Verizon Motorola Droid 2 Global Review
It’s common for phone companies and carriers to come out with sequels, new versions of already very popular phones that had sold at an extremely high level. Significantly less common, however, is when the sequel gets replaced by a fresher version within a few months of you beginning to use it. Anyone who purchased the original Motorola Droid 2 is now experiencing this phenomenon because it has been very quickly replaced by the Motorola Droid 2 Global, which is almost the same exact phone but with world phone capabilities and a few other goodies not present on the original.
I had a good opportunity to play with the Droid 2 Global. With its global capacity, it becomes a much more ideal choice for any serious business professional than the first Droid 2 was. Even though the first one was meant to be good for business, now it truly can become so with the additional capacity.
So what’s so different about the Global? How was the overall experience I had with it? These questions as well as many others will be answered in this full and comprehensive review of the Motorola Droid 2 Global, now available on Verizon Wireless.
Unboxing the Droid 2 Global
Check out the video below and my Droid 2 Global unboxing article to see more details on everything inside the box as well as my first impressions of the Global itself!
Hardware and Design of the Droid 2 Global
For the Global, this category is the make it or break it part of the entire review, and it’s such a mixed bag. Motorola laced the Global with absolute top of the line specs in terms of performance, but made virtually no changes to an already outdated phone design.
The Global is designed first and foremost to be a business phone, so it’s not meant to be the sleekest or sexiest looking device on the market today. And sadly, there’s a tradeoff involved, some sacrifices that have to be made to get top-notch performance. For instance, the Global is a very solid phone that doesn’t feel like it will break apart just by sliding open the keyboard. But by the same token, the solid design also makes the phone feel clunky and boxy. It seems as though you can’t have the best of both worlds: sleek design plus solid build with durable materials.
Motorola tries to add a little sleekness to the look of the Droid 2 Global by adding in the classy lip at the bottom of the phone’s front, but unfortunately serves no real purpose other than to try making the phone look more “modern”.
While the D2G variates only slightly from the original Motorola Droid which came out over a year ago, it is definitely better off as a result. The original featured a direction pad that used up way too much keyboard real estate, forcing the keyboard itself to be scrunched up so much it became the sore point of the phone. Motorola learned its lesson with the sequel, getting rid of the D-Pad so as to stretch out the keyboard to a usable size.
As you may see in my video, though, I’m not in love with the keyboard. Oddly enough, by all accounts I should love it, but I don’t. The keys are all large enough to use without mashing my fingers up on any neighboring key, and there’s even a small bubble on each key to help offer even more separation between keys. In casual typing I was able to do just fine on it, only making mistakes every once in a while. But as soon as I got into an involved group IM chat and sped up my typing, I started falling flat on my face and couldn’t type worth a darn. Like I said, though, everything about the keyboard in my observations and initial tests show that it is one of the best quality and best sizes — not too large, but not too small either.
Another thing that contributed to the clunky feeling of the phone was the resistance factor on the sliding mechanism itself. Though I don’t love having really loose sliders, I also enjoy actually being able to slide the keyboard out easily with one hand. On the Global, there was just too much resistance.
One huge positive I think is also worth mentioning on the keyboard are some of the specialty keys: the ones that don’t always show up on every phone. The Droid 2 Global has dedicated comma, @, search and voice activation buttons. Since I use all of these, this saves me a lot of time.
Along with the super solid feel of the phone comes the weight to give it that feel. The Global weighs just a smidge under 6 ounces, which is rather heavy for phones these days (the average weight for a smartphone is around 4-4.5 ounces, for comparison). But looking at the materials comprising the back and sides of the phone, most of it is a softer rubber type material that keeps the phone from inexplicably slipping out of your hands by accident, and even if it does drop, it’s less likely to break than an all-plastic phone.
Turning to the screen, we are blessed with an average-sized 3.7″ screen with 480×854 pixel resolution – a small improvement over what a WVGA screen offers (granted it’s only a 54 pixel difference, but pixels matter, darn it!). The soft keyboard with this screen size was perfectly fine, and I got accustomed to using the Swype keyboard over the stock Android; this way, no matter how large or small the screen size is, it’s relatively easy for me to get used to using the keyboard on the screen. For me it’s much easier to slide my fingers across a letter than it is to hit it precisely. The resolution is also very nice for a phone of this caliber – it’s hard to get much better than this right now, especially on a Motorola (I have seen plenty of lower-end Motorola screens that are incredibly pixelated; fortunately this one had very sharp resolution).
At the bottom of the screen, just on the top of the ridge of that lip I mentioned earlier, you’ll find the standard Motorola set of touch-sensitive Android navigation keys. This means you’ll see Menu, Home, Back and Search in that order. These buttons are easy enough to press and will offer a small amount of haptic (vibrating) feedback to let you know you’ve pressed them.
