by Michelle Lentz

The Droid, which I’ve been waiting for, officially arrives in Verizon stores on Nov 6. I know, that Droid Does countdown clock was counting down to today, which is the day of the big PR push.

It’s a really big PR push, actually, as I have in my hands a Droid that arrived on my doorstep at 8 am. I’ve been playing with it non-stop since I opened it. I’m also impressed – this phone is everything I want it to be.

My quick first impressions:

  • It was amazingly easy to set up. This is primarily because all of my data is in the cloud. Google owns me. But because I use Google Calendar and Contacts, they were instantly added to the Droid. It was also easy to add my multiple Gmail accounts – including my Google Apps for Your Domain account.
  • My non-Gmail IMAP accounts were set up quickly as well. I wish I could view all of my mail – including the Gmail – in one integrated Inbox. That is something I always loved about the Blackberry. I suppose I could if I set up the Gmail accounts as regular IMAP instead of through the Gmail application. Hmm …
  • The form factor is nice. I haven’t compared it in size to my iPhone just yet, but even with the slide out keyboard, it’s not very chunky. The keys are really flat, which takes a little getting used to (especially if you’re used to the slightly raised, curved format of the Blackberry).
  • It’s amazingly customizable. With the help of a couple of key management apps, like Linda File Manager, I was quickly able to organize all my files, including my non-Market applications.
  • The haptic feedback can be turned off and on and, happily, isn’t annoying. I’ve found it to be a nuisance on several of the WinMo phones I tested, so I like that I have more control on the Droid.
  • I’m really impressed with Android 2.0 as an OS. It’s quick and it’s pretty. I had struggled when I played with earlier releases, so I’m glad to see it’s easier to use. It is the OS for everyone? No. It’s still a little techie, I think.
  • Google Navigation (Beta) is a full-on GPS replacement. It includes layers of views, such as satellite, traffic, and more, as well as turn-by-turn voice directions.

I should have the Droid for a few more days, so I’ll make sure to update the blog with a more in-depth review. In the meantime, you can follow some of my thoughts on Twitter via #droiddoescincy. I’ve also included the press release from Verizon after the jump.

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Cheers!
Tweet Michelle @writetechnology, send her technology news at michelle[at]writetech[dot]net, visit her wine blog when you’re thirsty, and drop by her day job.

HELLO HUMANS: DROID BY MOTOROLA ARRIVES NEXT WEEK

Verizon Wireless DROID By Motorola: World’s First Smartphone with Android™ 2.0

BASKING RIDGE, N.J., and LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. – High-speed Web browsing, voice-activated search, customizable large screen, access to thousands of Android applications and hundreds of widgets and the best 3G mobile network in the country: DROID by Motorola arrives on Nov. 6.

Verizon Wireless, the company with the nation’s largest wireless 3G broadband network, and Motorola, Inc. (NYSE: MOT), a pioneer in the mobile industry, today unveiled DROID by Motorola, the first smartphone powered by Android™ 2.0.  DROID by Motorola features the brainpower and breakneck speed of a modern smartphone, designed to outperform where other smartphones fall short.

“We’re proud to work with Verizon Wireless and Google™ on the first smartphone to feature Android 2.0,” said Sanjay Jha, co-chief executive officer of Motorola and chief executive officer of Motorola Mobile Devices.  “DROID by Motorola delivers a rich consumer experience with warp-speed Web browsing, a mammoth screen, and Motorola’s expertise in design and voice quality.  Combined with Android’s open, flexible graphical user interface and the power of Verizon Wireless’ 3G network, DROID is a smartphone that simply doesn’t compromise.”

“This is an exciting announcement for Verizon Wireless, as the DROID by Motorola is the first device that we are bringing to market under our ground-breaking strategic partnership with Google,” said John Stratton, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless.  “DROID by Motorola gives customers a lifestyle device with access to more than 12,000 applications that will help them stay in touch, up to date and entertained, using the best 3G network in the country.”

DROID by Motorola has a solid exterior, intelligent interior and is one of the thinnest full-QWERTY slider phones available.  It is a no-fuss, high-tech, location-aware, voice-recognizing, over-the-air updating, multi-tasking machine – and it is available just in time for holiday wish lists.

