I’ve been using Android phones pretty much since they first hit the market, and the only thing I can say I still craved when it comes to getting a lot of work done is a phone with a physical keyboard. Don’t get me wrong, I love touch screens, and having a large screen to use for browsing, reading, etc., but for me, there’s nothing like typing on a physical keyboard, especially when you need to type a lot, often and fast.
Now there have been several Android phones with physical keyboards, but nearly all of them have been in the form of a slide-out landscape keyboard. Apart from me preferring a portrait / Blackberry-style keyboard, a slide-out mechanism means more weight, more bulk and more chance of something breaking when you drop your phone.
So this is where the Motorola Pro comes in. An Android phone that combines a touchscreen and a Blackberry-style keyboard, without resorting to any sliding mechanism. It’s also got pretty decent specs regarding processing power, resolution, memory, etc. Sure you’ll find other Android phones that have better specs, with this phone has excellent specs AND a portrait keyboard. Is it everything I’ve been looking for?
Since this phone is not yet available in the UK, and I’m not patient enough to wait for the UK release, I purchased an unlocked Verizon Motorola Pro from eBay, and a few days later I was clicking away. First impressions… A quality device. It feels solid, yet lightweight. The screen looks good, it’s quite fast even with several apps installed, and everything seems to work pretty well.
It’s all about the keyboard
For me, this is the one feature that was going to make or break the phone since it’s also responsible for taking away some valuable screen real estate. And from my usage, I can say it’s well worth it. It’s a great keyboard, and thanks to raised ends of keys, I find it quite easy to locate various keys and type at a fast rate without making mistakes. If I have one complaint, it’s that the keyboard is too narrow, due to the shape of the phone. So if like me you have large hands, you may find it a little cramped, but still very manageable.
A true workhorse?
So is it the ideal work and play android phone for me? No. And the reason is the battery life. It’s bad, and I mean bad. If you’re making full use of it (Bluetooth, wifi, browsing, emails, some calls), then it will not even last you half a day! So I got an additional charger for the office and bought an extra battery when on the road. Still, I was often anxious about the battery running low, wondering whether I remembered to charge the second battery after I last used it…. In short, it was a pain.
Now some people say that most smartphones suffer in this area, so you need to manage your power usage. Turn off Bluetooth, turn off wifi, turn off data sync, reduce the brightness, etc., etc. I’ll tell you what, why don’t I then just use standard feature phones that do nothing but make calls and send SMS, the battery will last for days. No thanks, I bought a smartphone because I want to use it as it should be utilized.
Hot alternative: new and improved Blackberry?
Just when I was contemplating changing phones again, I read about the new Blackberry Bold 9900, combining the traditional blackberry keyboard and a touchscreen without any sliding mechanism. A slim, powerful phone with a touchscreen, a large keyboard, and the legendary Blackberry battery life? Yes, please. Just picking it up and clicking the keys makes me realize how much better this keyboard is, more spacious, much easier to type. And although the screen is shorter, it’s wider than the Motorola.
So stay tuned for my upcoming review of the Blackberry Bold, as I’ll have to be convinced that adding a touchscreen has not compromised the normal Blackberry battery life. And although the battery life will almost certainly be less than a non-touchscreen blackberry, how will it compare to an Android phone in the same format?
Our new and improved Motorola Pro (Plus)?
As if someone in Motorola was listening to me (or more likely to an army of angry customers), they announce the Pro Plus. It resembles the Pro, just more rounded edges vs. its predecessor. Most of the specs are pretty much the same, apart from the battery, which is the only much-improved spec. Maybe improved is the wrong word. Let’s go with fixed.
So the Pro will no longer be launched in the UK, the Pro Plus taking its place with an expected launch in October/November 2011. This will give me more than enough time to get the Blackberry Bold and see if I can be tempted away from Android, or if it will be a temporary switch until the Pro Plus is launched.