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Droid Could Bring Motorola Back From Dead

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(Techwriter10)
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Until Motorola came out with the Droid, they were the forgotten cell phone company, but it wasn't that long ago that everyone wanted one of their phones: the Razr. This was in 2004, in the days before the iPhone when smart phones were found only in the pockets of executives and sales people. The Razr was thin and sleek and it flipped open in a very cool way. But after that, Motorola all but disappeared -- until now.

It's clear that Motorola recognized this was an opportunity and they have seized it, building a great feature-filled phone running Google's Android phone OS, but will it be enough to bring this company back from the dead in the cell phone market?

Hands-on with the Droid

I like to get my hands on a phone and see how it feels, so I took a pilgrimage to my local Best Buy yesterday where I encountered a sales person who was as enthusiastic as I am about gadgets. I asked her about the Droid and with a gleam in her eye she removed one from her pocket and handed it to me. I was immediately struck by its weight. This is one solid phone (maybe too heavy for some), one which should survive a fall. As I pushed open the keyboard, I was impressed with the large keys (for a cell phone). I played with the controls. I oohed at the 5 Megapixel camera. It was nice.

She showed me some video that she took with Droid in-store and it was amazingly clear. She pointed out that the one draw-back was it was such high-quality, it created large files and she needed to connect it a computer to share it. To get to the memory card, you need to pull off the battery case, not the most convenient method in the world, but it didn't detract from my overall positive feelings about this phone.

Not Perfect By Any Means

When I tweeted about my experience (alright I was gushing), some of my followers pointed out short-comings. People actually didn't like that keyboard, I suspect because the keys are flat, making it hard to type by feel. Another person pointed out a strange bug with the camera and the fact it's not a multi-band phone. These are real issues for consumers, but people appear to be still buying this phone.

Sales Are Decent

The Wall Street Journal reports that analysts are estimating first week sales of around 250,000 units. This is pure speculation, however, because Verizon wasn't saying. Compare this with the iPhone 3Gs, which sold 1.6 million units in its first week and it doesn't look as good, but as the article points this was a US-only release and the iPhone was an established product.

Bottom line, this is a nice phone and Motorola should be proud. Whether it will be enough to help them return to respectability in the cell phone game remains to be seen, but this is a great start and it's something to build on.

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Xipher_Zero
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The thing that stuck me about the Droid is the fact that it uses a standard Android layout. The same time the Droid released, Motorola also released the Motorola Cliq. For all intents and purposes it is almost the same phone (Same internals although screen sizes differ). Aside from the superficial things they are very similar. The biggest difference is the Motoblur interface that the Cliq has and is missing from the Droid. Motoblur is an amazing interface built onto Android which merges all of your contact info, updates social networking etc. For the life of me I can't understand why Motorola released the Droid without this interface..... All in all it is a good phone if you like the style, but in Verizon stores it sits next to the HTC phone with their Sense UI, and looks dull in comparison. I love the Android platform and it is being extended in very interesting ways by the hardware manufactures, but it strikes me as odd when a company releases two phones at the same time with one missing a great differentiating feature. Color me puzzled.

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Justa Notherguy
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@Xipher_Zero:

> [...] strikes me as odd when a company releases two phones
> at the same time with one missing a great differentiating
> feature. Color me puzzled.

The explanation is simple: they wanted license to use that Google logo, on the Droid's case.

Motorola chose to release the Droid as a true 'Google Experience' (GX) handset. That means they get to use the logo, plus their Android ROM can include all of Google's latest, native apps, pre-installed...like, say, the Maps Navigation beta. However, GX phones must use a vanilla ROM. That means no custom GUI overlay, no proprietary apps or widgets (beyond Google's), etc.

GX status comes packaged with the full benefits of working closely with Google engineers. 'Course, I suppose you might turn this into a chicken-and-egg scenario, whereby Motorola's request for Google's assistance introduced the benefits - and restrictions - of GX status. Either way, the folks at Moto were assured of receiving lots of valuable input, during development & testing.

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Techwriter10
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Thanks for the insightful comments. You pointed some things about this phone and the Moto strategy that I hadn't realized before.

Regards,
Ron

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chainsaw1972
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Given Motorola's very poor track record of designing user interfaces, I for one am ecstatic they didn't muck with android too much on this phone!

