And with that, we solidly conclude that Android truly has visited 99% of the mobile form factors out there. That's right, people, the Motorola Droid Pro has arrived in the Android Police offices, and after spending the last week or so with it, I can tell you - with a straight face, nonetheless - that RIM's got serious competition here. The handset isn't exactly all that and a piece of cake, but it's definitely up there, at least for enterprise customers. Read on for the full, unbiased Android Police review to find out what makes it so special.
Before I proceed with the review, let's recap the Droid Pro's specs:
- 3.1-inch HVGA (320x480) LCD display
- 1GHz TI OMAP 3620-1000 processor
- 1420 mAh battery
- 512MB of RAM; 2GB of ROM
- 2GB microSD card out of the box with support for cards of up to 32GB in capacity
- 800/1900 CDMA EVDO Rev. A dual varsity antenna; 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM radio; WiFi 802.11 b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1
- Blackberry-like candybar form factor with fixed physical QWERTY keyboard on the mug of the phone, directly below the display
- 5MP camera with 480p video capture and a dual LED flash
- 3.5mm headset jack
The Droid Pro isn't sexy in the same way as, say, a Galaxy S is, but it does have a certain appeal to it that I think its target demographic will really enjoy.
On the front, you'll find the 3.1" HVGA display, beneath which lies a full physical QWERTY keyboard that bears a striking resemblance to that of RIM's Blackberry Bold. Of course, you also get the four standard Android buttons - menu, home, back, and search, in that order - squeezed in between the two as well as the earpiece and a pair of logos on top.
The left side of the device contains its volume rocker and the microUSB port (which, like on the Droid 2, is accompanied by a light indicator of its own, leaving the front LED light available for notifications even while the phone is charging), while its right counterpart is home to a shortcut key that opens the Calendar app by default, but which can be programmed to open any application of your liking. It's a nice touch, but it takes some time to get used to which button is which, particularly since both the volume rocker and the shortcut key are in about the same location and feel about the same (the former of the two is a tad flat for my liking).
Meanwhile, the bottom side of the device is free of ports, although it is also where the microphone is located. The top contains the the sleep/power button on the left and the 3.5mm headset jack in the center.
The good news is that all of the above look fine, with the front taking on a very professional, business-like look, and the sides being wrapped up in a silver banding which looks a lot like that of iPhone 4, although unlike Apple's offering, the Pro's silver banding does not serve as an antenna. The bad news is that the back is, to be frank, a train wreck.
At first glance, it seems pretty simple - all it contains is the 5MP camera, the Motorola, Verizon, and "with Google" logos, and the speaker - but upon closer inspection, you'll discover just how bad it looks and feels. For one, it's splattered with a series of curvy, wavy lines that look as if they were ripped straight off a $10 feature-phone. The one part of the back that isn't covered with these lines is the camera hump up top... which brings up the next issue. Indeed, the large, rectangular bump on the top of the Droid X has been carried over to the Pro, where it looks even more out of place. Whereas on the Droid X it was excusable as the phone had a fantastic camera, the Pro's camera (which we'll discuss in more detail later in the review) is unremarkable at its 5MP. Additionally, the X was a superphone of sorts that was aimed at hardcore tech geeks, while the Pro is instead targeted towards the enterprise market - a group of people who won't necessarily enjoy having a bump at the top of their phones. It isn't really a huge issue, but it certainly won't help sell the phone to the men in suits, the ones formerly rocking Blackberries. Finally, the plastic on the entire battery cover makes the phone feel very cheap, another aspect of the handset that its target demographic probably won't enjoy.
Of course, the main attraction in this theme park is the keyboard, and it doesn't just live up to the hype - it's a dream to type on. In fact, it looks and feels like it's been ripped right off a Blackberry Bold 9780, a phone whose keyboard was widely and highly praised.
Just like the aforementioned Bold 9780, the left half of it (from Q-T, A-G, and the caps lock key-V) is slanted towards the right, while the opposite half is slanted towards the left. This makes for a series of ridges, which I found to be perfect for slipping my fingernails around. Additionally, the keys press down just the right amount - not so deep that it slows down the action, but not so shallow that they are hard to press. They are a bit cramped, and there are small unused areas in both the left and the right corners (emoticon icons would have fit into these spaces nicely), but once you lay your fingers on the keyboard, you won't care. Seriously, it's that good.
