Smartphones

Motorola Droid X review: Everything you need to know

Motorola's new Droid X is like an oversized luxury vehicle. See how it stacks up from an enterprise perspective, and how it compares to the EVO and the iPhone.

Motorola helped launch the Android revolution with the original Droid in 2009 and it is attempting to recapture the magic with the new Droid X, a full-featured smartphone in a big package. If the HTC EVO 4G is the Hummer of smartphones, then the Droid X is the Cadillac Escalade, a massively-oversized luxury product. See how the Droid X stacks up from an enterprise perspective, and how it compares to the EVO and the iPhone.

Rather than overwhelming you with a long narrative, TechRepublic product reviews give IT and business professionals exactly the information they need to evaluate a product, along with plenty of photos, a list of competing products, and links to more information. You can find more reviews like this one on our Product Spotlight page.

Specifications

  • Carrier: Verizon Wireless
  • OS: Android 2.1 with Moto Blur
  • Processor: 1 GHz TI OMAP 3630
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 8GB on-board plus 16GB microSD card (replaceable, up to 32GB)
  • Display: 4.3-inch WVGA TFT with 854x480 resolution
  • Battery: Lithium-ion with 1540 mAh capacity
  • Ports: Micro-USB, Micro HDMI
  • Weight: 5.4 ounces
  • Dimensions: 5.0(h) x 2.6(w) x 0.4(d) inches
  • Camera: 8 MP with dual LED flash, digital zoom, auto-focus, and video capture
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, compass, proximity, light sensor, and dual microphone noise reduction
  • Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY keyboard only
  • Networks: CDMA 800/1900MHz, EVDO Rev. A; Wi-Fi 802.11bgn; DLNA; Bluetooth 2.1
  • Tethering: USB and Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Price: $199 (with 2-year contract); available July 15, 2010

Photo gallery

Motorola Droid X: The Cadillac Escalade of smartphones

Who is it for?

For those who have iPhone 4 envy or HTC EVO 4G envy, but want to use the Verizon Wireless network in the U.S., the Motorola Droid X is now the most powerful smartphone available on Verizon. This phone will appeal to many IT professionals because of the Android open source OS, the open platform for building applications, the ability to connect to IT backend systems, and Motorola's long reputation for producing quality enterprise products.

The Droid X will also appeal to business professionals in general because of its broad email, calendar, and third party app support.  It will especially appeal to those who are avoiding the iPhone because of Apple and/or AT&T, but want a high-end smartphone that can do most of the same functions.

What problems does it solve?

It's hard to believe it was just nine months ago that the original Motorola Droid debuted on Verizon Wireless and changed the smartphone game. It was the first device to run Android 2.0 and Verizon put some Apple-like marketing behind it. As a result, it was the phone that launched the Android revolution, which has been putting intense pressure on iPhone, BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile ever since.

But, less than three months after the original Droid launched, Google launched its own Android phone, the Nexus One, which raised the bar on the Android platform. Then Verizon launched the HTC Incredible (similar to the Nexus One) and Sprint raised the bar again with the full-featured HTC EVO 4G. All of a sudden, the original Droid started to look a bit outdated in light of the rapid development of the new Android devices (not to mention the newly-released iPhone 4). The Droid X is Motorola's attempt to recapture some of the momentum and bring the Moto Droid back up to speed with the top devices in the smartphone market.

