What's Good: Sense UI, great reception, and responsive touchscreen.
What's Bad: Laggy performance at times, and battery life could be better.
Google's Android OS has made significant progress since the days of the G1. Thanks to the rapid adoption of the OS, Android has morphed into a consumer-friendly option. The HTC Droid Eris runs on Android v1.5, and features HTC's popular Sense UI. That being said, the Droid Eris has a bit of lag, and it can get frustrating after extended use. Is the Droid Eris an option for die-hard smartphone users, or is it for the consumer crowd?
Design & Features
In regards to exterior buttons, the Droid Eris is incredibly bare. The left side of the device contains a volume rocker, while the 3.5mm headphone jack and the charging port can be found on the top and bottom of the device, respectively. The front of the device contains a physical send key, an end key, and a trackball. Additionally, four touch buttons can be found below the display: home, menu, back, and search. The camera can be found on the back of the device.
The Droid Eris ships with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an 8GB microSD card, and instruction manuals. The device has a 528 MHz processor, and sports a 3.2-inch HVGA display with 320 x 480 pixels, and comes in at 4.45 inches tall by 2.19 inches wide by 0.52 inch thick. Weighing 4.23 ounces, the Droid is thin and light enough to keep in the pocket.
Usability & Performance
There's no doubt about it: like many mid-range smartphones on the market, the device is a direct competitor to the entry-level iPhone 3G. If I was asked "what makes this device better than the iPhone?," my answer would immediately be "HTC's Sense UI and the ability to multitask." Simply put, HTC's Sense UI is what makes this phone a fantastic device. Instead of the stock Android interface, HTC has taken it to a new level with the ability to customize up to seven tabs with icons, widgets, and the like. The Droid Eris offers Android v1.5 out of the box, though HTC has promised an update to Android 2.0 early next year.
The device is clearly intended to be an "always connected" device, and it does a fantastic job of accomplishing that goal. The ability to add widgets (either from the Android Market or pre-installed ones) to the seven tabs is an absolute delight. During my testing, I dedicated tabs to weather, Google search, battery life, various icons, and more. The customization options that Android offers are absolutely fantastic. Additional features include an accelerometer and a light sensor. Keep in mind that the accelerometer will only activate in certain applications, such as messaging, photos, e-mail, and the browser.
As a touchscreen device, the Droid Eris has an on-screen keyboard. Though it's a bit less responsive and harder to type on than the iPhone, I found the HTC keyboard to be far easier to use than the stock Android keyboard (found on the DROID and Samsung Moment). The capacitive touchscreen is responsive for the most part, though the device occasionally suffers from lag. When testing the Droid Eris, there were times where I noticed lag when typing e-mails. Other times, the device performed well. You see it all around the device, and because of the inconsistency, it can be frustrating.
For those that use Google services on a regular basis, the Droid Eris is a fantastic contender. Gmail, Google Voice, Google Talk, and more work seamlessly on the Droid Eris. Should you use another provider besides Gmail, the Droid Eris provides a general "Mail" program that will work with POP, IMAP, and Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync accounts. As a result of Android v1.5, a challenge lies in the inability to add more than one Gmail address in the dedicated application, though the Mail program will accept the alternate addresses.
The 5.0-megapixel camera was impressive. Though the device lacks a flash, pictures looked nice with the appropriate amount of light. To my knowledge, the phone will only snap pictures by pressing the trackball, so be sure to hold the device as steady as possible for the best picture quality. Editing options are plentiful, with a brightness meter, four white-balance settings, four image resolution sizes, a self-timer, spot metering, three color effects, a digital zoom, autofocus, and four ISO settings. I was equally pleased with the video camcorder.
Thanks to a 1300 mAh battery, the Droid Eris has an estimated talk time of 5 hours, and in my testing, battery life was reasonable. Thanks to 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, the battery life declines quickly. With moderate use encompassing text messaging, calling, e-mail, web browsing, occasional Wi-Fi use, and use of the Android Market, I was able to make it about 13 hours before the device powered down. With little to no use, the device lasted just under three days. As with any fully features smartphone, one full day of battery life seems to be the norm. Given the multitasking capabilities of the Droid Eris, I find this to be quite fair. As always, battery numbers will vary with the level of usage that they're subjected to between charging cycles, but the device should be fine for the average prosumer. For those frequently away from the home or office, make sure to carry a car charger.
I tested the HTC Droid Eris in the Charlotte area, and call quality was fantastic. Callers had no problem hearing me, and call quality was clear and trouble-free on my end as well. When I went to a known Verizon trouble area, I found calls to sound quite clear, with no fading. When testing the device in a busy grocery store, I was able to hear my callers without a problem. I successfully paired my Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset to the device without issue, and callers were pleased with the clarity. The Droid Eris is an EVDO Rev. A device, meaning that speeds were quite fast. CNN Mobile loaded in about 10 seconds, and the PhoneDog homepage loaded in 34 seconds. Other data-intensive tasks such as the Android Market and Google Maps performed admirably throughout the testing.
The Droid Eris is a device I absolutely love, and minus the occasional issue with lag, it's a phone I would carry on a regular basis. It's perfect for the person who wants the Android experience, but doesn't want to spring $200 for the Motorola DROID. Despite a small shortcoming in the battery life department, Sense UI, a 5.0-megapixel camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a reasonable price point make it a device worth checking out.