Before I got my Droid Pro review unit, I was sort of dreading going back to a 3.1" display, especially with its relatively low pixel density (it's got a 320x480 resolution, which makes for a pixel density of 186.09ppi). However, after using the device for a few days, I must say that I'm thoroughly impressed with it. While it still can't compare to the likes of the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy S or even the standard LCD on Motorola's own 4.3-inch Droid X, it's a decent screen in its own right - after all, enterprise customers probably aren't in the market for a pixel-packed retina display or anything of the sort.
In fact, Motorola's done something really nice with the pixel density - I can't quite place my finger on what it is, but for some reason the Droid Pro's pixels aren't nearly as visible as those on my EVO or my wife's Epic, despite the fact that both of those have much more pixel-dense displays. Everything from text to pictures to video to games looks great on this display - a quick game of Angry Birds was enough to immediately convince me of that.
The one area where the Pro's screen falls short is viewing angles - it starts looking a bit yellow at about 30° on either side, and things start getting really ugly at about 60°, with the display being nearly unreadable at 90°. Still, viewing angles are really pretty irrelevant here, as the display is clearly designed to be viewed in portrait orientation, especially in connection with email and the like.
As I mentioned earlier, the Droid Pro's camera is surrounded by a large, rectangular bump which really detracts from the phone's sex appeal - the question is: is it worth it? It certainly was with the Droid X, which featured an incredible 8MP shooter, but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Pro and its mediocre 5MP sensor. Let's take a look at some of the shots I took with it:
Pictures taken in average lighting were OK but not up to some of the competition.
Pictures taken in above average lighting conditions were equally mediocre.
The one place where the Pro's camera really stands out is its dual LED flash - pictures taken in low lighting were surprisingly impressive.
Unfortunately, the handset's video recording capabilities were even worse - this is 2010, and 480p (720x480) just doesn't cut it anymore, and neither does the Droid Pro's audio recording quality, which was downright painful. Then again, it will (hopefully) suffice for the occasional quick video, which is really what it's there for.
While the Droid Pro's design makes it clear who it's geared towards, the software doesn't make this nearly so obvious - in fact, the phone is running the same custom UI as the Droid X and the Droid 2. The skin isn't really anything remarkable, though it isn't the worst of the bunch either. For the most part, Motorola's just changed a lot of colors from orange to red and added some widgets and apps. None of the widgets were very useful - the only two that I could see business folks ever even touching are "News" and "Messaging," each of which has its own unique set of problems. While the former only seems to update every half hour or so (not to mention that the news feeds you enter cannot be edited later), the latter doesn't work with any service outside of text messaging, email, corporate sync, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace (for all ten people still using it), Twitter, and Yahoo! Mail. At first glance, that makes it seem like it's pretty compatible - but despite the fact that the phone is running Android (and the fact that it's a "with Google" device), there's no Gmail support, even though there is support for Yahoo! Mail. Even more hilariously, the "Social Networking" widget essentially duplicates this functionality, with the only notable difference being the addition of Photobucket compatibility and the absence of texting, email, corporate sync, and Yahoo! Mail. Oh, the joys of custom UIs!
As for the apps, I think you'll agree with me when I say that as a whole, there's way too much useless bloatware that has been included just so that Verizon could make some extra cash off the device. Take "VZ Navigator" - why would anyone ever use it when Google's own (much better, might I add) Navigation service is baked right into "Maps" (as well as its own separate app)? Likewise, this handy app called "Backup Assistant" is included, which in turn duplicates Google's cloud syncing functionality - all it does is back up your address book, which would be nice had Google's own contact syncing service (which, again, is much more convenient for the majority of us) did not exist. And how about "News" and "News and Weather" - why are those two separate apps anyways? And then there's the worst offense of them all: the 3G Mobile Hotspot app. While stock Froyo comes with a (free and very decent) WiFi-enabled tethering app, Verizon replaced it with its own $30 per month version that stops working even more frequently than the iPhone 4 drops calls.
It's not all bad, though - Motorola's included multi-touch keyboard is among the best I've seen, even on such a small display. That said, I doubt that it will prove useful for many users - for one, it's only available in landscape mode; for another, the hard QWERTY keyboard is already so good, I can't visualize anyone purposely rotating their phone to use its virtual alternative. Still, it's there if you want it.
Speaking of the display's miniature size, I found that the entire Android experience scaled down to the Pro's 3.1" screen very nicely. I never once had difficulty pressing a button or selecting an option from a list, despite the fact that the it was physically more than an inch smaller than the device I was used to (an EVO 4G). Additionally, as much as I hate to repeat myself, everything looks nice and crisp, which was probably a result of both the display's hardware (and its surrounding bezel) and the Android OS running on it.
