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July 8, 2010

Droid X: the perfect phone for the big and tall

droid%20X%20photo.JPG I'm not a big and tall guy. I live in a modest house (a rowhouse, for those familiar with Baltimore architecture), and prefer it to a McMansion. Though I love grilling, I own a moderately-sized gas grill -- not the kind where you could cook ribs for 50 people all at once. I drive a small Subaru, which is smart for city driving and parking, and could never see myself driving something like a Ford F-150.

You get the picture?

Small, or at least modestly and moderately sized, is part of my lifestyle. That's why Motorola's Droid X probably isn't the phone for me. But for many people who like the living-large lifestyle, this phone is definitely something you'll want to play with when it debuts July 15.

Offering a large phone like this makes sense for Verizon, which also offers the HTC Incredible, a phone more similarly sized to the iPhone, and the earlier Motorola Droid model, which has a pullout keyboard. The Droid X is for the crowd that loves their gadgets big and beefy.

It may not be a blockbuster seller, but it will find its devoted niche of followers. Like all Android phones, there are the usual features that people are accustomed to, such as a replaceable battery, an SD expansion card slot, and tight integration with Google, Gmail, Google Maps and social media apps.

Here is the full feature set for the Droid X from Verizon/Motorola.

I wouldn't describe myself as a power user of smart phones, or an expert reviewer of them. But I have played with enough iPhones and Droids and Palms to get a feel for what I personally and instinctively like and don't like about the phones.

For the Droid X, the pluses (updated warning: I do make comparisons to the iPhone 4, for comparison's sake):

* It has a gorgeous 4.3 inch screen, one that dwarfs the iPhone's 3.5 inch screen, by comparison.

* It seems to have a resilient battery that will take you through a day or so of steady use before needing a recharge.

* The touchscreen interface is more responsive, I think, than Motorola's earlier Droid model.

* It doesn't have a keyboard, which allows the phone to be thinner and lighter.

* Android is getting more mature, but still isn't quite as slick and elegantly simple as the iPhone interface. That said, I like the Youtube app, which allows you to record and upload video while you're in the app -- the iPhone can't do that. Google Voice search works very well, as do Google Maps. So if you're a big user of voice commands and Google maps, and really want to use this phone as your main GPS unit, it could be for you.

* HD video and 8 megapixel camera takes good pictures, though it appears in my informal tests that the iPhone 4 seems to handle lower light situations better, offering better contrasting and less automatic lightening. The picture of the Droid X, above, was taken with an iPhone 4, while the photo of the iPhone 4 was taken with the Droid X. Notice the differences?

* Social media integration: if you like getting your Facebook and Twitter all in one place, Android and the Droid X is for you. The phone automatically populates your Contacts with your Facebook friends, something that the iPhone doesn't yet do (though it's rumored to be coming.)

* Outputs: For the uber-geeks among you, there are two jacks: one for USB and another for HDMI output.

* In the future (supposedly later this summer), the Droid X will get a Flash update, enabling it to play Flash-based videos. This would be a huge step forward for mobile devices, if it can play such video with stability and speed, and without seriously sapping the battery.

* The network: Good call strength for Verizon in Baltimore. I walked all over the inside of the Baltimore Sun building (a huge brick building) while talking to my wife without a hitch.

* The Android Marketplace (app store) is growing (at 50K+ apps) and is starting to feel robust. (But it needs more games.)

The minuses:

* For some people, the phone will probably be just too big. Personally, I like phones I can slip comfortably into my shirt pocket. But the bigger you are, the bigger shirt pocket you may have, I suppose. iphone4photo.jpg

* No front-facing camera, which is quickly becoming the standard now on new phones, i.e. the iPhone and the Sprint EVO, as video chat starts to hit the marketplace.

* In my view: Android phones have too many physical buttons that complicate the user experience -- in the Droid X's case, five at the bottom of the phone, including the camera button. For instance, when you're browsing the Web on the phone, you touch the touch screen to scroll through text and to hit the links, but if you want to page back, you have to touch the physical button with the left facing arrow at the bottom of the phone. I think having a dedicated camera button is not a bad idea, except for where it's positioned -- it's too easy to accidentally depress the button while gripping the phone.

