Verizon Motorola Droid Pro Review
This is a world where the name Droid dominates a market so well that most other Android phones are still referred to as “Droids” even though they aren’t even associated with the title at all. And there’s really no sign of Verizon’s highly-successful Droid series stopping anytime soon, nor are customers really giving them a reason to stop. It’s getting to the point where plenty of new Droids coming out are now trying to fulfill a particular niche of its own.
Take the Droid Pro, for example. Just by name it’s easy to assume this particular device is made primarily for the business professional. It could simply be assumed this to be the case because Motorola took design cues from our neighbors up north and threw some obvious Blackberry inspiration into it.
One thing I was very curious to find out when I received the Droid Pro was how this device is supposed to be for businessmen and women, while no other Droids in the series are geared toward that same group. What makes the Pro so different and so desirable in the business community?
Hardware and Design of the Droid Pro
The Droid Pro ultimately looks as though it was imported straight from Canada, because it has a lot of interesting similarities to a Blackberry device. It’s as though Motorola was trying to come up with the perfect hybrid device that combines the best of Android with the best of Blackberry. The keyboard even looks exactly like the one found on the Bold 9700 or Torch 9800; it’s just too close to be a coincidence.
Along with the keyboard on the very front we are also blessed with a 3.1” HVGA (320×480) touchscreen. In other words, it’s smaller and has worse screen resolution than many of the best Droid handsets on market today. The smaller screen size is to be expected given the design, since it can’t fit both a large keyboard and screen, so a compromise had to be made down the line somewhere. For resolution, HVGA is okay, but simply not up to par with its competition. But the screen lover department is not the demographic Motorola is looking for in this device; if you must have a bigger and better screen, it’s best to go with a Droid X or Samsung Galaxy S series device.
I was impressed that a frontwards keyboard/touchscreen candybar such as the Droid Pro can still easily fit in my hand without any level of awkwardness. However, the phone did feel a little top-heavy when it came to tasks like typing with one hand. I could still do it, but in order to type fast enough, I had to use both hands. At that point it’s almost worth it to just go with a full sliding horizontal keyboard. So I found myself gravitating towards the on-screen keyboard more often because I knew I could use just one hand without feeling like the phone was about to fall off.
As for the keyboard itself, I mentioned earlier that it is eerily similar to that of a Blackberry. While I don’t have numbers to back this up, I’m pretty sure that a majority of phone enthusiasts could be shown only the keyboard without seeing the rest of the phone, and would say that it is Blackberry. The keyboard is similar because of the slightly-raised ridges protruding from each individual rectangular-shaped key, the ridges making it easier to type each individual key. The direction of the ridges even splits in the middle of the board (left side pointing to the left, right side pointing to right). The keyboard is 4 rows, which doesn’t leave any extra room for a dedicated number row. Instead, the numbers are situated left to right on the top row, and are used as a secondary button press (when using Alt, for example). I found the buttons relatively easy to press after a small adjustment period and could type smoothly, as long as I gave it the support of two hands. I also really liked some of the included shortcut buttons, such as the voice activation key and dedicated comma and @ buttons. These may seem insignificant until you start typing a lot of emails and text messages, and all of a sudden they become very handy to have. The only button I would have liked to see as well is a dedicated .com button. But even that’s not a huge concern to me.
Sharing the space between keyboard and screen are the touch-sensitive soft keys; Menu, Home, Back and Search. If it looks familiar, that’s because it should be; these keys are the same buttons Motorola uses on almost every single Android device it launches. I assume that’s because they found something that works, and why go with something different when it’s working just fine?
The entire side of the phone is graced with a silver chrome bezel running around the whole phone. The rest of the materials around that bezel, including the back, appear to be standard plastic. On the left side we find a volume up/down rocker button with MicroUSB charging port. One small tidbit about this charging port: it lights up when it’s charged. This can either be a pro or con, depending on your situation and tolerance level. Obviously this may be annoying when you’re charging your phone up and trying to go to bed at the same time, but it is many times nice to know for sure that the actual charger is working and doing its job.
