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Editors' note: The Devour will be available in Best Buy stores on February 25, 2010. It will arrive in Verizon stores and on the carrier's Web site in mid-March.
Motorola rightfully got a lot of mileage when it introduced its Droid smartphone late last year. With a loaded feature set and a satisfying performance, Verizon's first Google Android device was a quality phone in many regards. So can Moto repeat its success with the Motorola Devour, Big Red's third Android handset and the carrier's first with MotoBlur? Well...just about.
Indeed, there's much to admire about the Devour. We love its sturdy casing, the feature set is functional, and the performance is agreeable. We also dig the quirky thumbpad next to the bright, though somewhat small, display. On the downside, we're wondering why we only got Android 1.6--I still say that this fragmentation is one of Android's biggest flaws--and the user controls need work, but the Devour remains a solid addition to the Android family. It does make for a less-complicated alternative to the Droid, particularly if you need a full keyboard, but it won't save you much cash. At $149 with service and a mail-in rebate, it's only $50 cheaper than its predecessor. Keep in mind that you'll need to purchase a Verizon data plan.
As Bonnie Cha aptly put it, the Devour could be the Droid's little brother. The two devices share almost the same shape and the Devour is just about the same size (4.4 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep). And like the Droid, the Devour weighs more than many smartphones in its class (5.89 ounces). Though the extra heft may make you a bit wary, the payoff is a sturdy device that has a comfortable, solid feel in the hand. It's all because of the "extruded aluminum" that wraps around the Devour on all sides. We enjoyed the metal skin--not only for the extra protection it adds, but also because it gives the phone an attractive sheen. And in any case, we don't mind a heavy phone. Moto also gets props for the rubber sidings and the tapered ends that give it a much sleeker look than the Droid.
The Devour's display is bright and vibrant (480x320 pixels; 65,000 colors), though we wish it were bigger than 3.1 inches. It doesn't take up the phone's full real estate and it looks a bit lopsided. The size appears to be because of the curious placement of the touch control just below the screen. The back key, home button, and menu control are placed to the right side of the phone, leaving a gap where a fourth key would logically be on the left side. Below that gap is the aforementioned "thumbpad" (that's a Moto term) for navigation. Its location in the phone's bottom-left corner is convenient, but you wind up with a lot of dead space next to it. We don't know why Moto didn't combine all of the above controls into one row, thus making space for enlarging the display.
On the upside, the touch controls are responsive. You don't get the lag time that we found on the Nexus One. We also liked the thumbpad quite a bit. Part physical control and part optical mouse, the thumbpad has a dual purpose. You can use it to select options by pressing down (the control actually moves and you hear a sound), and you can move between home screens and menu selections by swiping your finger over it. It does take some acclimation because of its small size, but we were hooked once we got the hang of it. It's easier to use than a trackball or a toggle. With most touch-screen phones we tend to stick with onscreen navigation completely, but the Devour could sway us to mix it up. You also can adjust the thumbpad's sensitivity.
Speaking of which, the capacitive display is accurate and responsive. It includes an accelerometer and a proximity sensor, and you can adjust the wallpaper, brightness, and backlight time. You can't calibrate the display, but vibrating feedback helps ensure that you're selecting an option. The phone dialer and Android interface are similar to other handsets with the operating system. You can customize the five home screens with shortcuts, and the menu interface has an easy-to-use, icon-based design. Though the Devour has a physical keyboard, you also get an Android virtual keyboard.
The Devour's slider mechanism is well constructed. The display locks into place on both ends, and you can open and close the phone with one hand. The keyboard is spacious and we appreciate that the keys are raised slightly. Yet, we had a complaint about the layout of the keys. Though normally we approve of dedicated number keys, the Devour makes a big sacrifice to get there. Because there are only three rows total, the space bar is squashed between the V and B buttons in the bottom row. That's not a placement we enjoy; in this case we'd rather see the space bar gets its own row with shortcut buttons and the function/shift controls.
Completing the exterior are the power button on the phone's top end and a volume rocker, voice dialing control, and camera shutter on the right spine. You can easily find the volume rocker when you're on a call, but we'd prefer a more tactile power control. The camera lens is on the phone's rear side, but in a change from many phones you won't find a battery cover there. Instead, the battery and microSD card slot are accessible via a door on the phone's left spine. It's rather unusual, but it works well. We also commend Moto for adding a 3.5mm headset jack and a standard Micro-USB/charger port. They're conveniently located on the phone's top end and left spine respectively.
As a MotoBlur device, the Devour takes a different approach to contacts management. The whole point of MotoBlur is it merges all of your contacts--whether from an e-mail account, your Facebook page, or saved to the phone--into a master list. Read our Motorola Cliq review for a full description, as the experience is no different here. Though at first we were slightly unsure if we liked the MotoBlur, we now approve heartily. The trick is to learn how to use it effectively.