Top features

  • Enterprise-class hardware - Motorola has a long history of building industrial-strength, enterprise-class wireless devices for field workers in various industries, including retail, manufacturing, transportation, and health care. You can see that legacy in some of its mobile phones, and the Droid X is good example of it. The build quality is very solid and the device has a very substantial feel to it. It does not feel cheap and plasticy like many of today's smartphones. Instead, it feels like you could drop it and it would take a pretty good beating. This is always an important consideration for business devices since they typically need to stand up to heavy use on a daily basis.
  • Robust feature list - The Droid X is loaded with high-end features, including a 4.3-inch screen, 1 GHz CPU, dual noise-cancelling microphones, 3G mobile hotspot, 720p HD recording and playback, Micro HDMI port, 24 GB of storage, and much more. It's not quite as loaded as the HTC EVO 4G, but it's the next best thing.
  • Battery life - One of the best features of the original Droid was that it boasted some of the best battery life for a high-end 3G smartphone. The Droid X continues that tradition. In my tests, the Droid X had significantly better battery life than the EVO or the iPhone 4 (with push email turned on). On a full charge, the Droid X can actually make it through a full business day under heavy use - something that can't be said of the EVO or the iPhone, in most cases.
  • Call quality - Some people still need to use their cell phones to make a lot of traditional voice calls, and for those people, the Droid X is a great choice. I know multiple people who are heavy callers who tried to use the iPhone as their primary business phone and eventually had to either switch to another smartphone or get a second (non-smartphone) cell that they use solely as a phone, because of the poor reception and dropped calls on the iPhone. The Droid X has two things going for it in the voice call department: 1.) It's on a CDMA network (Verizon), which has better call quality than GSM (used by AT&T and T-Mobile), and 2.) It has not just one, but two, noise-cancelling microphones, in order to send high quality audio to the people you're calling.

What's wrong?

  • Oversized - Like the EVO, the Droid X is huge. People with small hands or not much room in their pockets will be alarmed at how large this device is and may not be able to carry or use it as easily as smaller devices like a BlackBerry or the iPhone or the LG Ally (a smaller Android device on Verizon). Of course, the larger screen on the Droid X also makes it easier to type on, and the large text is easier on the eyes for those who have trouble reading small type.
  • Second-class software - Motorola is new to the smartphone software arena and it shows on the Droid X in the interface tweaks that Motorola made to Android and the MotoBlur widgets that come with the Droid X. It's clear that HTC is several steps ahead of Motorola in Android customization, as the HTC EVO and HTC Incredible have much better interface tweaks and widgets. But, at least Motorola didn't give the Droid X the full version of MotoBlur, which is the software that it layered on top of Android devices such as the Cliq, Devour, and Backflip, and which have crippled those devices and made them difficult to update to the latest versions of Android. Also, Motorola promised that the Droid X will be upgradeable to the new Android 2.2 later this year.
  • Camera deficiencies - The Droid X comes with an 8 megapixel camera, which sounds impressive, but megapixels are not the only factor that determine camera quality and having lots of megapixels can actually be a detriment in some cases. The quality of the camera's sensor is a major factor. For example, here's a comparison of the Droid X camera to the iPhone 4 camera. The iPhone 4 is only 5 MP, but it consistently takes better photos than the Droid X. Part of this may be due to the fact that the Droid X has a physical camera button to tap to take a picture, as opposed to the iPhone and the EVO, which both have on-screen buttons that make it easier to hold the camera still. The Droid X also has one other camera deficiency when compared to the iPhone 4 and EVO - no front-facing camera.

Bottom line for business

The Droid X does not have quite as many flashy features or polished widgets as the HTC EVO 4G and it's not nearly as attractive or easy to use as the iPhone 4, but for hard-core business users and IT professionals, it has a lot going for it in the areas that count. If you care about hardware quality, battery life, and making phone calls, you won't find a better high-end smartphone than the Droid X.

For instant analysis of tech news, follow my Twitter feed: @jasonhiner

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About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

49 comments
ljtinl
ljtinl

I have 6 Droid Xs that I need to get corp. mail on. I am running a SBE Server 2003. I can get their contacts and calendar and email folders to sync but it will not let the email download to the phones. It has to be some setting on the server as there is one email account that will work -- the rest will not. I cannot find what the problem is and have been searching forums with no success. Can anyone help me out?

a2730382
a2730382

Does it support device level encryption that can be remotely managed? Without encryption, the phone be banned from my entire firm. It's a shame. I really wish Verizon would update their network to support voice/data at the same time. :(

TBBrick
TBBrick

If I could use Droid on another carrier, I'd consider it. Have Verizon as landline/DSL and have had DSL drop issues from the start. Now Verizon is switching both to who-on-earth-is Frontier, I'm really not a happy camper. Family members who have Verizon cells are always asking to borrow my Centennial phone because of they have few-no bars. Want to get rid of the landline/DSL and am debating between iPhone 4 and EVO.

