This past weekend I took the opportunity to swing by a couple stores, Sprint and Verizon, to check out their latest Android offerings. I checked out the Droid, Droid Eris, Hero and Moment. Read on for the results of my travels.
First up was Verizon. While there were many people in the store, I wouldn’t say it was overly crowded. I didn’t have to wait in line to demo either the Droid or the Droid Eris. I started with the Eris, which felt and acted much like any Sense UI running Hero. The feel of the outter shell is nice, kind of a soft plastic, almost rubber feel which does help maintain a grib on the phone. Of course, the phone was tethered to the display and as such I wasn’t able to tell how well it would slide into a pocket, but my guess is not very well. The soft keys were responsive, but do feel like I’d too easily activate them while scrolling the screen. I was conscience of their location the whole time. Otherwise, the phone was fairly standard. Not great looking, but not so ugly either.
After five minutes or so, a quick browser check, some speed tests and a visit to These are the Droids and I moved on to the Droid. It looks better than I thought it would, but it’s definitely not pretty either. The gold accents and squared corners made it feel more industrial than other Androids. The screen was gorgeous though. Very large and very detailed, definitely this hit me first. I was impressed with the speed second. It was a fast phone, moving from app to app and back again didn’t phase this Droid at all. The sliding mechanism felt really solid. I’d think this could take some beatings and keep going for a while. The keyboard left me very disappointed however. The keys had no space between them, like the photos show, and that really does kill the usability. I’m not a big physical keyboard person to begin with, but I found myself fumbling like a newborn grasping colorful objects. I don’t have big hands by a long shot and I found my thumbs just plucking away at 2-3 wrong keys before getting the correct ones. Maybe with some practice I’d be better, but there was very little tactile feel and it just felt Motorola didn’t do much research on the keyboard before choosing the design. Of course, they may have been forced with the design to keep the thickness down, but I think a little more thickness for much better usability would have been better. The camera was also horribly slow. That’s about all I can say about the camera.
Google Maps Navigation
I didn’t get to test the functionality of the maps navigation app, but it seemed to find my location quickly, and route me to a new destination very quickly, faster than many stand alone GPS navigators I’ve used. Excellent and quite possibly the best feature of that phone.
Next up is Sprint.
I have held and played with the Sprint Hero before and been fairly impressed with Sense UI and the overall feel of the Hero. To me, it’s not as sexy as other phones, it’s also a more business than party accessory, but it still has a good feel and design to it. The over sized trackball really makes a difference, as I was much more inclined to use it than I was to use the myTouch 3G’s trackball. I ran some speedtests and once again visited my trusty site. Speeds between Verizon and Sprint seemed about the same, with Verizon maybe getting a little edge over Sprint. I tried out some of the Sprint exclusive apps, and found them to be gimmicky. They weren’t refined or usable enough for me to say, “wow, I need to purchase this Spring phone for their apps.”
I was excited to see the Moment, to try out it’s nice AMOLED screen and really get “Wowed” by it. I left a little disappointed. Now, I’m not saying the screen was bad, it was definitely the best I’d seen, but not so much that I was wowed. Maybe I’d set the expectations too high. Again, the moment was running a stock Android 1.5 Cupcake. It was nice, it was plenty fast (not as much as the Droid though), but nothing really stood out. The slide out mechanism for the keyboard felt much more flimsy than the Droid’s. To give you a better idea, the security clip on the phone actually wrapped around between the two phone halves, so when the phone is closed, there are two metal fingers between the halves and the phone simply flexed out of the way. The keys were much better than the Droid though. They had nice spacing and feel to them and I could really see myself using this much faster than the Droid’s keyboard. But, I left feeling the phone might snap in half in my pocket.
Overall, while each phone had some nice features, I think my pick of the weekend was the Hero. It felt solid, had the large trackball, nice Sense UI, and was good looking enough I felt I could display it freely on my desk. It’s camera was plenty quick and took decent photos. And, with word that it’s been rooted and custom ROMs are already available I am even more excited than I was during the weekend.
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