In the eternal battle for consumer mindshare, Motorola has had the upper hand ever since the launch of the DROID. In order to secure their dominance in the Android segment, Motorola has released the DROID 2. Diehard Android fans who purchased the original G1 nearly two years ago are still waiting for its successor, but it has only taken Motorola eight months to give DROID owners a reason to upgrade… or have they?
On the outside, the Motorola DROID 2 is pretty much identical to the original DROID. The main difference between the original DROID and the new DROID 2 is the brushed aluminum bevel which now covers the entire front of the handset. The back of the phone is now a dark midnight blue with silver highlights which replaces the black finish with gold highlights on the first DROID.
Sliding the screen up reveals the DROID 2′s four row QWERTY keyboard. At first glance, the keyboard looks pretty familiar. Motorola has kept the same concept as before, though they have stretched the keys which will give users a better typing experience. The extra space was gained by removing the d-pad and incorporating directional keys into the keyboard layout. While the keyboard in more spacious, we still find it a bit hard to use the top row of letters. An extra millimeter of space above the top row could make a huge difference in the typing experience.
The DROID 2 features a 3.7 inch FWVGA capacitive LCD display (480 x 854), and the typical accelerometer, ambient light sensor and eCompass. The phone measures in at 60.5 x 116.3 x 13.7 mm and weighs 169 grams. Though the two phones weigh the same, the DROID 2 is slightly larger than the DROID’s 60.00 x 115.80 x 13.70 measurements.
While the exterior of the DROID 2 looks the same as the original, the real hardware differences are on the inside of the handset. The DROID 2 has been upgraded from the 550 TI MHz OMAP3430 to the newer 45nm 1GHz TI OMAP3630 processor with a dedicated PowerVR GPU that’s found in the DROID X. The extra speed gives the DROID 2 a little extra power while churning through applications, but those who enjoy 3D gaming will not see much of an improvement since the original DROID is still one of the best Android handset for gaming to this day.
Verizon’s Motorola DROID 2 is actually the first Android phone to hit store shelves with Android 2.2. Similar to the DROID X, the DROID 2 features Motorola’s custom UI (which Motorola is not calling MotoBLUR though it has all the same features). Motorola’s UI gives users a little more flexibility in customizing the home screen with 17 new widgets. The UI also eases the placement of the widgets since you no longer have to move icons out of the way. Simply place the widget anywhere you want and the DROID 2 will move other widgets or icons out of its way.
While the UI is the same as what we reviewed on the DROID X, the DROID 2′s home screen is a lot more sluggish. When swiping between home screens, the transitions have a bit of a stutter. The same happens on the handset’s unlock screen.
Since the DROID 2 does not feature an HDMI connection, Motorola has blessed it with DLNA support. The DLNA functionality enables the DROID 2 to stream music, pictures, and videos to other DLNA capable devices on the same Wi-Fi network. Users simply need to walk through the media sharing options in the Media Share app once they are connected to a Wi-Fi network. Streaming media to my PC and PS3 worked flawlessly when hooked up to my home network. The DROID 2 can also access media on other devices through DLNA. Opening the DLNA and clicking the “Play Media” button allows you to browse through and share media files on other devices on your Wi-Fi network.
Most of the new high-end Android phones have come out with some pretty impressive cameras. Unfortunately, we would find it hard to give the DROID 2 that same compliment. The DROID 2 features a 5MP image sensor with a dual LED flash. The pictures we took all looked great on the DROID 2′s screen, but once they are transferred to a computer, the flaws were very easy to spot. Most images featured a slight bluish tint and were not as sharp as we would have hoped. It’s safe to say that handsets like the DROID X, Incredible, EVO 4G, and Galaxy S all have a much better camera.
On the video side, the DROID 2 is capable of capturing clips in D1 (720 x 480) resolution. It’s pretty obvious the videos recorded with the DROID 2 will not look anything like what you’ll get from the DROID X, but if you’re in a crunch and have no other options, the DROID 2 is a lot better at recording video than Motorola’s other Android phones. To sweeten the deal, Motorola also included the same video editing capabilities that are found in the DROID X. You won’t be able to make any great movies out if it, but he video editor will allows you to shorten the clips, extract frames and save the m as separate images, add titles, and even resize the video files.
The DROID 2′s camera software has a few other notable features:
- Self portrait: uses facial recognition to make sure the image is centered
- Multi-shot: camera switches to 1MP resolution, but is able to take six sequential images in less than two seconds. Great feature for capturing action shots.
In order to keep the DROID 2 chugging along, Motorola has fitted it with a 3.7V 1390 mAh battery. It’s certainly not as impressive as the other 1500 mAh batteries floating around in other Android phones, but Motorola has done an incredible job at maximizing the DROID 2′s battery life.
Throughout our testing, we used the DROID 2 as our main device for several days and found that it was extremely hard to completely drain the batter in a single day. Most heavy users should be able to easily make it 12 hours between charges. If you are not constantly checking Gmail or Twitter, you could conceivably go a full two days without completely depleting the DROID 2′s battery.
When we heard we were getting a DROID 2 to review, we were pretty excited to see how it would compare to the original. The DROID 2 is better than the original DROID with a faster processor and GPU, but that’s simply not enough for most DROID owners to upgrade to the new handset. The performance increases are marginal and the hardware redesign isn’t enough for the DROID 2 to stand apart from its predecessor. Though the DROID 2 is loaded up with Android 2.2 right out of the box, original DROID owners may not be willing to give up their stock Android build for Motorola’s custom UI on the DROID 2.
That being said, the DROID 2 is a good option for someone who’s looking for an Android phone with a QWERTY keyboard. Those who have not used Android in the past will most certainly find Motorola’s UI more user friendly and certainly more customizable to their needs. The camera’s video capturing capabilities of the phone may not be superb, but they are certainly better than what you can get from Windows Mobile and BlackBerry handsets.
The DROID 2 is certainly a good phone, we’re just not sure that it lives up to the DROID name and the level of innovation and power that users have come to expect from it.