With DROID by Motorola, you can:

  • Zip through the Web: Access the Internet at 3G speeds via the nation’s largest and most reliable 3G network or from any Wi-Fi hotspot.  The multi-window HTML browser with a massive processor delivers the Web the way you expect.
  • See it all in cinema-style: View the Web, e-mail, Google Maps™, videos and more in widescreen on a brilliant 3.7” high-resolution screen.  Boasting a width of 854 pixels to reduce the need for side-to-side panning and more than 400,000 pixels total, DROID has more than twice that of the leading competitor.
  • Run multiple applications at once: Customize your DROID with thousands of applications and hundreds of widgets available on Android Market™.  Toggle back and forth between up to six applications at a time to juggle the universe and your apps.
  • Perform Google Search™ at the speed of sound: Simply tell DROID what you’re looking for using voice-activated search, and it will serve up Google search results based on your location.  If you want more, simply type what you’re looking for into the search bar on the home screen and DROID will also search content on your phone, such as apps and contacts, and the Web.
  • Capture moments: Snap digital camera-quality photos with a 5 megapixel camera loaded with the works, such as a dual-LED flash, AutoFocus and image stabilization, or capture your friend’s antics in 16 million colors with DVD-quality video capture and playback.  Store it all on the included 16 GB memory card, so you always have it on hand.
  • Multi-task like a master: Keep tabs on all your messages with integrated Gmail™ and Exchange e-mail pushed directly to you, but don’t let them get in your way.  With the handy Android notification panel, go straight to the message or simply ignore it, and get back to the task at hand.  And, a smart dictionary learns as you type and automatically includes your contacts.
  • Get where you need to go with Google Maps Navigation (Beta): DROID is the first device with Google Maps Navigation, providing turn-by-turn voice guidance as a free feature of Google Maps.  It’s powered by Google and connected to the Internet. Use voice shortcuts and simply say “Navigate to [your destination],” and you’ll be on your way.  See live traffic, use Street View or satellite imagery to view your route, and get access to the most recent maps and business information from Google Maps without ever needing to update your device.

Pre-loaded Applications and Enhancements to Google Mobile Services:

  • Google Maps: With layers in Google Maps, view geographic information, such as My Maps, Wikipedia, and transit lines, right on the map.
  • Gmail: Multiple accounts support and undo for common operations.
  • YouTube™: One-touch recording and playback from homescreen widget or app, one-touch sharing with friends, and the ability to view your own uploaded videos and high-resolution videos.
  • Google Talk™: Easily switch between chats, search your chat history, and preview pictures and videos sent by links.
  • Android Market: Browse and download applications created by third-party developers.
  • Calendar: Ability to see who has R.S.V.P.’d to your meeting invitations.
  • Amazon MP3 Store: Download the latest tracks over the air.
  • Verizon Wireless Visual Voice Mail: Delete, reply and forward voice mail messages without having to listen to prior messages or voice instructions.

Pricing and Availability:

  • DROID by Motorola will be available in the United States exclusively at Verizon Wireless Communications Stores and online on Friday, Nov. 6, for $199.99 with a new two-year customer agreement after a $100 mail-in rebate.  Customers will receive the rebate in the form of a debit card; upon receipt, customers may use the card as cash anywhere debit cards are accepted.
  • Experience the all-new DROID by Motorola at www.droiddoes.com.
  • To get the most from DROID by Motorola smartphone, customers will need to subscribe to a Nationwide voice plan and an Email and Web for Smartphone plan.  Nationwide voice plans begin at $39.99 for monthly access for 450 minutes and an Email and Web for Smartphone plan is $29.99 for monthly access.
  • For additional information on Verizon Wireless products and services, visit a Verizon Wireless Communications Store, call 1-800-2 JOIN IN or go to www.verizonwireless.com.

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Discussion

    Justa Notherguy28 October 2009 8:02 pm

    Interesting review, so far, especially coming from a dedicated iPhone user. But I’m curious about one comment, in particular.:

    “It is the OS for everyone? No. It’s still a little techie, I think.”

    Would you care to offer (very) specific examples of where Android 2.0 falls down, in terms of providing a comfortable experience for first-time (or, I suppose, n00b) users? I’d be particularly interested in reading your comparison of why/how you find the iPhone experience to be superior, in those specific areas of the UI. Meanwhile, generally, are we talking about oddities related to Android’s native apps or 3rd-party apps or system settings…or, what, some random collection of both?