* Visual voicemail bummer: you have to pay $2.99 a month extra for this feature, whereas its standard on the iPhone/AT&T.

* The network: On Verizon's network, you can't browse the Web while on a call with the Droid X. You also can't take and email a photograph while on a call. (The iPhone and AT&T's network offers this capability.)

* Build quality: Sorry Motorola, but your plasticky-feeling (but metal) design can't compare to the iPhone 4, with its steel and glass beauty. That phone feels like a pricey, luxury gadget. Yours, by comparison, feels less inspiring and covet-worthy.

Overall, I'm sure there'll be a market for the Droid X, especially among the big and tall crowd who love their gadgets big. For everyone else, you should look at Verizon's HTC Incredible.

 P.S. Oh, and one more thing, when I grip the Droid X firmly at the bottom with two hands (who naturally holds a phone that way, btw?), I notice that it drops anywhere from one to three bars. Seriously.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 10:52 AM | | Comments (34)
Categories: *NEWS*
        

Comments

This should be called the Iphone blog, because you are certainly doing nothing but reinforcing your idea that you think the Iphone 4 is best. In fact the word "Iphone" is mentioned 13 times in your article while "Droid X" is only seen 12 times including the headline in a Droid X review no less. Is it to much to ask for a tech blogger to be unbiased? It is a joke that you get paid to do this.

I'm just trying to give people a point of reference, since there are many Android and iPhone owners out in the world. And there are iPhone owners and potential iPhone owners who genuinely want to know how the Android phones stack up against the Apple product. And no, I don't think the iPhone 4 is best. I own one, but I really only see it as an incremental improvement over the 3GS. I haven't even technically reviewed the iPhone 4 nor do I care to because Apple has enough marketing hype and reviewers around the phone. -gs

Google Voice is now open to everyone, so you can get the equivalent of visual voice mail (and even a text transcript of messages) on your Android phone. It's great!.

People keep knocking the 'you can't surf and talk' limitation of VZW's network, but in all honesty, I've never wished for it in the time I've had my Droid.

At least I can actually make phone calls, regardless of how I hold my phone :-)

Good point on the visual voicemail through Google application. Thanks! gs

Good review. I just don't see the appeal of having a huge screen like this and the HD2 and Evo. You want a phone to be compact enough to comfortably hold and fit in your pocket. I've used an Evo and it just seems massive compared to the iPhone and Droid Incredible.

I'm getting the Droid X next week, I guess I will see how well it fairs compared to the iPhone. One of my co-workers has the new iPhone, so we will probably take shots at each other trying to figure out which is better. I think that they both have distinguishing features, but I am really excited to be an Android convert (coming from BB Storm)!

The way I see it:
If you are a power user, Android wins. Hands down. No question.

If you are an average consumer... you probably already drank the kool-aid, it's too late to save you ;)

BTW large phones like this eliminate my need to purchase a tablet. I surf the web comfortably on my Acer Liquid E, but I would LOVE to have a bigger screen for consuming media.

Good point -- I came very close to calling the Droid X a mini tablet. -gs

OHHH I LOVE IT...ESPECIALLY THE PS..

You just shed some light on the droid x and were actually HONEST ABOUT IT.

The phone is a plastic clunker that's too big, has limited capability and ALSO has the death grip everyone hates on Apple for, INCLUDING MOTOROLA IN THEIR AD FOR THIS PHONE!!

What's that the iphone feels like a luxury gadget? That's because IT IS. And this plastic hunk of crap is priced the same as the iphone.

I agree the whole surf and talk thing is really a non-issue for most people. Even when I was with AT&T I never did it. I am with Verizon and I hsve never once wished I could. Personally I think it would be rude and why would anyone want to?

I wouldn't say it's a non-issue. I routinely take photos of things while talking on the phone and send them to the people I'm talking to. I also consult the Web and share information with the person I'm on the phone with. I just think it's a feature that people should come to expect from their respective networks. -gs

iPhone people don't care about the Droid X. And with all the problems it iPhone 4 is having with signal loss, bandwidth capping, and other day 1 issues, I don't think the Droid buyers care about the iPhone. The fact you brought it up so much does point to a bias. A typical Droid X buyer would much rather see a comparison to the Evo 4G, since it's clearly in the same demographic. I'd like to see the 2 phones compared and contrasted since they truly are direct competitors in both features and carriers.

