John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Motorola Droid Pro review

The mobile phone market is moving at a brisk pace. The innovation is happening fast and furious. This is a really good thing for the consumer but a bad thing for those trying to catch up, oh like say, Microsoft. Android is hot in both the phone and tablet market place. Apple has done their best to use their usual strategy, innovate, come up with a great product, then milk it for all it’s worth, but that has been difficult. That said even the iPhone/iPad have been making huge strides in short periods of time. This is a fiercely competitive market. Hot today is dead tomorrow!

It’s take a lot to make a successful mobile phone these days. One mis step and the product is a flop. The devices have become so good I’m at the point where the differences between devices is become more and more subtle.

If your curious here’s a list of all the smart phones I’ve owned or played with.

I’ve been on an HTC Desire Z from Telus for the last 10 months. Now for those of you that know me, that’s a long time for me on a device. I won’t lie, money is one of the reasons but the other reason is that there simply has not been anything out there that interested me more. I was looking into upcoming devices and came across the the Motorola Pro+. The form factor looks interesting. In looking around I came across the Droid Pro and decided to give it a whirl. The price is right. The things I don’t love about the Desire Z are these. 1)Battery life. It’s awful. I carry around spare batteries all the time. 2) the 800MHZ processor is minimal. I really notice how much more sluggish it is than the 1G on my tablet. 3) I like having a keyboard but the slide out sometimes is less than ideal.

Onto the review of this device. The form factor for me is unique and interesting. It’s like an iPhone with a blackberry keyboard bolted onto the bottom. So no need for a slider. The processor is 1G and the battery is a little larger than the Desire Z.

The whole Droid vs Droid Pro has been beaten to death in other reviews so I am going to completely ignore this topic. I’m a consumer and my review will be from that point of view.

The phone at time of writing is at 2.2.2 and there does not seem to be an official OTA update for it.

This phone is a world phone. So what this means is it has a CDMA as well as a GSM phone built in. The CDMA is tied to Sprint. The CDMA is dominant and assumed to always be there at power on. This is a bit of a pain in the ass. When the phone starts up (or after any crash) the first thing it does is look for CDMA sprint. This can take a while to time out and you have no access to anything until this is done. Now if you happen to be out of the country using GSM then you need to be patient any time you power this phone off. In my case I have no intention of using the CDMA phone. Part of the HUGE delay is because this phone has not been activated. If there is no GSM SIM present the device seems to never come back. Not even for you to use WIFI. This seems to me to be a design flaw. There is a simple solution to this issue. Put the phone into Airplane mode before powering it off. If you do then the activation times out quickly and all is well. This problem also continues to nag you any time the phone looses GSM coverage if it is in GSM only mode. It then wants to turn CDMA back on, turns off GSM data, turns roaming protections all back on and next thing you know you are in this unpleasant loop that just seems to go on. I was in a situation where GSM coverage was in and out, and man did the phone ever go crazy. It really was bad. It was so bad the best thing to do would have been to put the phone in airplane mode and turn off all the radios. And the whole time the phone was in this loop it was killing the battery at a record pace. This seems to have been REALLY badly thought out. The best solution is to put the phone in automatic mode. The only catch being if the phone crashes and it all goes back to CDMA mode and you start into this loop again.

Once up you can go into the settings and change the radio over to use only GSM and ignore CDMA. Unfortunately this is reset on each and every power off. Another design flaw. Best choice is automatic mode.

As usual I had to add the APN for Rogers/Fido. Once I did the device works perfectly with the Rogers/Fido 3G network and gives good speeds.

The antennas in this phone do not seem to be anywhere near as good as those in the Desire Z. The signal strength on both 3G and WIFI are always lower on this phone and are even less reliable with occasional drop outs.

The screen is the one major thing they are changing on the Pro+. They are increasing the resolution. The screen in my opinion is not bad. It’s not stellar and compared to some of the leading edge phones it definitely no where near as bright and vivid but it really is not bad. I wouldn’t change the device just for the screen. The size of the screen is noticeably smaller and text is definitely harder to read. That said I have been pleased with how the programs I use have dealt with the smaller/lower resolution screen.

The keyboard is every bit as good as a blackberry. Nice feel, and ok spacing. They have even included a voice button which makes using it easy to use voice commands and voice dialing. Something that was difficult on the Desire Z. So much so I never used it. The auto repeat on the keyboard seems to be set quite short and I find myself bouncing on keys regularly. On the positive side the device highlights any word that is mis spelled and allows you to click on it and choose a correct spelling. I really like this feature. It works VERY well. No idea why this is the first time I have seen this feature on any Android device. The layout of the device makes it a little unbalanced in the hand while typing. You find yourself awkwardly holding it while typing.

