27
Jul
10

Droid X: Review

IMG_0002It was shaping up to be such a perfect situation.  I purchased an EVO 4G on launch day and life was good.  Yet, as I was nearing the end of the 30 day period after which I would be bound to a two-year contract, rumblings began about the release of Verizon’s entry into the 4.3-inch “super” Android phone.  Like many phones I end up owning, the Droid X wasn’t even a blip on my radar 3 months ago (and I’ve been known to plan tech purchases out for at least that long.)  Yes, it would have been perfect… My sister and a few other friends have EVOs.  We could have shared in exchanging handy tips and other best practices.  We’d be experimenting and learning the nuances of the device together.  And even now that I sit in front of what is essentially a phone running the same operating system in the Droid X (Android 2.1), I want to be able to tell the world that there is no difference… that somehow it’s just a matter of choosing between minor preferences.  The truth of the matter is that these phones – despite seemingly minor differences in form factor and chipset – do provide very different experiences.

(To get a better sense of my first impressions of Android going in cold with the EVO 4G, check out my comprehensive review of the EVO.  In this review, I largely be discussing my experience with the Droid X and how it differs from the EVO.)

Hardware / Screen Size
I’ve heard it debated that in a post-iPhone world, mobile phones are all pretty much the same: black slabs with large glass displays.  Motorola didn’t go to any trouble to dispel this myth.  The Droid X looks exactly like many other touch screen phones with a few exceptions.  The most glaring exception is the fact that it’s noticeably long.  Even held next to the EVO, the Droid X is longer.  However, I don’t think much should be made about the screen size difference.  They’re both phones with big displays.

Motorola and Verizon waste valuable real estate with the Droid.  Between the bottom of the display screen the physical buttons they slapped an ugly Verizon logo on the phone.  This space could have easily been put to better use.  I think the Droid X’s slightly longer screen may provide for a better cinematic experience when viewing movies.  But when the screens are this large, it’s really a moot point.  Having owned both devices, at least that’s how I see it.

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Ergonomic Design
Where the differences between the EVO and the Droid X do become a bit more apparent is in the area of ergonomic design.  The Droid X feels so much nicer in my hand.  It’s length and thinness make it very easy to carry.  It’s almost like holding a short ruler.  It’s hard to tell this by going into stores like Best Buy and holding the “dummy phones” because they usually have a huge inventory control apparatus attached to the rear of the phone.  But trust me, it feels really nice in the hand.  The Droid X also has the much talked about “hump” or rounded area on the back of the device near the top where the camera is located.  Ironically, this even further adds to the comfortable feel.  I’m sure this wasn’t Motorola’s intent, but the hump actually serves an ergonomic purpose since the top of your index finger usually rests comfortably against it.  It gives you a sense of where your hand is in relation to the rest of the buttons.  The EVO felt great in the hand as well.  As I mentioned in the EVO review, the extra width was fine, but any wider and it would be uncomfortable.  I’m definitely not saying that the EVO has an almost uncomfortable feel.  What I am saying is if you get a chance to compare devices by holding one in each hand, it’s pretty clear that the Droid X has a nicer feel.  This is particularly true of folks with smaller hands.

Aesthetic Design
One area where the EVO does outscore the Droid X is in aesthetic design.  The rounded edges that HTC used to shape the EVO just makes it look a bit more distinguished and attractive.  The Droid X, with the screen off, could be just about any phone.  Only by noticing the extra length and the hump on the back does the phone give away it’s identity.  The EVO has an unmistakable look.  It’s hard to confuse it with other phones – even from the front with the screen off.  Turn the EVO around and there’s no mistaking it for any other phones.  The red highlight around the camera and the beloved kickstand gives it much more character.

