Ditching the Droid 2 for the Blackberry Torch

I’ll start with this: I’m a confirmed Blackberry addict. Have had one since they were two-way pagers. But since they seem to be falling behind on the software side, and I’m fed up with AT&T’s crappy service, it seemed like a good time to look for a new phone.

My one non-negotiable point was the physical keyboard. I have had an iPhone and an iTouch, and I simply can’t stand typing on the virtual keyboard. I need to be able to make a quick, sometimes one-handed reply to an email, and I found the iPhone actually prevented me from replying to email out of sheer frustration. I also hate the unpredictability of the auto-correct, and the fact that I can’t type without looking closely at the screen. I type fast enough on my Blackberry to take notes at conferences, and write relatively long emails, and I just can’t give that up.

Given that, I was pretty excited by the Droid 2, which seemed to meet my specs perfectly. Improved keyboard, cool new Android OS, and Verizon service. So I really wanted to love it. I tried to love it. Really.

Since the keyboard was the main thing, let’s talk about that first. The raised bumps are nice, I can feel the keys, but I still find them hard to detect without looking. A huge problem is the top row, which are hard up against the raised bezel of the screen, so it takes extra effort to squeeze my fingers against the bezel to hit them reliably. Often used keys like the backspace key and the numbers are up there, making it doubly annoying. A few design decisions are strange – the Alt Lock key is right next to the A, so I hit it by accident all the time. The arrow keys are great for quick editing, and the search key is nice, but I couldn’t figure out when to use the OK button and when I could just use Enter. Bottom line: I could not get comfortable or fast typing on the keyboard, even after carrying it for two weeks, and using it exclusively for 3-4 days. I even tried Swype for a while, and I think it’s very cool, but I never got that fast with it either. This was ultimately the deal-breaker.

With the punchline out of the way, there were a few other deal-breakers as well. First, the battery life is abysmal. When I was using it as my main phone, with 1-2 hours of talk, lots of email, and some browsing, it lasted only 8 hours. Who works only 8 hours? I can’t charge my phone twice a day, that’s ridiculous.

Another deal-breaker was the fact that I couldn’t search my Exchange email. Not just the email on the server, you can’t even search the email on the *phone*! Completely unacceptable. I also found annoying that I had to tap several times to edit an appointment. Other than that, I thought the Exchange support was decent.

Finally – and this one surprised me – the speed wasn’t actually that fast. Sure, the graphics were nice and all, but actually working on the phone often required annoying waits between task switches. And twice I did that most important of speed comparisons: how long from the time the airplane’s wheels hit the tarmac to the time when emails start hitting your phone? The Blackberry crushed the Droid 2 each time.

Have to say, there were several things I absolutely loved about the Droid 2 as well, and will miss. The voice commands and voice search are terrific. Just being able to say “Navigate to 123 Maple Street” and get turn-by-turn voice nav is an awesome thing. Also, all the apps are great fun to play around with, and I happily wasted several hours trying out lots of apps. The running one in particular was great – listening to Pandora while mapping your run is very cool.

The Verizon data speed is definitely better, and my main regret is that I’m still stuck with crappy AT&T service. So, I’ll keep my Verizon MiFi and use it when necessary, but it’s a hack I don’t like. Wish Verizon had the Torch.

I’m still fairly new to the Torch, but it seems to work pretty well. The keyboard is not quite as awesome as the Bold, but still much better than anything else out there. Love the trackpad and the touch-screen combo, I found all the things I expected to work just *worked*. Not quite as fun or new as the Droid 2, but for getting work done, seems like the right choice for me.

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