My initial thoughts on Droid

I’ve been using Droid for several days now. I wanted to adapt a bit before posting my first impressions, but it turns out that I feel almost exactly the same about Droid now as I did the day it turned up on my door step. I’ll get into my impressions of Eclair and Google Nav later, but I want to give you my opinions in the order I discovered them. Let’s take it one step at a time.

My first thought when I saw the FedEx package was, “Wow, that’s thin.” And it is; the packaging and the phone itself. Considering that this thing has a slide-out QWERTY, the size is outstanding. And that big, beautiful screen? It’s worth a little extra bulk in the pocket. The next thing I noticed is how sharp the edges are. The shape doesn’t exactly conform to your hand but it does meld nicely into a front pocket, and the lines give is a distinguished look, I think.

What about that sliding screen? Oh, no. I’m not a fan of that mechanism. There is no spring or anything else offering any sort of resistance, so the motion between open and closed isn’t exactly smooth. I also found that pushing on the edge of the screen to close it (as opposed to dead center) causes friction underneath; as if the screen panel were turning abnormally, rubbing in a way and place it was not intended to. This leaves me wondering if some loosening over time would be a good or bad thing. It’s such a small detail, but so important to the user experience. I wish the sliding mechanism worked differently.

Next step, the keyboard. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking hardware or software, my number one rant/rave regarding phones is generally focused on the keyboard. Droid’s software keyboard is just the standard fare that ships with all Androids. I see no difference in 2.0, so I replaced it immediately. I don’t like the default Android keyboard.

Droid’s hardware keyboard had two strikes against it before I even tested it out: they keys are arranged in a grid formation rather than in a staggered pattern like you find in a computer keyboard, and the keys have virtually no separation. I have a tendency to let the grid-style keyboards put me off to the point that I don’t even bother with them, and I didn’t want to make that mistake here. I wanted to be sure I gave this monster of a phone a fair shake, so I decided to be optimistic.

“The keyboard build quality is great,” I said (to myself and one other person); “one of the best I’ve seen on an Android device in that respect.” And it’s true; the keyboard feels solid. I’m sure it will last a very long time. Unfortunately, in my case, that may be due largely to the fact that I will never open the QWERTY to use it. It’s a pain in the butt to type on. I am constantly mashing the wrong keys and have to type very slowly and deliberately to accurately complete the simplest of messages. Granted, every keyboard requires adaptation. And if you’re hooked on the staggered layout like I am, a grid requires even more work. But I am putting in the work, and I just keep getting more frustrated. I’ll keep trying, and will probably update with a slightly more tolerant stance.

Thankfully, I have installed a software keyboard replacement, and the Droid’s touch screen is perfect for typing on. OMG, I love that big, gorgeous display. It is sensitive, it is sharp, and it is a joy to touch. Paired with an Arm Cortex A8 processor clocked at 550 MHz, this is what I consider the Droid experience. Forget the sliding mechanism and keyboard. I’m leaving this slider shut. Now I can focus on the software experience. And let me tell you, it’s the best I’ve had yet on an Android in terms of responsiveness. More on that later. Stay tuned.

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