If the Motorola Droid Pro could speak it would say, “Hello, BlackBerry Users… buy me!” And I’m sure many current BlackBerry users will become former BlackBerry users because of the Droid Pro. Motorola and Verizon have teamed up to create the first mainstream Android phone with a front-facing portrait QWERTY familiar to faithful BlackBerry fans.
Is the Droid Pro worth your hard-earned dollar? Watch and read on to find out:
The first thing to note about the Droid Pro is the keyboard: it was seemingly designed to convert BlackBerry users. Three rows of alphabetical characters sit on top of an Alt, @, Space, ? and Voice Activation Key. Each key has a secondary number or special character identified which is activated by pressing the Alt key.
One HUGE benefit of the keyboard are the customizable shortcuts: within the software you can set every single alphabet button to become a keyboard shortcut that instantly opens a pre-defined application.
- To set your shortcuts: long-press on any blank area of the home screen and select Shortcuts > Settings > Quick Launch
- To launch, you’ll want to press (and hold) the software search screen and then the letter for the shortcut you set.
This feature is awesome and really unlocks a high level of convenience and quickness for power, business, and everyday users alike. Make sure you hold down the search button for a second or two- at first it seems awkward because its a soft key and hard key combo, but after a few times you’ll really like it.
The keyboard layout certainly LOOKS nice.
BlackBerry users will feel right at home and, even as a person who has never owned a BlackBerry and who prefers touchscreens, I was able to type fairly fast. That being said, the keyboard definitely isn’t perfect.
The keys are pretty small, directly next to eachother, and not offset which gives them a bit of a cramped feel. Motorola tried to alleviate this feeling by adding outward-facing contour to each key, providing a small boost. Keyboards are an element where opinions sway hugely with personal preference and the Droid Pro keyboard will definitely have lovers and haters.
In short, and as intended, BlackBerry users will find the keyboard experience good with the customizeable keyboard shortcuts making it great. If this form factor was a prerequisite before opening the door to Android, by all means, come on in.
Two quick stand-out features of the Motorola Droid Pro are the removeable SIM Card and Dedicated Calendar Button. Clearly these features are aimed at the traveling business market, and again, targeting the Berry-centric crowd. You’ll be able to take your Droid Pro overseas and easily access voice and data through Vodafone or other partners – call Verizon Wireless to make sure you’re set up well before you travel. And while the Calendar button is a small feature, it’s a bit of polish that goes a long way in the grand scheme of things.
By the way, that dedicated Calendar button is the default, but (just like the keyboard shortcuts above) you can reprogram that hardware key to launch any app of your choice. Again: long-press on any blank area of the home screen and select Shortcuts > Settings > Quick Launch
Above the Droid Pro keyboard you’ll find a 3.1-inch screen, which compared to the 3.7, 4, and 4.3-inch screens of it’s high-end Android counterparts, seems puny. But, had you not known the screen was 3.1-inches you may not have guessed it- the experience is still good and while the 320×480 resolution doesn’t jump out at you, the screen holds its own.
Between the screen and the keyboard you’ll find the typical Menu, Home, Back, and Search buttons that Android users have come to love.
The flow of the screen, nav buttons, and keyboard looks fantastic and it’s functional. It also feels great in the hand and fits great in the pocket. The phone screams BlackBerry but it’s Android to the core- and that’s what I love about both this phone and Android in general.
You’ll find a solid list of other specs including a 5MP camera with dual LED flash, 3.5mm headset jack, GPS/A-GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro USB port, and MicroSD slot. The Droid’s 1GHz processor is zippy, partly thanks to the lower screen requirements, and it comes with 512MB RAM and 2GB ROM. The 1420mAh battery provides ample uptime.
Overall the hardware is solid and its features are nicely and appropriately arranged for their target market. The intended crowd will be pleased with the total package. And yes, BlackBerry users, I’m talking to you.
The Motorola Droid Pro (on launch) runs Android 2.2 out of the box. Combined with the 1GHz processor and less resource intensive screen, the OS is smooth and enjoyable. While Android 2.3 is right around the corner for SOME devices, Droid Pro users should be happy with this software and it should hold up well for quite awhile- even without firmware updates.
The Droid Pro runs the new version of Motorola’s custom UI called MOTO BLUR. For the Droid Pro that means a couple different things:
- You’ve got 7 home screens on wish to place widgets, shortcuts and all the customizable goodies Android has to offer
- You can switch between 3 different “sets” of these widgets called Profiles. They’re prenamed Home, Work, and Weekend and you can easily access them by pressing Menu > Profiles from the home screen.
- Some interesting widgets MOTO provides are: Calendar, Sticky Notes, Social Status, World Clock, Contacts and Quick Tastes, Picture Slideshow, and many more.