MotoBlur also provides weather and news widgets and opportunities to manage various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Last.fm, Picasa, and Photobucket. It also gives you a handy universal in-box for various POP3, IMAP4, and corporate sync e-mail accounts. Gmail, of course, is also onboard, but you'll need to add that account as a separate POP3 e-mail if you want it to flow into the universal in-box. As on the Cliq, setting up MotoBlur takes a few steps, but you shouldn't have any problems. And for security purposes, you can use MotoBlur to back up your contacts and locate your device if it's lost.
One of our bigger complaints with the Devour is it runs Android 1.6. That's quite a change from the OS 2.0 on the Droid, so you will lose some functionality. Yes, it's better than Android 1.5 on the HTC Droid Eris, but we still encourage Google and handset manufacturers to make the Android OS more uniform across devices. And if that's not an option, we'd appreciate more transparency on when OS updates will be pushed to individual phones.
You'll find all the usual Google applications like Gmail, Google Talk, Google Search, Google Maps with Google Maps Navigation, and YouTube on the Devour. The remaining features apps are mostly standard and include a calculator, visual voice mail, speaker-independent voice commands and dialing, Wi-Fi, Microsoft QuickOffice, assisted-GPS, an internal compass, Wi-Fi, and stereo Bluetooth. The browser is similar as well, but we're thrilled that it supports Flash Lite. Multitouch support includes double tap, but not pinch and zoom.
As mentioned, e-mail support is relatively extensive. We set up a Yahoo account and synced with our corporate CNET accounts successfully. We're pleased that Moto gave us Outlook calendar and contacts syncing, though we're still waiting for Notes. Instant, text, and multimedia messaging complete the communication options.
The camera resolution is less robust than we'd like. The 3-megapixel shooter takes pictures in three resolutions, and the only editing option is a choice of color effects. We like that you can geotag photos, but we'd welcome more camera features. The picture gallery app, which allows you to manage your shots after you've taken them, has an attractive interface that includes a slideshow option. Photo quality is decent. Our shots were a bit dark, but colors looked natural and there was little image noise.
The camcorder shoots clips at 23 frames per second in four quality settings. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 1 minute, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode. A handy meter in both camera modes tells you how much storage space you have left. The Devour has about 224MB of user accessible memory and an 8GB microSD card comes in the box. If you need more space, the phone can accommodate cards up to 32GB.
The music player has the same interface as on other Android phones. Features include playlists and shuffle and repeat modes. We know we sound like a broken record, but we wish that Android would get a better player for both music and video. Again, it's not anything bad, but it's certainly not exciting. Fortunately, it is easy to transfer music onto the phone using a USB cable or the memory card.
Verizon added a few of its own apps like V Cast streaming video and V Cast Music with Rhapsody. Though we don't think that either feature is totally necessary--we've never used V Cast for more than a few minutes--the option to download music wirelessly is welcome. Now we just need an FM radio for a really robust music device. Verizon also added support for its VZ Navigator GPS service.
For more functionality, the Android Market offers a wealth of apps and games. You can access it and download your selections directly on the phone. Just remember that you can store apps only on the integrated memory. Two preinstalled apps on the Devour are worth mentioning. Moto's Phone Portal allows you to connect to a PC via Wi-Fi or GPS for an easy transfer of files. We tried it and were impressed with how well it works. After activating the phone's Wi-Fi feature you'll see the Devour's IP address on its display. Type the address into your computer's browser and you'll have instant access to files on your phone including photos and wallpaper. You can even play ringtones stored on the phone on your computer. Alternatively, the Media Share app lets you share (what else?) media files with another equipped device.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1,900MHz) in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was more than acceptable. The signal was strong and clear, and we could make calls in elevators and underground where other carriers petered out. Voice quality was also satisfying--our callers sounded natural and there was no distortion or static. The volume was a tad low; we had some trouble hearing in loud places.
On their end, callers had few complaints. A few mentioned a background buzz, but that was not something we heard. Except for a couple of people, most callers could tell we were using a cell phone, and the speakerphone was loud and clear. We had no trouble understanding our callers and they reported the same. We could even be a few feet away from the Devour and carry on a conversation.
The 3G EV-DO connection was quite solid. Web pages loaded in just a few seconds, and we could download music tracks via Verizon's music service in about 45 seconds. V Cast videos also downloaded quickly, and the quality was some of the best we've seen on one of the carrier's devices. There was little distortion on the screen and the audio was in sync.
Using a 600Mhz processor, the Devour runs smoothly with little lag time between opening applications. It runs a bit faster than the 528Mhz processor on the Cliq, but not quite as fast as the Droid, which has a 600Mhz processor using another chip. The gap between the Devour and its predecessor isn't immense, but we were hoping for a bit faster at that price.
Music quality is decent. The external speaker at the bottom of the phone has loud output, though we'd recommend using a headset for the best range of sound. The GPS locate function is better than on many Android phones. It could put our position within a few feet, rather than a few blocks.
The Devour has a rated battery life of 6.48 hours and 18.45 days. It has a tested talk time of 7 hours and 22 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Devour has a digital SAR of 0.45 watts per kilogram.