The Motorola Droid was the first Google Android phone to make a big splash in America. Its follow-up — aptly named the Droid 2 — is a worthy successor. While it has an improved keyboard and faster processor, Android hardware has come a long way in the last year. It’s a compelling choice for consumers that want Android and insist on a physical keyboard, but its radio and lag issues are bothersome (though fixable through firmware updates).
I’ve been using the Motorola Droid 2 (Verizon) for about a month and while it’s a very good Android phone, it has enough flaws that make it tough to recommend. Unless you absolutely need a physical keyboard, I think you’re much better off with the Motorola Droid X or HTC Evo 4G. Let’s see what the Droid 2 has to offer, where it’s great, and where it falls short.
Build Quality: The Droid 2 is a well built phone, just like its predecessor. It has a solid feel and a bright 3.7-inch screen with an 854 x 480 resolution. A lot of people complained about the total flatness and practically useless d-pad of the original Droid’s keyboard. The Droid 2 drops the d-pad for a roomier typing area and uses raised keys for a better feel. The keyboard is much, much better than the original.
Interface: The Droid 2 ships with Android 2.2 (FroYo) out of the box. It also features the same 1GHz OMAP processor and UI customizations found in the Droid X. You’d think that these factors would add up for a snappy experience, but for some reason the Droid 2 randomly lags. Whether it’s shifting from screen to screen or launching apps, the Droid 2 isn’t as responsive as the Droid X. I completely expect this to be addressed in future software updates, but for now the Droid 2’s smooth performance is interrupted by a few random bumps on the road.
Call Quality: In terms of voice, the Droid 2 performed very well. It doesn’t feature all the noise-canceling wizardy found in the Droid X, but incoming and outgoing sound was very good. In fact, I’d say it’s even better than the Evo 4G for making calls.
Reception Issues: Here’s the Droid 2’s other issue — reception. In the same places I received strong signal with the Droid X, I sometimes dropped to EVDO 1X with the Droid 2. There were even a few WiFi hotspots that were impossible to connect to with the Droid 2. That said, I never dropped a call with the phone and the data throughput always seemed “normal” using Ookla’s Speedtest app. This is another issue that will most likely be addressed with a software update. For now, it’s potentially annoying.
Camera: For still pictures and videos, the five-megapixel camera on the Droid 2 is average at best. It’s outperformed by most top-notch models on the market. The Evo 4G, Droid X, and (especially) the iPhone 4 make the Droid 2’s camera look silly.
Random Thoughts: There’s no doubt that the Droid 2’s 3.7-inch screen is top notch, but after using the Evo 4G and Droid X extensively, it seems small. I’ve also become a Swype convert. The excellent input software is included on the Droid 2 and after using the keyboard long enough to get a good feel for it, I stopped using it in favor of Swype. Yes, there are some people that absolutely need a physical keyboard, but I think most people would be more efficient using Swype and working on a larger screen. With that in mind, I think most people would be happier with the Droid X than the Droid 2.
Conclusion: The original Motorola Droid was the hotness in late 2009. While the Droid 2 is a clearly improved version, the competition has gotten much better. It’s tough to recommend this phone, though there are some consumers that it’s great for — people that want to be on Verizon, want Google Android, and need a physical keyboard. If you can live without the keyboard and are willing to give Swype a go then I recommend the Droid X over this phone. If you’re willing to consider other networks, Sprint’s keyboard-equipped Epic 4G has a lot to offer. Don’t get me wrong, the Droid 2 is a very good phone, but its reception issues, lag, and small screen make it hard to recommend over similarly priced products on the market.
As always, if there’s anything I didn’t address in this (not a) review, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll try to answer your questions.