The software load is fine. They have included WIFI tethering which is a must for me. Unfortunately the WIFI hotspot bogs down the phone when it’s running (something I never noticed on the Desire Z) and it is unfortunately unreliable causing the phone to crash regularly. I found turning off WPA2 helped and made it stable. I did notice they turn bluetooth off when they start this feature and don’t turn it back on when you turn it off. Irritating. I use bluetooth all the time. All in all this key feature for me is basically unusable.

They have also included a great dialer with easy look up of your contacts. The browser includes pinch to zoom. And works well and is smooth.

The music ap is particularly good and also includes the ability to download and show lyrics as it plays. Impressive, the first enhanced feature on a music player other than Winamp. It also includes support for internet radio, as well as a built in song recognizer courtesy of Soundhog. Tunewiki is also supported with links to top 50s by country and the like. One of the best music players I’ve seen to date!

The calendar and contacts aps are stock.

Text messages has been improved to include some nice GUI and threaded messaging. A nice touch for what is obviously a messaging device! Unforutnately you can not change the font size so I ended up loading Handcent instead to do SMS.

There were lots of enhancements that were part of HTC Sense UI on my Desire Z and I have to say I miss some of them. They had a very nice clock that included timer for count up and count down. Enhancements to many of the stock aps, and even a flashlight that used the camera’s flash. That said there’s an ap for that šŸ™‚ And it works fine. Speaking of the camera, it is actually quite a bit better on the Droid Pro than on my Desire Z, as is the flash. It also includes built in support for location tagging of the pictures. Oddly this is turned off by default.

Motorola has wisely stuck with standard jacks for USB (micro USB) as well as a standard 3.5″ audio plug complete with support for push to pause. I really appreciate not being tied to some proprietary jack. Sadly no video out of any kind for driving a TV or the like.

Bluetooth worked pretty well. On the audio side it connected nicely with both of my car stereo’s supported streaming audio, as well as bluetooth music controls. I had no trouble linking up my targus bluetooth keyboard, not that I would use that for anything. The bluetooth mouse support is not great though. No mouse pointer and all moving the mouse did was slide the home screen over and back. Not a big deal on a phone but a killer on a tablet.

The device has a uSD slot. I plugged my 32G class 10 card in, but it didn’t work well. Not sure what the issue was. It was not completely dead. The phone locked up with it present, ignored it once etc. So not reliable. My 16G and 8G cards (both class 4) worked fine. So it may be to do with the class 10 speeds.

GPS on the phone works well and locks up quickly. Google maps works perfectly.

The phone has a good solid vibrate mode making it easy to receive your messages!

Physicals on the phone are good. It’s light, and the size is almost identical to the Desire Z. So much so that my car holder for the Desire Z also fits the Droid Pro! An unexpected treat! It also fits well in standard blackberry holsters. Another added plus. These are cheap and plentiful.

Battery life is good and seems better than the desire Z. Getting through a day is definitely possible. And there are some settings that allow you to get even better battery life.

Motorola has included support in the Kernel to allow Microsoft File shares to work! A nice touch. There is even a DLNA client to allow you to play content to and from multiple devices on your home network. DLNA allows you to take content from one device and play it on another through your network. For example I can take music playing on my phone and play it on my computer that is connected to my stereo! Video and pictures can also traverse this way. So all your devices end up being interconnected with DLNA being the glue that allows them to communicate. Samsung also include what they called AllShare which can also do the same. I have a bluetooth audio gateway that I use for a similar purpose but frankly this works better. Bluetooth range is limited and I’ve had issues with the device playing the music with varying pitch. Very odd …

Sometimes it’s little things that are handy. The light for example on the droid pro works well and indicates easily when a message is waiting for you. It can even show different colors for different notifications. There’s also a programmable button on the side of the phone you can set to start any program. Very nice.

There’s lots of accessories on ebay for it from batteries, to chargers to cradles.

So all in all I liked this phone. The unreliable WIFI hotspot is a killer for me. The poorly implemented CDMA/GSM radios made me want to throw the phone at times.


November 17, 2011 - Posted by | Android

1 Comment »

  1. […] bought a Droid Pro a while back and was fairly impressed with the device once rooted. I had to root it to be able to […]

    Pingback by Droid 2 Global review « John Galea's Blog | January 1, 2012 | Reply

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