The Motorola Droid 2 is less a revolutionary step forward in mobile phone design, and more a collection of improvements on the original Droid device. It has been a year since the original Droid took the Android operating system to new levels, and while Verizon has released other Droid branded devices, it was just about the right time to revamp the device that started it all. Like the Droid, the Droid 2 is marketed at just about anyone who wants a blend of cutting-edge design with full-featured smartphone applications.
Design (5 out of 5)
The first rule of all good sequels is if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and that mentality is evident in the design of the Droid 2. Other than removing the ledge on the bottom of the device and changing the order of the softkeys, the Droid 2 looks almost identical to the Droid. The Droid 2 measures 4.58 inches by 2.38 inches, and is 0.54 inches thick. While the device comes in at 5.96 ounces, it feels more solid than heavy, so you don’t really mind the weight.
The capacitive touchscreen is 3.7 inches with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels, and while it won’t blow you away, images look fine on the screen and there is no difficulty reading text. The screen slides up to reveal one of the biggest improvements over the Droid, the new QWERTY keypad. Gone are the annoying directional pad, flat texture and blank keys. The new keypad instead includes direction keys that fit nicely on the right side of the keyboard, slightly raised keys so you can more easily move your fingers across them, and wider shift and alt keys, to make it easier to find them in a hurry. If you’ve got a Droid and can’t stand the keyboard, this alone may make an upgrade worth it.
Along the sides and top of the device are a volume rocker, a camera button, a 3.5mm headset jack and a micro-USB charging and data port.
In addition to the normal phone design, Verizon and Motorola will release a Star Wars version of the device, called the R2-D2 version. The back of the device is modeled after R2-D2 and there are rumored to be Star Wars themed images, wallpapers and applications that will come with the phone. The R2D2 version will be released on September 30th.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
The Droid 2 is the first device to ship with Android version 2.2, which includes features such as Flash 10.1 support, voice dialing over Bluetooth and App sharing. As more devices start getting updated to version 2.2, this will become less of a novelty, but for now it’s a big feather in the Droid 2’s cap.
The Droid 2 has a total of seven home screens that you can quickly flip through and customize. You can also use the toolbar at the bottom of the screen to quickly jump to your desired page. Navigating through the device is fairly easy, as the applications are located in obvious places and the phone is fairly responsive. The home pages are customizable, as you can change the background and even the size of many of the widgets.
Motorola and Verizon have added a decent number of applications, some of which are useful, but many of which just take up space. Some of the best ones are the 3G Mobile Hotspot, Skype Mobile and a host of integrated social networking apps.
Features (3 out of 5)
The Motorola Droid 2 has a 5 megapixel camera, just like the original Droid, but surprisingly less than the 8 megapixel one on the Droid X. The camera is easy to use and works well, and there are a few exposure tools although the menu system while using the camera is a little rough. The images look alright, but nothing to get excited about. The best video setting records the video in 480p resolution, which is not that impressive compared to other smartphones on the market.
The Webkit browser loads pages quickly and is easy to use. You can pinch to zoom, as well as double tap to zoom, to make small pages readable. One of the most anticipated aspects of Andriod 2.2 and the Droid 2 is Flash support. Web pages will now completely load and you can view videos and play games that before you couldn’t. You never realize how much multimedia uses Flash until you are forced to browse the web without it. The Droid 2 fixes that problem and really replicates a desktop browsing experience.
The Droid 2 uses Android’s standard audio and video players, which will play most of the major audio and video codecs. The interface on the music and video players is a little basic compared to the players on HTC devices or the iPhone, but it gets the job done.
The Droid 2 also comes with Verizons 3G Mobile Hotspot app. For an extra 20 dollars a month, you can use your Droid 2 as a Wi-Fi hotspot, so that up to five other devices can connect to the Internet through your phone. There is a 2GB cap on the data that you can use in this manner, otherwise a hefty fee kicks in for every megabyte over this limit.
Performance (4 out of 5)
The signal strength on the Droid 2 is strong, as you would expect for a flagship device on Verizon’s network. The call quality is decent, although I was a little disappointed in the earpiece quality in the device I used, but this may just be an issue with that particular device. The other party reported no issues in the call quality on our call.
The 3G speeds were very nice, with the Brighthub page loading in seconds and even graphically intensive pages taking under a minute to load. Switching between browser pages was quick and painless, mostly due to the Droid 2’s 1GHz processor, a significant upgrade over the Droid. Applications opened in seconds, without any awkward pauses or waiting for the device to catch up.
The battery for the Droid 2 is rated at 9.6 hours of talk time, but you will get significantly less than that if you do anything more than talk, since many of the features that make this a desirable phone use a lot of battery life. Some applications, like the Mobile HotSpot, will warn you that they will quickly deplete your battery, but not everything does, so assume that if you use the device for more than phone calls and occasional web browsing, that you will have to charge it at some point in the day.
Verdict for the Motorola Droid 2 (4 out of 5)
The Motorola Droid 2 is an excellent phone. It is well-made, easy to use and packed with features that make it a great smartphone. The biggest drawback to the Droid 2, ironically, is the Droid X. Verizon prices both of these smartphones the same, despite the fact that the Droid X has several features that the Droid 2 lacks, including an 8MP camera, 720p video, a larger touchscreen and lesser overall memory.
However, if you find the Droid X too large, or if you really need a device with a physical QWERTY keyboard, the Droid 2 offers a combination of performance and features that brings it to the top of the currently available smartphone pile.