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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Droid Doesn't

In its massive advertising campaign, Verizon (with Motorola and Google) states, "In a world that doesn't, Droid does." The ads are for the new Motorola Droid smartphone running Google's Android 2.0 operating system over the Verizon Wireless network.

I ordered my new Droid on Nov. 6, the first day they were available to the public, and had it in my hands by Tuesday, Nov. 10.

After activating the phone I began playing with the many cool features loaded into the Droid, including fast Internet browsing, more than 10,000 apps, etc. But when my first call came in I discovered that the Droid's most basic function, the phone, performs extremely poorly.

Although on the Verizon network, my Droid rarely holds a steady, or very strong, signal. I often watch in amazement as the bars jump from 4 bars (full signal) to 1 bar (weak signal) to no bars at all; something my old LG phone never did. And by the way, I live in the heart of Silicon Valley which typically has excellent Verizon Wireless coverage.

The fluctuating signal translates into poor phone reception. The person to whom I'm talking to on my Droid often cuts out, sounds like they're far away, or the call is dropped altogether. And on the other end of the call, the people I'm talking to experience an echo problem. That is, whoever I talk to can hear their own voice echoing back to them.

I did a quick check on the Motorola Owners' Forum and found that both the poor reception and echo problem were being experienced by thousands of Droid users in all parts of the country.

Apparently Motorola was so focused on packing tons of cool features into the Droid that they forgot to build a decent working phone.

After battling for more than a day with my crappy reception and echo problems -- and more than 4 hours on the phone with Verizon's technical support staff -- I was directed to go to my local Verizon Wireless store to get a new Droid.

The people at the Verizon store were helpful enough and I walked out of the store with a new Droid.

I got home and made my first call to discover that the poor reception and echo problem were present in my new Droid as well. Not only that, I discovered a new problem to boot. Because the Droid is a touch phone, the screen goes dark when you put it to your ear to avoid the accidental pushing of any buttons. There is a sensor inside the phone that is supposed to sense when the phone is removed from your ear in order to relight the phone's touch screen. Well, my sensor wasn't working properly and the screen remained dark making it impossible to use the key pad or to end a call.

After many hours on the phone (on a land line) with Verizon Wireless tech support, I was told that the poor reception and echo problems will hopefully be fixed with a Dec. 11 upgrade to the firmware, but that no one had yet reported the sensor problem.

Obviously neither Verizon nor Motorola were tracking the Motorola Owners' Forum because all of my problems were being experienced by many other Droid owners too, including the dark screen.

The Verizon tech support guy was very helpful and promised he'd send me a new phone (my third) if the poor reception problem, echo and dark screen issues didn't clear up.

I've owned my Droid(s) for less than a week now and have spent more hours on the phone with tech support than I have talking on my Droid. I realize that with any new technology there are going to be bugs that have to be worked out. But when building a new smartphone, you think that Motorola would have focused on the phone part of the Droid first, making sure that it worked to perfection.

As for Verizon, the poor phone reception is hurting its well-earned reputation for having great nationwide network coverage.

I guess in a world that doesn't, neither does the Droid.

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