The Beloved Kickstand
It may seem trivial to dwell on something like the EVO’s kickstand, but I don’t think people can appreciate it until they’ve owned a phone with one.  Tech journalists are talking about the kickstand the way that HTC and Sprint want them to: as an aid for watching video on the phone.  This may be the original intent, but making a statement that limiting is like saying that masking tape is designed only for gift wrapping.  In the short time that I owned the EVO, I always placed it on my desk or my coffee table propped up by the kickstand.  It prevented me from having to buy any expensive docking stations or charging bays.  It just seems like such an ingenious idea and I hope that we end up seeing more of it on other phones.  I certainly miss it on the Droid X.

Standard Android Buttons
As with many Android devices, the phone has four buttons on the bottom of the device: Back, Menu, Home and Search.  It must be said that Motorola needs some hand-holding in the area of consistent design.  The original Droid’s buttons were arranged in the following order: Back, Menu, Home and Search.  This Droid X is arranging the buttons in a new order: Menu, Home, Back and Search.  This may seem trivial, but this is such an important design decision.  The whole point behind Android devices using these buttons is to establish some sort of consistency for users across platforms.  It also makes for an easy migration from one Android-based handset to another.  In my opinion as well as many others, the EVO (and phones like it) have it right.  Home should always be the first button, followed by Menu, Back and lastly Search.  It makes you wonder why Motorola is trying to redefine what is already a clearly understood standard.  (Looking at screenshots of the forthcoming Droid 2, it uses the same (wrong) button configuration as the Droid X.)

The Droid X uses physical buttons for these four functions and the EVO opted for capacitive touch-sensitive buttons.  Not only does the EVO’s button configuration look more modern, it actually felt better when I spend time in the interface.  It’s not a deal-breaker, but given the choice between physical buttons and touch-sensitive ones, give me the latter.  Touching the Droid X’s buttons, they don’t exactly feel solid either.  I’d even venture to say they feel a bit cheap and betray the design of the phone a bit.

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The Camera/Dedicated Camera Button
One nice addition to the Droid X is the dedicated camera button (on the right edge of the phone towards the bottom.)  As a bullet point on the back of a retail box or on a website, this sounds like an incredible advantage.  And in some cases it is.  But the button is better as an idea than it ends up being in execution.  When you push the camera button, it operates almost like an expensive DSLR camera’s button.  The Droid X’s camera button has two positions: halfway down and a full flush button press.  Holding the button halfway down when the phone is on does nothing.  Also, quickly pushing the button entirely in and letting go does nothing.  Pushing the button entirely in and holding it for a second will cause the phone to initiate the camera application.  The response time for the camera app to appear is entirely too slow on a phone with a processor and a UI that works this fast.  There was a software update released since the phone was launched that claimed to address this problem, but it still functions the same to me – and it’s too slow.  I’ve almost missed a few camera shots because of this – a point that almost defeats the purpose of having a dedicated button.

The EVO’s camera seemed to launch much faster than the Droid’s.  This is one of the few areas where the speed of the EVO outperforms the Droid.  I actually prefer the design of the EVO’s camera UI as well.  The left of the screen has the settings and preferences – they were arranged as tabs.  The Droid’s camera has similar options, but on the right side and they require that you cycle through them.  Overall it just wasn’t a good mechanical picture-taking experience for the Droid X.

I’d say that photos that I took with both the EVO and the Droid X set to 8-megapixel and using the auto camera settings came out even.  I am certainly no expert in this area, but I wasn’t able to discern any visual edge of one camera over the other.  I took a few shots in Manhattan that I’ll share here and the Droid performed pretty well.  I particularly like the “Picture Modes” that the Droid’s native camera has.  Multi-shot will shoot a burst of six 1-megapixel images.  This is really nice for inspecting which photos you want to save or keep later.  Also I liked the panorama assist which allows you to shoot a panoramic (very wide) shot without having a wide lens.  (They guide you through taking successive side-by-side shots and line them up to make them look like one long photo.  Motorola makes it very easy to do and photos I shot with it came out great.

