Baltimore Sun

Droid X: the perfect phone for the big and tall

I'm not a big and tall guy. I live in a modest house (a rowhouse, for those familiar with Baltimore architecture), and prefer it to a McMansion. Though I love grilling, I own a moderately-sized gas grill -- not the kind where you could cook ribs for 50 people all at once. I drive a small Subaru, which is smart for city driving and parking, and could never see myself driving something like a Ford F-150.

You get the picture?

Small, or at least modestly and moderately sized, is part of my lifestyle. That's why Motorola's Droid X probably isn't the phone for me. But for many people who like the living-large lifestyle, this phone is definitely something you'll want to play with when it debuts July 15.


Offering a large phone like this makes sense for Verizon, which also offers the HTC Incredible, a phone more similarly sized to the iPhone, and the earlier Motorola Droid model, which has a pullout keyboard. The Droid X is for the crowd that loves their gadgets big and beefy.

It may not be a blockbuster seller, but it will find its devoted niche of followers. Like all Android phones, there are the usual features that people are accustomed to, such as a replaceable battery, an SD expansion card slot, and tight integration with Google, Gmail, Google Maps and social media apps.


Here is the full feature set for the Droid X from Verizon/Motorola.

I wouldn't describe myself as a power user of smart phones, or an expert reviewer of them. But I have played with enough iPhones and Droids and Palms to get a feel for what I personally and instinctively like and don't like about the phones.

For the Droid X, the pluses (updated warning: I do make comparisons to the iPhone 4, for comparison's sake):

* It has a gorgeous 4.3 inch screen, one that dwarfs the iPhone's 3.5 inch screen, by comparison.

* It seems to have a resilient battery that will take you through a day or so of steady use before needing a recharge.

* The touchscreen interface is more responsive, I think, than Motorola's earlier Droid model.

* It doesn't have a keyboard, which allows the phone to be thinner and lighter.

* Android is getting more mature, but still isn't quite as slick and elegantly simple as the iPhone interface. That said, I like the Youtube app, which allows you to record and upload video while you're in the app -- the iPhone can't do that. Google Voice search works very well, as do Google Maps. So if you're a big user of voice commands and Google maps, and really want to use this phone as your main GPS unit, it could be for you.


* HD video and 8 megapixel camera takes good pictures, though it appears in my informal tests that the iPhone 4 seems to handle lower light situations better, offering better contrasting and less automatic lightening. The picture of the Droid X, above, was taken with an iPhone 4, while the photo of the iPhone 4 was taken with the Droid X. Notice the differences?

* Social media integration: if you like getting your Facebook and Twitter all in one place, Android and the Droid X is for you. The phone automatically populates your Contacts with your Facebook friends, something that the iPhone doesn't yet do (though it's rumored to be coming.)

* Outputs: For the uber-geeks among you, there are two jacks: one for USB and another for HDMI output.

* In the future (supposedly later this summer), the Droid X will get a Flash update, enabling it to play Flash-based videos. This would be a huge step forward for mobile devices, if it can play such video with stability and speed, and without seriously sapping the battery.

* The network: Good call strength for Verizon in Baltimore. I walked all over the inside of the Baltimore Sun building (a huge brick building) while talking to my wife without a hitch.

* The Android Marketplace (app store) is growing (at 50K+ apps) and is starting to feel robust. (But it needs more games.)


The minuses:

* For some people, the phone will probably be just too big. Personally, I like phones I can slip comfortably into my shirt pocket. But the bigger you are, the bigger shirt pocket you may have, I suppose.

* No front-facing camera, which is quickly becoming the standard now on new phones, i.e. the iPhone and the Sprint EVO, as video chat starts to hit the marketplace.

* In my view: Android phones have too many physical buttons that complicate the user experience -- in the Droid X's case, five at the bottom of the phone, including the camera button. For instance, when you're browsing the Web on the phone, you touch the touch screen to scroll through text and to hit the links, but if you want to page back, you have to touch the physical button with the left facing arrow at the bottom of the phone. I think having a dedicated camera button is not a bad idea, except for where it's positioned -- it's too easy to accidentally depress the button while gripping the phone.

* Visual voicemail bummer: you have to pay $2.99 a month extra for this feature, whereas its standard on the iPhone/AT&T.

* The network: On Verizon's network, you can't browse the Web while on a call with the Droid X. You also can't take and email a photograph while on a call. (The iPhone and AT&T's network offers this capability.)

* Build quality: Sorry Motorola, but your plasticky-feeling (but metal) design can't compare to the iPhone 4, with its steel and glass beauty. That phone feels like a pricey, luxury gadget. Yours, by comparison, feels less inspiring and covet-worthy.


Overall, I'm sure there'll be a market for the Droid X, especially among the big and tall crowd who love their gadgets big. For everyone else, you should look at Verizon's HTC Incredible.

P.S. Oh, and one more thing, when I grip the Droid X firmly at the bottom with two hands (who naturally holds a phone that way, btw?), I notice that it drops anywhere from one to three bars. Seriously.