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Motorola Droid 2 review

Droid 2 open on desk
Droid 2 open on desk
Louis Abate

Droid 2

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

Many would argue that Motorola's Droid was the Android device that really put the little green robot on the map. It had the best of both worlds, a flip-out keyboard and the trendy capacitive touchscreen. With turn-by-turn GPS, a 5 mega-pixel camera and the network to back it up, it was seen as one of the first real challengers to the coveted iPhone.

Fast forward less than one year and Motorola has released a follow-up to the popular smart phone, appropriately named, Droid 2. Building on the original but adding some refinement, the Droid 2 has a faster processor, improved keyboard, Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Adobe Flash support. The improvements are well received, but the question remains: does the world still want a physical keyboard?

Design:
The first thing you will notice about the Droid 2 is its resemblance to the original Droid. Aside from some rounded edges and change in plastic used on the back of the case, the new Droid is nearly identical to its older brother. Overall, the form factor is compact, but the thickness of the design is starting to show its age. For those wishing to stow their phone in a pant pocket, the HTC Incredible or even Droid X may be a more comfortable option.

Hardware:
The Droid 2 comes with a 1GHz processor, up from 550mHz. The increase in speed is apparent from the moment you press the power button. The screen is bright, crisp and can hold its own, even to the Retina display on the latest iPhone. The physical keyboard is said to be improved, I couldn't see any dramatic changes with the exception of the nixed directional pad (good move). The digital camera remains at 5 mega-pixels, but video recording quality is slightly improved (720x480 at 30fps).

Text Input:
Given the Droid 2's claim to fame is really its multitude of text input options, it was only fair to include a dedicated portion of this review covering such. The Droid 2 is one of the few phones shipping with Swype text input. If you haven't used it before (or seen the popular commercial demonstrating it) it is fairly straightforward. You just drag your finger across the keyboard over the letters of the word you wish to compose. After you get the hang of the proper speed and level of accuracy required, it can be a very efficient and entertaining way of inputing text on a soft keyboard. I found the standard soft keyboard with Swype turned off and auto-correct on to be more effective in the long run, but your mileage may vary. The physical keyboard was just that, physical. I found it the least efficient way to input text, but again, everyone is different. Also having used soft keyboards exclusively for the last three years, it is what I have grown accustomed to as a user.

Use:
Those familiar with Android will find no surprises within the Droid 2 OS. Froyo adds some refinement to the maturing Android operating system, but there is nothing the average user will care all that much about. Making calls on the Droid 2 is as typical as it gets and call quality is good. The screen feels a bit more responsive than the original, responding to light touches that would have otherwise gone unregistered. DLNA is supported, which gives the phone some extra multimedia streaming muscle, as is wireless hot-spot functionality. Most of these features are becoming standard fare for Android devices. Battery life was above average when compared to other Android phones, especially the Droid X.

The camera is considered mediocre by today's smart phone standards. With the Droid X packing a whopping 8 mega-pixels and the iPhone 4 coming equipped with a super light sensitive 30fps HD shooting CCD, the standard 5 mega-pixel no-frills camera on the Droid 2 was a let down. There has been a great deal of discussion surrounding Adobe Flash on mobile devices. Apple brought the hammer down and said absolutely not, but Android is determined to make it work. In this most recent version of Flash mobile, they aren't quite there yet. While I did have a few "ah ha" moments browsing flash content on a mobile browser, as a whole, it was riddled with bugs and painfully slow. It is still too early to tell what the future of Flash looks like on Android, but at this point I steered clear of Flash-laden sites while browsing on the go.

Conclusion:
Overall, the Droid 2 is a welcome edition to the Motorola Droid family. The changes should be seen more as refinement than redesign, but it is clear those were Motorola's intentions. Anyone in the market for an Android device with a physical keyboard should look no further, but for everyone else, there's the Droid X. I may be exaggerating here, but in my opinion, the Droid X offers a lot more bang for the buck. That is not to say the Droid 2 isn't a very nice handset, it just means Motorola's biggest competition is itself.

Pros
Improved keyboard, screen, processor and overall design
Very good battery life (translated: lasted from 7AM to 11PM without dying)
Good call quality
Built-in Adobe Flash support

Cons
Swype didn't work well on the small screen
Keyboard adds bulk
Camera outdated, no HD video recording
Adobe Flash was very slow and didn't always work

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