and – as you would expect – found Fry’s Electronics, complete with map and the offer to give me directions, with no more work than typing the name into Google. Then I tried it with the spoken search and it got that right, too – including that while I said “Fry’s Electronics, Indianapolis,” the search correctly found the store in Fishers, Ind.

I use Google calendars at work and home, and they’re integrated perfectly on the Droid. The “month” view is pointless – each date has a green dot on it – but the “agenda” view works well.

I was able to sync contacts from Gmail and Facebook just fine. I had a problem with the original sync of my BlackBerry’s contacts, but the good folks at Champaign Telephone had warned me that might happen and how to fix it – by re-importing from the included 16-gig MicroSD card.

I’m always nervous about battery life. After 16 hours of being unplugged on Monday, the phone showed 60 percent of its battery life remaining. (And a little bonus – the cables I used for my BlackBerry also fit the Droid, so I already have a car charger.)

I won’t watch movies on my phone, but I played one just to see how it looked, and the screen is beautiful. The device recognizes picture folders on the storage card and presents them that way, with a convention of stacks of pictures representing the folders. To my surprise, during setup the phone found and included pictures from my old inactive blogs (because they’re on Google’s blogspot, I suppose).

I haven’t used the 5-megapixel camera enough to have an opinion.

That’s about it for now. I like the phone and I think it has abilities I haven’t begun to tap. I don’t regret the decision to upgrade at all.

Anyone got a favorite app to suggest? 

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