Motorola Droid First Hands-On: It's A Terminator

The Motorola Droid. Not to mix droid metaphors here, but I feel like it's the phone Darth Vader would use. And after a couple of minutes using it, I'm still excited about it.

AU: The Motorola Droid is exclusively offered to Verizon customers in the US. -EH

The Droid

It's heavy. And the construction makes it feel like one of the substantial phones I've used in a while. It's not like anything you've got in your pocket. The way the screen—the best one on an Android phone yet—ponderously slides up, using only the manual power of your thumb, without the spring assistance our weak fingers are used to, adds to that feeling of weight. At the same time, it doesn't feel like a fatass. While it has a thickness inherent to all sliders, it's not unpleasantly plump. It works with the rest of the phone.

There's also something weirdly refreshing about such a straightforwardly utilitarian design. There's nothing here that's trying to be sexy. Or particularly clean. There's all kinds of lines and marks and bumps and details. It's a strange kind of retro, with the black and the gold accent. It's, well, Imperial.

The 3.7-inch display, packed with pixels, looks simply amazing. Text is ridiculously crisp, thanks to a 854x480 resolution that makes for 267ppi. Seriously, looking at my inbox is kinda making me drool. (The iPhone is 163ppi.) Besides clarity, touch response seems dead on. The keyboard works way better than it looks. It appears flat, but there's a slight bump to every key that, combined with the soft rubber texture, just works. It's way better than the Palm Pre keyboard. The d-pad, I don't think anybody would miss it if it was gone. The touch sensitive keys on the front, I sorta wish were real buttons. (Seriously, what's the point, except to save space?)

I think it's my favourite piece of Android hardware yet, at least until I see the battery life.

Android Two Dot Oh Yeah

Android 2.0 Screenshot Walkthrough

The Droid's running a basically stock build of Android 2.0. Verizon apps will be available later from a special channel in the Android Market, but it's a totally unpolluted phone out of the box.

It's faster, in almost every way possible. (This in part, is thanks to the Droid's ARM Cortex A8 processor, the same kind in the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre.) Apps open quicker, transitions are instant and smooth, scrolling rarely drags in the browser or maps.

Android's grown up. The icons have been redesigned — they're cleaner, more serious, less cartoony. Contacts, as you've seen, has improved with Facebook integration and a new feature called Quick Contact that lets you ping somebody however you want to. Facebook contact stuff works better than the Pre (which gives you all or nothing options) or the Hero (where you have to manually link each contact), with the option to bring in all of your Facebook contacts, just the people that are also in your Google contacts or manual linkage.

The cool bedside interface that turns the Droid into an alarm clock with weather and stuff when you plug into the dock, is apparently something that's just between Motorola and Google, so we might not see it on other Android 2.0 phones. The dashboard interface, that comes up automatically when it's plugged into the car dock, can also be accessed via the Car Home app, and it gives you quick access to contacts, navigation, voice search, search and maps.

Voice is a much bigger part of Android 2.0 — holding down the search button for a second engages voice commands for search, navigation (just say "navigate") and other features. Speaking of navigation, Brian has a lot more here on Google's new turn-by-turn service with data layers. It might be the single most significant upgrade in Android 2.0, actually. One thing that's not upgraded? The onscreen keyboard. It's still sorta crummy.

Universal search — thank god. It's amazing to me that the phone OS from the search company fell behind Palm and Apple on this. It's here now, and it can search your contacts, browser history and bookmarks, contacts, apps, your music and YouTube. (Why you have to separately search SMS and email, I don't know.)

The browser, besides being simply faster and working better, has a slightly refreshed UI — multiple windows are managed via a simple text list, for instance. Some of the other benefits, like HTML5 support, are obviously a little hard to easily quantify.

We'll have more for you over the next few days, but for now, just know that yes, it's okay to be excited about this. It may very well be the Droid we were looking for.

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