The big new thing in technology right now is the Motorola Droid with Verizon Wireless. With Google's Android 2.0, Verizon's coverage, and some nice hardware, it's set up to rival Apple's eight-hundred-pound gorilla, the iPhone. Ushering in a new set of smartphones based on smart user interfaces and open development, it's definitely a great phone for technophiles and power users. But how does it handle in a business environment? We got our hands on one, so let's see how it works.
The first impression of the Droid is that it's solid. Weighing in at 6oz (169g) and sporting a minimalistic metal case, it looks and feels like a brick. That may be a turn-off if you prefer your phones to be light, but it's reassuring if you prize durability. It takes up surprisingly little space given its screen and keyboard. Its edges look sharp, but feel comfortable in the hand. You may have heard reserverations about the keyboard, but it's actually quite responsive and easy to use. The plain layout helps when looking for symbols.
The user interface, of course, is extremely responsive. All the little touches that we've come to expect from a top-end modern smartphone are there. The high-resolution screen really shows its stuff, with beautifully sharp and clear displays on maps, websites, and other image-intensive applications. The display is bright and visible, indoors and out.
So, how does the Droid do in a business environment? The most important aspect is probably connectivity. The Droid natively supports Gmail, standard IMAP & POP3 email, Web browsing, SMS messaging, Google Talk, and of course phone conversations. The interfaces for each are well-designed and easy to use. Verizon's coverage is a definite plus here, giving fast, consistent connection to all of these services in most metropolitan areas. Android provides smart switching to wireless hotspots to help keep costs down. Visual Voice mail is a free upgrade, but incurs a small monthly fee from Verizon. Other syncing features include Exchange and Google calendars. Contacts do not automatically sync with Outlook (they do with Gmail and Exchange), but you can import them into your Gmail account relatively easily. This is a general principle with the Droid: Google apps are definitely given preferential treatment in terms of native capabilities. However, it's likely there will be an app available in the Android Market for any major third-party software. Internet browsing is quick and straightforward; it's probably the closest experience to browsing on a computer that's available in a smartphone. It doesn't come with Flash support, but Google promises an update to provide that capability in 2010.
The Droid appears to be best suited for a small business environment. If your business already embraces the Google Apps platform, the Droid should fit in neatly. If you are using other proprietary software, it might be a bit more of a hassle; you'll have to weigh its capabilities against that discrepancy. The Droid prizes user empowerment above other considerations, so it may not be the best choice for large organizations where security is an issue. However, it shines at speed and flexibility, two important attributes for small businesses. Another consideration is that many of its capabilites are overpowered for the typical user's needs; this phone would be best suited for your IT department and mobile professionals, while many employees would be better served with a more basic phone that supplements their desktop solutions. In some cases it might serve as a low-end laptop replacement, but consider your users needs carefully before taking that step. Compared to the iPhone, the Droid probably provides superior business capability, primarily because of Verizon's availability over AT&T, so if you're trying to decide which to upgrade to, the Droid is a good bet. However, if iPhones are already integrated into your business, it's probably a good idea to hold off on switching until the Droid shows a clear advantage.
The Droid's professional style and stunning display ensure it fits in any business setting.
The Droid's 5MP camera has good resolution, but is fairly fuzzy in low light. Expect picture quality similar to that of a digital camera half its size.
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