Since their inception, most of the Android smart phones have been created to compete with the iPhone. It seems inevitable that at least one model would compete directly with the BlackBerry. The Droid Pro, a world-roaming capable smart phone with a full QWERTY keyboard is that phone. We set out to see if the Droid Pro could really be a BlackBerry killer.
The Droid Pro comes in a fairly plain gray box embellished with the Verizon, Google, and Motorola logos, as shown in Figure 1.
The contents of the box are shown in Figures 2 and 3. The box contains the Droid Pro itself (shown in Figure 2), along with several cables and brochures (shown in Figure 3). These include a Micro to USB sync cable and a Micro to USB wall charger. You are immediately reminded that this is a "world phone" because there are also a few international power adapters: type G for United Kingdom and Africa, type C for Europe, and type I for Australia, New Zealand, and China. These adapters fit right over the American wall charger. Also included are some consumer information pamphlets and a Global Support Guide.
The ability to work not only on Verizon’s CDMA network in the U.S., but to also be able to roam onto the GSM and UMTS 3G networks give this phone the ability to be used worldwide. This really sets this phone apart from the others on the Verizon network. It also supports the basic business capabilities of the phone.
As shown in Figure 2, in size and shape, the Droid Pro is a pretty typical candy bar-type phone that could easily be mistaken for a BlackBerry. At 2.36 x 4.69 x 0.46 inches (61 x 119 x 11.7 mm), it is similar in size to the Motorola Droid 2. The Droid Pro weighs 4.73 oz (134 g) and has a nice sturdy build. Its simplistic design is similar to many other phones of this caliber. The front frame is gun metal gray with a black bezel around the screen and a black keyboard. The sides are wrapped in silver and the back is black. The rectangular shape has slightly rounded corners giving it a good feel in the hand.
The Droid Pro comes with a 2 GB Micro-SD card pre-installed. This seems a little skimpy compared to several other Verizon Droid phones that come with 16 GB cards. For a business phone, this may be adequate, but even business users may want to listen to music or store videos. We would have liked to see the Pro come with a higher capacity card.
Because it is a GSM phone as well as a CDMA phone, the Droid Pro also has a SIM card pre-installed. Both the memory card and the SIM card can be seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4: The back of the Droid with cover removed
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The Droid Pro’s QWERTY keyboard can be seen under the screen in Figure 5. The keyboard, in fact, is similar in size to many BlackBerry keyboards, but at 3.1″, the display screen is larger than most similar BlackBerry’s and the screen is a touch screen.
You will also notice in Figure 5, that the bezel of the screen has the four soft touch buttons that have come to symbolize the Android operating system, Menu, Home, Back, and Search. While we expected these on-screen buttons to be lit while using the phone, there we occasions during use when they turned off and could not be seen when we wanted to use them. Since the lighting of these soft touch buttons was tied to the backlighting of the keyboard, they could be turned back on by touching the keyboard. However, it was counter-intuitive and aggravating to have to touch the keyboard to light the on-screen keys.
Figure 5: The front of the Droid Pro
The Droid Pro’s 3.1-inch TFT LCD touchscreen has a fairly low resolution of only 320 x 480 pixels. Although the screen can’t compare to the Retina Display of the iPhone or the Super AMOLED display of the Samsung Galaxy phone, it is quite useable, even videos looked surprisingly good. Colors are vibrant and the screen has good viewing angels from all directions. Still, if you have used a phone with a better screen, you will notice some jagged edges and areas where it lacks clarity.
While we expected to be disappointed in the screen’s resolution, this was not a deal breaker for us. However, we were disappointed with the response of the touch screen. There were times when we had to press multiple times to get the unit to respond. The haptic feedback works for some functions, but not for others. We also had trouble with multi-touch gestures, like pinching and zooming.
The 4-row, 35-button keyboard, shown in Figure 6, is very useable. The keys are backlit and clearly marked. There is no space between the keys, so they seem a bit cramped, but as you can see in Figure 6, each key is angled so there is a nice definition between the keys. The F and J keys have raised place markers just as they would on a full sized keyboard. There is a dedicated @ key and a dedicated key for using the voice commands. You can use it to say things like “directions to,” “send email,” “call,” etc.
