Until I held the Motorola Devour in my hands, I assumed it would be a lighter, more plasticky version of the Motorola Droid with weaker specs but a better keyboard. As you’ll learn in this review, my perception gradually quickly changed. It’s difficult to review the Devour on it’s own merits when it has the same manufacturer, is available on the same carrier, and has a mirroring form factor with (virtually) the same operating system. But we’ll try… and in the end draw the necessary comparisons and conclusions because let’s face it – context is everything.
Within 2 seconds of holding the Motorola Devour I knew it wasn’t the “light, more plasticky” younger brother to the Droid I had expected. It was heavy. It was sturdy. It screamed “tough” and wanted to be its own man phone. The aluminum body with black, ruggedized rubber contributed to the look and feel and honestly it seems like the most solid Android phone out there. The problem is that the sturdiness seems like the main attraction of a phone that’s aspiring to be things it shouldn’t:
Don’t get me wrong, I like the Devour hardware and it isn’t bad when judged alone. But with a small screen (3.1-inch), average resolution (HVGA), mediocre camera (3MP/fixed focus/no flash) and other less than stellar specs, I almost wished it would just take its place in line. It’s way too big and heavy for what’s stuffed inside and while an outstanding keyboard could have come through with a buzzer beater in the clutch, it was only decent. Better than the Droid keyboard? Absolutely… but by no means one of the best keyboards out there.
Keyboards: DEVOUR vs DROID vs G1
I was really hoping the Devour keyboard would knock one out of the park. In press pics it looked quite spacious, contoured and clicky. I tried to do quite a bit of typing with the Devour, even publishing a Phandroid article from the device, so I got pretty comfortable/familiar with it:
The Devour keyboard is DEFINITELY an upgrade over the Droid keyboard. Not only was the Droid keyboard sub-par, the accuracy of the large 3.7-inch landscape keyboard nearly render the physical keyboard pointless (at least in my own opinion). It’s a good thing the Devour improves here then, as the 3.1-inch screen is less than desirable for typing out Emails and long text messages. Unfortunately I’d only give the Devour keyboard a “decent” rating – not terrible and not great, somewhere in the middle of the pack.
You can see how HTC did a great job configuring their sliding mechanism to allow for maximum keyboard surface area. I’m hoping a few other companies make this a priority, and if you ask me, LG is a prime candidate by emulating their Voyager/enV clamshell style form factor.
The Devour runs Android 1.6 with Motorola’s custom build of Android – MOTOBLUR. The idea is to aggregate all your points of communication into two virtual “filing cabinets: Happenings and Messages. Happenings are status updates from friends on Twitter, Facebook and the like – stuff that flies in by the barrels but isn’t essential to your existence. Messages are 1-to-1 points of communication that are more critical to your everyday life – Emails, TXT messages and that sort of thing. They’re displayed on your home screen as widgets and a universal status updater allows you to push your own updates to numerous social networking sites all at once.
The most dedicated Android fans could have 2 main complaints about the Devour software:
- It runs an “old” version of Android
- They don’t particularly enjoy MOTOBLUR – it’s information overkill
I totally dismiss those 2 arguments in the above video and I think it’s worth pointing out why. While most readers of this blog always want the most up-to-date version of Android so they can have all the bells and whistles, there are a lot of customers who this won’t bother. Even Android 1.6 is pretty darn good and coming from a dumb phone or feature phone, they’ve already got so many new features to enjoy that an extra thing here and there isn’t going to kill them.
And don’t forget – Motorola says they WILL eventually update the Devour to 2.x, but until they you’re still able to enjoy the vast majority of Android goodness including Google Navigation.
I understand why people don’t enjoy MOTOBLUR – it’s just not for them. Either they’re not social networking fiends, it is information overkill, or they prefer other 3rd party apps on Android Market. While I think MOTOBLUR is an interesting idea and I especially enjoy the News/RSS widget, I can appreciate that we all have personal preferences. What I can’t understand is people making a decision to purchase or NOT to purchase a phone based on whether or not it has BLUR. If you don’t like it, simply drag all the widgets into the trashcan, turn off the notifications and set up your phone as if it were a Google Experience phone.
