Droid Pro First Impressions

I have been waiting for a few years for someone to create an Android device in a candybar format with a keyboard on the bottom. I ordered the Droid Pro the first day it was available and used it for the last 2 days, switching from the Droid 2. Here are some initial impressions.

Droid 2 (R2D2) and Droid Pro

Overall, the form factor works well – as I expected. The screen is a little smaller than the Droid 2 (and much smaller than the HD model screens), but it doesn’t feel problematic because you never use the virtual keyboard. There are a variety of keyboard features (quick launching applications, typing to search for contacts, mail folders, etc.) in Android and various apps that feel really natural and useful when there is a keyboard right there for you to use.

The keyboard itself didn’t immediately win my heart like I’d hoped, but isn’t bad. I find the placement of the period and alt key make them difficult to get to and the lack of space below it on the device makes typing and holding it a little cramped. It’s not as good as a BlackBerry keyboard.1

The keyboard backlight on my unit appears to be broken as it only shines across 2/3 of the keyboard from the right. I’m guessing this is specific to my unit and I can probably exchange it for one with a proper working keyboard backlight.

The Droid Pro has a “convenience key” on the side that can be mapped to any application. This is so useful to me that I don’t know that I can properly explain it. Being able to kick into my email with a single click instead of two has a huge psychological effect on me – probably larger than it actually is if the speed difference were measured.

One thing that I miss about the Droid 2 is the cursor keys. I found them very useful to move between fields and for editing text. Android doesn’t have the loupe feature that the iOS sports, so setting cursor position via touch is simply inaccurate.

The Droid 2 is heavier than the Droid Pro. It’s also got a more solid feel with its metal body. That said, the lighter body on the Pro is probably better for its design even though it does feel more cheap and plasticky. Since you are typing on the bottom portion of the device it would feel strange to have a noticeable about of weight imbalance at the top.

On Friday night I decided to switch back from the Droid Pro to the Droid 2.2 The Droid 2 and the Droid Pro use the same model battery (BP6X) but my Droid 2 gets a real 2 days of battery life on a single charge; with WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth on and moderate to heavy use. So far the Droid Pro can’t make it through a day. It also feels slightly warm to the touch on the back (even when it’s off), making me think something is running that shouldn’t be, or that the battery management isn’t working correctly (though I have them on the same “maximum battery” setting). I wonder if a software update is imminent.

I’d gotten pretty comfortable with the Droid 2 over the last month, I’m curious to see how I’ll feel about it this weekend after using the Droid Pro for the past few days. Will I be able to go back to a landscape keyboard? Have I managed to ruin both devices for myself by finding things I like about each that the other is lacking?

UPDATE: I found that I’d accidentally left push email enabled on one of my accounts. Turning that off has the Pro battery life on par with the Droid 2.

UPDATE #2: Turning off push email (in K-9 mail) helped, but was not a solution. I couldn’t consistently coax a day of battery out of the Droid Pro so I’m returning it and going back to the Droid 2.

  1. I hadn’t realized that making a mobile keyboard was so hard, but it must be harder than it appears since RIM is about the only ones that can get it right. [back]
  2. Kudos to Verizon for making this easy to do on their website. [back]