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Overall the camera is totally acceptable, although I would like for them to address the responsiveness in future software updates.  I will also say that I’m actively looking for replacement cameras that might have a better UI and more accessible features.  This is where the iPhone’s rich app ecosystem trumps the Android Market.  I’d love to get something like Lisa Bettany’s Camera + into a phone like this.

I still feel strongly that until a great video chat application arrives and gains mass adoption across phones, the front-facing camera is a feature that I can take or leave.  I turned it on once when I had my EVO.

Power Button

This is an admittedly petty thing to mention, but the power button on the Droid X is an upgrade from the one on the EVO.  The EVO’s button is a bit too recessed and often I wasn’t sure if I actually powered the phone up or not.  The Droid X has the advantage of a more accessible power button on the top center.  You can also use the home button below the screen to wake up the phone. 

Hardware Extras
Just rounding out my review of the hardware, there are a few other notable features on the Droid X.  It has 3 microphones: one positioned at the bottom where the voice is usually projected towards, one at the top to cancel out background noise and another on the backside for use when shooting video.

Both the EVO and the Droid X have HDMI output jacks.  As mentioned in the EVO review, I really don’t see how the HDMI output has that much practical use – at least not for me.  If I’m sharing videos with family, usually it’s over YouTube or downloaded to my laptop.  I guess if you shoot the family football game after Thanksgiving dinner and want to watch it right there with everyone 10 mins after it’s been shot, the feature is there for you.

This is a tip of the hat more so towards Android than it is a credit to either HTC or Motorola, but the notification light on both phones is a godsend.  There is a light positioned at the top of the phone next to the earpiece.  It blinks either green or blue depending on the event that it’s giving the notification about.  When I’m at work and get a personal e-mail and the phone is on vibrate, I can visually see that I just got an e-mail.  I believe the blue light is currently set to alert SMS messages that have been sent.  It’s such a functional feature that I really had been missing as an iPhone user.  I don’t always want my phone to wake and flash a message across the display.  Just having a green light lets me know something happened without powering on the display.

Overall Hardware

The Droid X isn’t the most visually inspiring phone, but the display combined with the aesthetic design gives it an edge over many other devices.  I think the slim feel of the phone is part of what began to win me over.  But a slim-feeling phone doesn’t get my two-year commitment with a $325 early termination fee.  It took more than this to win my attention.

Processor Speed

What I’m about to say is going to hurt many HTC EVO 4G aficionados (and I wish it weren’t true) but I have to state the truth as I know it to be.  The Droid X is significantly faster than the EVO.  There, I’ve said it.  With all fanboy allegiance aside, this is a faster phone.  I felt it when I was swiping screens.  I felt the speed when I was typing and how responsive it was regardless of how many other open apps were lurking in the background.  Something about the Texas Instruments OMAP processor combined with the PowerVR video rendering just makes the phone feel so much faster.  Initially I didn’t want to believe it.  I kind of swept any ideas I had of the phone being faster under the proverbial rug and just attributed it to a different feel of the phone based on the feel of HTC’s Sense versus whatever incarnation of MotoBlur (or whatever they want to call it) on the Droid X.  But a few things bring this speed to life and make it more real for even a layman to notice.

The first piece of evidence of the speed of the Droid X comes in the form of this video done by Phil Nickinson at Android Central.  Phil compares the Droid X, the EVO and the Nexus One.  The Droid and EVO are running their Android 2.1 shipped OSes and the Nexus One is running Froyo.  Watch the 3D performance and the difference in the raw hardware benchmark numbers.  I was even in denial a bit about the accuracy of the results (as you can see from the screenshots, there are other tasks that are running that could be affecting performance on any of the phones.)  But in the 3D benchmark, you can clearly see the results matching the previous results for tests already done on these devices.

