Droid X by Motorola

A week of toting around the new Droid X and reactions from friends remind me of the days I used to walk my Newfoundland dog around campus. "Woah, that thing is huge!" the boys would shout, followed by, "How much does he weigh?". The new Droid X is comparable to a Newfoundland dog: big, black, bold, smart and capable of jumping out of helicopters to save drowning fisherman. Well, actually, we do not advise throwing your Droid X out of a helicopter or submerging it in the ocean.

And while a Newfoundland dog weighs about 180lbs (80kg), the Droid X weighs 5.5oz (155g), which is still a paw heavier than the iPhone 4G at 4.8oz (137g). It's thinner and lighter than the original Droid, accomplished by getting rid of the Droid's slide-out physical keyboard, so while not overwhelming, it barely fits into the pocket of a technophile's skinny jeans.

The Droid X measures 65.5 x 127.5 x 9.9mm, while the iPhone 4's dimensions are 58.6 x 115.2 x 9.3 mm, which means the Droid X could swallow the iPhone 4 with room to spare. With a 4.3-inch high-resolution screen, the big friendly Droid X is one of the largest smartphones on the market, comparable to its twin brother the HTC Evo 4G. But with only 854 x 480 pixels on the Droid X display, the Apple iPhone 4's 3.5-inch display wins with 960 x 640 pixels (Evo loses by just a pinch with 800 x 480). A larger display is nice, but a higher resolution means sharper graphics and clearer text.

The Droid X is an evolution of the original Droid, which launched just over 8 months ago. The back of the Droid X reminds us of an early-90s calculator but it's still a dramatic improvement over the old Droid's battery cover design. Another great improvement: the front of the phone has four actual, physical, buttons including menu, home, back and search.

Also, the Droid X has a true multitouch keyboard, pre-loaded with Swype, which is a huge change in the way touch keyboards work. It's easy to use and it's incredibly efficient. Swype enables users to text at more than 50 words per minute using one continuous finger motion across the screen keyboard.

When the phone boots up, the Motorola-added Live Wallpaper features the iconic red Droid eye. The interface is confusing with seven screens of widgets, but it's easy to customise the home screen. Motorola widgets include airplane mode toggle, Bluetooth toggle, calender, contact quick tasks to set quick settings for favourite contacts, GPS toggle, messaging, news, a favourite photo widget, sticky note, weather and Wi-Fi toggle. It's also preloaded with a full suite of Google mobile services including the Android market, Google Maps, Street View, Latitude, Search and Gmail.

The music library on the Droid X is similar to the old Droid, although we had issues connecting the smartphone to a computer to load music onto it; third-party apps like Pandora may be your best bet to listen to music out of the phone's decent speakers.

The Droid's pull down screen to show notifications including recent downloads, missed calls, social networking updates and email is not so intuitive at first but it is extremely helpful. Also counter-intuitive is some of the phone's highlighting features: unread emails are white while read emails are highlighted with a grey purple.

With its massive display screen and full 720p HD video capture and playback via HDMI, "the Droid X screams video", says Verizon's CMO John Stratton. In fact, Motorola and Verizon are marketing it as a "pocket-sized home theater". The features encourage users to use Verizon's V Cast video-on-demand service in partnership with Blockbuster, NFL Mobile, and Skype Mobile. As far as we can tell you can't delete these preloaded programs.

There are four video modes: everyday, outdoors, narrative and subject, which adjust the settings of the device's 3 microphones. For example, everyday makes use of all three of the camera's microphones, outdoors reduces wind noise, narrative is best for capturing video while commenting on the scene and subject is best for capturing audio from the front of the camera. Camera effects include favourites like sepia, solarize and a variety of tints. The Droid's HDMI jack works well for plugging your phone into the TV and it features DLNA which enables users to download and stream videos from personal computers, although this wasn't easy on first try.

The Droid X features an 8-megapixel camera with built-in camera effects, 1/1000 second shutter speed, autofocus, touch focus, panoramic capture and a dual LED flash. It trumps the iPhone 4G's 5-megapixel camera and single LED flash, but won't replace your camera. The only aspect the Droid X lacks is the Evo 4G's and iPhone 4's front-facing camera which makes it a loser for video conferencing.

The Droid X runs on Google's Android operating system. The Android Market offers 65,000 apps in comparison to Apple's App Store which sells over 225,000 apps. The superphone comes with Android 2.1, which is more integrated into the OS than the original Droid and will receive the Android 2.2 update later this summer. It also features a brand new version of Motorola's MotoBlur software, which lets you stream content from social networking sites. The software is (thankfully) dramatically toned down from the original Droid.

You may have seen Motorola's Droid X advertisements recently (for US readers), which directly bash the new Apple iPhone 4 with the following claim: "And most importantly, it comes with a double antenna design. The kind that lets you hold the phone any way you like and use it just about anywhere to make crystal clear calls." Motorola's CEO, Sanjay Jha spoke highly of Verizon's high performance diversity antennas and the world's largest 3G network, saying jokingly, "People still use phones as phones". Calls on the Droid X are unsurprisingly clear due to Verizon's reliable 3G network. In fact, unlike the iPhone, the Droid never once dropped a call. Shocker.

And one of its coolest features, just like the Evo, the handset doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices including PCs for an additional $20 a month, which clearly beats the iPhone 4 in terms of connectivity.

The Droid X boasts 8 hours of talk time and 220 hours on standby, while the iPhone 4 gets 7 hours of talk and 300 of standby. The battery, which is comparable to the original Droid, dies after 24 hours of light use and the battery measure isn't totally accurate.

At $200 (after a $100 mail-in-rebate) the Droid X comes with 8GB of on-board memory and a 16GB card pre-installed, while the $200 iPhone 4G only has 16GB. The Droid X is expandable to 40GB with a pricey 32GB card, meanwhile the iPhone 4 maxes out at 32GB. It uses Texas Instruments' OMAP processor clocked at 1GHz like the old Droid, instead of the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor found on most Android phones including HTC's Evo.

Verdict

As an added bonus for Mother Earth, Droid X is environmentally friendly, including a PVC-free handset, bromine-free printed circuit boards, mercury-free LCD display, arsenic-free glass and packaging made of 65 per cent recycled materials.

Still, it's not pretty like the iPhone. And it's huge. But due to its 8-megapixel camera and excellent video capture, you'll no longer have to bring out your Flip HD video cam saving you room in your purse or your pocket.

Verizon customers who have contracts ending in 2010 can upgrade to the Droid X without penalty. The Droid X begins shipping on 15 July in the States but there are still no details on when or, even, whether it will make it over the pond.