As I’ve seen recently, most smartphones seem to be taking a more minimalistic approach to the number of physical buttons on the phones’ exteriors. The same is true for the Droid 2 Global, which provides you with a camera button and volume up/down rocker on the right side; a standard and open (no plastic covers) MicroUSB charging port as the lonely component on the left side; and a 3.5 mm headphone jack and screen lock/power button on top. The screen lock button is located on the right side of the top, which I was happy about since I usually hold the phone in my left hand and the button is in a place my index finger feels natural reaching. The button itself didn’t protrude terribly far out of the phone, thus requiring a little more pressure to ensure the screen gets locked each time.
The back is comprised of the battery cover and a small ridge on the top that the camera and LED flash sit on top of. The explanation for this ridge is that the Global version is actually a miniscule amount thinner than the Droid 2, but the camera stayed the same thickness. So basically the rest of the phone got squished, but the camera didn’t. The battery cover is metallic and can be taken off by using your thumbs and sliding the door down; I prefer this method over just prying a thin piece of plastic off with my fingernail, which happens way too often for my taste.
Underneath the battery cover you’ll find a SIM card and 8 GB MicroSD card. The slot accepts up to 32 GB, so don’t hesitate to put in a much larger card if you have it.
Software and OS of the Droid 2 Global
The user interface on the Droid 2 Global is unsurprisingly familiar thanks to many similarities between the Global and the Droid Pro; both made by Motorola with the business user in mind, and therefore both use the same UI. The major difference is the Global’s larger screen, which I find to be much more pleasant to use than the Droid Pro’s measly 3.1-inch screen.
Motorola equipped the Global with Android 2.2, better known as Froyo, and put its usual Motoblur-related UI flavor on. It’s not specifically Motoblur since that is geared more towards consumer-end phones instead of business, but all of the design elements are essentially the same. They still use a lot of the same social networking widgets and cues, helping to integrate Twitter and Facebook information into your address book.
Flash is the major reason anyone really cares so much about having Froyo on their phone, and it doesn’t disappoint on the Global due to the 1.2 GHz processor and 512 MB RAM, but we will discuss the performance of the Global later in the review.
Since the Global is mostly business, many of the same features customers are treated to on the Droid Pro will apply to the Global as well. The same VPN client used on the Pro is also present on the Global; multiple corporate exchange accounts are supported; in addition, you will find a task manager, file browser, and the aforementioned address book is integrated, meaning duplicates are eliminated and everything is combined into a very user (and business) friendly system.
All of the above features will make the Droid 2 Global a fierce competitor to the Droid Pro in the professional field. At the very least, it’s nice to have legitimate choices for business professionals besides the Blackberry lineup. If more and more phones of this caliber come out, Blackberry won’t be able to hold its loyal business market share for much longer.
Differences between Droid 2 and Droid 2 Global
Surprisingly, there really aren’t as many differences between the two phones as you would imagine there should be. But there are two key ones that have been briefly mentioned in passing but will now focus more on.
First and foremost is what causes the new phone to have “Global” added onto its model name: The addition of a GSM-compatible chip allows the Droid 2 Global to be used on foreign networks all over the world. It was impossible to take the original 2 to other countries around the world because very few phone carriers worldwide actually still used the CDMA technology that Verizon phones use. Instead, GSM is the global standard by which at least 90% of the world goes by (that’s not an official stat, by the way, but there’s only a small handful of CDMA companies still out there). Now that the Global has the new connection capability as well as a SIM card included in the back of the phone, it can now officially be used anywhere. Not just for GSM/EDGE phone calls, but HSPA as well.
Normally carriers will lock these SIM cards down so they can only be used with one specific network. This can be pricey and frustrating because you would be restricted to do international roaming in these countries and would rack up the phone bill by the minute. Verizon, however, will unlock your Global after 60 days so that you can use a locally-based Prepaid SIM card already loaded with money. This is always a good idea when making a large number of local calls so as to not get charged for being rerouted through the US first.
The Global will function globally as a quad-band GSM/EDGE phone, set up with tri-band 850/1900/2100 UMTS/HSPA (up to 10.2 Mbps download speeds), so it’s assured to work virtually anywhere around the world. Sorry folks, don’t get your hopes up about using these on AT&T or T-Mobile while in the US; the Global will default to Verizon every time.
Finally, another key difference between the two phones is the faster processor speed. The Global features a 1.2 GHz processor, compared to the Droid 2’s 1 GHz CPU. While not a huge difference in speed, it’s enough to make multitasking and Flash player seem snappier and faster than before. Toss in the 512 MB RAM, and you’re looking at the fastest processor for a phone currently in the market. On top of that, throw in the phone’s own dedicated GPU to handle certain games and apps even quicker, thus freeing up extra room for the regular CPU to do its job better, faster and more efficiently.