The second piece of evidence came to me just last week.  I was in the doctor’s office and my coverage was gone because of the testing equipment.  (Nobody else had coverage either.)  I decided to play some of the games I had on the phone.  When I fired up Homerun Battle 3D, I expected it to be as sluggish and unresponsive as it was on the EVO.  Boy, was I wrong.  Not only is the game infinitely more responsive and playable on the Droid X, but it actually approaches the performance of my iPhone 3GS (where it seems to have been natively coded and naturally works best.)  I had many chances during the weeks that I have owned this phone to fire up my old faithful Homerun Battle, but my mind immediately went to how bad I was missing pitches on the EVO.  I certainly had no intentions of buying the game on this platform.  After my experience on the Droid, I bought the game as soon as I got out of the doctor’s office and into coverage.  The difference in speed and 3D rendering is the same difference that you see in Phil’s video above.

It must be said that the speed difference in 3D based applications is probably more pronounced than it is in every day applications.  But when I’m using the Droid X, I definitely feel the speed improvement.  This for me is the single biggest difference between these two phones and the main reason why I’m having almost no regrets for having switched.

Perhaps there is little reason to worry for EVO owners who watch that Android Central video.  One point that might not be obvious is that the EVO has the same 1GHZ Snapdragon processor that the Nexus One has.  It’s conceivable that the EVO may have the same performance gains that the Nexus One has when HTC releases the Froyo update for the EVO.  I’m really speculating now, but perhaps the benefits on the EVO will be more pronounced than the benefits on the Droid X (as it has a different architecture.)  Everything should become clearer when Froyo is released for these devices, but right now it’s apparent that the EVO needs Froyo much more than the Droid X does.

Android Customization/User Interface Design

A debate that continues amidst the tech community concerns how OEM customization affects the overall Android experience.  Right now Android devices are experiencing fragmentation in that each company that releases the phone puts their own feature set on top of Android.  The problem is that these customizations make it difficult for companies to upgrade phones to subsequent versions of Android, as it seems harder to apply these customizations to the new OS than I guess we non-programmers realize.  The result is a base of phones that each respond in different ways to applications.  Some apps work flawlessly on my EVO that don’t work as well on my Droid X and, well… you get the idea.

I’m of the opinion that this is more of an issue for the tech/geek community (of which I am admittedly a concerned member) than it is for everyone else.  One thing that the tech community needs to understand is that many common users are going to leave the phone customizations exactly the way they were when the phone shipped.  They aren’t going to go to the trouble of swapping out the keyboard to see which model fits best and changing the program that handles their SMS messages.  At least not now.  Therefore, these customizations do have a use in the market.  I do agree, however, that more needs to be done to insure that these customizations like HTC’s Sense, Motorola’s MotoBlur and others need to be more future-proof.  I don’t care if that means working more closely with Google or easing up a bit on the customizations.  Users now expect that they will be able to upgrade their phone if the hardware can handle the upgrade.

All this said, the Droid X’s software customization is disgusting.  The wallpaper with the moving eye has been a successful marketing campaign because it’s so repulsive that you can’t turn away.  But it detracts from the true beauty of the phone.  As a matter of fact, just about ALL of the shipping wallpaper backgrounds on the phone are post-modern abysmal eye sores.  I couldn’t wait to change the background to something that was a bit less distracting.

Equally as repulsing are the widgets that ship with the Droid X.  To contrast the harsh, Heavy Metal/Conan the Barbarian meets Terminator testosterone induced wallpaper, they overlay it with multi-colored, under-designed squares with text on them.  Moto has the nerve to call these bland looking squares “widgets”.  It’s really sad to look at the Android Market and see how beautiful some of these free designs for home page designs are from unpaid hobbyists and then to look at the Droid X and realize that someone got paid to do this.

The first thing I did when I got home was remove every widget and change the background wallpaper.  When you consider this along with my comment about how Android OS upgrades get delayed as phone manufacturers try to work their customizations into the new OS, it makes you wonder whether it’s even worth the trouble for these ugly customizations.

HTC must really be commended for their work on Sense.  I do feel that Sense is more of a design aesthetic than it is a functional part of the phone.  Yet, there’s no question that the design of the Sense interface is infinitely more pleasing to the eye than the mess that Moto puts on their phone.