On the right side, there is a customizable shortcut key and nothing else. Up on top, the usual 3.5 mm headphone jack and screen lock/power button. I don’t like precisely where that power button is located because it’s difficult to press when the phone is only in one hand.
We see a slight slope and protruding ridge on the upper half of the back which presumably is for the slightly thicker camera assembly. This includes the 5 MP camera and LED flash. To open the battery cover, simply use your fingernail to pry the cover away from the phone.
I would have liked to see higher quality materials used in the production of the Droid Pro, to ensure that the phone holds up to a professional’s hectic travel schedule, who is always moving from place to place.
To see what the Droid Pro is packaged with, check out my unboxing here.
Software and OS of the Droid Pro
The Droid Pro fortunately was loaded with Android 2.2, aka Froyo. While it doesn’t have full-on MotoBlur, the UI took a lot of inspiration from it. Even many of the widgets are identical, but I’m perfectly fine with this. I think Motorola opted not to go full MotoBlur because of the heavy emphasis the phone has on business-centric use; simply put, MotoBlur is destined to be more consumer-friendly because of all the social network syncing the UI throws in.
Don’t get me wrong: you can still sync up your social networking like Twitter and Facebook. It’s just not in your face as much. If you want it, it’s there for the taking. By logging into each social networking account, it will begin pulling status updates and tweets as well as integrating all of your friends’ contact information into your address book.
You have 7 home screen panels to customize to your heart’s content, and 3 buttons at the bottom of the screen to navigate to the most important parts of the phone: the dialpad, the app tray, and your address book. The app tray is standard for both Android and Motorola, keeping it all on one page and making you scroll up and down to navigate through all of your downloaded apps.
The Pro also comes with some preloaded software (commonly referred to as “crapware” or “bloatware”), including: 3G Mobile Hotspot, backup assistant, city ID, DLNA, Media Share, My Verizon Mobile, Need For Speed: Shift, QuickOffice, Skype Mobile, Task Manager, and a VPN client.
Droid Pro vs. Droid Amateurs
Why would business professionals ever choose the Droid Pro from anything else in the competition? It’s a valid question. After all, it’s still running the same kind of UI that can be found on the Droid X or Droid 2, so what else is going on behind the scenes that makes it more business-friendly?
First, some of the preloaded software helps throw in an extra element for business-saavy folks: QuickOffice, which allows you to create and edit documents; Skype Mobile lets you make international calls for a fraction of the standard per-minute cost that the carriers charge; VZ Navigator lets you use voice turn-by-turn navigation; 3G Mobile Hotspot will broadcast WiFi broadband for up to five devices (2 GB data costs $20/month); and a VPN client to give you access to those uber-secure intranet websites your company needs you to get into.
But in addition to that, the Droid Pro tries to add more Blackberry-esque data encryption and root certificate management, remote wipes, and plenty other ways to keep your data from being hacked and/or stolen. It also gives full support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, with instant email pushing, integrated calendars, and the ability to look up your corporate directory.
Soon (sometime in early 2011, that is), Motorola will also update the Droid Pro to throw in SD card encryption so that even if someone does hack into your phone, everything is still completely unreadable.
Finally, the Droid Pro is a world phone. This means that it comes with a CDMA/GSM chip and SIM card built in so the phone can be used internationally. This is a must have for many businessmen and women who travel around the world. To clarify, this doesn’t mean that the Droid Pro can be used on AT&T or T-Mobile in the US (it always defaults to Verizon in the US), but it does mean that it will automagically find GSM-based networks all over the rest of the world since GSM is the globally accepted standard.
An interesting tidbit on this is that Verizon will let you unlock the SIM slot after you’ve been with Verizon for 60 days and are in good financial standing (I assume this means you’ll be subjected to a credit check and your payment history will be evaluated). Once unlocked, you’ll be able to buy prepaid SIM cards from international carriers, which could likely make your calls cheaper when you are abroad.
