What's not: Camera's not terribly good, MotoBlur doesn't enhance experience.
Reviewed August 16, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The original Motorola Droid represented Verizon and Motorola's first assault on the high end smartphone market. Thanks to what amounted to an excellent phone and an aggressive marketing campaign, the Droid enjoyed great success and the name "Droid" is on its way to becoming synonymous with Android smartphone. It's not easy being the Kleenex of Google phones, and the Droid 2 has a lot to live up to. Moto took a cautious route with the Droid 2 and it's a considered evolution of the first model. Though understandable, that don't mess with success philosophy is risky in today's hot smartphone market where new devices have to wow us with stunning designs or impressive new features to stand out. Can this reborn QWERTY slider keep up?
We think it can thanks to an attractive design, high class build and top specs, but the upcoming Galaxy S Epic 4G with its WiMAX 4G connection and Super AMOLED display may well put Sprint ahead soon in the Android QWERTY superphone wars. The Droid 2 will still win out on build quality, though we think the first gen Droid was actually a little more chic and daring than the Droid 2. The new Droid plays it safer and loses the stunning and startling rectilinear modern design. Instead we have a gunmetal chrome surround and rounded corners. The wonderful soft touch battery cover is still there, and it stays in place much better than the first gen Droid's.
The QWERTY keyboard is improved since Motorola ditched the pointless d-pad and extended the keyboard to the full length of the panel. The keys are domed which aids tactile feedback but travel is still woefully poor. It's not one of our favorite keyboards but it's certainly better than the original Droid's. And if you hate on-screen keyboards, it's certainly better than pecking at the 3.7" display's on-screen keyboard.
The Droid 2 is the same size and overall shape as the first gen Droid. We still have a sharp 3.7" capacitive multi-touch display with pinch zooming, a 5 megapixel shooter and dual LED flash on the back and a large, stylish speakerphone grille on the back. The Droid 2's speakerphone doesn't sound as impossibly full and rich as the first gen Droid, but it gets the job done for conference calls and in-car navigation as long as you don't set the volume to max (it distorts at max volume).
The Droid 2 and Droid.
The Droid 2 ships with Android OS 2.2 Froyo, currently the latest and greatest version of every robot's favorite OS. Some of Froyo's improvements are hidden by Motorola's MotoBlur software. Thankfully, this isn't the over-the-top MotoBlur software used on the mid-range Backflip and Cliq XT, and you're not barraged with screen-hogging social networking widgets, account creation and the like. Instead Moto has smaller, low key social networking widgets that are just so-so, enhanced contacts to store all the social network data and added desktop panels with a bottom quick nav. The Droid 2 works with Exchange, POP3/IMAP and Gmail accounts, Yahoo Mail, Skype Mobile, Photobucket, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Picasa and of course Google sync, and you can set these up via the Accounts section in settings.
The original Droid was a super-fast phone for only a few months. Then the first crop of 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered phones hit the market, followed by other ARM 1GHz CPUs and Samsung's own Hummingbird 1 GHz powerhouse. The Droid 2 is ready for the fight now with a 1GHz TI OMAP CPU that put it at the top of our benchmarks. Froyo 2.2 is a faster OS, and that helped the Nexus One to the top of the heap previously (it was the only 2.2 OS phone for a month or two), but the Droid 2 comes out just a little bit ahead. It's also faster than the Samsung Galaxy S family phones (Captivate and Vibrant) in all but graphics, but once those two get the 2.2 update, they may come out on top.
Softweg Benchmark scores (2D tests only for graphics:
The Droid 2 has an ample 512 megs of RAM (double that of the original Droid) and 8 gigs of internal storage. Verizon includes an 8 gig microSD card as well, and it lives under the battery door.