Going back to the phone's enterprise features, Motorola really hasn't added many. While the men in suits will probably enjoy the Pro's excellent support for Exchange, Gmail, and other email clients, these are features that come with stock Froyo, so Motorola didn't have to do much optimizing here. Likewise, the company bills its Google Calendar sync support as an advantage, but the truth of the matter is that this, too, is a staple Android feature. And need I mention Quickoffice, which too is billed as a feature? Seriously, Motorola and Verizon, stop advertising features that come with pretty much every Froyo-packing phone on the market.
Indeed, there are only three noteworthy business-related additions here to speak of (one of which isn't even here yet):
- a built-in VPN client featuring support for AuthenTec IPSec, which is missing in Froyo's default VPN client (which is buried somewhere in the "Settings" app)
- built-in remote wipe and remote lock features (normally, users need to download an app like Lookout Mobile Security to do this)
- device and SD card encryption, which Motorola promises for "early 2011" (insert Gingerbread speculation here)
Other than that, it's really just an Android phone, with complete access to the Market, Adobe Flash support, and all the other features you've come to know, love, and read about on a daily basis. Which brings up an interesting question for your company's IT department - if the Droid Pro is such a business-friendly device, aren't other Android phones like the EVO 4G and the Droid X just (or at least almost) as good for enterprise?
If there's one thing you should know about business, it's that there's no time to wait around - so therefore, the Droid Pro needs to absolutely fly if it wants to stand a chance. And, for the most part, it does. It got a Quadrant score of 1528, which is pretty impressive, especially considering that my EVO 4G only got a score of 1238, and even the new myTouch 4G only got a score of 1504.
So how is it in terms of daily usage? Decent, but not nearly as great as the scores would have you believe. While most of the time, apps opened faster than I blinked, there were other times when I was left waiting as long as half a minute for an app (most often the browser) to finally load. Additionally, the browser crashed on me a few times, though the fact that this did not carry over to third-party apps like Angry Birds or Dictionary.com made me think it was an issue with the browser code rather than the phone's hardware or OS.
For those of you old school enough to still use your phone to actually call people, I think the Droid Pro will be a solid choice. Calls sounded loud and clear via the built-in earpiece, although the speakerphone quality was decidedly subpar. Moreover, Verizon's data network was pleasantly speedy (though Sprint's network is even zippier in my neck of the woods) in addition to being the most reliable network I've tested. Of course, Verizon's network is only half the story here - the Pro also features a GSM radio for usage abroad. I haven't had a chance to test it out yet, but here's what I can tell you: no, this doesn't mean you can use it on T-Mobile or AT&T. The default SIM card was designed to be used on Verizon's network in the US and Vodafone's overseas, and that's about it, at least until the unlockers get their hands on the handset (although Verizon's apparently unlocking the SIMs for customers who have been loyal for more than 60 days and have a good financial record). As for options to do with the dual radio, Motorola added a section to the "Settings" app that allows users to switch between "Global," "CDMA," and "GSM/UMTS" modes. The default of these modes is "Global," which automatically switches between the CDMA and GSM radios and which will probably be the best for daily usage unless you're looking to save battery life. Speaking of which....
The Droid Pro's 1420 mAh battery made for average battery life. In my standard battery test (in which the device has to replay a YouTube video of day two of Google I/O until its battery finally dies), the Pro lasted just ten minutes under four hours. By means of comparison, Motorola's own Droid 2 lasted 40 minutes longer (four and a half hours), and HTC's Droid Incredible lasted three hours and fifteen minutes. Like I said, pretty mediocre, but not necessarily terrible.
What's To Love
- Styling makes sense for the target demographic (for the most part)
- Excellent VPN Client
- Amazing keyboard
- Decent display that never feels too small
- Speedy processor
What's To Hate
- Motorola's Android skin still has plenty of kinks that need to be worked out
- Picture quality could be improved
- The 480p video is a joke
- Battery cover doesn't suit the device very well
- Crapware galore!
So, what should you take away from this? If you're an enterprise customer looking for a decent Blackberry alternative, the Droid Pro can't be beat, with its excellent keyboard and fantastic (though not completely original) enterprise features. That said, you should know what you're getting into here - seasoned Blackberry users will definitely have to adjust to Android's subpar messaging app (BBM still reigns king in that area), and the Pro's battery life will probably be a little short of what they're used to. However, when it comes to the phone as a whole, I think Research In Motion, Motorola, and Verizon all know that Blackberry 6 simply can't stand up to Android, and that's why I also think that the Droid Pro will be huge hit. Nice work, guys.
Our Rating: 8/10