Despite the look of the Motorola Droid X’s UI design, it’s upsetting to read the Gizmodo review of the Droid X and to have them point at the UI as if it’s something the owner has to live with.  The beauty of Android is the way that the owner can shape it and bend it to fit their needs.  Like in this review, I do feel that the poor base design bears mentioning.  At the same time, I can’t understand why the reviewer spend so much time focusing on this aspect of the phone considering the fact that it’s easily changed (and he Gizmodo audience will be the most likely audience to understand that.)

Simply put, if you buy the Droid X, wipe out the widgets and start talking to your buddies to get the best widgets that they’re using.

A Word About “Launcher Pro”

Android users have many customizations that they can make to the phone, but it’s arguable the none are more critical than the ‘launcher’.  The launcher is the part of the OS that handles how items get displayed to the user.  Think of it as the thing that determines how many home screens you can scroll and  what part of the OS you click on to bring up settings or applications.  On the recommendation of many friends I decided to use Launcher Pro and it’s been one of the best additions to my phone.

Launcher Pro isn’t cumbersome.  It does a few basic things that make it very valuable for me.  First, it has a dock at the bottom of the screen (not very different from the OS 10 dock on the Mac).  I keep frequently used applications here.  It also has support for 7 home screens.  So I have three home screens for app icons or widgets.  Another great feature is the ability to get more icons on the screen.  Launcher Pro decreases the space in between the text descriptor of the icons and the spacing between the icons themselves and takes what is normally a home screen only able to display 16 apps and comfortably makes 20 apps fit plus the dock.  It’s just a great app and I’d recommend it to anybody that has a Droid X (or any Android OS, for that matter.)

Memory

One huge feature that Verizon and Motorola haven’t marketed nearly as much as they should is the fact that the Droid X has 8GB of onboard user accessible memory.  This is in addition to the 16GB SDHC Memory card that they include in the box.  To contrast this with the EVO, HTC and Sprint give you an 8GB SDHC card and the EVO itself has only 1GB of internal memory.  Truthfully, 1GB is excellent, as many Android phones don’t have onboard memory for app storage at all.  But the Droid X’s 8GB combined with a 16GB card in the box – all for $199 – makes this a perfect device for someone who has a 32GB iPhone and is looking to switch.

Both the EVO and the Droid X have support for 32GB cards.  Verizon has some kind of pull, because they had them at launch and were selling them for $100 (a discount over the $150 normal price) with the phone.  Verizon is still the only retailer I’ve seen who even has  32GB SDHC cards.  There are a few third-party retailers on Amazon who “claim” to have them (but not sold directly from Amazon) and even Newegg.com has no sign of them.

Keyboard

One area where I struggled on the EVO was with the keyboard.  I tried Better Keyboard and then looked at SwiftKey (I didn’t actually try SwiftKey – I hear it’s quite good.)  The Droid X’s keyboard is the first one that comes close to rivaling my iPhone 3GS keyboard.  The only thing it doesn’t have is the great predictive text that my iPhone had.  But this is an extremely responsive multi-touch keyboard.  Considering the fact that the Droid X feels faster than the EVO, maybe keyboards like Better Keyboard might be (pardon the pun) even better still?  But for right now the Droid X keyboard is great for me.  The one are where it’s a bit of a pain is with the spacebar.  It’s too small.  I keep pressing the “.” button instead of hitting space where my finger is normally used to hitting it.

In portrait mode, the keyboard works well.  In landscape mode it really shines.  That extra real estate makes it a great typing experience.

Call Quality

I might have had a total of 10 conversations on this phone.  There’s nothing really to report.  It works well.  It’s about as good as my EVO was.  No better – no worse.  I didn’t have any dropped calls.

Alarm Clock

Another really small feature but one that took me by surprise is the Alarm Clock app that Motorola ships on the Droid X.  There’s a feature on it where the alarm rings silently and then very gradually increases in volume.  This is ingenious and something that really works well for me.  There are times when I’m tired and out cold that I need the loud level to get me.  But most of the time the silent alarm is enough.  This should be a great thing for married guys who have to wake up earlier than the misses.