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mammlouk
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I just got my Droid on Wednesday and being a Linux geek am very happy that it comes as a stock Android experience. For a little more custom experience I've installed the "gde" application from the market as a replacement for the standard home screen. I really like the "fade" transition between home screens along with having a custom number of home screens/panels. I installed the hero theme and put in a custom background and it is great. gde also comes with an app docking widget which allows you to put application shortcuts into a "dock" on the screen. Only 3 apps show on it at a time, but you can slide left and right within the dock if you choose to have more. One thing lacking in the app dock is any sort of indication/highliting of a shortcut when you launch an app, but being in constant development I am sure that will change at some point.

I love the feel of the Droid, it is a very robust piece of hardware that feels worth it's price. One key thing is to install a task manager/killer. The first night I had my phone I was playing a 3D racing game and then I recieved a call. I was immediately pulled from the game and answered the call, but was unable to get a decent conversation because the game was eating too many system resources. I hung up, ended the game and returned the call which went much better, but still had trouble with apps until I finally did a reboot. The moral of the story: People don't make apps that shutdown correctly. Get a task manager!!! I'm using ATK Free so far and it has been great. The only thing that would be better is if I can find an app that will watch for inactive processes that eat memory and automatically kill them.

I am happy to not have the motoblur interface and there are a couple applications I've seen in development that should provide a nice integrated social experience.

Anybody have a good sleeve type case recommendation? I got the Holster from Verizon and it is pretty horrible, no rotating clip, crappy leather, etc. I've had a Blacberry Pearl for awhile and have become accustomed to the plain leather sleeve.

All that said, great casual review of the phone.

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Techwriter10
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I actually had lunch with a friend today who had one and I was even more impressed. He showed me two add-on products: one is a dock. You attach it and it becomes a desk clock with access to local weather, music, an alarm clock and a couple of other key features. The other is a car dock. You insert it and it displays five large buttons including voice command and GPS and the map feature is very nicely designed. It's clear a lot of thought went into this OS and it's really neat to see some of the subtleties in action.

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Justa Notherguy
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@mammlouk:

> The only thing that would be better is if I can find an app that will
> watch for inactive processes that eat memory and automatically
> kill them.

I know of at least one such app on Android market ('Automatic Task Killer'). Unfortunately, (a) its user reviews are not exactly stellar and (b) I'm betting it breaks under Android v2.0. Meanwhile, the whole concept is a bit screwy. I mean, a full time auto-kill app will eat RAM & CPU cycles so it can kill apps...to save RAM & CPU cycles. ;)

Anyway, Android is a thrifty O/S. It terminates inactive bg apps after (as I recall) ~30 min. Plus, Android forces most bg apps to enter a low-power 'idle' mode. So, closing apps saves (mostly) RAM, not CPU time. And, so long as you maintain on-board RAM at somewhere above 15-20Mb, any further savings won't make a noticeable difference.

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Justa Notherguy
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@Techwriter10:

Yes, the car and home docks are interesting add-ons at attractive prices. And, regarding the 'clock' stand, anybody looking to save a few dollars can get nearly identical functionality via a free, 3rd-party app.:

market://search?q=pname:com.activefrequency.android.dockrunner
(A direct market link, for your phone)

'Course, the factory device has its advantages. Propping the Droid at ~45° is trickier than you might guess, especially if simultaneously charging it...microUSB port is in _exactly_ the wrong place. And the app is a bit fussy about turn-off (http://preview.tinyurl.com/yzydc2t).

But, hey - $30 is $30. :)

Oh - and there's another, similar 'bedside clock' app, for use in vertical ('portrait') alignment, only. This one costs USD $1.50.:

http://www.danvelazco.com/2009/03/bedside.html

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patriciaculvert
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The Moto Droid was a good product back in November of 2009 but HTC has topped it and is a very serious competitor in the space.

Moto needs to step up the tempo of product introductions and developments I think. If they are going to use the same OS then execution at the device and software (motoblur) layer will need to be fantastic. They still need to improve there.

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echovme
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Guys, Motorola is back with all new line up of Droid's. By now you should have seen the much better version of Droid. Its the Droid X. It is a competitor for Iphone 4, HTC evo and Samsung I9000. Moto is Back with a bang. see the cool Line up and the awesome website of verizon's droiddoes.com.

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2010MAVRIK
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Moto droid might be good but HTC is really good one. HTC is a competitor of Moto , so Motorola needs to work again.

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