Motorola Droid: Browser and Media Review

If there is one thing that absolutely rocks about the Motorola Droid its the fact that its the largest screen on any Android Phone to date – and its awesome. The web browsing experience benefits greatly from this and I can tell you that its pretty amazing. Not only do Full HTML web pages load beautifully on the Droid, but with Wi-Fi you’ll be loading content rich sites blazing fast. Browsing with Verizon’s 3G data speeds in various locations proved to be a winning formula as well.

All of the web browsing awesomeness came courtesy of the 3.7-inch screen, Verizon thankfully including Wi-Fi and their fast data network when Wi-Fi wasn’t available. The stock Android browser is awesome in terms of loading multiple windows, setting bookmarks, providing settings/options and the like… but 2 HUGE problems still linger that noticeably drag down the browsing experience (although the positives far outweigh the negatives).

Multi-Touch vs. Pinch & Zoom
The Motorola Droid DOES have multi-touch, contrary to what numerous news outlets are reporting. The real issue is that Android 2.0 doesn’t have “pinch and zoom” capabilities. Multi-touch exists in the software keyboard, allowing you to press multiple keys at once without missing a beat in what you successfully type.

I don’t care that the Motorola Droid (courtesy of Android 2.0) doesn’t have pinch and zoom. What I DO care about is that there is no half-decent alternative for zooming. The “double tap” that they’ve provided is a total train wreck. At best, it zooms you all the way in or all the way out and at worst, you’ll be scrolling instead of zooming (on accident) or unknowingly tap on a link that whisks you away to an entirely different page. The problem is in concept – a zooming method should allow you to choose the exact increment and zoom level by pure intuition/instinct.

Two solutions that could be easily implemented that would immediately double the browsing experience:

  1. Click-wheel. Move clockwise to zoom in, clockwise to zoom out.
  2. Holding zoom buttons. The buttons are already there. As you hold zoom in or zoom out it zooms gradually… users could set the “speed” or “rate” of the zoom manually in their browsers settings.

Honestly, in an Android Phone – a platform that is supposed to completely embrace the mobile web – having a half-baked zooming solution is kind of unforgiveable. I’m really hoping they’re working on this because with a device so amazingly capable, its a real shame for a small factor to be a main detraction.

No Flash?
The Motorola Droid is listed as having flash… with the reminder that it won’t come until early 2010. That is both good and bad – let me tell you why:

  1. You’re stuck without flash for at least a few months. If you’ve ever used a flash capable browser, you’ll notice it is missing in your everyday interwebz travels and hopefully it will come sooner rather than later.
  2. Google will be pushing out an Android 2.1 or beyond update early 2010. This means that all the OTHER issues I’ve discussed with Android 2.0 could also be improved and updated at the same time. Let’s hope that Google crams a boat load of work into that update in ADDITION to native flash compatibility.

Google Voice Search
Hold down the magnifying glass, say your search out loud, and your results will be brought up in the browser lightning quick and with incredibly accurately. At least that was my experience with the function. I quickly said “Rob Jackson is the coolest person in the world” and low and behold, Google Voice Search correctly identified what I was saying and provided Google results almost instantly. Of course the search results weren’t what I hoped… will the real Rob Jackson please stand up? (Please note that the author is now standing)

YouTube
Over Wi-Fi, YouTube worked rather brilliantly. Over Verizon’s 3G network – although it proved incredibly quick for most websites, videos seemed to load a bit slow. But when YouTube is humming along its absolutely awesome. The ability to upload a video directly to YouTube is pretty ballin’ too, although this has been included in previous versions of Android. While browsing along with the web and seeing a YouTube video embedded its incredibly satisfying to press it and watch it load on the awesome screen. Pure Droid win.

Google Docs and Google Wave
There aren’t any Android Apps that allow you better access to Google Docs, a question that was asked many times via Phandroid/AF. And if you’re wondering about Google Wave? That didn’t seem to work either. Although Google could flip a switch and have Wave working immediately – that wouldn’t require an OTA of any sort. So Wavers stay posted.

Overall, the browsing experience on the Motorola Droid is better than the vast amount of smartphones you can find. Once a better zooming mechanism is included and Flash support enabled, I don’t think another phone currently available could beat it.

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  • HotDawg

    I wish they could put these things out at 100% instead of 80%.

    Thanks, Rob!

  • thelee

    great review. i was underwhelmed by voice search on my g1, but all the videos (especially with navigating) i’ve been seeing have been blowing me away. watching that “rob jackson is…” totally floored me with its speed and accuracy. maybe the software/mic is better?

  • http://fff phwaap

    One of the bright spots in the mixed reviews seems to consistently be the voice search. This will be very useful for me and, I imagine, most people.

  • Morten

    Looking great! The Opera Mobile 10 beta came out for S60 today, so Im hoping the Android version is right around the corner. Hope you will test that out when it arrives.

    The Droid is the “perfect phone”. Its so nearly there anyway. And android is looking better then ever. The package is competing and I want in!

    Such a shame I will have to live with the sucky Milestone name. Even Sholes was better then that. I will rename mine to Droid. :P

  • simon

    Weird Wave works on the G1 with no issues. Just have to say let me in anyways and it seems to work fine

  • Ron Amadeo

    Rob, You need to click on the link at the bottom of the wave warning page for it to load.

  • Björn

    I wonder what happened to the idea of the “circular zoom”. There were previews of it in March before the Magic came out, but the final product didn’t include it and I never heard of it since. It’s a pity because the demo looked really good!