Network Speed (and sacrificing 4G)

I had pretty solid 3G speed with my EVO.  I had much faster overall speed with my AT&T coverage and my iPhone, but the speed was acceptable.  Strangely enough, I have the worst 3G reception with my Droid X.  It’s not to the point where I can’t get a 3G signal at all, but my phone dips in and out of coverage between 3G and 1xRTT (2G) way too much.  I think my phone requires some programming for the local coverage or something, but it does bear mentioning that my 3G speed with Verizon over an extensive two week test is about as poor as any smartphone coverage I’ve had.  The guy with the glasses and his crew of techs is definitely not behind me.

One future consideration for potential buyers of either of these phones is that the EVO’s 4G coverage will only get better as Sprint lights up more 4G towers.  Verizon claims that it’s EV-DO Rev A speeds rival 4G speeds, but I’m not seeing that.  Engadget has already been reporting sightings of Verizon 4G (LTE) cards for devices scheduled for deployment this year.  It remains to be seen whether AT&T, Verizon or Sprint have the best high speed network in the future, but right now I’m not seeing great things from Verizon.

“My Hand is Getting Hot” (Thermal Conduction)

With the Droid X being so thin, there are a few downsides.  The phone gets noticeably warm during CPU intensive operations.  I felt the heat more than a few times.  This isn’t meant to be counted against the Droid X.  But the heat was noticeable and might mean that headset might make for better long call use.  (Keep in mind I didn’t make many calls, so it might not get as hot when the phone is used during extended talk times.)

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Battery Life

Much has been made about the EVOs poor battery life, and I think much of it is undeserved.  The EVO has about the same battery life as the Droid X from my observations.  OK, admittedly my tests were rather unscientific and I just used the phone under normal use.  But I didn’t notice a significant improvement in battery life on either phone.  Truthfully the battery life issue is just something that comes with the territory.  Android is a powerful OS and it puts functionality over power efficiency.  It counts on the user being able to control their use to maximize battery life.

Motorola does put in a few controls to try and help improve battery life (and I must admit, these are rather smart ones.)  There’s a setting called “Battery Manager” in the Droid X’s main settings.  It enables you to define when the “peak hours” of use are.  You can disable the data during off peak hours.  This makes so much sense.  Why should the e-mail monitor be pinging the server at 3AM if I’m sleep?  This can be disabled easily, but I’m just impressed that they considered this.  There’s also a section called “Battery Use” where you can see what’s been using the battery since it’s been charged.  In my case the battery’s pretty much full, but if I was curious about what took my battery down to nothing, there’s a place where I can monitor it.

As much as I am resisting the urge to bring Apple into this review, this is one area where it’s appropriate.  Much has been made about the fact that the iPhone doesn’t have a user replaceable battery.  What people don’t remark at is just how incredible the iPhone’s battery is.  And that’s easily explained.  Because the battery takes up practically the entire inner space of the phone that isn’t comprised of the chipset speaker and antenna, it can take a non-standard shape.  While it might not be an option to make the battery non-replaceable, why not design the entire back of the phone to be one large battery?  OK, it’s easier said than done, I understand.  Where would the rear microphone and speaker be placed?  Clearly it would change the design.  But I feel like Android users are always making sacrifices between functionality and battery life and it just seems pointless.  What’s the use of an incredible phone if you can’t make it without charging the device for more than a day?

Accessory Support

There are a few intangible areas where my decision to go with the Droid X was solidified.  Accessory support was a big one of those areas.  One of the great things about (here he goes again)… the iPhone is that it has such a wide array of accessories.  Many of these are forgettable, but there are more than a few quality devices.  The EVO released on June 4 with rumors of HTC branded first party cases and and docks.  It’s almost two months after the release and the majority of cases and accessories are from companies that I haven’t heard of.  This doesn’t mean that these aren’t quality cases or accessories.  I just think it’s pretty sad that with a phone as popular as the HTC EVO (I couldn’t even find one almost a month after the launch) that I was only able to find a bright blue case from HTC and only 3rd party charging docks of questionable quality.