LarryD4
LarryD4

Ya think the X is big, the 5 inch gorilla glass'd Dell Streak will be my phone.

dl8453
dl8453

I've read many other articles by Jason Hiner and I can't help but wonder how biased he is for this device since it is not running on AT&T's network. He seems to bash all things AT&T. While I'm not a hard-core business user, I do believe features such as polished widgets and easy to use [features/applications] would be extremely important. After all, wouldn't I rather spend time growing my business instead of wasting time with unpolished widgets or hard to use applications? Am I am iPhone user? Yes, and my phone has never let me down.

mvedwar
mvedwar

Gotta get rid of the second class software and reduce the size some for me, could care less about the camera. I love the iPhone (older one) but I hate AT&T so that has been my holdout. Let the 2nd generation of Droid X come out and maybe I'll switch. Until then still using my BB 8830 on Verizon

brobbins
brobbins

This is a fun time in mobile technology. We have great, viable competition in the advanced smartphone space. I'm happy to see the Droid X bringing large screen goodness to Verizon. I'm on Sprint and just upgraded another phone to the EVO. In reality, the EVO and Droid X are not that large. Does anybody remember the original "brick" phones from several years ago. Talk about very large and very heavy. The EVO and Droid X are svelte by comparison!

mbm29414
mbm29414

Oh, yeah, Jason, it's "all of A sudden" not "all of THE sudden." Basic English. Sheesh.

mark
mark

Compared to the EVO, it has some advantages: 802.11n networking, noise-canceling microphones, and 8GB built-in flash memory. But no front-facing camera, and of course no 4G network capability. Compared to the iPhone 4, its main advantage is the bigger screen; you can also replace the battery and the memory card. Against that, no front-facing camera and no gyroscope. Android vs. iOS is a personal choice. And of course there is the network issue, and the iPhone's problems with signal quality. There are differences in screen size and resolution as well. But at the level these phones have reached I don't believe the differences in numbers matter much.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

HTC EVO 4G rocks! What else matters?

Rexxrally
Rexxrally

Great! Another Droid phone that doesn't work on a GSM network, another Droid phone that I can't buy.

mdeans
mdeans

Every phone and Os will let you down eventually. The question is, can you get beyond or around whatever issue is stopping you. With android you can. Something will be put on the market. Google will update, quickly. Or some kid in a basement will tweak the operating system and put his results up for you to mod your phone with. With apple, I guess you better hope you really didn't need that functionality.

Cincinnerdi
Cincinnerdi

Not sure I understand, Android G1 started out on GSM.

mdeans
mdeans

You may not like the overall size of it but it's coming to a GSM near you. Admittedly the current Android offerings at T-Mobile and AT&T are kind of weak. It's all a matter of waiting, or buying a phone from Europe.

bhesner
bhesner

Is the Droid X a worldwide phone for Verizon?

Cincinnerdi
Cincinnerdi

Jason, comparing the phones to Hummers and Cadillacs is perfect. So that means my G1 must have been a Pontiac Aztek and my Droid is a Camry? So what is the iPhone 4??

mbm29414
mbm29414

I'm not sure how you're using your iPhone4, but I have all the features turned on and use it heavily during the day and it rarely needs a recharge before bedtime. About the only thing that actually kills the battery is playing a round of golf using GolfShot GPS and never trying to save battery life at all. If the Droid X has a larger battery, great, but I'm not sure why you ding the iPhone4 for its battery. As for the phone itself, I'm glad that other phone makers are bringing good competition to the marketplace. It's nice to see how this drives forward the experience for all phone users. As an iDevice developer, Android still isn't for me, but if this phone makes other people drool, then cool!

