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printed September 17, 2014
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Review: Motorola Droid

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The Droid is already evoking the "love it or hate it" reaction from many people. If there's one thing it's got, it is its own sense of style that stands out from the growing number of look-alike Androids already populating the market. It is rectangular, with sharp edges and strongly resembles the black monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey." As far as monoblock-style touch phones goes, its unique.

It feels very good in the hand. Though a bit on the heavy side, the materials feel top notch and the construction is sturdy and strong. There is a mix of metallic surfaces, plastic surfaces and soft-touch surfaces that are well conceived and make the phone comfortable to hold an use. It is big, though. The Droid has a 3.7-inch screen, and a bit of an odd ledge below it that extends the size of the phone. Despite the stretched length and width, Motorola has crafted one of the thinnest sideways sliders out there. It is a little bulky when stored in a jeans pocket, but it could be much worse.

The front is mostly the display, but at the bottom of the display Motorola has added four capacitive-touch buttons. These are the back, menu, home and search keys. These automatically have haptic feedback out of the box, but that can be turned off if users wish. These four keys appear to require a slightly longer touch to use than the capacitive display itself. This makes them harder to work with, but less prone to accidental pushes. Below these keys is the ledge. According to Motorola, this ledge is where all the RF antennas are bunched, and was designed on purpose to protrude a bit from the bottom of the phone.

The microUSB port is the only thing users will interact with on the left side of the phone. The camera key and volume toggle are both on the right side of the phone. The volume toggle was acceptable. It has decent travel and feedback and is easy enough to find. The camera key is a two-stage button. The two stages are subtle, but just enough so that users can tell them apart.

One of the most annoying aspects of the hardware is the power/lock key at the top of the phone. The key itself is just a small dash that is along the very top edge. However, there's a little angled surface next to it, and this angled surface is where the Power/Lock icon is painted onto the phone. This is really confusing. I found myself constantly pushing the angled surface that has the icon rather than the button itself. Users will likely overcome this misstep over time, but still, it left me scratching my head. The 3.5mm headset jack is next to the power key.

The Droid's slider is not spring assisted. In fact, it's a little difficult to push up. It's firmly attached to the bottom half of the phone, though, and there is no weakness or give in the construction. I don't mind the lack of assistance, but some might. The QWERTY keyboard underneath is Droid's biggest weakness. It has four rows, but they are somewhat shallow, meaning there isn't a lot of space between the bottom row and the top row. There's plenty of space from side to side. The keys themselves are a disaster. They have absolutely no shape to them whatsoever. It is impossible to tell where your thumbs are on the keyboard, and it is way too easy to press multiple keys at once. Also, the keys have minimal travel and feedback, making typing on the keyboard a miserable experience. To be honest, I gave up and used the landscape software QWERTY instead.

I found the landscape QWERTY to be decent. The width takes some getting used to, and some may not like how much screen real estate it consumes, but it does a passable job.

Another weird design flaw of the Droid is that the battery cover seems to come off too easily. More than once I had it come loose in my pocket and actually fall off when I took the phone out of my pocket. Other reviewers noted this, as well. Also, the battery needs to be removed to pull out the microSD card. Weak. Motorola should know better.

There are no physical send/end keys on the Droid. All your calling will be done with software on the screen itself.

In all, the Droid is an already better piece of hardware than the recently released CLIQ from Motorola, though it does have some major weaknesses.

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