First Look: Verizon Droid with Google Maps GPS

By Robert S. Anthony, PC World |  Personal Tech, Droid, Google Maps

When closed, the six-ounce phone has a clean look with a camera button and volume rocker switch on the right side, a mini USB port on the left and a standard headset jack and a power/lock button on the top. The bottom of the faceplate has touch-sensitive Back, Menu, Home and Search icons like other Android phones. A four-way rocker button with a center mouse button is embedded to the right of the slide-out QWERTY keypad.

The Software

The phone turns on with a disconcertingly deep and bellowing "Droooooid;" something sure to generate smirks if it happens during a business meeting. The handset has a solid, brick-like feel even when the QWERTY keypad is out. While the keys are flat, there's enough positive tactile feedback to enable touch typing.

Google Maps now includes a Layers feature which allows you layer new location-enabled features on top of its maps. For example, you can bring up a standard map view of a city and then add a Wikipedia layer which pinpoints locations associated with Wikipedia entries. Thus you could look at a map of, say New York's Fifth Avenue near the Museum of the City of New York and pull up the Wikipedia entry for that museum as well as for nearby ones. You can also use the Transit Lines layer to map the subways that run in that area.

Multimedia

An optional multimedia dock (price unavailable) turns the Droid into a bedside or deskside companion. Once inserted in landscape mode, the phone looks more like an alarm clock or a digital frame with a large time display, a temperature readout, a dimmer switch and quick access to photos and videos. When the phone is placed in its auto dashboard holder it automatically switches to a landscape "arms length" mode with large icons.

Android is Open

Android 2.0 is built with a new contacts framework that allows application developers to link with the contacts list. As you bring up contact, a group of icons pop up that show the applications, such as Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn, that the contact has links to. Since these links are built in by the app developers, there's nothing the customer needs to do to enable them, said a Google representative.

The new version of Android also offers push support for Microsoft Exchange and Google Gmail and includes a mode in which you can view e-mail from multiple mailboxes in a single color-coded view. The Droid's 1400 mAh battery is rated to provide up to 270 hours of standby time and 385 minutes of talk time. Of course the Droid is compatible with thousands of apps in the Android Market.

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