The autocorrect and word suggestions that are built into the Android operating system work quite well, so your typing doesn’t have to be perfect.
There is obviously no need for an on-screen keyboard when the phone is in vertical mode. When input is needed in horizontal mode a useful onscreen keyboard appears. The only thing that we missed was the ability to use Swype with this keyboard, a feature that we have fallen in love with. This, however, given the physical keyboard, is fairly unimportant.
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Other than the screen and keyboard, this phone’s controls are fairly simple. The left side, shown in Figure 7, has only a volume rocker and the Micro USB charging port. As with most other similar phones, the volume rocker is used to zoom
in and out when the phone is in camera mode. The charging port has a small bezel that illuminates when the charger is plugged in.
Figure 7: The left side of the Droid Pro
The top of the phone, shown in Figure 8, has a conveniently located 3.5 mm headset jack and the power key.
Figure 8: The top of the Droid Pro
As shown in Figure 9, the right side of the Droid Pro has only one button which is a convenient programmable key. In the default state it will bring up the calendar, but it can be customized to start many different tasks.
Figure 9: The right side of the Droid Pro
The bottom of the Droid Pro, shown in Figure 10, has only one opening which is for the microphone. Calls using the Droid Pro and the Verizon network were crisp and clear. The speakerphone was excellent – loud and clear with little echo.
Figure 10: The bottom of the Droid Pro
Other than our issues with the touch screen the Pro is a joy to use. It has a 1 GHz OMAP 3620, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB internal storage so response time is quick.
The Droid Pro comes with email support for Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, and IMAP/POP accounts. It can sync with a Microsoft Exchange account or a Gmail account to provide calendar, email and contacts. It can also sync contacts from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It has a unified in box.
Since the Droid Pro comes with Android 2.2 so it has more robust Microsoft Exchange support, remote and secure device management, password recovery for IT managers, and a remote wipe of device and SD card, which again make it a great business phone.
Several applications come pre-installed including Skype Mobile, AuthenTec VPN client, Mediashare, and a file manager. A Verizon backup service is also included.
The Droid Pro includes both Android and Motorola widgets. There is nothing exciting here, but the widgets are useful because they can be easily moved to any of the seven home screens and can be resized to your liking. These widgets include things like a Wi-Fi and GPS toggle, Date and Time, News, Social Networking, Weather, and Sticky Notes.
Android comes preloaded with WebKit, a very capable browser. Android 2.2 fully supports Adobe Flash Player 10, so the surfing experience is excellent, even though it is somewhat marred by the small screen.
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With a 5-megapixel camera, a dual LED flash, and auto-focus, you might expect the Droid Pro camera to take great pictures. Although the colors reproduction and saturation was good, some of our pictures turned out fuzzy. This did not seem to be a shaky hand problem, but rather a problem with the camera. Some photos were perfect and others were a slightly blurred. We were never able to determine how to make sure they all turned out well.
Turning on the camera automatically throws the phone into horizontal mode. All camera functionality is by touch screen controls, as shown in Figure 11, which works quite well.
Figure 11: On-screen camera controls
We liked the video camera more than the still camera. Although only 480p video at 30 FPS, the videos looked quite good – clear with good colors. Audio quality of the videos was also good.
Although the Android operating system lacks the pizazz of iTunes for playing music, this phone is a good music player. This is especially true because the speaker is very loud and clear. Although there is not a lot of bass, music still sounded good. The speaker is on the bottom of the phone
The built in speaker phone on the back of the Droid Pro (shown in Figure 12), gets nice and loud, so you don’t even need external speakers unless you want to project to an entire room. Even though the speaker is on the back of the phone, the back of the phone does not lie flat against the surface that it is resting on, so the speaker is not muted.
Figure12: The back of the Droid Pro
If you are into music there are many music streaming apps to try in the Android market, a place that is constantly growing and which any Android phone user should frequent.
Motorola rates the battery at 7 hours and 12 minutes of talk time and 13 days of standby. We didn’t come close to that estimate. You can get a full day’s use out of this phone, but not if you talk a lot and have Bluetooth, GPS, and 3G on. However, 12 hours of use without recharging is not out of reach if you do a little power management by turning off unnecessary features.
