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Motorola made no effort to hide who their target demographic was with the Droid Pro: straggling BlackBerry users.  The new form factor, or old depending on how you look at it (Palm), is undeniably a great addition to the Droid family on Verizon. The Droid Pro is a corporate-nested Android device with a BlackBerry-like form factor, and may be the device that pulls those hesitant business users to Android.

Design & Features

When you open the box and remove the device you will find an AC adapter for charging, three adapters for charging your device in different countries (since it is a global ready device), a microUSB data transfer cable, and a handful of manuals for different purposes. 

When you first glance at the device, it doesn't look like an Android device, nor does it look like the powerhouse that it actually is. It looks like a mutant offspring of various Android devices and the BlackBerry Bold series. On the face of the device is a 3.1-inch TFT (320 by 480 pixel resolution) display; capacitive menu, home, back, and search keys; and a fret-style QWERTY keyboard for your texting pleasure. On the lower back of the Pro is a loud speaker and the top left holds the 5 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash. Much like the Droid X but less awkward, the Pro has a “camera hump” that makes the top of the device slightly thicker than the rest. The edges of the device are wrapped in a chrome trim (to further the BlackBerry mimic). The top edge of the device holds the power button and nearly hidden in the middle is the 3.5 mm headphone jack. On the left edge is the volume rocker and microUSB port, the microphone is found on the bottom edge, and on the right edge you will find the convenience key.

The Droid Pro is made almost entirely of plastic, and you would expect it to feel cheap. However, the build quality is very good, and it feels nice in the hand. It's very lightweight and easily pocketable. One of my main concerns with the Pro was the abnormally small display, and even though I wish it was a little larger with a higher resolution, it isn't so bad. Having the portrait QWERTY keyboard definitely makes up for it. While the roots of the design obviously came from the businessman's phone, BlackBerry, it still retains a “hip” look and feel. 

Usability & Performance

When I first held this device in my hand, I fell in love. It was a match made in heaven, a long-time BlackBerry fanatic who grew tired of the non-advancement and moved on to Android. I am, however, on my second device. The first one worked perfectly for about 30 minutes. I was driving on a back-road of NC using it for GPS when it randomly rebooted once, then again, and again. It continued to reboot through the remainder of the night, all through Thanksgiving day, and early Friday morning, until I finally exchanged it for another. If you have bought a Droid Pro or plan on buying one and it reboots constantly, take it back and exchange it for another. I tried everything I could think of to try and fix it to no avail. It was simply defective, and I wasn't the only one that has had that problem.

One of my least favorite features of the Droid Pro is its display. The size of it isn't necessarily the issue, but the resolution may leave you wanting more. To someone new to a smartphone, they would never notice any difference, but comparing it side-by-side with my Nexus One, the rough edges of icons and widgets start to become more noticeable. The Pro's colors display very well and carry great contrast. 

The only thing that really makes the size of the display a little aggravating is MOTOBLUR. Its large, filling widgets are obtrusive and quite honestly, very ugly. MOTOBLUR can be found at nearly every point in the operating system, and it usually adds steps to simple processes. For instance, the stock Android gallery is very simple and usually quick to load. Your different picture folders are available as soon as you load the application. With the MOTOBLUR gallery, as soon as you launch it, you're greeted with Camera roll, All pictures, All videos, and Folders. In order to get to a specific picture, you will have to either wait for your folders to then load, or search through all pictures. It just complicates things and does it in an unattractive fashion.

On the inside, the Pro touts a 1 GHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor, and just like in the Droid 2 and Droid X, it performs very well. I hate to point all fingers to MOTOBLUR, but if you experience any lag, it's probably the verdict. With that being said, the Pro does come out-of-box with Android 2.2, which has proven to be much better about application and memory management. However, the Pro also comes with a pre-installed Task Manager, that I found, if anything, more harmful than helpful. I scrolled through the list of all the applications and selected the ones I wanted to be automatically ended. Sure enough, I was listening to some music and it would turn off as soon as the screen did. I hadn't selected the Music app to be ended automatically, but it was somehow linked to another application that would result in itself being ended.  Internal memory, while it isn't anything to get excited over, should be sufficient. It has 512 MB of RAM and 2 GB of ROM. If 2 GB isn't enough for all of your applications, Android 2.2 allows you to move some of those applications over to your SD card. 

