Preliminary Droid X Review


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  1. BoogieNYC

    BoogieNYC Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    My apologies if this belongs elsewhere and for its length.

    The Preliminary Review:

    This being my first toe in the Android pool, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been using Blackberry devices on Verizon Wireless for five plus years so I’ve had some good and not-so-good experiences. First and foremost, my Blackberry experience was guided by the primary need to receive and respond to client email. The Facebook, Twitter and misc. data that also funneled into my various devices was a somewhat secondary concern for me.
    However, somewhere between the Curve and my last device, the Tour, I began to lament that the Blackberry OS (5x) really is only suitable for text and data, not for graphics, multimedia, or anything other than simple email/communication. That was fine – but unfortunately, we live in a world in which everything is multi-dimensional so I knew it was time to put the Tour and its perpetual hourglass and its overpowered hardware to sleep.

    Enter the Droid X.

    The Droid X is a solid piece of hardware, and a large one at that. It’s closer to the size of a scientific calculator than my prior Blackberry devices. It’s relatively thin but it’s a big brick. It’s almost the size of a conventional camcorder battery without the anticipated heft thereof. It fits in my pocket – and my front shirt pocket – but it’s not a comfy fit in either location. Problem is strapping it into a holster solution makes me feel a bit like I’m about to climb up a utility pole and fix an electrical problem. It’s big.

    Overall, the device is very well designed. Its screen is responsive and relatively clean, even in bright sun, which was a problem with the its current Verizon competition, the HTC Droid Incredible. Its usability factor at, say, a beach might be limited – who wants to risk sand infiltrating a device this sensitive to external input? But otherwise, it seems – and feels – solid and stable. I’m not planning on doing a drop test so forgive me for omitting that from this overview.

    Performance-wise, the device is quick and responsive. It feels like a new device in that it’s got no real lag time in launching anything. I’ve noticed the only app that is slow in any way, shape or form is the camera, and that – my guess – is more a factor associated with the device’s mechanical shutter. Whether that’s true or not, thus far, the device is quick and doesn’t seem to hold one up, even when recalling or downloading large chunks of data. The Tour, in contrast, would be out of the breath doing half of what the X was handling without hesitation.

    The phone quality was far beyond anything I’ve experienced with any Blackberry. The earpiece is solid and offers no distortion – the caller’s voice is clear and concise, and there seems to be no static or hiccups. In addition, everyone with whom I spoke yesterday on the phone seemed to be impressed with the clarity on my end. I’m not sure if these factors are a result of the three-mic solution (the device is equipped with three microphones to help eliminate ambient background noise), but the result is very clear voice quality.

    The speakerphone is only so-so. It’s very clear but it could do with more volume. I’m not sure if the lack of volume is a result of a too-small speaker or settings that need to be changed in the phone’s internal setup (I cranked the speakerphone volume before making this determination) but either way I would prefer slightly more volume in the speaker category.

    As for Facebook and other social networks – Twitter, etc. – the phone, like all things Android, is adept at comingling everything into one big pile of stuff and presenting it to you in a relatively clean, organized package. In fact, it’s almost too comingled. In other words, it’s nice to have everything in the same place, but in some ways, it’s disconcerting to have my main contacts and messages interspersed with Facebook updates from a friend I haven’t seen for 10 years. It’s a good thing that everything is there, but not such a good thing that I’ve got my biggest clients’ emails in the same place as updates about a rarely-seen friend’s child’s third birthday party. In short, and this is more an issue with Android in general, there should be and needs to be more separation – or the option for it – than what I have currently found in the first 24 hours with this hardware and its OS.

    The sound settings are good but a bit hidden; you’ve got to dig a bit to find them and even after doing so I’d be a bit gunshy about taking this thing to a movie or a play (in a theater) or to a funeral. I don’t entirely trust it to be completely silent, and until I’ve had time to set the various alerts properly – and find a way to adjust them all quickly, on the fly, as I was able to do with Blackberry devices – I’ll be a little hesitant to take it with me without subconscious concern of it going off – loudly.