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The Droid Pro also has a plethora of additional features. It has 802.11n WiFi and stereo Bluetooth 2.1. With an additional subscription from Verizon it can also be a 3G mobile hotspot for up to five devices. The memory card slot supports microSD cards up to 32 GB.
It has a built-in GPS and a compass and comes with Google Maps and Google Maps Street View. It comes with Latitude, which lets you keep track of where your friends and family are on the maps. It also lets you easily integrate and sync your social networking accounts like Twitter, MySpace, ad Facebook.
The ambient light sensor automatically adjusts the screen brightness for the environment. It has a built-in accelerometer to adjust the screen orientation and a proximity sensor.
As with other Android devices, this phone offers a wide range of personalization options, including seven home pages, ringtones, wallpaper, and resizable widgets. Figure 13 shows the Menu that appears when you press the soft Menu button, which includes a somewhat unusual Menu option called “Profiles.” This lets you customize the home pages and save that customization as a profile. This allows you to easily move from using the phone for business to using it for pleasure or for different functionality.
Figure 13: Profiles available under Settings
The Droid Pro also supports M
MS and texting.
The main specifications for the Motorola Droid Pro cell phone include:
- Dimensions: 2.36 x 4.69 x 0.46 inches (61 x 119 x 11.7 mm)
- Weight: 4.73 oz (134 g)
- Display Type: TFT
- Display Size: 3.1-inch HGVA (320 x 480)
- Talk Time: up to 390 minutes
- Standby Time: up to 330 hours
- Memory: up 2 GB on-board, 2 GB microSD pre-installed
- Processor: 1 GHz TI OMAP
- Operating System: Android 2.2 (Froyo)
- Networks: 800/1900 CDMA EVDO Rev. A with dual diversity antenna, 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM, GPRS Class 12, EDGE Class 12, 850/1900/2100 WCDMA (category 9/10), HSDPA 10.2 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
- Camera: 5 Megapixel, Dual LED flash, Automatic Focus, Digital Zoom
- Music Formats Supported: AAC, H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, AMR NB, AAC+
- Video Capture Rate: DVD quality (480p) up to 30 FPS
- Battery Type: 1420 mAh Li Ion
- Email Support: IMAP and POP, Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and AOL
- Bluetooth: Stereo Bluetooth Class 2, Version 2.1 + EDR (support profiles, A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HID, HSP, OPP, PBAP)
- Web Browser: Android HTML Webkit, Adobe Flash Player 10
- Synchronization: Supports Corporate calendar, email and contacts (Exchange 2003, 2007 and 2010), Google contacts, calendar and Gmail, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn contacts
- GPS and Location Services: aGPS (assisted), sGPS (simultaneous), Google Maps, Google Maps Navigation, Google Latitude, Google Maps Street View, eCompass
- Carrier in the US: Verizon Wireless
- More Information: https://www.motorola.com
- MSRP in the US: USD 580, USD 180 with a two-year contract plus a monthly subscription
The Droid Pro has a lot going for it – an excellent physical keyboard, a touchscreen, the Android operating system, and a compact form. Only the low resolution of the screen and its spotty responsiveness to the touch mars this otherwise very capable smart phone.
The low resolution can be pretty easily overlooked, but the touch screen response cannot. We have no way of knowing if this was just a problem with our test unit or if it is shared by all the Droid Pros. So we advise giving the touch screen a good testing before you purchase the product.
Although this phone makes a good business and professional phone, the ability to create different profiles makes it a good all-around smartphone for anyone.
The 2 GB microSD card is a bit small but can be upgraded fairly inexpensively. However, we don’t understand why they don’t just include a card with a larger capacity.
So is the Droid Pro is a BlackBerry killer? Well, with a bit of tweaking on the screen, it certainly could be.
- World-roaming capability
- Solid build
- Excellent keyboard
- Hotspot ability
- Stereo Bluetooth
- Android 2.2 with Flash 10
- Programmable key
- Useful profiles
- Fast processor
- Good video
- Erratic touchscreen response
- Low resolution screen
- Miserly 2 GB memory card
- Soft touch button backlighting erratic
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