Friday, November 20, 2009

7 days with the Droid

Being the jaded IT guy that I am I'm not easily impressed by a gadget. The Motorola Droid however has completely blown my socks off! I've not been wowed by a gadget in years.

Beyond the flashy user interface and trendy apps, the android OS and accompanying hardware are spectacular. The android OS seems to know what you're thinking and the previously mentioned apps fly. Seemingly minor tasks like working in your contact list become wow moments. For example selecting a photo for a contact works as you would expect, except android automatically crops the photo to the face.

The screen is both beautiful and functional. Somehow it seems to respond only to the center of your fingertips. Madly flailing about with your thumbs won't work. Pressing even tiny links in the browser - does!

Despite some reviewers opinions, the keyboard is actually pretty good. If you weren't used to having a keyboard on your phone to begin with you probably won't have much use for this one. However, I've used it for several long emails and many text messages preferring it to the onscreen keyboard for these tasks. The on screen keyboard is also quite good, in fact probably the best I've used - handily beating the first generation iPhone keyboard that made me want to throw it against a wall. I find that I mostly use the onscreen keyboard for short entries like numbers and passwords. Beyond that I slide out the physical keyboard.

For my most favorite feature it's a tie between voice search and the window shade. Voice search works like you would expect. Touch the screen, immediately say what you're searching for, and the phone does it. There's no delay like other voice recognition systems and it's quite accurate. The window shade is awesome, If I'm doing something else, and receive a text message or e-mail for example, I simply get a notification on the top line of the screen. Then I drag down the line with one finger (like pulling down a window shade), select the alert, take care of the message, and return immediately to what I was doing previously. Brilliant!

All the other stuff you've seen on the TV ads and another reviews are equally brilliant. The only caveats are the physical design of the phone and the camera. The design of the phone is beautiful. The photographs don't do it justice. The problem is that I always felt like I was going to drop it. Even though Motorola did their best by putting rubber on the battery door and the sides. My first accessory purchases were a rubberized case and screen protectors.

Despite previous reports the camera is actually quite good. However, most reviewers, including myself were hoping the camera would replace a pocket point and shoot. Not quite. It's still a camera phone. Most of the problems seem to stem from the fact that you must half press the camera button to focus, then fully press the camera button to actually take the picture. Also, during autofocus (indoors anyway) the flash will briefly light giving the impression to most people that the camera has already taken the photo. I find myself having to ask my subjects to continue to smile so I can take the photo I intended. It's also anoying as hell that you cannot turn off the camera sounds. It makes a sound when you focus, and then makes a false shutter sound when you take the shot...

It appears the Droid has replaced my previous favorite gadget, my beloved Nokia N810. I haven't picked it up even once in the last week. High praise!

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