Justin James
Justin James

My original Droid is nearly useless with Exchange. It can't handle Exchange folders, it does not mark items as read on the server (so my deleted items folder is filled with unread emails). Even worse, *it doesn't pickup email when it is supposed to*. I have firewall logs that verify that most of the time, it checks for email once every 10 - 15 minutes (it is set to every 5 minutes) and in many cases, it can go HOURS without getting email. If the Droid X fixes the problems with Exchange that I see on my original Droid (I'm about to get my 6th Android phone in 4 weeks from Verizon, I think, due to stupid software problems), then I might push them to give me one, otherwise I may very well be looking for a FULL refund so that I can purchase a feature phone. I am tired of paying $30/month for a data plan to use a phone I paid $500 for, but can't do what I paid to do. J.Ja

Rexxrally
Rexxrally

Yes, the G1 is an Android phone for the GSM network. But I don't want an old out-of-date phone, technologically speaking. I'm talking about the latest and greatest Android phones, the Incredible, the EVO 4G, and now the X. When are THEY going to be coming out for the GSM network?

jxexbx
jxexbx

...if you care to comment?

theron
theron

The Iphone 4 would be a recalled Camry

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

Your iPhone 4 battery life will evaporate quite quickly. And, in a corporate environment, push email is a necessity in many cases. If you turn Push off (even if switch to fetching every 15 minutes), then iPhone 4 battery life increases tremendously.

mdeans
mdeans

He said it died when he had push email turned on. "or the iPhone 4 (with push email turned on)"

Justin James
Justin James

I just got off the phone with a Level 3 Motorola tech support person. He told me that he sees problems with syncing from time to time, where the system does *not* sync on the schedule it is supposed to. He says that removing/reinstalling the battery clears it up (hardly a workable solution) for a period of time. He does not know the root cause. As far as I can tell, more proof of why Google has no business in the enterprise software game. Their permanent betas may fly for consumer grade Web mail, but it doesn't work for things people pay actual money for. Yes, Android is technically "free", but I paid $500 for the phone, and the hardware itself is nothing special. J.Ja

lharrison
lharrison

Exchange works fine with my Droid. Checks for messages and alerts me (or pushes them immediately...I've had it set up both ways). All my folders are visible and accessible. If I delete something on my phone it's deleted from my regular inbox just a couple of seconds later. My only issue is that I can't search for a particular email, and as my inbox is ridiculously huge, it's really only useful for very recent mail. Unless I've put something in a separate folder, of course.

mdeans
mdeans

I've had an android phone since the G1 came out. I've managed to get my mail easily and quickly with one simple step. Forward all incoming exchange mail to your gmail account. You must have one or you couldn't set up your droid. It works quite well for me. It will also allow you to use an android phone with exchange systems as old as 5.5. Mostly because you effectively move your interactions with your email to another venue entirely. As a side note I've also noticed that Spam that gets through Microsoft's Forefront Spam and virus filter does not get through gmail's.

Rexxrally
Rexxrally

Nice Find! Thanks, I'll have to follow up on this one!

Rexxrally
Rexxrally

I probably forgot to mention: I live in Canada, and the Nexus One has one more problem for me: "Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S." I'll have to see if I can find it somewhere that will ship it to Canada. And I also need to find out if it will work with the Rogers network up here.

mdeans
mdeans

I'd rather have a droid x or a streak. That would be a 4.3" and a 5" screen respctively with almost identical processors and memory configurations.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I get a lot of email. iPhone 4 battery life can't keep up on Push.

Dave.57
Dave.57

Maybe your phone is spending too much time searching for a signal??? I can use exchange push email all day and then watch MLB for 3 innings and be at 15-20%. Heck I haven't had to use my apc mobile power pack since I got the 4G.

me
me

Or maybe it is an Android 2.1 thing, but I flag Exchange emails all the time via my Evo and they show up as flagged directly afterwards in my Outlook on my pc.

jgwinner
jgwinner

(Spoke in Jack Nicholson's voice) This is true, and it depends on mail volume. At work, my older iPhone (3G) can only last about 3-4 hours with no calls and getting email. On the weekends, it'll sometimes last the entire day. This is the sole reason I'm getting a Droid X instead of sticking with Apple; the removable battery. I manage a team of production DBA's for multiple clients and I have to be able to get phone calls if someone crashes. One minor grump: Why can't any smart phone use the 'flag' feature in Exchange? == John ==

