Motorola Droid X Cell Phone Review
By Sandy Berger on July 21, 2010
Motorola, Google, and Verizon have again come together to create the Droid X, as they did the original Droid. Because of this, you might think that the Droid X is simply the next version of the Droid. However, even a quick look at the Droid X will confirm that it is actually a very different phone. We decided to take an in-depth look to see just what the Droid X had to offer.
As shown in Figure 1, the Droid X comes in a small grey box with a picture of the phone and the Verizon/Google/Motorola labeling. This is already a step away from the HELLOMOTO labeling that was on the Droid box. More on that later.
Inside the box is the Droid X, a USB cable with mini-USB end, and a plug that allows the USB cable to be used for charging the Droid from a wall outlet. A close up of that adapter is shown in Figure 3. Also included is a dual-sided fold-out Getting Started Guide and consumer information sheet. Several of the documentation pieces also came in Spanish. The Droid X also comes with a 16 GB micro-SD card. With our review unit, both the battery and the SD card came preinstalled.
The Droid X itself is shown in Figure 4. Weighing in at 5.47 ounces (155 grams), it is slightly lighter than the 6 ounce Droid. The Droid X is also much larger in area, while being over 10% less in volume because it is so much thinner. The Droid is 4.56 by 2.36 by 0.54 inches (115.8 x 60 x 13.7 mm) while the Droid X is 5.02 x 2.58 x 0.39 inches (127.5 x 65.5 x 9.9 mm). It might not seem like much difference, but it makes a huge difference in terms of the amount of phone you hold in your hand as well as the amount you can see on the screen.
The first thing that you will probably notice about the Droid X is the 4.3-inch WVGA (480 x 854) display. This is one of the largest currently on the market. The screen itself is crisp and clear, but is no match to the amount of detail displayed by the iPhone 4’s retinal display or the OLED screens on several other phones. That said, however, unless you put the phones side-by-side, you will be happy with the clarity of the screen on the Droid X. You will be especially happy when you flip the phone sideways to watch a video which looks great on this big screen.
In Figure 4, you can also see the first screen that you see when you turn on the Droid X. You will notice that you must slide your finger to the side to open the phone just as you do on the iPhone. We really liked being able to drag it in a downward motion as you could on the HTC’s Droid Incredible. Thankfully, however, the screen lock can be turned off entirely. This is the beginning of the real beauty of the Droid X. It is highly customizable.
When viewed from the front, as shown in Figure 5, you can see the speaker at the top center of the phone above the large screen. Just to the left of the speaker is a notification light that blinks green to show new email, calls, or text messages. Below the screen are four small hardware buttons. From left to right they are: the Menu key which is used to open menu options, the Home key which will take you home, the Back key which takes you back one screen, and the Search key which can be pressed for a text search or pressed and held for a voice search. The Search key works in conjunction with the application you have on the screen. For instance, if you are in the Contacts, it will search for a contact. If you are using the browser, it will search the web.
These buttons are physically below rather than on the screen. You can feel each one as your press it. Just below these buttons you can see the microphone.
The Droid X actually has three microphones. Two are used for noise reduction. This works perfectly, so you can even make calls in noisy environments. Call quality is excellent. During our testing, we never had a dropped call.
The left side of this Droid, seen in Figure 6, has a Micro-USB charging port which is also used to connect the Droid to a computer. Next to that is a mini-HDMI port. Just to the right of that you can see the corner where you can attach a lanyard.
The right side of the Droid X is shown in Figure 7. The volume rocker is near the top of the phone and the red camera button is near the bottom. When in the camera mode, the volume rocker acts as a zoom control.
The top of the Droid X is shown in Figure 8. You can see the Power/Lock key on the left. This can be pressed to put the display to sleep or held to turn the phone off, to put it in silent mode or to put it in airplane mode. The top also holds a standard 3.5 mm headset jack.
The back of the Droid X has a slight bump-out for the camera, which you can see on the right side of Figure 9. To the left of that is the battery compartment. Next to that is a speaker. The back is also adorned with the Google, Verizon, and Motorola logos.
In Figure 10, you can see the back of the Droid X with the battery cover removed. The SD card can also be seen. The battery must be removed to add or remove an SD card.
