Three months ago, Motorola’s Droid X would have been a landmark phone. But this is July 2010, not March, and the Droid X (while a wildly impressive package of bleeding-edge capabilities) is just the latest in a continuing series of similarly-equipped superphones, following the Sprint HTC EVO 4G, the Apple iPhone 4 and the Galaxy S series of phones unveiled earlier this week. We don’t mean to cynically demean the Droid X – it will easily be the best Android phone from Verizon when it goes on sale July 15, at least until the Galaxy S Fascinate becomes available sometime in late summer or early fall.
Features and Design
Minus a front-facing camera and 4G connectivity, Droid X has more in common with the Sprint HTC EVO than with previous Droids. Both are Android 2.1 phones (both upgradable to Android 2.2 when available), equipped with a 4.3-inch touchscreen, 1GHz processor, 8-megapixel camera, high-definition video recorder, HDMI jack, Wi-Fi, 8GB of built-in memory plus a high-capacity microSD card slot for a potential 40 GB of storage and a built-in mobile hotspot.
Spec-wise, there are minor differences between the Droid X and the EVO, again, other than 4G and the front-facing camera. The Droid X’s LCD has slightly more pixels, 854 x 480 versus EVO’s 800 x 480. The EVO’s 4G mobile hot spot can handle up to eight simultaneous users, Droid X’s 3G up to five. The EVO is a hair taller at 4.8 inches vs. Droid X’s 4 inches and a bit thicker (both are 2.6 inches wide) – although both are technically around a half inch thick (Droid .4, EVO .5 inches) – the Droid X measures that thick only at the top part of the phone housing the camera and is otherwise just around three-eighths of an inch thin. The Droid X has a slightly more powerful 1540 mAh battery compared to the EVO’s 1500 mAh cell. And finally, the EVO is around a half ounce heavier (6 compared to 5.47 ounces). But this is splitting superphone hairs – both are impressive technical achievements, and none of these spec differences favor one over the other.
Even though Samsung has yet to release specs for the Galaxy S Fascinate, previews indicate it is similarly featured to both, except for a slightly smaller 4-inch screen. That extra .3 of an inch is hardly a deal breaker and is more than made up for by Fascinate’s brighter and thinner Super AMOLED display. This could be the deciding factor between the Fascinate and the Droid, as we shall see.
Physically, the Droid X is a now-familiar slab, its face nearly all screen with the usual four Android hard keys arrayed along the bottom – Menu, Home, Back and Search. Android 2.1 gives you seven home screens, each configurable with varying and sundry active social networking and multimedia apps.
Up on the top perimeter are the 3.5mm headphone jack and an oddly-centered power key (maybe we’re just used to the iPhone’s right-located power button). On the bottom left perimeter are the easily confusable microUSB and mini HDMI jacks (thankfully, Motorola clearly labeled each); on the right perimeter are the red camera shutter key and the toggle that handles both volume and camera zoom. The Droid X’s best physical feature: an easy slide-off rear battery cover. It’s worst? You have to remove the battery to swap the microSD card out, but Verizon has preloaded a 16GB card, so this likely won’t be a problem for most users.
As noted, on the rear is a bulging half-inch thick camera array, with a dual-LED flash.
Verizon has partnered with Blockbuster to supply video content, but in the past we have found the registration process unnecessarily awkward. The version on our test phone required an update, but when we clicked to update, we got a “There are no matches in Android Market…” message. The disconnect is likely a result of the pre-production software the test phone was loaded with. You’ll be better off sideloading content.
Since the Droid X is a 3G phone, YouTube videos default to low quality versions, forcing you to click through to get the high-quality editions.
At the Samsung Galaxy S announcement event, we got to compare Droid X’s screen with the iPhone 4′s, EVO’s and the Fascination’s. In the dark room, the iPhone’s highly touted 960 x 640 Retina display definitely had the cleaner, crisper look, especially for text. The Fascination the brightest and most vibrant images, with deep, plasma-like contrast. However, unless you did the same squinting side-by-side comparison, you’d be hard pressed to see any significant difference between them, until…
…you get outside. The Droid X’s screen metaphorically melts in the sun, images nearly bleach out, rendering especially the camera viewscreen almost useless. We didn’t get the Samsung Fascination out in the daylight, but it was easy to see how its native AMOLED brightness could stand up better to sunshine than the Droid X; the iPhone 4′s screen maintained higher visibility than the Droid X.