    Speaking of sounds, I haven’t imported any of my former device’s ringtones here, but the ones Moto provides with the X seem to be clean, clear and loud enough. I’ll install a bunch of ringtones once I’ve figured out how to handle the ones I’ve got now. Which, incidentally, is both a testament and a knock on the device and the OS. It’s wonderful that there are a lot of settings for each application that may want to alert you to any number of things; but there should and needs to be a better way to adjust all of these. One central sound control application would be – and needs to be – integrated into the OS without delay.

    As far as the screen and media, I was impressed by the quality of the screen. However, despite having all that real estate, I still haven’t figured out why a 480x800 image can’t be used for wallpaper and why the device seems to want me to take a small portion of said image and use that as wallpaper. I’m guessing, based on its reputation, that Android is infinitely customizable; so why is it so difficult, if not impossible, to customize something as relatively simple as a wallpaper image? And why was it so incredibly simple to do on the Blackberry OS, which is anything but simple?

    Another aspect of the device which I found impressive thus far is the camera. It’s activated by the red button on the bottom right side of the device, and was elegantly simple. In fact, I think it’s more advanced than the second- and third-generation digital cameras I’ve used over the years. It of the 8 megapixel flavor, I haven’t had the chance to put it up against anything other than my own preliminary scrutiny, but I will say this: this camera could easily replace most typical point-and-shoot digicams, because, frankly, it’s got the same functionality and capability as they do. I especially like the fact there’s a mechanical shutter as opposed to just an afterthought addition to the device. I’m not sure if I’d be happy were this the only camera at a wedding or other big event, but it certainly eliminates the need to carry two bulky items in one’s pockets in favor of one.

    As for the Android OS, here I’ll say that, since I’ve been using it for less than 24 hours, I’m not sure how much of my experience is unique to the Droid X and how much of it is Android-specific. However, overall I like the device but it feels very much like a toy – which is both good and bad. Interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter is very simple. Email, however, for me, is where the device falls down. My individual setup is as follows: I’ve got a Google-hosted email domain which means I need to use the Gmail application on the device for my business email, and my most-frequently-used personal email address is also a gmail address. As a result, I’m spending most of my time using the stock Gmail application, which is, quite frankly, garbage. I was hoping to swap this out for K-9, an application many people recommend, but since K-9 doesn’t work for Gmail, I’m out of luck. I’m sure – or hoping – there’s something that will replace the Gmail application. Not being able to request a read receipt on the device for business emails is a deal-breaker. I know this feature isn’t available on the iPhone 4, but the iPhone itself hit the market without functions like cut, copy and paste, so that’s not a benchmark for efficiency or real-world usability. I consider the iPhone a toy – at which it’s very efficient – but I’m not abandoning a utilitarian device like a Blackberry for an iPhone, and I need a device that will work with me, not against me. Basic functionality – read receipts, easy switching between mail accounts, etc. – isn’t something I’m willing to sacrifice so I can scan barcodes in a drugstore to check competitors’ prices.

    Overall, I like this device – a lot. It’s very well made and the OS is really solid. With some minor tweaking to suit my life, I could and can easily see keeping this device as my regular, every day phone. Without the aforementioned functionality, I can’t. But I’ll keep looking for answers and keep my fingers crossed.

    One final note which needs to be addressed here, and frankly in every conversation about the Droid X, is Motorola’s decision to lock down the root and include “e-fuse,” a protocol which is designed to render the phone useless should anyone attempt to tamper with the root/kernel.

