Editors' note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the Droid X since both smartphones share a number of features.
It's hard to believe that it hasn't even been a year since the original Motorola Droid came out, but as we all know, Android has exploded over the past few months and there are simply bigger and better smartphones out there. Enter the Motorola Droid 2. As the successor to the Droid, the handset offers a number of improvements, including a sleeker design, better keyboard, faster processor, and the latest version of Android OS. It lacks some of the higher-end features of the Droid X, but it's still an outstanding device on its own. There are enough improvements to make it worth the upgrade, and it will certainly satiate the need of those who want a physical keyboard. The Motorola Droid 2 is available now for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Verizon will also release a limited edition R2-D2 version of the Droid 2 in September. It will include exclusive "Star Wars" content and hardware designed to look like R2-D2.
Clunky and boxy, the original Droid wasn't much of a stunner in the looks department, but the Motorola Droid 2 reveals a more refined design. Sporting rounder, more-tapered edges, the Droid 2 doesn't have such an abrupt look, and the silver-and-blue color combo is not only attractive but also makes the smartphone stand out in a crowd. It's still a handful; the handset measures 4.58 inches tall by 2.38 inches wide by 0.54 inch thick, but compared with the Droid X and HTC Evo 4G, the Droid 2 actually feels small. It's slightly heavy at 5.96 ounces, but it's a solid handset and has a high-quality construction.
On front, you've got the same 3.7-inch, WVGA (480x854 pixels) capacitive touch screen. Though it might not be as large as the displays on some of the latest smartphones, it's still a good size, as well as sharp and vibrant, so reading text and viewing Web pages, pictures, and video is quite nice. If you do need to get a closer look at something or want more screen real estate, the display offers pinch-to-zoom support and a built-in accelerometer. Both functions work smoothly and quickly.
The screen will also automatically go into landscape mode when you slide the phone open. This is, of course, because the Droid 2 has a full QWERTY keyboard. As a number of Droid owners will tell you, using the keyboard on the Droid isn't exactly a pleasant experience. The buttons are flat, and there's the D-pad on the right side that makes it incredibly awkward to use the keyboard.
Fortunately, Moto fixed a lot of the errors this time around. First, it did away with the D-pad, so now you can hold the phone as you normally would and type more comfortably. Second, the buttons have a slight bump to them, so they're easier to press. Still, they're a bit stiff, so that slowed us down a bit. By comparison, we'd say the Samsung Epic 4G's keyboard is better because of the extra spacing between the keys, but this is definitely an improvement over the Droid. Plus, you've also got the option of using of Motorola's onscreen keyboard and Swype, which is perfect for firing off quick text messages.
The Droid 2 keeps the touch-sensitive Android shortcuts below the display: menu, home, back, and search. Though we prefer the physical buttons on the Droid X, they were still responsive and provide haptic feedback. On the right side, there's a volume rocker and a camera activation/capture button. The top of the device features a power/lock button and a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the left, there's a Micro-USB port. The camera and dual-LED flash are located on the back.
Verizon packages the Droid 2 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an 8GB microSD card, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Like the Droid X, the Motorola Droid 2 is running a toned-down version of Motoblur software. The latter looks nothing like what we've seen on the Motorola Cliq and Backflip. You still get widgets for your social-networking updates, weather, photo gallery, and favorite contacts, but they no longer take up huge chunks of space on your home screen, and you can even resize the widgets. It makes for a much cleaner experience, and you don't feel overwhelmed by all the information.
Aside from the Motorola widgets, you can also add Android widgets as well as shortcuts and folders to any one of the seven home screens. As you swipe through them, a small toolbar appears on the bottom to show you which panel you're on, and you can quickly jump to a page by pressing on the corresponding button. (After a couple seconds, the toolbar changes to a quick-launch bar for the phone, full menu, and contacts.) It certainly makes it easier than swiping through all the panels, but we definitely preferred the HTC Sense Leap screen feature, which gives you a quick thumbnail view of each screen.
Overall, the Motoblur experience is much improved; it's a more refined, sophisticated Motoblur, if you will. However, users coming from the Droid, which ran the stock Android UI, might need some time to acclimate, and even then it still might be too much for some. Just remember that, like all Android phones, it's completely customizable, so just keep tweaking the UI until you find a system that works for you.
The Motorola Droid 2 is the first smartphone to ship running Android 2.2 out of the box. This means in addition to the Android staples we've come to expect, you're now getting Flash Player 10.1, voice dialing over Bluetooth, camera improvements, and more. We won't detail every new thing in this review, but you can read more about Android 2.2 in this article, and check out this post on some of the hidden features of Froyo.