Review: Motorola DROID from VzWireless - Page 2

By Lisa Phifer

November 30, 2009

Gmail, Email, and Exchange

E-mail is one area where business limitations surface. Motorola recommends using Gmail for the full DROID experience. We did, and Gmail worked great for our personal mail. The DROID can even keep you logged into multiple Gmail and Google Talk accounts automatically.


We also configured the DROID to pull e-mail on-demand from a corporate POP account and auto-sync message, contact, and calendar data with a corporate Microsoft Exchange server. Those (non-G) mails must be accessed through the DROID's "Combined Inbox" which delivers both total and per-account message counts (below).





This inbox drills down into one or all mailboxes to view, delete, reply/forward, and compose messages, aided by physical or virtual keyboard (above). But, even when push Exchange mail is enabled, this app retrieves message content in small batches only, requiring the user to repeatedly "load more." The DROID includes Quickoffice to view .doc or .xls file attachments, but after-market programs must be installed to read Office 2007 or PPT files, or to edit any document. Messages cannot be moved between folders (e.g., to recover accidentally deleted messages from Trash). And signatures cannot be applied to outgoing POP/Exchange messages.


The DROID also presents appointments through two different apps: a personal Calendar (Google) and a Corporate Calendar (Exchange). Sadly, there is no combined schedule viewer, but all appointment reminders are signaled the same way, appearing as Android notifications at the upper left corner of the home screen.


Contacts synchronized from Gmail, Exchange, and Facebook do end up forming one merged list that can be filtered by source account. When adding a new contact, one account must be chosen for synchronization. However, when we edited a contact sync'd from two sources, changes were only pushed back to our Gmail contact list. A unified list turns out to be pretty essential because Contacts are used to drive several other apps (e.g., calls, messaging, navigation).


In our view, these DROID apps make only a modest and confusingly diverse attempt at integrating personal and business data. Furthermore, while the DROID uses ActiveSync to reach Exchange, it doesn't support many of the attributes that enterprises rely upon for mobile device management. If you're considering the DROID for business, check with your IT group.


Talk to me

Not surprisingly, we found the DROID to be a very good voice phone. Not only were we able to place and receive clear, uninterrupted voice calls with few coverage holes, but we enjoyed using the DROID's many voice-driven apps.


Like any other cellphone, the DROID provides one-button access to voicemail. But it also provides Visual Voice Mail (below)—a factory-installed app used to scroll through, review, and selectively play messages in a VzWireless voice mailbox. (Note: Visual Voice Mail cannot be used over Wi-Fi or simultaneously with Google Voice.)





The DROID also provides a Voice Dialer app (above) that offers a fast and fairly reliable way to dial Contact list entries or launch any other app (e.g., "open Skype"). Along the same lines, the DROID's default home screen includes Google Quick Search Box and Google Search by Voice. Just tap the little mic on your home screen and tell the DROID what to search for—if your request can't be understood, type a few words into the adjacent Quick Search box. This combo makes the DROID very easy to use in on-the-go, hands-free situations.


Ultimately, our favorite DROID apps were a voice-driven navigation duo: Google Maps Navigation and Google Maps Street View. Tap the Car Home widget to launch the alternate home screen shown above. From here, say a few words to search for an address to be pinpointed on a map, the name of a place (e.g., restaurant, store) to find, or person in your Contacts list. Any of those results can be used as a start or end point by Google Navigation (below).





We found Google Navigation accurate, fast, and easy to use—in many cases, suggesting a better route or providing better directions than our three-year-old in-dash Garmin. The DROID's screen is large and bright enough to present readable maps, spoken directions are mechanized but clear, and voice commands make navigation usable by a driver who can't (or shouldn't) be typing.


Dig deeper for useful features including Traffic View (color-codes traffic congestion along your planned route). The only drawback we could find: no option to repeat the last spoken direction. For best results, use the windshield mount and auto power adapter. In our view, this navigation feature alone—which requires no monthly subscription—justifies the DROID's price tag.


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