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HTC Droid Eris Review: Android on a Budget

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HTC Droid Eris

HTC Droid Eris from Verizon Wireless

HTC

HTC's Droid Eris doesn't get a lot of attention. It was launched by Verizon Wireless last fall, in the shadow of the Motorola Droid, a phone that's continuously splashed on billboards and hyped in TV ads. The Droid Eris, meanwhile, is a quieter Android phone. But it's one that's well worth your attention.

Price and Availability

The HTC Droid Eris is available for $79.99 from Verizon Wireless when you sign a new two-year service contract. That's a very good price for a full-featured Android smartphone.

Design

Based on appearance alone, the Droid Eris might just be my favorite Android phone. It's small and light, measuring 4.5 by 2.2 by .5 inches and weighing 4.2 ounces. It looks even more petite when held next to the Motorola Droid; where that phone is sharp and angular, HTC's Droid Eris is curved.

The Droid Eris is an all touch-screen phone, so you don't get a hardware keyboard. It sports a 3.2-inch touch screen -- notably smaller than the Motorola Droid's 3.7 inch display. Its 480 by 320 screen resolution also pales in comparison to the high-res 480-by-854 screen that Motorola's phone offers, but I still found it easy on the eyes. Pictures and graphics looked sharp and colorful.

The Droid Eris features a soft-touch back that makes it especially comfortable to hold in your hand. And it features a minimalist design that's very appealing: below the display, you get a row of touch-sensitive buttons, and below that you get just send and end keys and roller wheel for navigation.

Making Calls

Like the Motorola Droid, the HTC Droid Eris runs on Verizon's CDMA and high-speed EvDO networks. In my test calls, audio quality ranged from very good to excellent. Voices were loud and clear on both ends of the line, and I noticed little to no distortion or static.

Software

The Droid Eris runs Google's Android operating system, which can be slightly geeky at times. Still, it's a powerful OS that gives you plenty of options and is fun to use. You get access to the Android Market, where you'll find plenty of apps available to download right to the phone.

But Android can be confusing at times, in large part because different phones ship with different versions of Android. And the Droid Eris is no exception: this phone still ships with version 1.5 of the Android OS, which is now available in version 2.1 on other phones. The Droid Eris is supposed to get an update to a newer version of Android this year, however. For more information, read my full review of the Android OS.

Browsing the Web

The good news about browsing the Web is that the Droid Eris supports both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular networks. In my tests of the Droid Eris in and around the Boston area, Verizon's EvDO network delivered speedy page loads and downloads.

The bad news is that the Android browser can't compete with today's top-notch mobile browsers, such as the iPhone's Safari. Too many of the options are accessible only through menus; you often have to access the menu just to get the address bar, for example. On the plus side, the Droid Eris does support multi-touch, so you can pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out. And the full-HTML browser includes support for Flash Lite.

Messaging

Like all Android phones, the HTC Droid Eris is heavily tied in with Google's services, like Gmail. But the Droid Eris offers the ability to sync with your Outlook calendars and contacts directly, not through a Google account. It also offers support for Microsoft Exchange e-mail accounts.

Camera

The 5-megapixel camera on the HTC Droid Eris is a big step up from the 3.2-megapixel model found on many of today's phones, including the iPhone 3GS. The camera includes autofocus and captures video, but lacks a flash. The photographs I captured looked very good, for the most part, although moving subjects sometimes came out blurry. The Droid Eris also records video, though the clips I captured weren't as impressive as my still photos. Videos looked a bit dim and sometimes pixilated.

Music and More

Like the Motorola Droid, the HTC Droid Eris doesn't include access to Verizon's suite of V Cast services, but instead offers the music features found on most Android phones. You get one-touch access to Amazon's MP3 store for DRM-free music downloads, plus a basic music player for organizing and playing back tunes. These features are fine, but could be improved by mixing in access to Verizon's V Cast services.

Bottom Line

The HTC Droid Eris is a small, sleek-looking phone with an equally sleek price tag. It could benefit from an Android upgrade, but if you're willing to wait for that, the Droid Eris delivers a great value.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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