Motorola's new Droid 2 is the phone I would buy if I had to buy a Verizon phone right now. That's not to take anything away from the Droid Incredible or Droid X, but right out of the box I knew Droid 2 was my new fave. Why? Motorola fixed the original Droid's achilles heel by making the hard QWERTY board an asset instead of a failing.
That said, Verizon actually sent me a replacement Droid 2 after I mentioned that the first loaner's back panel was feeling very warm to the touch. I also noticed that the first loaner had some of the signal strength issues that have been reported here and there across the Web. The replacement model arrived Saturday morning, and in limited testing since then, both the heat and signal issues seem to be nonexistent. For now we'll chalk up the bugs to a bad unit.
On to the device itself:
- The QWERTY board is much improved over Droid 1. Most notably, the right-side D-Pad is gone, which centers the entire keyboard for much easier right-thumb typing as compared to the original. A simple four-arrow cursor layout replicates the D-Pad's functionality for all intents and purposes. The keys themselves are domed and raised up just enough to give the thumbboard usable travel and decent tactile feel. While I still prefer the isolated-key style of QWERTY board as found on HTC's Touch Pro 2 and Samsung's upcoming Epic 4G, I'm getting good accuracy and speed on Droid 2's keyboard.
- In general, the phone feels very good. For my money, 3.7" is a better display size than the 4.3" of Droid X, but that's a very subjective thing. Droid 2 feels solid, and while it's heavier and thicker in a jeans pocket than a touch-only device like Incredible, it's still very pocketable. Again, the improved QWERTY board makes all the difference here: Droid 1 was too bulky for me because I found the keyboard unusable; Droid 2 is worth the extra size if you want a hard QWERTY.
- That being said, I wonder if I'll prefer Samsung's Epic 4G with its combo of a 4" display and hard QWERTY. 4" is my current pick as the sweet spot balancing display space with form factor.
- I like the mildly updated look of Droid 2, with its dark chrome accents and blue-tinted back cover.
- The display is lovely and responsive. Multitouch is quite good. No, it's neither Super AMOLED nor "Retina," but it's still a great 854 x 480 screen.
- Yes, Droid 2 has Android OS 2.2 with MotoBlur, even if it's a much slimmed-down version of Blur as compared to the first iteration found on devices like Backflip. No, Blur can't be entirely disabled. Yes, it uses system resources. But no, I haven't found it to be a deal-killer at all. There's a tiny bit of UI lag here and there, but honestly it's not that bad. At least I haven't found it to be.
- The device comes with Skype Mobile and NFS Shift (racing game) pre-installed, but is relatively bloatware-free. I actually find Motorola's custom widgets more annoying than any apps Verizon loaded onto the device. Those Moto widgets are ugly.
- Voice quality on calls has been good. Apparently the device has a two microphone system for noise cancellation; so far, it works quite well.
- Battery life has been acceptable. I killed the battery of my first loaner last Friday by running Google Navigation and MOG (a music app) at the same time for about 45 minutes straight while driving from Oakland to San Francisco for a meeting. But given that that first unit was deemed defective in general, I'm counting that as an anomaly pending how the replacement phone performs.
- Flash Player 10.1 comes pre-installed and it works very well. I was able to play MegaDoug's bowling game in the browser by using the touchscreen in lieu of a mouse (the game was designed for desktop computer play). Since the game wasn't natively designed for Droid 2's I'm very curious to see how Flash on Android develops now that Adobe and Google are basically aligned against Apple's No-Flash-on-iOS stance.
More to come on Droid 2 over the course of the week. Got questions, or already own a D2 and have wisdom to share? Hit us up in the comments!