Previous post:

Next post:

Droid Pro review

Post image for Droid Pro review

November 28, 2010

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews

The Droid Pro is the next smartphone in the “Droid” series, a specially-designed combination of operating system and hardware from Google and Motorola. With the Droid Pro, while I feel the smartphone has some drawbacks, it’s still well-suited to the right type of user.

First, the basics: the Droid Pro is a smaller smartphone with a fixed physical keyboard. Here it is for size comparison next to a Samsung Epic (a pretty big phone) and a Leatherman Wave (a medium-sized multitool).

Overall size and build quality

I’m used to the new-generation phones with the bigger, brighter screens, starting with the iPod and continuing with the Droid Xand Samsung Fascinate and similar devices. What we see with the Droid Pro is interesting, because to me this is an example of both ends of the smartphone size spectrum:

The Droid X is about as large as I’m willing to use. Much larger, and my mind reclassifies it from “smartphone” to “netbook”.

That would be bad, but as it is, the Droid X is fine if what you want is a larger screen.

The Droid Pro is about as small as I’m willing to use. Specifically, I’m talking about the screen size. While I’ve grown to appreciate virtual keyboards (and their many improvements over the years), I still really like physical keyboards, and the size on the Pro is perfect for me. The screen size too is acceptable if I had to use it, but any smaller and the screen would be too small to easily use for text input and web browsing.

Again, that would be bad, but as it is, the Droid Pro is fine if what you want is a smaller screen or smaller device size.

I really like the case design on the Droid Pro. It’s very elegant – black with a silver strip circling the outer edge. The build itself is one of the sturdiest smartphones I’ve encountered. There is ZERO flex in the case itself. I like that a lot, and expect this design should make the phone more resilient to injury.

Take out the Android-specific touch-sensitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back and Search), and the Droid Pro looks very similar to the higher-end BlackBerry lineup. I’m sure this was intentional, since one of the goals of the Droid Pro was to make it more friendly for business users.

Droid Pro battery life

Smartphone displays come at a price, and I’m talking about the always-important battery life. The Droid Pro has a 1390 mAh battery (same as the original Droid), which combined with the smaller screen should make for good battery life, all else being equal (like usage of CPU, wireless and Bluetooth).

For comparison, I asked my coworker about the battery life on his own Droid (original) running on Verizon Wireless. He has the following points:

  • He normally takes it off the charger at 7am, and the battery is around 5% by 10pm.
  • He does not make many long phone calls.
  • He runs it with all “extra” comm services off (including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS).
  • He does do email auto-sync for email (and Exchange) accounts.
  • His phone used to have worse battery life until he changed the email auto-sync from push (instant) to every 15 minutes. This significantly improved battery life.

The battery capacity on the Droid Pro hasn’t changed since the original Droid. Battery life will be dictated by your own usage and power-savings controls on the phone itself. This is a power-hungry phone with an average battery. If you make a lot of calls you’ll need some sort of extended battery or charger. I assume that Android and Motorola have improved hardware significantly since the first-generation Droid days, though unfortunately Verizon does not have battery usage numbers for the Droid Pro in their stats list (see the end of this article for detail).

Here’s my point: The Droid Pro’s battery life should be similar – and probably better – than Joe’s experience above. Like most all smartphones, you should tweak power settings and tune them to your own usage patterns.

Droid Pro keyboard review

One of the obvious physical differences on this phone is the keyboard design. It has angled keys. The keys on the left side of the keyboard tip to the left. The right-side keys all tip to the right. Take a look:

The Droid Pro keyboard with angled keys

I didn’t like this design. Here’s why:

Hand placement: I don’t type with one finger allocated to each half of the keyboard. My physical keyboard self-taught technique is such that I often have a “right side” finger move to the “left side” of the keyboard, and vice versa. For example, when I type the word “phone” on a smartphone physical keyboard, here’s which fingers do what:

“P” – Right hand
“H” – Left hand *
“O” – Right hand
“N” – Left hand *
“E” – Left hand

The “*” indicates me using the “wrong” hand for that side of the keyboard. It’s the same problem I have with those fancy PC ergonomic keyboards – it wants me to type in a way I was never trained to do, and noticeably slows my typing speed.

The bevel design: I have thick fingers. They’re big enough that when I touch the keys before pressing them, I can’t actually feel the bevel – I only feel the edge of the key itself. So touching all the keys feels the same, no matter what key and what bevel angle I’m on. Then I press the key, and get the tactile notification that I was “right” or “wrong”. But also realize: if all I feel are the key edges, it means I’m feeling the left-side edge for some keys, and the right-side edge for some other keys. This further aggravates touch-typing (which is hard enough on a smartphone physical keyboard), because the “edge” does not indicate the same edge for all keys – it could either be the right or left side of the key, but I don’t know unless I look at the key or press it!

The Droid Pro’s keyboard is clearly designed for users who have a more predictable approach to typing. My own technique does not deal with placement of finger or hand, but instead tries to alternate keys between each hand to increase speed. This keyboard works against my typing style. My thick fingers also add to the difficulty.


Would I get this phone myself? No, for two reasons: First, I’ve grown used to larger screen sizes, and testing the Droid Pro caused me to squint and focus harder as I read the screen. I like my screens bigger. The second reason is the keyboard. I love a phone with a physical keyboard, but this one works against my technique.

The Droid Pro is a smartphone that’s focused on the serious business user, on information access, design and behind-the-scenes improvements of corporate information sync and encryption. While it has the capabilities to do so, it is not intended to be a multimedia monster – the smaller screen would not be good for a lot of gaming or video watching. Finally, I expect the keyboard is a contention point for some: It will improve typing for some users, but will slow down others. This is a good-quality phone, but the keyboard and screen size make it essential that consumers physically test the phone to ensure it meets their requirements and preferences.

The Droid Pro is available from Verizon Wireless. The price is $180 with a new two-year customer agreement

Thanks to Joe Bliss who contributed to this article.


The Droid ProDroid Pro features and specifications

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 4 GB of memory (2 GB internal, 2 GB removable)
  • Physical QWERTY keyboard designed for speed and convenience.
  • Support for both Exchange e-mail and Gmail for business
  • Corporate directory look-up, unified calendar for Enterprise and sync with Google Calendar
  • PC-like browsing with Adobe Flash Player 10.1 on a full, multi-touch, 3.1-inch brilliant display built on Android 2.2
  • View, edit and share documents, including Microsoft Excel® spreadsheets, PowerPoint® presentations and Word® documents
  • Built-in security features, including AuthenTec IPSec multi-headed VPN integration, remote wipe of device and SD card, and complex password support. Device and SD card encryption will be available in early 2011
  • 3G Mobile HotSpot capabilities – Allows customers to connect up to five other Wi-Fi-enabled devices and laptops
  • Live widgets that stream e-mail messages to the home screen; customers can filter the widgets to separate work and home e-mail
  • 5-megapixel camera with auto focus and dual LED flash as well as DVD-quality video
  • 3G diversity antennae provides customers with enhanced data speeds and range via Wi-Fi-enabled DLNA® connectivity
  • Android Market™ – Provides customers with access to more than 80,000 applications
  • My Verizon and Backup AssistantSM support – Allows customers to manage their wireless accounts or their contacts from their phones

Previous post:

Next post: