Droid 3: First Impressions

The first Motorola Droid set off a wave of high-end Android handsets that came in rapid succession as Verizon rolled out the red carpet for the Google-backed operating system. It had a strong specification sheet but its slide-out keyboard was a disappointing tactile experience as Motorola sought to keep the device relatively slim. The Droid 2 improved the keyboard, but it still wasn’t great.

The Droid 3 is a big step forward. Not only does the keyboard offer a vastly improved typing experience including a luxurious number row, but the screen has been expanded to four inches, which I believe is the “sweet spot” for a touchscreen handset (although requires a little adjusting to after using the Samsung Infuse extensively for a while. Consistent with reviews of the Atrix 4G, the user interface is silky smooth and Motorola includes a 3Dish animation effect (swiping in a concave manner as opposed to HTC Sense’s convex one).

The bottom lipped industrial design is more akin to the stacked slabs I preferred on the original Droid as opposed to the curving slope on the Droid 2, but the bottom slab is now at a diagonal. Critics angered that Motorola switched the button order between the original Droid and Droid 2 will likely be glad to know that Motorola has kept the Droid 2 button order intact. Motorola has even improved the on-off button, which I sometimes found difficult to trigger on earlier Droids; the Droid 3 blanks out with a cute CRT-like power down animation. The case is a much more pleasant soft-touch texture than the Droid 2’s rubbery back. And finally, the whole package, while a bit imposing in the hand, is a bit thinner than the Droid 2.

I tried Google Navigation on it last night and it worked great on the trip out although took a while to pick up signal coming back when it was admittedly a bit cloudier. In the next few days, I’ll be trying out the Droid 3’s full HD camcorder complementing its 8 MP still capabilities. I’m not as much of a fan of Motorola’s visual style in general versus some of its Android competitors. (The browser icon is terrible.) However, it makes good use of the device’s high-resolution (QHD, 960 X 540) display and text, while small, is easy to read. Alas, it is a 3G-only device. Overall, though, it seems like a much bigger leap forward from the Droid 2 than the Droid 2 was from the original Droid, and without question the best QWERTY device in Verizon’s lineup.

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