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Me and My Droid

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I admit it. I’m a middle-aged geek. I love my gadgets and toys. I was the first on my block to get a Blackberry Storm (big mistake). I got my Amazon Kindle the day after it was released (much wiser decision). And now I have my Droid. Actually, I’ve had my Droid for a month now, having purchased it on its release date. And a month later, I still love it. What’s a Droid? Thanks for asking.

The Droid is Motorola’s entry into the “Android” phone market. Sold exclusively through Verizon, it’s a (not too) distant cousin of the iPhone. Android phones are Google-connected communication devices. They do email, texting, Twitter, and Internet browsing; music, videos, and the usual calendar/contact PDA stuff.

I’ve been a Blackberry devotee for five years, and it was a difficult choice for me to jump ship. But after testing out the Droid in my Verizon store — comparing it to the Storm 2 and several other touch screen smartphones, I decided unequivocally to cast my lot with the Droid. And here’s why:

Touch Screen and Virtual Keyboard: For those of you who’ve used an iPod Touch or iPhone, you know how wonderful the touch screen is. It’s responsive, and the virtual keyboard (in landscape and in portrait mode) is accurate and simple to use. I have an iPod Touch, and after I bought it, I realized it was the gold standard of touch screens. The Droid is as good (to me — and I’m no techie, just a consumer) as my Touch. The Blackberry Storm and the Storm 2 aren’t even in the same league. Typing, in fact doing anything, on the Storm is exponentially clunkier than on the Droid.

“Real” Keyboard: Unlike the iPhone, the Droid has a “real” keyboard. It slides out very sleekly, revealing a full QWERTY set of keys and a four-way cursor on the right side. Although the virtual keyboard is excellent in both landscape and portrait modes, the pullout keyboard is a nice option for responding to emails or posting tweets on Twitter.

Google Search: This is where the Droid really does it for me. Say you are trying to find Joe Smith's phone number in your contact book. Touch the little microphone on the home screen and a window pops up telling you to speak. You have now activated Google Search. “Joe Smith,” you say. The Droid will search your contacts and emails for “Joe Smith.” Select the contact and it phones Joe Smith. 

Now, say you are in need of caffeine. Speak "Starbucks." This is when the magic begins. Although Google will execute the same search, looking through your emails and contacts, it also searches the Internet. The search results will indicate the nearest Starbucks to your GPS coordinates — and then give you the option of calling or getting directions: via Google Maps — visual or by voice, just like a stand-alone GPS device. And this is without subscribing to Verizon’s Navigator service. Just for fun, I asked for directions home from a shopping trip, and as it guided me into my driveway, it showed me a photo of my house (very cool, if not a bit “big brother”).

Email and Calendar: You must have a Gmail account to use the Droid. I had one before I bought the phone, so it certainly wasn’t an issue for me. I have three other email accounts as well, but they are all forwarded to my Gmail account. The Droid directly connects with Gmail, so mail downloads instantaneously (it appears on my phone even before appearing in my desktop email program). The phone also directly connects with Google Calendar, so my appointments automatically sync with my phone — no cables, connections or setups. The calendar and email are both home screen icons on the phone, so there’s no need to go into the browser for access.

Apps: I would guess the Droid app store isn’t quite as extensive as Apple’s, at least not yet. However, it’s pretty good. For me, the essentials include: Pandora, Google Night Sky (I love star gazing), and an “App Killer” because you can run lots and lots of programs simultaneously, which can slow the thing down if there are too many running. The “App Killer” will shut off any unwanted applications. I’ve run eight or nine applications at a time with no appreciable slowdown, which is not the case with other smartphones I've used, including the Blackberry (at least in my experience). There are also some fun games that make specific use of the Droid’s accelerometer, much like similar games for the Touch (like a real-time maze that works by tilting the device to and fro).

Music: Amazon's MP3 store is pre-loaded, and like iTunes, you can download tracks or whole albums — anything from the latest hits through any genre. However, with Pandora, I rarely see the need, unless I want a specific album. I have, since getting the Droid, felt little need for my iPod.

Camera: My camera is important to me, and my current camera of choice is an 8-megapixel Olympus. But the Droid camera is great if I’m not schlepping my real camera with me and at 5 megapixels, it’s pretty nifty; the video recorder is also a nice feature. And, it has a built in flash to boot. I shot this photo with the camera set at high quality.

Phone: The phone has a large virtual dial pad, and the buttons are clear and easy to read. There is no dedicated phone button, however, so you have to access the phone for making calls from the phone’s desktop, which is a slight inconvenience. And the screen goes “to sleep” quickly during a call, and it’s a bit clumsy to hang up when you’ve finished (unless there’s an easier way I’ve yet to figure out). Call quality is good, and the speaker phone is excellent.

My Droid and I have become very good friends. It’s the first phone I’ve had that I also keep at my bedside and have actually used for music and games. As we hit our one-month anniversary, the love is still there. No frustrations, no regrets. Bye-bye Blackberry; it was great while it lasted.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • Orange450

    Thank you! This is very helpful for me, since my Verizon account is currently insisting that I get a new phone ASAP, in order to waive the early-cancellation fee my son incurred on my plan, when he switched from Verizon to ATT to be on the same plan as his wife…..

    Well, it’s complicated. But you did the legwork for me, so thanks :)

  • Donna

    Hi Barbara-

    I just bought an iPod Touch last week and while I love it, almost immediately wished it was an iPhone. Since I’m a Verizon customer I was hoping for the day in the not too distant future where Apple and Verizon would finally partner up and sell/support the iPhone. Reading your review of the Droid has me thinking now that this partnership may never happen. As you, I truly have fallen in love w/the Touch and all the touch has to offer but it’s missing the phone, an integrated microphone and yeah, even a camera. Sounds as if the Droid will be just another device I want to seriously consider vs the iPhone (yes, I like tech devices too even though I’m not that into the more involved geeky stuff). I also prefer Verizon as a provider.

    Well thanks for this review and happy holidays!.

    BTW, what’s doin’ w/your Touch. Still using it?

    P.S. Love your beautiful dreidel collection (great resolution from the Droid camera!).

  • http://twitter.com/b_barnett barbara barnett

    Donna–My Touch has been gathering dust since I got the Droid. I’ve been able to get my apps on the Droid. My mail, etc. The droid has both wi-fi and 3G. I have plenty of music with Pandora and my mp3 collection.

  • Val

    Barbara,

    Great review! I’ve been thinking that someday I will replace my reg cell phone with a smartphone, and didn’t know which to get…considered a Blackberry for the “real” keyboard (I really dislike those touch keyboards), but liked the Droid for it’s Google connection. When the day comes I think I’ll go Droid!

    I’ve seen there is a House game available for my touch and i phone…wonder if it would work on a Droid ;)