Say what you will about Verizon, but when I checked out the Verizon store on launch day, the employees attacked me and wanted to tell me all about the phones features and to show me all of the accessories including Motorola branded car docks for GPS and a media dock for either charging and/or relaying HDMI video to a display.  In addition to the accessories, Verizon was the only vendor that I know of who has 32GB SDHC Cards available on site for $99 if purchased with the phone.  The accessory selection was infinitely more attractive from Motorola and Verizon.  It’s like they knew we were coming.

Future Prognosis
Speaking of intangible areas that lead to a more enjoyable experience with the device, I want to talk a bit about ‘future prognosis’.  I spend a lot of my day reading tech news and HTC hasn’t really been that forthcoming with information regarding the EVO and Froyo support.  Granted, the EVO was released an entire month before the Droid X, but I just didn’t get the warm fuzzy feeling from their press releases indicating that the phone would be eventually able to run Froyo or “sometime in Q4”.  Motorola seemed to be taking the bull by the horns a bit more.  They set August as the date for their Froyo release.  More that this, they just seem to be a bit more forthcoming about their plans for the device.  I read interviews and saw notes where the extended Motorola blessed battery will be released.  HTC hasn’t discussed any OEM approved battery upgrades and as a result people are trying a variety of strange company branded batteries hoping to have a longer battery life.  To me, it almost feels as if HTC is so busy trying to use what staff they have to move on to the next phone to be announced a few short months at CES that it just isn’t taking the time to do the necessary post-launch support to insure that customers of this generation’s device feel taken care of.  Clearly the phone is selling out.  Why aren’t we seeing more in the way of accessory support from top name companies and more talk of software improvements from Sprint and HTC?  This doesn’t really bode well for future support.  And it really doesn’t make me feel secure as a customer either.

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About the eFuse Controversy and the Broken Screens

I was blessed enough to get a Droid X without the screen problem that I’ve heard on the tech circuit.  Thankfully Verizon seems to be dealing with the situation very proactively and I don’t hear many issues about people not being supported.

The other controversy I’m hearing from people concerns a system that is in the phone which will disable the phone from booting if a non-approved ROM (or file containing the operating system) is loaded on the phone.  I completely understand the desire for Android aficionados to use this phone in the true essence of Android and to be able to customize it the way they want.  But I have to side with Motorola on this one.  The majority of people buying the phone aren’t Engadget, Gizmodo and The Boy Genius Report readers.  They’re mainstream folks who probably won’t do much outside of adding a widget or two on the home screens.  Changing the ROM has a support implication.  I would rather Motorola and Verizon instead just say that if a different ROM is put on the system that it now becomes unsupported and any problems with the device will need to be fixed by the user.  But from a support/I.T. standpoint, I understand the eFuse approach.  Customers in environments that I’ve supported like to install all manner of software, spyware, etc. and then consume valuable support hours having the problem resolved.  In many I.T. environments similar software is being installed that resets the software to the original image upon reboot.  This is no different.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not defending Verizon and Motorola.  I’m simply saying that their reasons for doing this are justified and the best way to express discontent with this decision is to go with a device with a more open architecture.  The Nexus One is (well, was) available.  There are other phones to get if you want to test ROMs.  I just think it’s a very small number of people who will want to do this, and of those people who do install custom ROMs, they’ll probably know how to support it.  For the few people who decide to try to install some strange customization that they read about, only to have the phone not make calls anymore and then blame the manufacturer and service provider, eFuse is just for you.

