Tons of Keyboard Options

There’s also a suite of input options on the Droid 2. Like the X, it comes with Swype preinstalled, along with the custom Motorola multitouch keyboard, the landscape hardware keyboard, and one more—SwiftKey. The SwiftKey install is still beta, so it ships turned off, but I like SwiftKey on the whole. It’s got a bit more word prediction intelligence, as it analyzes what words you use in the messaging app to get a bit more of a feel for your speaking habits. 

Swiftkey—Shipped Disabled

The center box at the top is the word SwiftKey thinks you meant to type and will replace whatever you’ve typed with. The box at the right is its next best guess, and the box on the right tells SwiftKey that what you’ve typed is a new word, and not to correct it. Sometimes the suggestions are a bit frustrating, but as you use it and let it learn your, erm, vernacular, it gets better. I’m ashamed how predictable my SMS habits are. 

But what about when you're typing a message with the hardware keyboard? Well, a minor frustration in the text messaging app in landscape is just how much space is wasted on extraneous information up at the top. You’ve got the status bar which is important, but down below it is a huge avatar space, name, and number. 

Look at it, it’s 105 pixels tall! By comparison, the space you’ve got to actually read the conversation is 256 pixels tall. That’s nearly 30% of the space, absolutely wasted on information you already ostensibly know. An OTA update just a few days after I got the Droid 2 added the scroll assist bar on the right, which is welcome, but honestly there just isn’t enough space to read your average conversation. It can be a huge frustration.

I’m not being unfair to Motorola here either, folks. Look at the default landscape text messaging application organization on a Nexus One running 2.2:

The name and number are 37 pixels tall, the compose area is 316 pixels tall. That’s just over 10%. Of course, the tradeoff that Google has made is that they choose to show you the person’s avatar each message entry, just like some IM clients. 

I know you can choose from a number of SMS applications from the market, but this is precisely the kind of thing that makes people hate UI skins. Moreover, it’s precisely the reason it won’t be allowed to happen in Gingerbread. 

I’ve also continually encountered slowdowns with the SMS stack on Android devices (CDMA and GSM family alike across every device I’ve touched), and a number of my close friends have noted and complained to me about similar behavior. I’m not yet to the bottom of why this happens, but the Droid 2 seems fast enough that it doesn’t slow down nearly as often as I remember. I had three of my friends bombard me with SMSes all at once—in all, just north of 1,000 messages in a little over an hour—and the Droid 2 didn’t slow down. I suspect that Google hasn’t quite gotten vacuuming and defragmentation of the Android platform’s SMS SQLite database down perfectly.

The Keyboard - Nearly Perfect Software - BLURing it up
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  • Brian Klug - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    Thanks for calling me out on that, I totally suspected I had forgotten something important. Can't believe I did that. /facepalm

  • stlc8tr - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    "The Droid 2 has pulled a complete 180 from the original Droid’s travesty of a keyboard. I’d say the device has gone from having one of the industry’s worst smartphone keyboards to arguably one of the best, if not the best. "

    Really? Have you tried the Touch Pro2 keyboard? Good travel. Nice offset. Numbers row. Good spacing between keys. It's nearly perfect. That is by far the best keyboard that I've ever used.
  • Brian Klug - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    I had a Touch Pro and Touch Pro 2 for a long time. I have to agree - HTC has dominated the landscape keyboard landscape for a while, but on Android platform it's hard to beat the Droid 2 right now.

    Until we get the landscape HTC device that we've seen spy shots of. I don't think it has a codename yet, but it has that Touch Pro 2 keyboard.

    I think we definitely agree.

  • wyvernknight - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    I think the blur animation that you're talking about when you open and close the app drawer is simply a stock Android 2.2 animation and not a Motoblur add-on.
  • hansel2099 - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    muy buen celular
  • lunarx3dfx - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    This is very disappointing. Your reviews are always very informative and for the most part all inclusive, but I've noticed in the last few reviews the Palm Pre has been absent. Now, I know that most would say, well it's Palm, and they are pretty much dead. However, unlike the Nexus One, which is included in all these reviews, I'm sure there were more Pre's sold than the Nexus One meaning that there are probably a few consumers out there that would like to see how it stacks compared to a new phone that they might be considering. It's just a suggestion.

    Also, for those who might be wondering, my overclocked to 1 GHz Palm Pre scored as follows:
    Browsermark: 24492
    Sunspider: 11228

    I'd like to point out that those scores are still pretty high up on the list.
  • Brian Klug - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    Hey lunarx3dfx, I've got a Palm Pre Plus here that we got in for review, so I haven't really been able to include benchmarks from those suites until now. It'll show up in the new benchmarks though. On stock clocks I get 22298 ms on sunspider and 12936 on browsermark. Those 1 GHz speeds are actually pretty impressive.

  • ol1bit - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    I think it's awesome that you are reviewing Smart Phones now. After all, they are truning more and more into computers.

    I've been into computers since the TSR-80 Color computer, and can't believe how far things have advances.

    Anyway Thank You!
  • AnnonymousCoward - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    Brian, I commend you for this engineering review and attention to detail. You made some great observations, like the ridiculous waste of space when text messaging.

    The inability to delete the stupid verizon and google bookmarks is inexcusable. Not mentioned is also the inability to delete or even just hide the garbage apps that come by default, including Blockbuster and Amazon MP3. So much for "Droid Does". Droid Doesn't let you delete the preinstalled crap. Besides rooting of course.

    I noticed in a Verizon store using the X with the 2 side-by-side that the 2 has noticeably worse scrolling performance in the app list.

    As for that 1cm of empty space to the right of the keyboard, they should have used that to make the keyboard even bigger! It was wasted, in order to have the phone dip down 2mm near the edge, which really doesn't accomplish anything.

    A huge gripe I have is how syncing with facebook causes your entire contact list to be overtaken. The only remedy seems to be not not add facebook as an account, and give yourself a link to on your desktop.

    I am disappointed with the ever-present touch screen lag. Clicking and scrolling anything has a lagged effect from your input. Unfortunately, many people lack lag sensitivity, so we end up with displays and phones that exhibit an acceptable amount of lag to a few designers or testers, which is unacceptable to guys like me.
  • evilspoons - Sunday, September 19, 2010 - link

    I find it amusing how you're talking about the Droid 1 as if it's a dinosaur from the land of ancient, forgotten technology... yet it's still a year newer than the Blackberry I use all the time (Nov 2009 vs Aug 2008). Hmmm. Maybe it's time to upgrade.

    Only one of the local wireless carriers has the Droid 1 (sold as the Milestone because Droid is licensed to Verizon from Lucasfilm) and we just got it recently. The only recent-ish Android phone my current provider (Rogers) has is the Xperia X10. Ugh.

    It's really just an iPhone 4 or a 6-12 month out-of-date handset for us up in the Great White North.

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