August 30, 2014

Droid X review by your friendly neighborhood AndroidGuy

For the past two years I have had many Android devices, some good some not so good. But what was delivered this week definitely falls into the Good camp. You see I am the proud owner of a new Verizon Droid X made by Motorola. I have been a Moto fan since I first laid eyes on the MicroTAC Elite back in 1995. My love affair was stoked even more by my first StarTAC in 2000. After the RAZR, Moto floundered a bit but after owning two original Droids and now the X, I can confidently say that they are back.

Hardware:

First a walk-around the device. The X is a little less edgier than the first Droid with softer corners and a grippy rubber coated backing. The capacitive row of buttons along the bottom have been traded out for physical slivers of plastic that need a deliberate press to make things happen. The 4.3” screen is now my favorite size with even the Droid’s 3.7” screen feeling puny after getting use to the X. The resolution is sharp and the icons have no noticeable grainy edges but not quite as smooth as iPhone’s Retina Display. But most won’t notice unless the phones are side by side which we all know if that happened, the X would just reach over and punch the iPhone out cold.

The volume up/down and camera buttons are in the usual place where they belong on the right side but the only part that I didn’t like is the smaller speaker along the backside of the bottom half. I always prefer too loud to too soft as it can always be turned down. Since the X is a little slimmer than the Sprint EVO and even my T-Mobile HD2, it doesn’t feel nearly as large in hand as it looks. It is a little tall for shorter fingers but comfortable nonetheless. I’m not a huge camera junkie, but there is an 8 megapixel one onboard outfitted with HD 720p video recording and an HDMI out (cable not included) for the times when you just have to watch a movie, YouTube vids, etc. on an LCD or whatnot. And if anybody wants to know, the camera bump out back doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, it reminds me of my old T-Mobile MotoZINE ZN5 and that was quite a handsome phone.

On my first full day I got 15.5 hours on the battery before I got the 20% left warning. That’s not back considering the battery indicator looked lower than I expected. I have learned to not use the icon but just use the phone until it dies not matter what. By the way, the actual “phone” part of the phone works well. Nothing to write home about, just solid calling over Verizon’s normally solid network. No antenna issues ala iPhone 4 even with a Spock-like death grip I could not get the Droid to drop a call. X – 1, iPhone – 0.

Software:

I was highly skeptical of the Motorola UI that I saw in the Verizon store and I am not a fan of OEM layers of eye candy. Android 2.1 is loaded in all of its glory without a hint of Flash (on 2.2 only) and it even comes a 3G hotspot app. Upon powering on the device, I chose to not use the integrated interfaces for social networking like Twitter, Facebook, and even email. I only input my Google credentials to get the phone up and running. This way I could use the apps out of the Android Market and they would be stand-alone and dependent on Motorola’s insufferable widgets. There’s the obligatory Android Power Control and a slew of other widgets but what has really gotten reviewers and users alike up in arms is the app launcher flanked by phone dialer and contacts icon. Actually, this piece of Moto tinkering is very helpful because it changes from app launcher to Home button and lets you know what desktop screen you are on at a glance.

While the rest of the software experience is pure Android, Motorola managed to add one of the best soft keyboards I have ever used, and that includes my iPhone and the HD2 w/ the Sense version. Supposedly, this is the first Android device with multi-touch capability in that you can push two buttons at the same time. You may be thinking, why would I want to do that anyway? Well, it’s not exactly pushing two buttons at the same time but while typing you can be lifting off the key on one letter and pushing the key for another and for a split second they may be pushed simultaneously. On previous Android devices, the letters may or may not be in order because the OS only recognized one letter at a time and based on the length of time your finger is on the key, that is the letter that will register. Long story short, the concept is the same as Apple’s iPhone except given the extra real estate of the X’s screen, it is almost impossible to make typo’s except for the most military acronyms but even then the word prediction comes to the rescue.

Applications like Skype Mobile, Twitter, and even my IRC app AndChat absolutely flies, thanks to the 1Ghz TI OMAP processor. It never feels flat or bogged down like my Droid sometimes feels after a good half day of use. I use my X for work and I am constantly using IRC, email, Gmail, Google Voice, Twitter, Facebook, Skype Mobile, the Browser, and a few others and I haven’t and to shut anything down or stop a service because it was taking too many resources. Smooth sailing so far.

Wrap up:

True, the X is not a 4G phone like the EVO and it’s not as svelte and modern looking as the iPhone 4 but what Motorola is building is a line of devices that hare edgy, angular, and unapologetic in size and feel. This device feels like the Stealth Fighter of phones and I can definitely imagine a 9 or 10 inch stretched version to become the first ever Android tablet offered by a major wireless carrier.

The UI is still a little uneven but very usable and customizable. The size is just about perfect if a little tall, but very easy on the eyes when out and about without a “real” PC. Those of you who keep up with me, I usually get a new phone every six months or so BUT I think I just may keep the X for a long while even if/when the Droid Pro comes out. The only thing that would make it perfect is root access and the soon to be OTA’d Android 2.2.