  • spence

    Man, I’ve decided to switch from t-mobile to verizon for the droid, it looks like a BEAST!!! But so does the X10 and HTC Dragon

  • ZZstu

    L love the DROID, but I can’t help but notice the fingerprints on the screen. Are there screen protectors that have the anti-fingerprint stuff? Don’t get me wrong though, fingerprints won’t keep me from getting this phone. Thanks

  • Héctor

    “Let’s make that private for now” LOL
    Great phone and great browser :D

  • tke789

    Not that I am complaining (you did a great job) but were is the “Media” part of the Browser and Media Review. How is the music and video player? How easy are they to navigate. How do they sound/look. It I load a couple “digital copy” videos on the SD card how does it look? etc.

  • miike

    why cant we zoom the videos like on a iphone. they have a 2 mp camera and can make there videos full screen. or if your watching a youtube video, just tap it and it fits the whole screen. not 80% i thought this phone was WVGA (480 x 854 pixels); 16:9 widescreen.. didnt seem widescreen to me.. what gives?

    also when u made you video for you tube.. it didnt fit the whole screen on the phone…what happened to the DVD quality (720×480 resolution) up to 24 fps capture; up to 30 fps playback?? not too happy about video playback so far.

  • Stefan Hållén

    Regarding an app for google documents, what about GDocs?
    http://sites.google.com/site/gdocsforandroid/

  • Mac

    Do you think you could touch on the media players a bit more?

    How does the music and video players work? Is it acceptable as an MP3 player, or is it a half-assed featured? Can you throw up some video footage of the music/video app?

    Thanks!

  • Teemu

    Hi!

    Do you happen to know if the notification bar on the top can be hidden while browsing like on the Hero?

  • http://phelerox.wordpress.com Marco Baxemyr

    Like Ron said, you need to press the “proceed”-link at the wave warning page. That page showed up when I briefly tested wave on the iPhone, but I got past it and tried some out – although it didn’t seem to work well so I gave up at the time (the iPhone was briefly borrowed).

  • http://phelerox.wordpress.com Marco Baxemyr

    Otherwise — GREAT REVIEWS! Thanks. :)

  • Kim

    I just got mine and I love it so far, of course I am still learning about all it can do. However, I have one small problem: I can’t view push-server images. Specifically, I wanted to view the webcam that overlooks Disneyland Park at the Howard Johnson’s in Anaheim and the image never loads. Also, I browsed to Earthcam.com and tried to view the Timberline Lodge webcam image. The rest of the page loaded fine but there was a big blank spot where the webcam image should be.

  • a

    It is indeed the greatest Moto Droid review.

  • Halsey Stickel

    I’ve been using style sheets(CSS) to good effect on the web sites I’ve built, since 2000. I’ve been wanting to try style sheets for handhelds for almost as long. The Droid just came out, so I got one to test modifications to my web sites, specifically for the small devices. Unfortunately, the Droid browser doesn’t seem to understand the HTML CSS link directive: media=”handheld”, or the CSS directive: @media handheld { }. The browser works well, and my sites look good, and very crisp in the display, but if the browser can’t understand standard media-restricting style sheet directives, which were designed just for this purpose, I’ll have to use some trick to get handhelds to behave differently than desktops. Do you know anything about this? Do other handheld browsers support handheld-specific style sheets? I really like the Droid. I just hope the Droid/Android browser supports the CSS Style-Sheet Standard.

  • http://blog.tkassembled.com TK

    I’m a proponent of pinch to zoom. Without it, the device just doesn’t FEEL like a multitouch device. It seems outdated and offers no competition for the iPhone in this area. In my wife’s iPhone, I can pinch to zoom in on Safari, Photos, Maps, etc. On the Droid, I can’t do it anywhere. It’s a proven method that works. Use it.

    Other than that, the Droid feels pretty good in your hand. If the UI can be sped up to be reasonable, then as far as I’m concerned, the droid is the perfect phone. It just doesn’t feel as snappy as an iPhone.

    I hate to compare the Droid to the iPhone because they’re clearly different beasts, but I believe it’s fair to compare framerate and overall feel of the phone regardless of platform/manufacturer.

  • CharlesInCharge

    I just played around with a DROID for the 2nd time at a VZW store, and I gotta say I was really disappointed with web video playback. I went to cnet.com and tried to watch one of their cnet tv videos, but it just looked awful (square rather than full screen, elongated display … unwatchable), pretty much the same for youtube (!). The 2nd time round I noticed that one of the menu options while watching a youtube clip is ‘watch in high quality.’ Pressing that button made all the difference, although I’m not quite sure why the player wouldn’t default to high quality all the time – battery life?. (Btw, this option was unavailable while watching a cnet tv clip during this 2nd investigation.) Rob, I noticed in your clip above that when you play something from youtube, it *did* default to high quality. How does one get the DROID to play that way all the time?

  • Margo

    I just got the Motorola Droid and I’m not finding a video player for movies that I upload. Looking for how to upload movies I own (digital copies) and watch them. Is there an app for that? I just got the phone and any help appreciated.

  • Andy

    The browser-zooming issue is infuriating and stupid. However there is an App -Dolphin Browser- available in the Android Market which does seem to support pinch zoom.

  • http://www.iceageth4w.com corcor

    Big upgrade from my Moto Q touchscreen will take some getting used to, but I’m loving my new droid!

  • http://ilovetovoip.com Zeeshan A Zakaria

    I got mines end of March, Android 2.1, and it does have pinch and zoom, on top of double tap, so no problems with zoom in or out.