Phone and Data
Motorola phones generally have excellent reception, and our Droid 2 is no exception. In our reception-challenged area, it had a stronger signal as measured in db than most other Verizon phones except the comparable Droid X and original Droid. Data speeds are good and we had no problem with dropped calls. Call quality sounds a little robotic, if you'll forgive the pun. Voice isn't completely natural on either end, likely thanks to an overly-agressive DSP, but it does make for generally clear calls with acceptable volume. We did occasionally hear our voice echo back, but it wasn't ubiquitous or overbearing. As you'd expect, the Moto works with stereo and mono Bluetooth headsets as well as wired headsets with a 3.5mm jack. Audio quality through a good set of wired headphones is pleasing.
Above: the Motorola Droid X and the Droid 2.
Here's our video review of the Motorola Droid 2 where we test out the speed, video playback, web browsing,
gaming and more. We also compare it with the Motorola Droid X on Verizon.
Camera and GPS
First the good news: the GPS works well with both Google Maps and VZ Navigator. You can download VZ Navigator under the Verizon tab in the Android Market-- Verizon shows a great deal of restraint with bundled apps and doesn't load them all on the phone at the factory. The GPS gets a fix quickly and holds it, even at brisk highway speeds. The speaker is reasonably loud and fairly clear unless you crank the volume near max where it distorts. Google Maps, Google latitude and Google Places are free location-based apps and services, and Google Maps provides spoken turn-by-turn directions. VZ Navigator's display is oriented toward safe driving with a large on-screen "take this turn next" approach, and it has voice guidance. Navigator costs $10/month and you can add and remove the service from your account at any time.
The camera isn't wonderful. The first Droid's camera was pitiful, so the Droid 2's camera at least looks good in comparison. Photos are usable and are certainly above most 3 megapixel fixed focus camera phone shots, but we still want more sharpness and less haze. The dual LED flash is blinding and does help in low light situations. The camera can shoot video at DVD resolution 720 x 480, and camera video tends to look a bit hazy too.
It's easy to recommend the Motorola Droid 2; it's a top notch superphone that fits easier in the pocket than the current crop of 4.3" screen Android phones. Better yet, it has a QWERTY hardware keyboard, a feature that's rare on the high end of the Android phone parade. If you hate on-screen texting, the Droid 2 wants to be your messaging buddy. We don't see first gen Droid owners running to upgrade: though the Droid 2 adds a faster CPU, a somewhat better keyboard and the WiFi Hotspot Internet sharing feature (requires an additional monthly data fee), it's not that much different from the first Droid. But for those who are getting their first Android phone, it's a mighty tempting piece. Motorola's in a lucky position when one of the Droid 2's biggest competitors on Verizon is the Motorola Droid X. Which of those two you get depends on your design preference: large slate vs. QWERTY slider. For you shutterbugs, the Droid X does have a better camera too.
Display:3.7" capacitive multi-touch screen. Resolution:
480 x 854, supports both portrait and landscape mode, has accelerometer, haptic feedback and a proximity sensor.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Performance:1GHz ARM7 family CPU (TI OMAP 6085, OMAP 3600 series). 512 megs RAM, 8 gigs flash storage.
x 2.38 x 0.54 inches. Weight: 5.9 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with EV-DO Rev. A for fast data with fallback to 1xRTT.
Camera:5 megapixel with autofocus lens and dual LED flash. Shoots video with audio up to 720 x 480 pixels at 24 fps in .3GP format (MMS size video option also available). Max photo resolution: 2592 x 1936 pixels. Has 4x digital zoom.
in aGPS that works with Google Maps and VZ Navigator.
in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR supporting headset, handsfree and A2DP stereo.
Software:Android OS 2.2 (Froyo). Google apps: Gmail, Google Maps, Google Latitude, Places, Google Voice Search and command, Webkit-based web browser, YouTube player and voice dialing. Verizon applications: Visual Voicemail, Skype Mobile, CityID, My Verizon. Downloadable Verizon apps include V Cast Video, V Cast Music sync and VZ Navigator. Other bundled apps: DLNA (media streaming over WiFi networks), MEdia Share, Kindle, Blockbuster, Need for Speed Shift demo, Files and Quickoffice MS Office viewer.