Another interesting note in differences is that the battery is slightly larger to handle the increased processor (1420 mAh vs 1400), even though the manufacturer rating gives it a shorter lifetime for the same reason. We’ll touch on battery life soon.
Lastly, the Global looks on paper as though it has the same specs, but we’ve been told that the Global is a hair thinner except for the camera (which is as thin as it can go), which is precisely why there appears to be a bulge at the camera.
I am somewhat impressed that Motorola didn’t just slap a SIM card in the Droid 2, call it the Global and close up shop. Instead, it improved further on a few things, which always makes for an even better reason to switch phones, even if you don’t plan to go international anytime soon.
Oddly enough, Motorola chose to use the stock Android 2.2 music player instead of incorporating its own UI. I find it strange that Motorola would add a dash of its own UI flavor into every other aspect of Android with the exception of the multimedia aspect. All I can assume here is that they decided that this category meshed well with the rest of the Motorola user interface, and thus nothing was changed. I do miss the Motorola-influenced media player on the Defy, that automatically captured album art and generated lyrics for every song I played — even the more obscure ones that aren’t so popular — so I do wish this style was incorporated into the Droid 2 Global as well.
Notwithstanding this UI choice, the Global’s media player is perfectly fine. I used my Skullcandy wired headphones and loved the audio quality through them; the stock media player offers plenty of sound options such as Equalizer and stereo surround.
The Global includes 8 GB of internal memory and is supplemented with an 8 GB MicroSD card. If you choose to, you may install a card with as much as 32 GB on it, to give you a total of 40 GB storage space to take advantage of.
Using the camera is an okay experience. It is a 5 MP camera with LED flash, autofocus, and other goodies like geotagging support and photo editing. Some of the colors washed out with bright lights but seemed to work just fine under medium lighting conditions. Video is captured at WVGA (480p, one step down from HD 720p) and takes videos at 24 frames per second, an average amount for similar cameras with the same resolution.
Performance of the Droid 2 Global
Motorola built the Global to be superb on its overall performance — it’s gotta be good for business, after all — and you can tell throughout almost every aspect of the phone itself. Battery life is rated at 8.5 hours of constant talk time, which is definitely above average for an Android phone (in the video I mistakenly quoted it at 6.5 hours, which would make it average for a Froyo device). Frankly, though, the battery life actually went down going from Droid 2 to Global; the original was rated for 9.5 hours talk time, which is almost unheard of for Android phones of any kind. Personally, my experience with the Droid 2 Global battery was average. I’m usually happy enough if my battery can last me most of the work day, which the Droid 2 Global was able to provide.
Naturally the 1.2 GHz CPU, 512 MB RAM and dedicated GPU put the Global into a world of its own. This is like the Miami Heat of cell phones right now, with 3 powerhouses stepping up and teaming together to make one complete trash-kickin’ team. Apps and games just flew, without any problem or delay whatsoever. Seeing a power team like this makes me giddy for 2011, when even faster dual-core CPU processors are inside the popular phones. I’d like to use this to see exactly how far current tech can be stretched out as a result of faster processors, and curious to know to what extent developers can innovate with the extra available power.
Call quality is generally pretty good, but I did notice that the speakerphone is actually a fair amount louder than the internal speaker when making calls. For whatever reason the phone’s speakers tended to be on the quieter side. This may be due to the speaker, located just below the battery cover on the back, is set into the phone further than the normal speakers. The thinking behind this design is that when the phone is laid flat on the surface, the sound won’t be as muffled as it would be when the speaker is flush with the back. And it looks like a great design choice for Motorola.
Overall, I ended up very impressed with the Droid 2 Global as a whole. The specs and resulting performance simply cannot be beat yet, and Motorola showed that it has all its ducks in a row in terms of included hardware. Sadly, the company fell short in the phone’s design. While the keyboard will work just fine for most, I had a difficult time using it. But more importantly, the slider mechanism was extremely resistant to people opening it, the phone felt boxy and clunky, and the phone itself didn’t depart too far away from the 2009 design fashion that just frankly needs to be refreshed.
But since I realize that most business-centric consumers won’t really care about how fashionable it looks as much as how durable and reliable a phone it is, with high performance and global capabilities to boot, I know that this device will be a hit. It is currently $50 more than the Droid 2 original, at $200 with new contract. I would definitely recommend this phone to any business-oriented individual. For a non-business consumer, it’s a good average phone that doesn’t blow me away but is so solid in performance that it will be most likely worth giving it a second look.
Check out my video and full gallery with pictures and screenshots below.