Motorola has greatly improved the BLUR experience. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but many of the widgets are helpful and when they’re not, you can easily long-press and toss them in the trash. You can also resize widgets by long-pressing, letting go, and then touching a corner/edge and strectching with the swipe of your finger.
Notable apps that come pre-installed on the Droid Pro include Quick Office, Backup Assistant, Task Manager, Media Share, My Verizon Mobile, and Google’s Lineup of Apps like GMail/Maps/Lattitude.
Overall the Droid Pro runs beautifully on Android 2.2, BLUR has greatly improved, and attention to detail and polish like the customizable keyboard shortcuts make the Droid Pro pretty awesome. One potential downside: if you’re in it for the Corporate E-Mail, beware that some users are experiencing problems. Don’t let it stop you from picking up the device, just make sure you’ve got the return policy straightened out should you run into any glitches.
So you’ve got a 3.1-inch screen with average resolution. Will web-browsing, video, gaming and other screen-intensive activities still be enjoyable? Absolutely.
While the Droid Pro can’t compete with the likes of the Droid X, EVO, and other monstrous screens in terms of multimedia enjoyability – it’s not meant to. Don’t let that worry you: I played games, browsed the web, watched videos and found the experience to be enjoyable. It certainly suffices, and actually, performs better than I expected from a 3.1-inch screen. The screen somehow seems larger than the number suggests, but again, it can’t compete with the huge slates… and that’s not the purpose.
And for those wondering about music, the experience was pretty good and the 3.5mm headset jack played loud and clear. With clear options to browse by artist, albums, songs, playlists, and genres, you can swiftly navigate through your music. Additional options include Audio Effects, Party Shuffle and Shuffle.
If you’re primarily looking for a phone with awesome multimedia, look elsewhere. If you’re priorities are all-around functionality, but you also want to make sure your phone has an enjoyable multimedia experience, you’ll be satisfied with the Droid Pro. The car racing game NFS Shift comes pre-installed on the device and the screen was clear, gaming and controls smooth, and the overall fun factor did NOT suffer. And oh yeah, it runs Angry Birds flawlessly too (I knew you’d ask).
Camera & Camcorder
The Droid X packs a 5MP camera with Dual-LED flash, auto-focus and digital zoom. While it isn’t a camera that will replace a dedicated digital camera, it’s a capable little shooter that’s able to capture some pretty good shots. Check out a few for yourself:
Interestingly enough, while the Droid Pro is a portrait phone, even with auto-rotate on it forces you to use the camera in landscape mode. At least that’s how all the options and on-screen text appear, which include but are not limited to:
- Picture modes like Panorama, Self portrait, Multi-shot and regular old single shot
- Geo-tagging pictures
- Changing picture quality/resolution
- Face Detection
- Picture Condition Settings such as landscape, portrait, night
- Photo effects like black and white, negative, etc…
In all honesty, saying the camera pretty much has the typical settings you’d expect in an average smartphone would suffice. However, I felt like with so many options, Motorola could have done a better job allocating the menus to fit them on the 3.1-inch screen. The current layout seems a bit cramped, unorganized, and scattered but it’s nothing you can’t get used to.
The camcorder records at 30 frames per second and with 720 by 480 resolution. That’s not HD Quality, but performance was decent. Check out a sample video below:
The Droid Pro did a great job of capturing daytime video and the accompanying audio wasn’t terribly bad- it was SO windy. While it’s imperfect and probably not one of the BEST camera phones out there, overall the Droid Pro adds another green check in it’s corner with decent results in the camera and camcorder departments.
[UPDATE: After a bit more use, I found a decent percentage of the pictures I took to be “washed out” when viewed in larger sizes. Condensing the image seemed to round the edges a bit but the camera could definitely use some improvement, and the Auto-Flash feature is hit or miss.]
Call Quality, Battery Life & Extras
Often overlooked in this day and age, cell phones are still cell phones and call quality is important. Unless you’re roaming globally, you’ll want to immediately go into Menu > Settings > Wireless & Network Settings > Mobile Networks > Network Mode – and opt to select CDMA instead of the default “Global” option. It will improve your call quality and with this change, call quality and battery life are both above average.
In addition to a standard Wall Charger come 3 International adapters that will allow travelers to take full advantage of the global device by charging their Droid Pro no matter where they go.
The Bottom Line
The Motorola Droid Pro is a solid all-around phone and a device current BlackBerry users MUST at least consider. It’s the best portrait QWERTY that Android has to offer and it’s customizable keyboard shortcuts are awesome. While it’s multimedia features won’t overwhelm, they get the job done. If you’re coming from a full-touchscreen or full-QWERTY you’ll want to test the keyboard in person, but again, the typical portrait QWERTY BlackBerry user will be satisfied with the hardware and the software will make them realize what all this Android buzz is about.
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- Check out the Motorola DROID PRO forums, see the specs, or find news and reviews.