Sorry, I haven't demo'ed the EVO. -gs

I have heard droid hdmi out only works for movies and pics that were taken with the phone. Do you know if this is true?

I am concerned about the size of the Droid X. From what I hear it just may be too big for those of us who like for it to fit in our pocket, or have smaller hands. I may just wait for the iphone to come out on Verizon, which Bloomberg is reporting to be happening in Jan 2011, we shall see..

I don't understand why is the iPhone a benchmark. Why is everything compared to it? I have been an iPhone user for years now because I am a software developer and stuck on the wonderful ATT network. I just got the iPhone 4. Thank god I did not have to pay for it, thanks to my company. But honestly there is no improvement over 3gs. Its still a piece of crap. I live and work in SF, you think there should be plenty of signal here...NO! I drop calls all the time. Plus all the talk about being able to talk on the phone and surf he net at the same time...Have not been able to do that yet. Worst thing is when I really need to do it. I have to put the person I am talking to on the speaker phone if I don't have my headphones with me and that drain the hell out of the battery. Not very convenient. I was very excited about the face time, but I have not been able to use it much because only one person I want to see has an iPhone 4. I personally don't like it. In order to talk to my friend, I had to find out if he is at home, make sure he is connected to wi-fi, then initiate the call. 10 minutes later, battery was getting low. If I have to be home to use this...I'll stick to Skype. iPhone is great for those who just like the name and fame. But for power users and people that depend in a wireless device to work it not a way to go.

Just a quick correction to both the review and the previous poster... The Droid X is made completely from soft-touch coated metal, not plastic. This has been confirmed in numerous reviews. Also, although surfing and conversation can't be done simultaneously, you ARE more likely to be able to finish the conversation on Verizon's network. Calls to my friend's iPhone tend to end like thi...

I was liking the article until the straight out lie towards the end about how the iphone can browse and talk and the Droid X can't. The silly little iphone can no more talk and browse over 3G than can any other phone still using the 3G network. LTE will soon make this possible, as Sprint customers using the EVO on 4G now know. Neither at&t or Verizon currently have this capability. You CAN however, browse and talk on any phone with wifi, no matter the network. PLEASE PAY ATTENTION!

Thomas, I guess I know my experience and I can both talk and browse and email while using an iPhone. I couldn't do that with a Droid. In Baltimore, AT&T's network is actually pretty good, possibly one of the best in the country. -gs

I have to agree with Jordan. I'm so sick of hearing the iPhone comparisons. The iPhone is no longer top of the food chain, maybe in sales but equipment/hardware wise the iPhone is no longer the best thing going.

I praise Apple for raising the bar on web browsing on a mobile device. As far as apps, they didn't start apps (see Windows Mobile) but they did simplify and beautify apps. Hence the reason I owned two iPhones. As an IT geek, the first time I saw the original iPhone I was sold when I saw a FULL blown webpage (less flash). Then Steve told us 3G was unnecessary because it was a battery hog. Less than a year later the 3G model comes out, I bought it. Still upset at the increased data cost, the lack of insurance option, lack of MMS, and more crap. Then he said, NO 3rd party apps, period. Then he changed that to webapps are the wave of the future. Then he changed that to OK, apps that are available by Apple's app store only.

Fast forward to today, I have an original Droid that I love, and I'm getting a Droid X. I like choices, but I'm also an IT professional, maybe Android isn't for everyone which is fine by me. I like pulling out a phone that doesn't look like everyone else's and I also like showing iPhone users I have the same apps they have on a larger screen and I can purchase varying form factors to fit my needs. So stop comparing the two, Android has surpassed the iPhone especially in terms of hardware. You don't like the Droid X because it's too big, get a Droid Eris, don't like not having a physical keyboard get a Moto Droid or Samsung Moment. Want a larger screen, get an EVO or Droid X. See the difference? Choices. So stop comparing the two, the Droid X defecates on the iPhone 4.