The original Droid has a slide-out keyboard, but the Droid X does not. It relies on the touch screen. While we were enamored of the HTC Sense, on-screen keyboard in the Droid Incredible, because of the size of the screen, the Droid X’s on-screen keyboard is just as usable. In Figure 11, you can see that the Droid X keyboard is especially large and usable in the horizontal position.
If you look closely at Figure 11, you will also see a speaker icon on the right side of the second row of keys. Just press this icon and speak and your voice will turn into text. Depending, of course, on your voice quality and accent, the voice recognition built into this Droid is quite accurate.
You may also note the blue “S” on the left side of the first row. This indicates that Swype is turned on. You can use this button for tips and instructions. When we first heard about Swype we thought that it was gimmicky, like some of the gesturing that we had tried in the past. But after we tried it, we found Swype to be both very accurate and very useful.
When you have Swype turned on, you simply drag your finger across the keys, subtly stopping at your chosen letter. If you lift your finger Swype will insert a space. A blue line appears on the keypad that traces your route and Swype interprets the word and places it in the text box. It is amazingly accurate. Even if you almost completely miss and hit an adjoining letter, Swype will intelligently guess what you meant. Of course, like voice recognition, it does a better job of recognizing common words.
One of the first things that you will notice when using the Droid X is that there are seven home pages. Pressing the home button gets you to the main home page. If you swipe your finger across the page you will find two more screens to the left and three more to the right. Moving your finger to the bottom of the screen will bring up a small navigational bar which you can also use to move between the home pages.
The home screens can hold apps, widgets, shortcuts, and folders. Apps are, of course, small applications that add to the functionality of the phone. A widget is like an app that has the functionality built into it right on the screen. So you can have a weather widget that will show the weather without opening an application. The calendar widget shows your upcoming appointments.
The main home page is shown in Figure 12. The grey bar at the top shows notification icons, a battery indicator, and the time. If you drag this bar with a downward motion, it opens like a shade, where you can see specific notifications for email, text messages, and calendar events.
There are three icons at the bottom of the main home screen. The telephone icon on the left is used for placing calls. The man icon on the right will take you to your contacts. Between them is an icon with an up arrow in a circle. Pressing this icon will bring up a screen of the apps that are installed on your Droid X.
This screen of apps is shown in Figure 13. You can scroll these apps up and down. Thankfully, they are alphabetically arranged. Of course, you can use the Market app to download more applications of your choosing.
Press and hold your finger on any app or widget and you can move it to any home page or the trashcan that will appear.
Press your finger on any blank area of any home page and you can add Motorola widgets, Android widgets, shortcuts, or folders. This means that you can customize these screens to your heart’s content. Because there is so much available screen space, everything is easy to see. Motorola even lets you make many of the widgets larger, which is really great.
Moving apps and customizing the home pages is much easier than it is on the iPhone. Also, the use of widgets makes each home page truly unique looking so you can tell at a glance which home page you are on. This is certainly preferable to scanning pages and pages of icons and folders that look pretty much the same, as they do on the iPhone.
The Droid X runs on the Android 2.1 operating system, so it includes multi-tasking. The Droid X will be upgraded to 2.2 over the air when it becomes available. This will also be one of the first phones to run Adobe Flash 10, when the software upgrade arrives later this summer.
While other Motorola phones have an overlay called Motoblur, which focuses on social networking, this is not the case with the Droid X. Instead, the word Motoblur and even the old “HelloMoto” theme that was mentioned earlier are nowhere to be found.
There are still a few hidden customizations, like the ability to resize widgets. Motoblur features can now be found in widgets and apps. This is good news for those who didn’t like the Motoblur overlay. Also this is good news for those who were left with a lot of lag time between the introduction of a new OS version and its implementation, which was usually due to the customized overlay provided by the manufacturer.
You’ll find typical Android services on the Droid, including the latest version of Google Maps Navigation. This is like having a GPS in your phone. The Droid X’s GPS locks into your location and provides spoken directions which include the names of streets.
We were able to download apps from the Android marketplace quickly and easily. While the selection is not as extensive as the iTunes app store, you can find just about everything you need or want there, including games and productivity apps. There is a Verizon channel in the Android market, which we think is a great idea. Instead of getting a phone that is preloaded with a bunch of apps that you don’t want, you can simply download those you do.
The Droid X has 8 GB of built-in memory and comes with a 16 GB microSD card, so you can store a lot of music, videos, and pictures.