Summary

Right now is a great time to be in the market for a smartphone.  There are a number of great Android-based devices out like the EVO, the Samsung Galaxy and the Droid Incredible.  There are also other solid phones like the iPhone 4, the Palm Pre and the Dell Streak.  My message is that you really can’t go too far wrong.  And with most phone carriers giving you 30 days to try a phone and make a decision about whether or not it’s for you, the advantage is ours.  At the same time, if you are in the market for the best Android experience you can find, there aren’t many phones available right now that can best the Droid X.  It’s ergonomically impressive.  It’s about as powerful as any other phone on the market.  It’s gaming and application performance against phones like the EVO make you wonder if they’re even in the same class.  Overall, I must say that I’m pleased with the Droid X.  And to that point, I’m pleased with Android 2.1.  Are there things from my old iPhone experience that I miss?  Sure.  But when I consider all that I’ve gained in the way of extensibility, performance and customizability, I’m absolutely certain that I made the right decision.  If this is a phone you’re considering, contemplate no more.  This is a solid device and (if you can get your hands on one) will provide for a complete smartphone experience.

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24 Responses to “Droid X: Review”


  1. 1 Michael Lewis
    July 27, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Hey Dev! As I said in an earlier post on your EVO review, I am sold on the EVO. One thing that I truthfully considered when trying out my EVO’s (I bought two and am still under the 30 days until August), was the cost of the pricing plans. Verizon, much like AT&T are making new customers buy this tiered data plan that you have no choice but to get the $29.00 plan. That combined with a higher monthly plan charge, Sprint was the best choice…without, of course going to TMobile or God forbid…Cricket.

    That is just my two cents. I as an AT&T subscriber, as you were, for 2 years under a contract and my service quality in my basement sucked, it sucks down the block and really just plain sucks. That coupled with the Steve Jobs announcement, “You’re holding IT wrong!” With my EVO’s, my service quality is amazing in my basement with the WiFi turned off.

    Regards!!

    • July 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm

      Hey – thanks Michael. I have no complaints about Sprint. And like I said, if you strip out all the customizations, it’s basically two 4.3″ devices running Android 2.1 with slightly different aesthetic designs. I have a lot of EVO owning friends and I hope that HTC and Sprint do what they have to do so that they can see the performance increase that a phone with these specs deserves. Wait till Froyo. If they do it right, that thing’s gonna be flying.

  2. 3 Sheree'
    July 28, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Very well done! Love the new look of the site too. My favorite part is in the middle of the first paragraph. 🙂

  3. 4 Brian
    July 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

    * It’s interesting how being an iphone user has shaped the way you think about a phone’s UI. I practically never touch the home button on my “OG” Droid. Most of the time, if I’m using it, I’m long-pressing it for the list of recently-used apps. I use the back button more than anything else, and my next phone purchase may well hinge on which phone puts the back button in the same place, at the far left. If it’s not there, it’s going to drive me bananas.

    * There’s more to customization than that. HTC actually rewrote from scratch the apps for keyboard, camera, messaging, etc. Motorola is in the process of doing the same thing. The problem is that they frequently write apps that aren’t as good, and it can be some trouble to get the original versions back. Anyway, if Google updates the core system, and changes the API, it blows up all these custom replacement apps. So, they have to be re-written for both the updated OS and the peculiarities of the phone. That’s the big delay.

    * I’m on ADW.Launcher now. I like it better than Launcher Pro. Might as well take it for a spin, see what you think. (How cool would it be if you could switch shells in Windows that easily?)

    * It turns out that I was able to get a 32GB card from memoryc.com at a decent (at the time) price. Of course, my lack of patience was punished when VZ started offering the card for less money, while I was still waiting for the delivery from Ireland.

    * Turns out that the eFuse thing was (mostly) bunk. You can root the phone and flash a new rom without setting off the eFuse. That said, MOT locked the ROM the same way HTC did on the Incredible. So, it’ll be tough to crack. But, they’ll do it, of course.

  4. 5 kludgy
    October 8, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Devron,
    What app are you using for the flip clock on your home screen? It looks very HTCish, and I like it but have had much trouble finding one for the DroidX.

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