Haha, I love listening to ifanboys, they blindly follow steve jobs and the iphone. Like pantera0410, have you ever held the Droid? Obviously not, it is the most solid, well built phone on the market, the iphone on the other hand, shatters when you drop it. The first comment was on point, this should be called an iphone blog, thats all this guy talked about. You can't call the Droid X a niche phone with a straight face, it is most likely going to be one of the best selling, if not THE best selling Android phone to hit the market. Please stick to steve jobs jock because you have no business reviewing an Android phone.

im not sure I am qualified to make this comment since i am a massive person at 6 feet 5 inches 240lbs but i tend to like my gadgets a little bigger. I have worked at bestbuy for 3 years and follow almost all new technology so I get a good since of what is in and out. the larger screen on the droid x is quickly becoming the standard in the tech industry since no one likes to look at a small screen and this is clearly visible in the gaming and GPS markets. the new nintendo DSI XL boasts a 4.2 inch screen and the standard for GPS units is also a 4.2 inch. now most people think this is huge and a hassle but if you look at the speculation before the droid one came out the unit was said to be unreasonably heavy which surprisingly consumers seemed to come to favor since they actually knew their phone was in their pocket. now I have a blackberry storm 1 and its janky, too light, and the software sucks so next week when this phone comes out i will buy it because in unbiased comparison it is an iphone contender if not an iphone killer, at least for Verizon, and i am not shooting down the iphone i actually would love to have one it is a nice machine but its not available on Verizon which is what the majority of consumers are on in the united states. just some food for thought.

Pantera0410:

Have you ever used an Android 2.0 + device? I doubt it. Have you had your hands on a Droid "X"? I doubt it.

For everyone who thinks the Droid X is too big, have you played with an Evo? I have. I thought it would be too big, but it was actually the perfect size. Any bigger and I probably wouldn't like the size. The thing I didn't like about the EVO was that it was squarish. The Droid X is more rectangular so it doesn't feel as awkward.

PS: To give you an idea, when I owned my iPhones I had a Monster/LRG vertical leather case with belt loops. Not only did it hold every iPhone, Palm Pre, Moto Droid and Droid Eris, that same case was able to squeeze an EVO into it albeit a little bit of a tight squeeze, it fit and the flap still folder over the phone. And webpages looked amazing on the Evo. My gripe was the atrocious battery life which every reviewer stated doesn't exist with the Droid X. And since the Droid X is more rectangular than square it should fit in my LRG/Monster iPhone case even better.

Well sorry that you are so in love with iphone's that you dont know a good phone when you play with it. But again like you mentioned you dont like big things!!
I am a GIRL and not a big girl and I will be getting this phone!! I live in a townhouse, though I do drive a Durango... I guess I like big things! To bad for you!!!

So size matters to you. Have you played with the Droid X? -gs

You're a fool. The x is made up of mostly metal with a soft touch coating applied to the outside. Do your research if you want people to take you seriosuly.

You're right. To me, it FEELS "plasticky" (which is the word I used) but I should've said it was made of metal. Sorry. -gs

Your main concern seems to be the size, which was also my initial concern as well, until I found a direct side by side comparison of the Droid X and the Droid Incredible (which are the choices I'm debating between) and saw the dimensions- X is 2.26″ x 5″ x 0.4″ while the Incredible is 2.3″ x 4.63″ x 0.47″. The only dimension that the X has bigger than the Incredible is less than half an inch of height. Is there something I'm missing here?

I'm holding both in my hand right now and the Droid X is longer and wider than the Incredible, by about .5 inch in height and at least .25 inch in width. It makes a difference, at least in my hand. The Incredible and the iPhone 4 offer virtually the same footprint. -gs

I found this quite informative actually as I am in the (enviable?) position of having my contract with AT&T up next month. I currently have an iPhone 3G which has served me well over the last two years, however I'm not married to Apple by any stretch. I am seriously debating whether to go with the iPhone 4, HTC's Incredible or Motorola's Droid X.

I co-worker of mine has the Incredible and I have to say that I am very impressed with it and it's nice to see the Android Market maturing. However, I agree with Gus that Google's offering severly lacks Apple's in the area of games. Though the (mostly) unrestricted nature of Android Market is very appealing to me. Apple as Big Brother has always bothered me on a fundamental level.