Call quality has been great so far. I haven't been able to make a lot of calls since I've only had this device for a short period of time. The calls I have made have been very clear, and the speakerphone is very, very loud. The speaker on the back of the phone is plenty loud for calls in louder areas, but its placement is a little strange. It's where you would normally hold your hand if you were texting. So, if you are listening to music and using the phone, you may want to plug some headphones in as your fingers will undoubtedly cover the speaker and muffle it. While I'm on the subject of poor placement, the microUSB port is in the worst possible place. It gets in the way when you're texting and makes it very hard to type while giving your battery a little extra juice. You may be able to send out a few texts or emails with it plugged in, but it will get very annoying if you're sending more than a few.

The camera on the Pro is 5-megapixels, but at times it seemed like less. Sometimes, in low light environments, it would take crystal clear photos, but most of the time it would take very fuzzy, pixelated pictures. The auto-focus is very fast, and there is little delay in the time between the capture and button press. On a lot of devices there is a 1-2 second pause between the actual capture and when you press the capture button, with the Pro, it's almost instant. The dual-LED flash is very bright - almost too bright.

I'm not so sure about the battery life on the Droid Pro. It has a 1390 mAh battery, and while it's just below average at 1400 mAh, the battery seemed to drain quickly at times. Since the first device was a dud and wouldn't stop rebooting, I couldn't judge the battery life.  I haven't had the replacement device long enough to put it through the full test, but it seems to be on par with most other Android devices. It's obvious that Motorola wanted to capture those wandering BlackBerry users with the Droid Pro, but I would have imagined them focusing on battery life a little more since the keyboard and battery life are the two most notable things about their hardware.

One aspect of the Pro that is a little surprising, due to its tiny display, is web browsing. Pages rendered well and rather quickly. The only negative to the browsing is that when the text adjusts to the zoom level, you have to be zoomed in almost too far for the text to be a bit larger. If you have bad vision, the display may be too small for comfortable mobile browsing and you may want to stick to a larger screen. 

My favorite thing about the Pro is the convenience key found on the upper right edge of the device. You can assign it to any application, just like on my BlackBerry. It's truly something that these all-touch devices have really been missing out on. Less is not always better in terms of buttons. Another great function that centers around having more buttons is the other parts of the quick launch feature. You can assign shortcuts to each of the letter keys on the keyboard. To use the shortcut, hold down on the capacitive search key and press the designated letter key. 

The keyboard is almost identical to the BlackBerry one, save the layout of the symbols and numbers. It was very easy to get used to (but I have been a BlackBerry user for nearly five years now). Also, in comparison, the Pro's keyboard is completely straight where most BlackBerry keyboards are curved. The curvature makes it feel a little more natural, but I really haven't had a problem with hitting the wrong keys or multiple keys, thanks to the fret-style keys. The keyboard makes things a lot easier and much quicker. Rather than having to hit the menu key in the browser to pull up the address bar, or scrolling to the top of the page, you can just start typing. This is also the case for Google Search from any homescreen. Just start typing and the Google Search will appear. 

There was one major issue with the keyboard, but thankfully it is a software bug that will hopefully be fixed in a future update. At first I thought I was doing something wrong. Typing normally would yield a lot of misspelled words and duplicate letters. For instance, trying to type “the” would come out as “ththe.” After toying with it for a little while I realized what was happening and that it wasn't something I was doing. The word suggestion bar was selecting the first suggested word before I finished typing. Meaning, while typing “the” the first suggested word before I finish the word is “th,” so it would select that word and the second suggested word after I hit space. It was very frustrating, and from what I can tell and what research I've done, there is no fix for it right now. You'll just have to slow down a little when typing.

Conclusion

While the Droid Pro doesn't have a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera, and a 4.3-inch display, it is a very nice device that will work perfect for many users seeking a new-age smartphone with a reliable physical keyboard. I would recommend the Pro to anyone from first-time buyers to smartphone veterans, even those who currently have larger-screen devices. The keyboard definitely makes up for the small display size. For $179.99 with a two-year agreement, the Droid Pro is a very sleek and solid device that can hold its on and lives up to its name.

 

Overview

What's Good: Great BlackBerry-like keyboard; lightweight with great build quality; compact design but can still pack a punch; corporate email support; decent camera; convenience key; loud speaker. 

What's Bad: Tiny display with low resolution; average to poor battery life; software glitch makes for frequent misspelling of words; MOTOBLUR makes the display feel even more cramped; glossy finish scratches easy.

The Verdict: This device isn't the biggest, fastest, or the all-around best on paper, but it undoubtedly carries the name “Pro” well. For $179.99 with a two-year agreement and mail-in rebate, the Droid Pro on Verizon is a great choice for heavy texters and businessmen who need to kick out emails on the go.

 


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