Motorola's first-generation Droid phone proved immensely popular when it was launched late last year, becoming one of the first phones to truly bring Google's Android operating system to the masses. But I didn't love the Droid. I found it too boxy and industrial-looking, its keyboard too flat and stiff, and its performance too often sluggish.
Since then, we've seen the debut of the excellent Droid X, and now, Motorola and Verizon Wireless have taken the wraps off of the Droid 2. While this smartphone boasts plenty of improvements over the original Droid, including a better keyboard and a more attractive design, it falls a bit short of the standard set by the Droid X.
Price and Availability
The The Droid 2 costs $199.99 when you sign a new two-year service contract with Verizon Wireless. That price is the same as what Verizon is charging for the Droid X, what AT&T is charging for a 16GB iPhone 4 and what Sprint is charging for the HTC EVO 4G.
The Droid 2's design is very similar to that of the original Motorola Droid, yet very different. Both phones sport the same slider-style design, with a keyboard that slides out from the left side of the display. Both phones also sport the same 3.7-inch touch screen, underneath which sits touch-sensitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back, and Search) for navigating through the Android-based phone's many options.
The Droid 2 features a more rounded, softer look that's more attractive than the industrial look of the first Droid. Also worth noting: Motorola has drastically improved the keyboard on the new model. I found the original Droid's keyboard too flat and slick to make typing easy. The Droid 2 features keys that are slightly rounded, which makes them easier to press, though they're still a bit too stiff for my taste.
The 3.7-inch screen features the same resolution found on the original Droid (854 by 480 pixels). Images and text looked very good, but not as sharp or crisp as they do on the iPhone 4's "Retina" display. That screen boasts a resolution of 960 by 640 pixels, which gives images and text an almost lifelike look.
Verizon's cellular network is well regarded, and it proved its mettle during my tests of the Droid 2. I never dropped a call. Call quality was very good, too, with voices on both sides coming through loud and clear. And despite the phone's hefty weight (it weighs in at just under 6 ounces), I found the Droid 2 very comfortable to hold during calls.
The Droid 2 is the first smartphone to ship with the latest version of Android, 2.2. That means you get support for Adobe's Flash Player right away, which is a nice touch.
Overall, Android has come a long way from its earliest versions and now offers a refinement that previous versions were lacking. Navigating through the OS's many options has gotten easier, though I found the phone a bit sluggish at times, when switching screens. And Android is still a bit geeky enough to overwhelm some newbies. For more details on Android, read my complete review of the mobile OS.
Unlike the Droid X, the Droid 2 does not feature Motorola's Motoblur user interface, which syncs information across your e-mail accounts, social networks, photo sharing services, and more. Instead, it offers social networking widgets that let you sync streams from sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. On some phones, these types of widgets can be overwhelming and can take up too much screen space, but that's not the case on the Droid 2. The widgets don't take over your home screen; in fact, you have to scroll through a couple of screens to find them at all. And when you do, the widgets fit nicely on the Droid 2's reasonably large screen, displaying just enough information without going overboard.
The Droid 2 supports Verizon's high-speed 3G network, as well as Wi-Fi wireless networks, so you have plenty of options for speedy Web browsing. And, in even better news, the browser on the Droid 2 is excellent. And having support for Flash, which allows you to view multimedia Web pages as you would on a desktop computer, gives this phone a leg up over rivals (like Apple's iPhone) that lack this feature, as well as over other Android phones that have not yet been updated to Android 2.2.
The Droid 2's 3.7-inch screen feels a bit small when viewed next to the mammoth 4.3-inch screens found on some of today's phones, but it didn't feel cramped when browsing the Web. I also like that you can pinch and spread the screen to zoom in and out as needed.
The Droid 2 also can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot itself, to which you can connect as many as five wireless device for Internet access. This feature requires an extra $20-per-month service plan, however.
The Droid 2 features the same 5-megapixel camera found on the original Droid, and I remain disappointed with the results. The Droid's shooter includes a dual-LED flash, plus the ability to select from various scene modes, add color effects, and control the white balance, but these added features can't compensate for the noticeable delay I noticed when trying to capture shots. My subjects had often moved by the time the camera's shutter clicked.
I had better luck with the Droid 2's video camera, which captured some beautiful clips. The controls are a bit limited -- you can't, for example, zoom in or out while filming -- but the results were very good.
The Droid 2's other multimedia options are more impressive. You can access movies from BlockBuster On Demand right on your phone if you already have a Blockbuster account. (A Wi-Fi connection is required for downloading movies.) You also get access to Amazon's MP3 store, plus a decent (if basic) music player.
Like the Droid X, the Droid 2 is DLNA-compatible, so you can use it to stream video content to set-top boxes and other devices that share that certification.
The original Droid was touted as an iPhone killer, and was one of the first phones that really brought Android into the mainstream. The Droid 2 is a definite upgrade from the original model, but it still can't quite compare to the excellent Droid X, which boasts a bigger screen and a better design. If you need a keyboard, the Droid 2 will suffice. But if you can live without one, I'd opt for the Droid X instead.