There is one huge issue that I will have to get used to dealing with should I choose to go with one of the Driod's however: Simultaneously browsing and talking IS a big deal to me. I do it ALL THE TIME. For those of you who stated you would never want to, I suspect you may feel that way because you've never had the ability to. It is quiet useful - I travel a great deal and use the Google Maps app and talk on the phone at the same time at least 4-5 times a week. Does AT&T's network suck for the most part? Yes it does. I can admit that. But this is one area in which it is superiour to Verizon's.

Having said that, using the iPhone as a phone is mediocre at best. Sound quality is horrible and always has been. When using it as a speaker phone it is barely audible outdoors. And yes, I've experienced many dropped calls from AT&T's network that the Internet has made famous. Though in fairness, it's not like I didn't experience the same thing when I had Verizon prior to getting the iPhone. However Verizon's 3G coverage area certainly bests AT&T's. It's just a fact. And I'm interested in the Droid X because I know Motorolla has always prided itself on the quality of it's phones working as phones. Including three mics on the Droid X is impressive to me.

So to me it comes down to this:

1. I give a slight edge to Apple in regards to Apps though I believe Andriod will be comperable in very short order.

2. Simultaneous browsing and talking is an important feature to me. Having become so used to it, am I willing to give that up?

3. Call quality. I think Verizon/Droid wins in this department hands down. Oh and I'm left handed as well so that little iPhone 4 "glitch" (which I agree Apple is handling with all the astuteness and finess with which Microsoft handled the Xbox 360 red ring of death) matters to me.

I've got some decisioning to do.

Wow. You fandroid's really have quite the complex about the iPhone. Comical. Good article. It was actually the exact info I was searching for.

Remember, the Android phones on Verizon CAN surf and talk at the same time if you're on WiFi. I find myself on WiFi most of the time so when I happen to want to do both, I always seem to be able to.

The Android apps are now at 90,000 and counting. I LOVE my Incredible. Awesome phone!

I like the Incredible too. - gs

To correct misinformation from a commenter: there is no bandwidth capping with iPhone 4's service.

Droid X looks like a big ugly garage door opener.....no thanks

P.S. Oh, and one more thing, when I grip the Droid X firmly at the bottom with two hands (who naturally holds a phone that way, btw?), I notice that it drops anywhere from one to three bars. Seriously.

Even with a one to three bar drop Verizon's service and call quality is far superior to AT&T any day of the week.

Gus, I like the big screen so I can *SEE* who's calling or texting me. You'll like yours bigger too when you're older;)

My Droid X came early and I am loving it so far. My one gripe is the "non-blur" blur that is installed. I'd prefer stock 2.1 or Froyo.

I'm not sure what Tony is talking about. I definitely can't reproduce iPhone4-like signal issues, no matter how I hold the phone.

detailed testing of the iPhone 4 via consumer reports: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2010/07/apple-iphone-4-antenna-issue-iphone4-problems-dropped-calls-lab-test-confirmed-problem-issues-signal-strength-att-network-gsm.html

They pulled their recommendation for the phone.

Windows Mobile invented apps? I was getting apps for my Kyocera 6130 running the Palm 3 OS when Bill Gates was still saying smartphones were a passing fad (cf: his infamous comment about the Internet).

Dude, U sound like some sort of "Steve Blow Jobs" fan-boy. enough with the Moto mocking all the while puffing up your own Iphonie ego.

* The network: On Verizon's network, you can't browse the Web while on a call with the Droid X. You also can't take and email a photograph while on a call. (The iPhone and AT&T's network offers this capability.)

You forgot to mention that you have to be on a Wi-Fi network to use FaceTime. As with the Evo on Sprint you do not. I myself have an Incredible.. and it is just that.

As a member of the 50+ age group, I just ordered my DX because I can finally use a phone without magnifying glasses! I'd carry it in a gym bag if I had to.

New user to the android OS and I love the speed with my DX. Much faster than my storm! I had a heck of a time getting my phone since i'm stationed in Alaska. You know the whole ship to family in the lower 48, activate then ship to me! It was well worth the wait, I love droid x in terms of apps, widgets, security, everything else you can imagine. I want to share http://www.droidxforum.com it's really useful.

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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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