Review: Motorola DROID from VzWireless - Page 3

By Lisa Phifer

November 30, 2009

Where the rubber meets the road

At the end of the day, a phone without connectivity is just an expensive MP3 player/camera. While VzWireless and AT&T squabble about maps, our experience in the Philadelphia-New York corridor mirrored the latest J.D. Powers wireless call performance study.

 

Specifically, we found the DROID's CDMA EV-DO Rev A mobile voice and data services to be a major asset. Sure, EV-DO can't do both simultaneously. But we ran into only one "no service" incident during our entire two-week test drive: a five-minute rural gap in central New Jersey. In every other case, we had coverage whenever we tried to use our DROID—often EV-DO, sometimes 1xRTT.

 

We used the newly-released SpeedTest Android app (below) to sample performance across a four-state area, measured to a server in Philadelphia. Our best EV-DO results: 2.34 Mbps downstream, 0.84 Mbps upstream. Typical results: 1.5 Mbps down, 0.45 up. This turnout is pretty much the best one can hope for in a VzWireless Mobile Broadband coverage area. Oddly, the Xtremelabs Speedtest app did not function correctly on the (Android 2.0) DROID.

 

 

droid-networks.jpg

 

 

We were also happy with the DROID's 802.11b/g performance. When measured by SpeedTest, Wi-Fi throughput peaked at 9.82 Mbps downstream, 0.99 Mbps upstream. However, those results actually measured broadband uplink capacity. When we transferred non-compressible files with Greyhound FTP, through a Ruckus 802.11n AP, to and from a local FTP server, we easily achieved Wi-Fi throughputs up to 25.6 Mbps downstream, 21.6 Mbps upstream.

 

Although some users have complained of difficulty associating to certain Wi-Fi APs, we had no trouble associating our DROID to any 802.11b/g or 802.11n AP we tried, with various WPA/WPA2 permutations. Unlike older Android phones, the DROID benefits from Android 2.0's improved support for 802.1X. As shown above, it is now possible to configure connections to use PEAP, TLS, or TTLS; PAP, MSCHAP(v2), or GTC; and CA/user certificates. Credential storage has also been password-protected to prevent unauthorized use/modification.

 

Another Android 2.0 improvement is embedded support for most popular flavors of VPN. As shown above, the DROID can be configured to use PPTP, L2TP, or IPsec over L2TP (authenticated by preshared secret key or certificate). However, the DROID does not yet appear to include "vanilla" IPsec (that is, IPsec without L2TP). Third-party VPN clients are also available for download from the Android Market.

 

Finally, we had no trouble pairing the DROID's Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR interface with hands-free and audio Bluetooth devices. Supported profiles include Hands-Free, Headset, Stereo (A2DP, AVRCP), Phonebook Access, and Object Push. Motorola included the latter to facilitate video/still image file upload; if you prefer using Wi-Fi, download the free SDCardWiFiAccess app from the Android Market. We were a bit disappointed to find no DROID support for Bluetooth tethering (an inexpensive way to share a phone's 3G Internet with a laptop). VzWireless reportedly supports USB tethering for an extra monthly fee, but this feature was not activated on our review unit.

 

But is it a winner?

The DROID is undeniably fast—both at running apps and at using the Internet—but speed isn't everything. Our DROID exhibited an unfortunate tendency to become unresponsive, distracted by who knows what for anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds, several times a day. Every so often, some apps closed unexpectedly—not just downloaded apps, but Navigation and Email. The DROID is a brand new phone, running a brand new OS version, so some growing pains are expected. However, we hope to see these kinks resolved quickly by Motorola/VzWireless updates.

 

In the long run, we would like to see the DROID deliver stronger out-of-the-box business apps, including a more feature-rich Exchange mail client, standard file attachment readers, and an integrated personal/business calendar app.

 

Combining such enhancements with the DROID's already-strong voice-driven apps and embedded navigation would make this phone a stronger enterprise contender. Until then, we don't see the DROID delivering a knock-out punch to the iPhone. We do, however, find the DROID worthy of serious consideration by anyone shopping for an "App Phone" this holiday season.

 

 

Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. Lisa has been testing mobile wireless phones since the late '90s when she learned to "type" e-mail using Graffiti on her first GSM-connected Palm Pilot.

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