Life With The Droid X & Do We Need Super Sized Phones?

I’ve had a Droid X for the past two weeks, running alongside my iPhone 4. Short story: I’m not keeping it, primarily because of the size. It’s too darn big. Below, a long look at the crazy world of super sized phones, plus some other observations on life with the Droid X.

Be forewarned. Most of this review is about size, the growth in size in general with some Android devices and how that translated into the Droid X being too large for me. I’m not a cell phone blogger, and I have no interest in trying to replicate the great technical reviews that many of those do. I’m trying to share my real life experience about why I like a phone or not. In this case, the Droid X — pun intended — eclipsed all other factors.

Pocket Sized Smart Phones

What on earth is going on with Android handset makers and the bigger-is-better trend? When did they decide to grow their phones to the size of PDAs? Here’s a stroll down memory lane:

smartphones

Shown above are my first two smartphones, both Windows Mobile devices, from 2004. I had two phones because I lived in England but traveled to the US regularly. My US phone is on the left. My UK one, a “candy bar” format that I especially liked, is on the right.

Both easily fit into my pocket. My UK phone could shoot video (unlike my iPhone 3G that I purchased 4 years later). Both were 2G phones, since there wasn’t much of a 3G network anywhere at that time. That meant downloading web content was slow. Entering text was also a pain. I kept waiting for a long-expected version of my candy bar phone to arrive with a slide-out keyboard. But then these came, instead:

The two units on the left are the Windows Mobile phones I shifted to in 2006, about twice as big as my candy bar phone (my UK one is on the far left, with my US one next to it).

Bring Out The Belt Clip!

These phones really didn’t fit well into a pocket. Instead, I had a belt clip case to truck them around. It worked well enough, and it was worth going up in size for all the benefits the phones brought me: 3G (two years before the iPhone got it), a pullout keyboard, easy web browsing and even tethering.

The third unit from the left was my last Windows Mobile phone, which I upgraded to at the end of 2007. It was thinner than my other Windows Mobile phones but still had a pullout keyboard. I thought it was great — until the iPhone 3G came out, which is on the right.

Back In The Pocket With The iPhone

The iPhone taught me that I didn’t need a physical keyboard, as I’d believed. I also quickly realized that even though my Windows Mobile phone could do all the same things the iPhone could, it was a hell of a lot easier to do things on the iPhone. With it now being 3G capable, I made the jump.

I also went down in size. Without a physical keyboard, the phone was thin enough to slip into my pants (or trouser, for you Brits and others who read pants to mean underwear) pocket, even with my case around it.

The iPhone 4 is about the same size as the iPhone 3G and 3GS. In fact, when I had the iPhone 4, I kept using my old case without problems. Apple found a nice size and has stuck with it. But the Android makers seem to be losing their minds.

If I Wanted A PDA…

Consider this picture:

Those are all the PDAs that I’ve owned over the years. From left-to-right, there’s my old Palm III, then my Palm m515, then my Toshiba e330 Pocket PC and my last dedicated PDA, the Dell Axim Pocket PC.

That fifth unit on the end? That’s the Sprint EVO, which I was given free at the Google I/O conference earlier this month. Sizewise, it doesn’t feel that out of place in the line-up. Sure, it’s thinner than the PDAs. But lengthwise, it gives them all a run for the money.

The Droid X is even bigger than the EVO. Consider these pictures:

Above is the iPhone 3G, then the Nexus One (another free unit from the Google launch event), the EVO and my old PDA. And below:

There’s the iPhone 3G again, the EVO and finally the Droid X, even taller than the EVO. (If you’re wondering why I didn’t have the Droid in one of the earlier line-ups, it’s because I didn’t have the Droid at all when I started working on this piece about super size phones — and I’m not dragging all those PDA from the garage again!).

Just Too Damn Big

Basically, the Droid X feels even more like a PDA than the EVO did. It’s also got this weird bump at the top where it gets thicker:

I don’t care what the technical reasons are behind it. I just want a flat phone all around.

The phone is also so large that I never felt that comfortable using it one handed, which is often how I’m using my phone.

In the end, I don’t want to go back to a belt case. Even though the iPhone, or the Nexus One for that matter, only seem slightly smaller, that difference is huge. They’ll fit in my pocket. They can be used easily one handed. That’s the form factor for me, I guess.

But If You Like It…

That’s my view on phones getting large. Recent ones I’ve looked at are just too big, for my taste. Not everyone will agree. That’s fine. If you carry a bag around a lot, say either a purse or a backpack, you might be happy to have a large phone tucked in there. One nice thing about Android is that there is this great diversity. It’s not one size fits all, nor should it be, because one size doesn’t fit all.

But still, I keep feeling like we don’t have to wait for the first Android tablet to emerge as a challenger to the iPad. If the Android phones keep growing as they are, they’ll get to be tablet sized soon enough.

What Else Didn’t I Like?

The Droid X has the ability to create a mobile hotspot. I don’t think this is using the native hotspot software as part of Android 2.2 — indeed, the Droid X runs 2.1. Instead, I think this is something special Motorola added for Verizon. To me, it sucked. That’s because for no apparently reason, it would just turn itself off. It shouldn’t have been a power issue, as this repeatedly happened when the phone had plenty of power or even was plugged in to charge. It would just switch off.

To take a picture, you have to use a hard button on the top. I found this awkward. You have to press really hard, and I wanted a touchscreen option.

What I Did Like?

Anything I did like about the Droid X? Sure, plenty:

  • The screen was very iPhone 4-like, not quite as sharp but very nice
  • The flash felt powerful
  • The GPS system, as I’ve found on other Android phones, was very nice
  • It’s light! Maybe it’s not that much lighter than the iPhone, but it sure felt like a lot
  • The keyboard was one of the best Android ones I’ve used. Of course, that’s also because the keys are so large on the screen that it’s hard to miss the keys.
  • The coverage. Verizon gave me better coverage in many places than the iPhone

Nice Phone, If You Like The Size

That’s pretty much it. I brought the phone through Verizon about two weeks ago, and I’ll be taking it back shortly. Instead, I’ll be looking to move to either the Incredible or the Samsung Galaxy on Verizon.

If you’re thinking Android, this might be a fine phone for you, if you’re OK with the size. Clearly, I wasn’t. Spend some time really playing with it, and living with it, if you can.

Below, some related posts from me you might be interested in: