Droid Additional Impressions

I posted my initial impressions of the Motorola Droid a few days ago.  With a few additional days to think and write, here are some further impressions in the same Pro/Ambivalent/Con format as before:


  • Ringtones: I love that I don’t have to pay extra for ringtones, I use any audio file I currently own.  My current ringtone is Sea Of Faces, and my alarm is currently It Is Well, both the title tracks on their respective Kutless albums.
  • It’s super easy to add ringtones, notifications, and alarms:
    1. Just plug the phone into my computer via the micro-USB to USB adapter.
    2. Pull down the notifications area and tap on the “USB connected” notification.
    3. Tap the “Mount” button.
    4. Open My Computer and find the removable drive associated with the Droid.
    5. Create a folder with the appropriate name “ringtones”, “alarms”, “notifications”, etc.
    6. Drag the desired audio files to the appropriate folder.
    7. On the Droid, pull down the notifications area again, and tap “Turn off USB storage”
    8. Navigate to the desired ringtone, notification, alarm area, and select the desired audio file.  That’s it!  There’s no need to import, or convert the files, they show up automatically. It couldn’t be easier or more cost effective.
  • Keyboard: The virtual one is very similar in functionality to the iPhone, it also has a pretty good suggestion/predictive word engine.  The physical one is nice because sliding it out automatically change the phone to landscape mode (helpful for the times when the orientation sensor bugs out, which it does.  Additionally some applications have Windows-style shortcut keys that can make some operations much more efficient.  The Gmail app allows you to use the physical keyboard to type the same shortcut keys you’d find in the web version of Gmail (“C” for compose, “A” for reply to all, “R” for reply, “J” and “K” to navigate between messages, etc.)
  • Google Navigation: I have no reason to pay $99 for a navigation app from Tom Tom or Navigon, much less buy a $200 stand-alone device because this service is so well done. It gets me where I’m going, and makes sure I don’t get lost.  If I make a wrong turn, it recalculates the route, and still shows me how to get there.
  • Voice Search: I can tap the microphone icon on-screen tell the phone what I’m searching for, and in a few seconds, I have a list of search results.  Additionally, there is a dedicated search button on the phone, which allows me to perform contextual searches.  So if I’m in my contacts or e-mail and tap the search button, it performs a search on my contacts or e-mail, respectively.


  • Pattern Security: I’m rather used to the 4 digit pin of the iPhone, so the pattern security is new to me.  The good thing is I can have more than 10,000 (10^4) possible combinations available on iPhone.  The bad news is that because my finger must be dragged across the screen from point to point and no point can be used more than once, it wouldn’t be hard for a would-be-thief to pick up the pattern by looking at my greasy fingerprints swiped across the phone screen.  See the Cons below for additional information.
  • On a related note, the default behavior for the phone is to visually connect the dots for you as you drag your finger across the screen.  I would recommend turning that off for additional security as anyone looking over your shoulder would have an easy view into your unlock pattern.  There’s no sense in making it easier for them than it has to be.
  • Emergency Calls when locked: When locked, you can still make emergency calls.  This is good because if it’s an emergency, and someone grabs my phone, I want them to still be able to call 911, even if I’m unconscious or unable to unlock the phone for them.  The down side as noted below is that you could conceivably pocket dial an emergency number without knowing it.  But the flip side to that is you actually have to dial “911” to make a call as opposed to just hitting the “Emergency Call” button.  I suppose the odds of actually hitting “911” in your pocket are relatively low (1:1000?).  But it could still happen.
  • Battery Life: If I make a few phone calls, I can go an entire work day and have about 30-40% battery left.  If I do some serious conference calling, I’m hitting the red at less than 10%.  I think this is generally to be expected from a smart phone, but pales in comparison to my KRZR with the extended battery which would literally go 5 days between charges when the battery was brand new.


  • Locking: Like the iPhone, the Droid has a power button on the upper right corner.  Once this button has been pressed, it immediately goes to the pattern security screen.  The unfortunate consequence of this is that if the power button is pushed in your pocket, and it bumps around enough, your pocket will end up entering the pattern wrong too many times.  If the wrong code is entered a few times, the phone will tell you need to wait 30 seconds before trying again.  If it continues to bump around, the phone locks up for good.  It requires that you enter your Google Username and Password, but apparently that feature is buggy because no matter what you won’t be authenticated.  This is one area the iPhone has Droid solidly beat.  Fortunately, it’s just a software issue that shouldn’t be too difficult to fix, but for now it’s a definite con.
  • Alarm Mode: I had a phone once—I can’t remember which, but it might have been the KRZR—that had a specific volume level for “Alarm Only.”  It was great because it meant any ringing other than my alarm was silenced.  No phone calls, no text messages, nothing.  Just the alarm.  This was perfect for using the phone as my alarm clock because I could set my alarm and the only noise I’d get from my phone was when the alarm went off.  And of course, if I put the phone on silent, the phone didn’t make any noise no matter what happened.  The Droid doesn’t have an “Alarm Only” mode unfortunately.  It has something of an opposite but similar functionality where the Alarm will ring even when the phone is silenced, but if I’m in an environment where I want the phone silenced, I want the phone silenced.  I don’t want to “silence” my phone in church only to be embarrassed by having my alarm go off.  As with the above, it’s just a software issue that shouldn’t be too difficult to fix, but for now it’s a definite con.
  • Physical Keyboard: The physical keyboard is offset to the left side due to the presence of a D-pad.  This is unfortunate because it means my right thumb has to reach much further than my left thumb in order to type.  This makes it uncomfortable to type sometimes, and just doesn’t seem like great industrial design.  Of course, I have no idea where else they could have put the D-pad to resolve the issue.  But it is an issue.
  • No way to edit contact groups on the phone: I discovered a feature whereby I can select “Display Options” and choose from a list of Contact Groups to display.  Eager to shorten up my contact list, I logged into the web-based Gmail, created a custom group called “Droid Phone List” and started adding people to it.  The phone synced over the air, and then I was able to choose to show only those 28 contacts while still maintaining access to the other 472+ if necessary by changing the checkboxes around.  But over the last week of using this system, I’ve discovered that if I want to add a new person to the Droid Phone List, I can only do it through Gmail’s web interface—on desktop browser no less.  I can’t do it through the Contacts on my Droid; I can’t do it through the mobile browser version of Gmail, and I can’t do it through the “desktop” version on a mobile browser.  None of these allow me to edit a contact’s group.  Only the desktop browser version of Gmail allows this.  This is really a bummer.  It would be great to edit the contact groups right on the Droid.  I see no reason why this is not currently enabled.

So all in all, this is a great phone.  As I mentioned previously, this is better than any Blackberry I ever tried.  And it’s a serious contender that gives the iPhone a run for it’s money.  Of course, the hardware issues are here to stay.  I think the thing that gives me the most hope is that the vast majority of the issues I have with the phone are software.  That can be updated/changed fairly easily.  And since Android is an open source operating system, there’s hope that even if Verizon, Google, or Motorola choose not to fix the issues, someone in the community could release a fix.

In fact, there were rumours floating around that indicated Verizon was already sending out an over-the-air (OTA) update for the Droid.

Here’s to hoping they’ll fix the three software cons above…

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