The speakers on the Droid X are good and are loud enough to be used for nearby listening. The phone plays AAC, MP3, WMA and WAV music files. The stereo music sounds good through either wired or Bluetooth headphones.
You can attach the Droid X to your computer and drag and drop media files to and from the cell phone, but to get the use of playlists, album covers, and the like, you will want to use Verizon’s free VCAST Media Manager. While we have used this Media Manager before, when we tried to download it to our Windows 7 64-bit computer we were told that it would only work on 32-bit computers. Since 64-bit computers have been in the public sales channel for over two years, Verizon is really behind on this one.
The Droid also has an FM radio with 15 presets. You must use headphones to listen to the FM radio, since they act as the antenna.
We really liked the Droid X's eight-megapixel camera. Daylight shots were crisp and clear. The built-in flash could be a little stronger, as low-light photos were a little dark. But overall, the photos were some of the best that we’ve seen on a cell phone. The phone has eight scene modes, including a macro mode, and also eight effects. The camera roll appears as a unique rolling slide-show, shown in Figure 14. You can easily tag and/or share photos right from the camera roll, but there is only minimal built-in editing, like cropping, rotating, and geo-tagging.
The Droid X captures 720p video at 24 frames per second. These also looked quite good. You can post your videos directly to YouTube from the phone. There is even a video tutorial that you can watch right from the Droid’s preinstalled “Help” app. Other useful help videos are also available. The Droid X has a mini-HDMI port that can be used to show your pictures and videos on your television. There is a Blockbuster app, but at the time of our review, downloading Blockbuster movies was both pricey and time-consuming.
The Bluetooth in the Droid X worked perfectly in our tests. It paired easily with several headsets and hands-free devices. Best of all is that you can do voice dialing over Bluetooth with the Droid X, a feature that was missing on the Droid and Droid Incredible.
The Droid X has another unusual and useful feature. It can be a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices. It works as a WPA2-protected, 802.11g Wi-Fi hotspot. You simply tap on the 3G Mobile Hotspot app, which is shown in the top left of Figure 15, to turn on this feature.
This app uses a lot of battery power, so Verizon recommends that you keep the phone plugged in when using it. Also, there is an extra cost over the standard data plan for use of this feature. Yet, for some this is a great feature.
Everything about the Droid is big, including the large 1570 mAh battery. For a cell phone with such a large screen, battery life was good. We were able to get through an entire day of average use. However, using the location feature for driving directions will drain the battery after 4 or 5 hours. So if you plan on using the Droid X as a GPS in the car, be sure to purchase a car battery charger.
You can purchase an even larger 1930 mAh extended battery as an add-on accessory. There is also a very nice app available that turns the Droid X into a device similar to a clock radio.
We also noted that this Droid gets quite warm in heavy use. It is not really hot to the touch, but you will notice the heat that it gives off if you use it constantly.
The Droid X has a single interface to sign into several different kinds of accounts like Google, Yahoo! Mail, Microsoft Exchange, and other mail services. It also includes access to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and other social networking services. There are several apps that can be used to push and to congregate these networking services.
Google and Exchange calendars are easily integrated into your Droid calendar. Your address book can include friends from social network services, if you like. Thankfully, you can just select one of your phone books, if your combined friends list becomes too overwhelming.
Web browsing is a joy on the Droid X’s large screen. It supports pinch-to-zoom, but you don’t have to do as much moving around as you do on a smaller screen. When Flash 10 is added, the browsing experience will be even better.
The Droid X has all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a really smart phone, including text messaging, MMS, DLNA, speed dial, caller ID, automatic redial, call waiting, conference calling, downloadable and preloaded ringtones, wallpaper, and hearing aid compatibility.
The main specifications for the DroidX are:
Verizon’s Droid phones just keep getting better and better. The Droid was good. The Droid Incredible was better. The Droid X is now the best. Its larger screen, better camera, Bluetooth voice dialing, and Wi-Fi hotspot feature will make it the current Android phone of choice for many. If you want a smaller phone, the Incredible or the new line of Samsung Galaxy Android phones may be a good choice for you, but if you can manage the larger size, the Droid X is an excellent phone.
The performance, call quality, and camera are all excellent. Its features and performance will set the standard for other Android phones. So you can expect to see these phones keep getting better and better. But if you need a phone now, and you like the larger size, the Droid X is an excellent choice.