    I’ve only been seriously involved in the Android Community for several weeks, but I am very ambivalent about this device as a result of Motorola’s poor decision. The Android OS is at its heart an open-source environment which has flourished because manufacturers have allowed developers to participate in the creation of the OS and its applications. By locking the hardware, Motorola has once again demonstrated its ability to create great devices and ruin them with its internal politics. My contract is for one year, and frankly, I knew about this situation prior to pulling the trigger on the X; I opted to get the phone despite this situation with serious ambivalence. On the one hand, I fully agree with the mass of developers promising to not only boycott the phone but boycott Motorola; however, being that I needed to replace my Blackberry, this device was and remains the best choice, in my opinion, as far as current Android models in the Verizon Wireless lineup.

    Without this political issue, I would highly recommend this handset: it’s very well made, well designed, and aside from the battery life – which I have not been able to test in a real setting thus far – I am impressed with most if not all of the Droid X experience. However, being that this phone represents the antithesis of what Android is in theory all about, if I wasn’t in dire need of a new phone/handset, I would not only opt not to purchase this phone, I would refuse to purchase anything with similar locking features from Motorola or any other company. Assuming I keep this handset, I will do so for a year and eliminate Motorola from any future “to buy” list. More disconcerting is whether this policy will apply to future Motorola/Verizon ventures – the Droid 2, etc. – and whether this move was orchestrated purely by Motorola or both Motorola and Verizon.

    So while I was and am and continue to be excited and pleased with my first foray into the world of Android, I am very hesitant and very ambivalent at the direction this OS is headed and wonder whether this may be my last Verizon Wireless device. I actually considered the Evo yesterday – launch day on what should be Verizon’s biggest seller of the year – and that says a lot about the lack of intelligence demonstrated by Verizon, Motorola and/or both.

    In short: caveat emptor.
     

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  2. rusky1

    rusky1 Member

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    I have only used Android for about 24 hours as well so I can't really answer any questions except the multiple email account one. You know you can just go to your contacts and click on them and it will ask you what email address you want to use right?

    Edit: Another thing about Android. Just like Linux itself, Android doesn't really show its full potential until you customize it. Most of the issues you talked about can probably be solved with apps from the app store. It initially comes with just basic core apps, if you want something above and beyond then just go to the app store and search for it. Think of it as Google is giving you all of the ingredients but you have to make n bake the cake yourself.
     
  3. BoogieNYC

    BoogieNYC Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Thanks for the response -- the contact thing isn't so much a problem as it is just sort of counter-intuitive. I want to eliminate my Facebook contacts from my business contacts, so I want the phone to default to my main address book. Thus far I haven't figured out how to do that -- I'm sure it's possible, but as the phone ships, it's sort of not what I want. Like you said, once I configure it I'll be in a better place.

    As for my other issue -- gmail/google apps mail -- I need to find a real, solid gmail client. The one that ships with the device is woefully underpowered. Once I find that I'll be completely satisfied, aside from the lockdown issue. Overall though, the phone is a pretty impressive piece of hardware, and the OS is really well thought out and, overall, a much more impressive feat of engineering than I thought was possible coming from Blackberry.

    BTW, entering text can be a challenge when the auto-correct removes the space when I insert punctuation. That's another thing I need to customize; I'm not sure where that feature check is but I'm hoping I come across it soon. I've had to back up and insert an extra space a few times today and I know I'm missing some. I'm not too worried about what people on Facebook think, but come Monday I hope my clients don't wonder whether I'm typing while drunk ;-)
     
  4. sonar.chris

    sonar.chris Member

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    To eliminate facebook contacts from your address book go to people>s menu button> view> uncheck the facebook line item, you can also show only contacts with a phone number if you choose.
     
  5. BoogieNYC

    BoogieNYC Well-Known Member This Topic's Starter

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    Thanks for the heads up -- I went to Contacts and looked for the settings but I'm assuming, since I didn't see "View," that the only option I had was to view my main Google/Gmail contacts. It doesn't give me a list of contacts for each category (just phone contacts and a contact list for each of my gmail accounts and Facebook). Not a huge deal as my Google contacts are my main contact list so it all works out in the end, but I'm wondering if I'm missing something specific to the X.
     

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