Camera and Camcorder of the Droid Pro
Unsurprisingly, the Droid Pro packs in a 5 MP camera with LED flash, autofocus, and a few of the usual added features like geotagging, face detection, and various modes for different scenes. The camera did an average job in both bright and low-level light scenarios, though in the bright lights the pictures were slightly washed, in such a way to not show off the colors as well as I wanted.
Video recording is only at 720×480 with 30fps speed, just a notch down from the top of the line 720p that many new Androids are recording with. Normally 30 frames per second is more than enough, but in my initial tests of the video I noticed some choppiness when panning the camera around at an average pace. I tried not to make it too slow or too fast, but yet it seemed as though the video had a hard time keeping up with me.
The Pro may be built primarily for the business user, but it assumes that professionals like to party too. And by party, I really mean watch movies and listen to music on their phones. Although if that’s my idea of partying, it would explain why I don’t get invited to very many parties. Go figure. But my social life aside, the Pro does a decent job of including multimedia support. Motorola doesn’t throw in any frilly media player of its own, it just uses the normal Android one.
This Android media player does support most of the major audio and video formats, so chances are most types of media you use will be alright. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll likely have to bring your own SD card to this party; the Droid Pro comes with 2 GB internal memory and a 2 GB microSD card inside. At least this can be expanded out to a max of 32 GB, allowing for a grand total of 34 GB of possible storage space for all that music and all those movies.
Using my Skullcandy headphones, I was still able to get a good audio experience, though I felt that the Droid Pro was more on the soft side when listening to some of my volume and bass-intensive music.
The Droid Pro offers the ability to change profiles. This is much similar to HTC Sense’s Scenes or, to a lesser extent, Sprint ID. There are three profiles, and each one has different customized settings and apps. For instance, the businessperson who wants to loosen up the tie on the weekend and get crazy can get rid of all work-related apps and settings and elect to use the “weekend” profile with a whole different set of games, programs and other apps.
Performance of the Droid Pro
Android phones have never been known for its prowess in the business world, because Android has always been marketed and focused toward the average consumer who likes to eat media for breakfast and get cool games and apps while Facebooking and Google searching the latest Taylor Swift concert. For the first time that I can remember, an Android handset is stepping up to the plate and squaring off directly with Blackberry, the best business phones in the world.
It wasn’t perfect, but the Droid Pro can definitely hold its head (if it had one) high, confident that it does a good job keeping up with the Blackberry powerhouses for the most part. There are just some things that the Blackberry has always done better and, for the near future anyways, continue to be great at: Email is one example, superior data encryption is another. But what the Droid Pro does more than anything else is show everyone there are more options available for keeping your data safe on business phone than just Blackberry.
Including a 1 GHz processor was a smart idea, because there is very little to no lag or delay with the Droid Pro. With how important it is for a phone to run smoothly these days, the Droid Pro was even more important due to its particular calling of being a business device.
Call quality was average and the speakerphone was loud enough to hear from a different room. Battery life is rated at 6.5 hours, among some of the best Android phones out there. Most likely this is due to the screen’s resolution and screen size, which are usually the biggest power suckers in the phone if high enough and large enough.
I recommend the Droid Pro because of its emphasis on the needs of the business customer, and it’s done well. While I was rather disappointed in how similar the keyboard looks to the Blackberry, that’s one thing that I can easily get over as long as the phone performs as well if not better. One thing that you’ll want to make sure of before you buy is that it fits exactly what your particular company needs. Does everyone at your company use Blackberrys for a reason, or is it something you can branch out on and still keep everything completely secure? Most likely, the Droid Pro will fit all of your needs while allow you to have a social life on it at the same time. It’s a great multi-purpose device.
The thing is, even if you aren’t into business, the Droid Pro is still going to be a great phone for you. I do think that there are going to be better phones at a comparable price (at launch, the Droid Pro is $179 with contract, after $100 mail-in rebate) that may fit you as well, and it’s good to do your shopping around, but the Droid Pro will still be a top-notch performer.
My video below shows the Droid Pro in action, and then peruse the vast gallery of pictures and screenshots that show off the Droid Pro in all its business-centric glory.