Justin James
Justin James

I have the same experience (other than it not performing the sync on the proper schedule). Often, when an email comes in, if the phone is syncing right, I'll get it on the phone before Outlook does! Interms of my problem with folders, yes, I can see other folders... but I can't move emails within them, making it less than useful. Overall, the Motorola Droid experience is awful when it comes to Exchange, *for my purposes*. J.Ja

r49808
r49808

amazing looking phone and gadgets, but i work for a living and without a reliable corp email tool, it is worthless to me... i'm stuck with verizon, any suggestions? i'm thinking about going back to my old blackberry workhorse..

mdeans
mdeans

It's a manufacturing company. I just killed the last NT 4.0 backup domain controller. I have no budget for IT. I killed the NT 4.0 PDC three years ago when I was hired. We have an ERP system that shipped with orange screens. It can be a difficult situation.

Justin James
Justin James

BlackBerry push is not the equivalent of forwarding everything to Gmail. It is the equivalent of Exchange's ActiveSync system. That being said, if your company is still on Exchange 5.5, I can see the issue and why you are so surprised that this is not a solution for the "real world". If you had a modern copy of Exchange, you'd have ActiveSync which makes it a cinch to sync directly from Exchange (just like syncing to Gmail...). The fact that your company is still using Exchange 5.5 is a sign that things like security are complete unimportant to them. ANYTHING would be an improvement, even a move to corporate Gmail. Personally, I would be very, very worried about working for a place so far behind the times. It says a lot. It would be like if they still had an outhouse. Does it work? Yes. But are they too cheap or too broke to upgrade, or just not knowledgeable enough? When a hacker or virus wipes out your systems, what will happen to the company? J.Ja

mdeans
mdeans

Forwarding the email on to gmail is a reasonable solution. I mentioned Exchange 5.5 because that is the system currently in place here. And how is forwarding to gmail different from forwarding to blackberry email? Both push the email outside the office. Neither update your mailbox. I'm so impressed with gmail I'm trying to push my company to use google apps. I don't know what setup issues you've had with Android but my email often arrives at my phone before it arrives in my outlook.

Justin James
Justin James

We don't use IMAP on purpose. And I *am* the IT department. :) J.Ja

Narg
Narg

It's called IMAP. Exchange does it. Ask your IT dept if they support IMAP. If so, it works best on any smartphone that fails at native Exchange OTA sync.

Justin James
Justin James

The problem is not configuration. The problem is that 1) the original Droid lacks Exchange functionality, like accessing more than one folder and 2) the Droid does not check for email *when it is supposed to*. Every time I check the email, it works. But the timer isn't working right or something. Android is a piece of junk, and I regret every good thing I ever wrote about it. J.Ja

stosh
stosh

We've been using Exchange with OWA (before it was OWA!) and SSL enryption for quite a few years. If the smartphone supports Exchange Active Sync, then adding the correct cert to our smartphones (BlackBerries, iPhones, WinMobile, Android, etc. from all the major carriers) enables us to use the most used functions of e-mail (fully sync'd), calendar and contacts. I have noticed that on my WinMobile (6.1) phone, contacts are only sync'd at the top level (I have multiple levels in Outlook). Verizon tried to get me to use the more costly data plan, but I backed it down to the least cost version since my phone talks SSL to the mail server and it works just fine.

Justin James
Justin James

The idea of forwarding all of my CORPORATE EMAIL to Gmail is absolutely ABSURD. Why in the world I would do that is beyond me. It completely removes half the purpose for using email on my phone, because now I still have to manage it when I get to my desk. And it completely disregards the fact that we made a deliberate choice to have email handled internally, not the least of which is to keep our data in house. My employer is extreme sensitive to where data at rest sits, and putting it on Google is not acceptable. J.Ja

ErikRichter
ErikRichter

You're answer to an enterprise email issue is to forward your email to a gMail account? That's hardly a solution and against many corporate policies, I'm sure.

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