Analysis: Motorola Makes Good On Google's Promise With Droid


The most important thing you need to know about Motorola's Droid is this: After about five minutes of use, it's no longer a big deal that it's based on Google's Android 2.0 operating system. The thing just works, works well and provides its money's worth of functionality and ease of use.

It's hard to know where it may fit with business users who are on the fly, who need access to Exchange and corporate data, and who may have additional security concerns that others, like Apple or Research In Motion, are able to deliver. But, frankly, those were the same questions that came up when Apple launched its first-generation iPhone in 2007 and the market flushed those concerns in a matter of months as many fell in love with the elegance and functionality of the iPhone.

Droid Enters Ring Against Blackberry, iPhone

The Droid is elegant and functional, like the iPhone, and it works on Verizon's network, unlike the iPhone. That's a big deal to many who prefer Verizon's 3G network or who are not in a region in which AT&T provides reliable coverage. Several features in the Droid jump out as being significant: Voice search, a "slider" keyboard and mouse in addition to a touch keyboard, and tight integration out of the box with applications including Gmail, Facebook, Google Talk and more.

Performance in the Droid is also a noticeable plus for the device over that of the BlackBerry Storm2 and the iPhone. After several days of use, we noticed almost no lag time in opening up or closing applications. This contrasts significantly with the iPhone. The iPhone, which can only single-task with one application at a time for the most part, routinely provides slow entry and exit to a number of different applications, including its GPS and mapping and Facebook, for example. With the Droid, applications open and close in a snap -- a most pleasant surprise.

The 5-megapixel camera is much sharper than most other smartphones in its class, with the ability to edit photos right on the device itself.

The 3.7-inch display is bright and clear. Sound from the speakers, with both music and phone calling, is nice and crisp.

In terms of multimedia, the Droid comes preloaded with one-click access to Amazon.com's MP3 store, which competes with the iPhone's on-board iTunes store. That, though, acts as both a nice way to add music to the Droid, but also as a reminder of what the Droid lacks: namely, Apple's robust and growing iTunes App Store -- an electronic-commerce ecosystem tailor-made specifically for the iPhone. Droid is compatible with Android Market, which has more than 10,000 apps available. While that's a nice amount it's nowhere near as broad as the iTunes App Store.

While the Android community is relatively new and growing, competition with App Store will be a difficult barrier for both Google and Motorola to overcome despite the wonderful functionality, performance and pep that the Droid itself provides.

Motorola's device provides between 6 and 7 solid hours of battery life for both voice and data use, which is either on par with or slightly better than the iPhone. (Mileage may vary depending on Wi-Fi connectivity, etc.)

Priced at $199.99 with a two-year service plan from Verizon, the Droid is on par pricewise with both the BlackBerry Storm2 and iPhone 3GS.

The bottom line: Motorola's Droid will force the market to think in a new way about real and potential competitors to both the BlackBerry and iPhone. It also means that Google's Android 2.0 operating system, with the promise of being open for developers and a new ecosystem that can focus on personalization and customization, is now making good on its promise. It's ready for prime time, as the Droid clearly shows. Once it has a bigger supporting cast of apps surrounding it like the iPhone, it will be a difficult platform to take on.