    Michelle Lentz28 October 2009 8:21 pm

    Actually, it’s easier to let a friend of mine answer that. He’s a dedicated Android user and we had slightly different experiences today as we tested out the device. You can read his post here, where he mentions my own experiences and how they differ from his: http://the-gadgeteer.com/2009/10/28/day-1-verizons-droid/

    Justa Notherguy28 October 2009 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the response….tho, to be honest, I saw his post first. Its where i found the link to your blog.

    Let me rephrase my previous questions:

    So, that’s about that it? You were stymied by the lack of a self-evident/automatic desktop sync routine, and couldn’t figure out the ‘long click/press’ contextual menu call? Anything else, so far? May I assume those two issues, alone, were the basis for your ‘(Android is) too techie’ verdict?

    Again, I’m asking not as critique but for my curiosity’s sake, only. As a previous iPhone owner, I’m interested in the experiences of others, yet nearly all such posts I’ve found – see the forums at tuaw, macrumors, etc. – are long on consternation (and some haughty condemnation) but short on specifics.

    Oh, just FYI: I didn’t grok the long click trope, myself. Had to read about it, online. But, then, I would have never figured out the iPhone’s ‘pinch’ vs ‘squeeze’ thing, either, had it not been for all of those Apple commercials. Intuitive, schmintuitive….give me an on-screen demo, every time. ;)

    Michelle Lentz29 October 2009 4:07 am

    First, let me point out that this was a “First Impressions” post. As mentioned above, I got the Droid at 8 am EST. This post went up before 11 am the same day. It’s a very “First Impressions,” which is why there will be a more detailed review later.

    Truthfully, the USB mounting is amazingly hidden – I do find that a bit too techie. But when I say that, I’m not referring to someone who has been using an iPhone. I’m referring to someone like my mother or my sister who might be considering a smartphone but are still using a Razr or another older flip phone. Someone who is a a complete newbie to smartphones in general. If you’ve got an iPhone, Android is not that big of an adjustment. Would my mother or sister have been able to figure out the USB mounting? I’d say no. Long taps? Definitely not. Some of the options are just worded poorly, such as Store Location, which is the geolocation settings in the photos. (I can honestly see people thinking, “which store?”) In Accounts & Sync, it only lists Gmail accounts and not regular email accounts. I found that baffling when I was trying to remove an account. Also, the fact that there are separate options – completely separate icons – for Corporate Email (Exchange), Gmail, and Email (IMAP, POP), will probably confuse a lot of people new to smartphones in general.

    It’s a better question to ask, what do I love about my iPhone that I can’t get using Android? I personally don’t care much for my iPhone, a fact that I’ve documented throughout this blog. In particular, I hate the virtual keyboard, so Android works for me. Are there apps I can’t live without on the iPhone? I Googled them to see if they exist for Android. For instance, I can’t live without Evernote, but it’s available in beta for Android. There isn’t an UrbanSpoon for Android, but there is a Zagat’s and an OpenTable, which fill that void. There are countless Twitter apps, including Twidroid, which seems to be as good as Tweetie. If I loved the slick form factor of the iPhone (I have no preference really), the Droid slideout keyboard might drive me nuts. But the HTC Eris comes out soon, also Android 2.0, and it only has a virtual keyboard.

    Android is not an iPhone killer OS. It is, however, an alternative to what is becoming the norm.

    Again, “techie” to me means whether or not someone like my mom or sister can figure it out. When I wrote that particular sentence, in fact, I was thinking of a very non-techie girlfriend of mine who has been attached to a Blackberry Pearl for years. I suggested she get the Storm 2, but she’s been a bit taken in by all the hype on the Droid. Knowing her, I think Android would frustrate her a bit.

    Cheers!

    Justa Notherguy29 October 2009 9:39 pm

    Very helpful response…that clears it up. Thanks for taking time to expand on your previous post. :)

    Just a thought, but how about asking your friend to try an experiment: set up an iPhone. The results of that trial would likely be highly illuminating, especially given your doubts about a similar test with the Android handset, a priori. Assuming she has used an iPod (thus, she’s familiar with the proprietary cord and Apple’s legacy desktop sync routines), she falls right into Apple’s target market…a luxury Android devices don’t have.

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