With the 1.6 and BLUR discussion out of the way, I have to say I was surprised how snappy and quick the UI of the Devour seemed. I didn’t put it under a ton of application stress, but it seems as though the processor had an easy time with the smaller and less resolved screen. The Voice Activation feature on the right side is a nice touch, especially useful if you’re in the car or multi-tasking – definitely a plus.
The biggest detraction of the Devour’s UI isn’t the software at all, but the hardware. If you’ve gotten used to a Droid or Nexus, the smaller screen size and lower resolution are apparent, but all-in-all the screen is decent (although sunlight caused problems). When all is said and done, despite being an older version of Android the Devour software holds its own and all but those demanding the Android elite should be satisfied.
There are two sides to reviewing a camera/camcorder: the actual experience TAKING the picture including UI/Options/Features and then of course the result – how your pictures and videos turn out. I’m sorry to say that on both accounts the Camera is mediocre at best. The camera is only 3MP fixed focus with no flash so I wasn’t expecting amazing results, but I thought the MOTOBLUR integration might offer a little more in terms of customizing, editing and other options:
The pictures are actually pretty bad. When the pixels are condensed and you’re viewing small versions of the full images they don’t look so shabby, but if you click through an image to see it’s original size you’ll notice how fuzzy and poor the quality truly is.
For example in this picture there were actually several Robins jumping around the forest floor. Click on the picture, which is the full size taken at 3MP, and see if you can spot any of them.
You probably can’t so here is some help – I cropped the Robin at full resolution and it looks like an Atari character:
But again, you just have to know what you’re getting and why/when you’re using the camera. Other pictures came out fairly well if you just want to use them as 8×10 pictures and don’t care about wonderful quality. I’ll post some of the decent ones below, which you can click through to see the full size, and then embed the full gallery below:
The biggest edge the Motorola Devour has in terms of web and media is it comes with Flash Lite, something most other Android phones don’t. This allows animated graphics, inline videos and flash games to be viewed/played directly from inside the Android browser. Beyond this the browser is pretty much stock Android and although confined by a 3.1-inch touchscreen, the web experience is pretty good.
(Advanced warning – this video is kind of boring)
In terms of music, the Motorola Devour doesn’t offer anything amazing, although the 3.5mm headset jack is appreciated and these days, seems to have become a smartphone prerequisite. The media player is simple – a bit too simple actually – but the audio quality both in ear and through the speakers is nice and loud.
Syncing media is something many of you will likely want to do and Motorola has some custom options which I try to overview in the above video. I’m not incredibly familiar with Motorola’s Syncing services because I usually just dump media onto my SD card and when I want to add/remove things just do so manually. I’ll likely be exploring a syncing service in the near future and try some out. One free Moto tool I haven’t tried that looks pretty darn good is Motorola Media Link which can also Sync your iTunes library. Pretty beastly if you ask me – we’ll have to review that in an upcoming vid.
The multimedia and web browsing experience is decent, held back mostly by the smallish screen and mediocre resolution. But if you’re an average smartphone user who doesn’t need the most vivid of mobile media experiences, the Devour’s offerings should suit you just fine.
Evaluated on its own, the Motorola Devour is an Android phone with decent specs that prides itself on its seemingly industrial aluminum sturdiness and rugged yet classy style. The phone is rock solid and could very likely be the strongest built Android phone to date – and it looks good doing so. Unfortunately, the Devour suffers an odd fate: it is made by the same manufacturer, provided on the same carrier, and has the same form factor as the Motorola Droid which clearly dominates the Devour in terms of specs not to mention its currently the most popular Android Phone on the market.
The Motorola Devour is a missed opportunity. While gadget critics knock companies for making light, cheap, plasticky devices with mediocre specs, this is EXACTLY what both Motorola and Verizon Wireless should have produced in this scenario. They could have bridged the gap between basic consumers and smartphone consumers, offering an affordable exodus into the land of Android, but instead have offered a less inspiring version of the Motorola Droid at a slight discount.
The Droid is clearly the better phone and unless you’re in love with the Devour’s looks, demand MOTO BLUR, or are a price conscious consumer and able to save a bunch, the Devour is easily overshadowed by what Droid Does. An affordable version of the Droid is what the Devour should have brought to the masses and although that doesn’t SEEM to be what Motorola created, hopefully Verizon’s pricing strategy will reflect that need… the demand is definitely there.