Nate's Straight Talk Express: Droid X Likes & Gripes

Nate Allen
Columnist from Indianola, IA
Published: August 4, 2010

I’ve been using the Droid X for about a week and a half now so I’ve really had a chance to dig in and figure out what I like and dislike about the device.  That being said, I’ll cut to the chase.

Gripe:  Battery Life

Battery life on the Droid X has been very poor.  Even after some of the newness wore off and I stopped playing with the device as much, I was able to only get about 11 hours of battery life before the device would literally turn off.  Most of that time, the phone was on standby with emails coming in as they arrive (push).  This is with zero phone calls and GPS and Bluetooth turned off at all times.  I could see getting 11-12 hours on a charge if I used the device for sporadic short phone calls, text or instant messaging, or web browsing.  But on standby? Even for Android devices, that’s pretty poor battery life.  Given this, if you are in the market for a Droid X, be prepared to purchase an extended-life battery and/or a car charger.

Like: Global Address List Support

One of the most useful productivity features of the Droid X is the built-in MS Exchange global address list support.  Motorola made a Corporate Directory app available in the Android Market for the original droid as an after-purchase download.  On the Droid X, Motorola has gone one step further and integrated this great feature into the email app so, not only does the device search for contacts to insert into the recipient field of an email, but it also searches the global address list automatically and displays these results below the contacts that are loaded onto the device.  Additionally, the Droid X has the stand-alone Corporate Directory app pre-installed on the device.  From the Corporate Directory app, a user is prompted to search for a contact from a connected exchange global address list, then chose from among options to email the contact, call the contact, or add the person to the contacts stored locally on the device.  Android 2.2 will have global address list support as a part of the vanilla Android operating system, but Motorola has packaged this functionality into the Android 2.1 build of the MOTOBLUR-skinned Droid X.  While using the Corporate Directory app, I did experience several instances where I was told that no contact could be found, only to re-search and the contact would appear.  Hopefully a future OS update will eliminate this bug.

Like: The Keyboard

The screen is so large on the Droid X that the virtual keyboard is absolutely fantastic, even in portrait mode.  On devices with smaller screens, virtual keyboards can be a challenge even for those with small hands, but the combination of the huge screen and the fact that Motorola packaged true multi-touch functionality into the device makes for one awesomely fast typing experience.  The multi-touch functionality may sound familiar in that there has been pinch-to-zoom functionality in mobile web browsers on the Android OS for some time now, but never have I experienced multi-touch support in a virtual keyboard...until now.  Users can use the shift key as it would traditionally function on a desktop keyboard to capitalize letters.  Just press the shift key and continue to hold it while touching a few other letters, and those letters will appear on the screen as capital letters.  While this feature is nice to have, it definitely takes some time to get used to.  For example, if a user holds the shift key down to type an acronym at the beginning of a sentence, the auto-capitalization of the first letter of the sentence will be overridden and each letter will appear lower-case, instead of upper-case as was intended.  To type an upper-case acronym to start a sentence, a user must type the first letter of the acronym, then hold the shift key and continue typing the remainder of the acronym.  A little counter-intuitive, right?  Another odd choice by Motorola was the placement and operation of the comma. The period and the comma appear together on the key immediately adjacent to the right of the spacebar, but it takes a little time to figure out how to make a comma appear rather than a period. To type a comma, a user must double-tap the period, which can be a little difficult to master while trying to type at a rapid pace.  I guess there are idiosyncrasies with every device, and the Droid X is no different.

Gripe: The Email App

I would really like to have a conversation with the software engineer at Motorola that decided one touch access to the universal inbox, and shortcuts to different email inboxes from the homescreen, are unnecessary.  Now, before you all leave me a comment that the vanilla Android email app does not provide one touch access to the universal inbox, I obviously know that. But Motorola has developed its own email app, so why not just include it?  Blackberry has offered a shortcut to universal inbox forever, but Android developers just can’t seem to recognize that little touches like this would make a pretty big difference to some users (like me).   Additionally, attempting to access different email inboxes is consternating at best.  For non-Google (Gmail and Google Apps) email accounts, there is no way to create a shortcut on the homescreen to each inbox.  A user would have to first open the “Messaging” app, then either select the universal inbox or one of the individual email inboxes. These extra steps don’t sound that difficult, but when the functionality has been baked into vanilla Android and other custom variations of Android for some time now, the lack of this functionality just doesn’t make sense.

If you all couldn’t tell by now, I enjoy drilling down into the step-by-step operation of the devices that I use.  I usually end up at the conclusion that I would have done a few things differently than the software engineers that designed a particular device (who, by the way, are expertly trained and have vast experience in their fields).  In one of my columns from last spring, I explored my desire to see Google put all vanilla Android apps (i.e. email, calendar, gallery, messaging, music, etc.) in the Market for those who have manufacturer-customized versions to use.  I continue to think that would be a great idea, if nothing else, to preserve and strengthen the Android “brand” without the necessity for users to feel like they have to turn to cooked ROMs to get a more vanilla Android experience.  As for the Droid X, at the very least, I would certainly like the option to replace Motorola’s email app with the vanilla Android email app. 

Let me know what you think of the Droid X, or if there are any features you’d like some more in-depth information on in the comments!

Products mentioned