Here we are just over a week into my testing of the GingerBlur leaked build for the Motorola Droid 2 and Droid X. Bringing Android’s latest to some beastly phones on Verizon networks promised better battery life, performance increase, and a smoother innovative interface from Motorola. Did it live up to the hype? Let’s dive under the surface and let me dig up some more info on how Motorola’s latest stands up.
You’re also probably wondering exactly why I’m starting my post like that. Why all this doom and gloom? Well, to be blunt it’s because I’m probably not going to be using this software for all that much longer. Sure Gingerbread is great and brings a LOT of improvement to the original Blur interface, but it’s just not quite there. If this is in fact the build that Motorola submitted to Verizon for testing I would understand why it was rejected. Minor bugs, some major annoyances of Motorola’s software are probably not up to snuff with Big Red’s notoriously brutal testing regime. I’ll be going through why I’m not using this build any longer and what I plan on running in the following breakdown.
Bugs: Not too many problems here, but enough to really “bug” me. For instance, I’ve been running this unmodified prerooted leak for nearly 5 days now. One bug I’ve been able to reproduce a couple times is when using the camera and then locking the phone, the lockscreen will have invisible sliders. It doesn’t always happen, but more than a couple times in my testing. Again, since this isn’t official software this can’t be too aggressive of a review. However, one major flaw that I cannot find a fix for is the inconsistent notification LED. It seems to work for my Plume Twitter mentions and my email, but I have yet to get one for new messages with either the stock messaging app or Handcent. I’ve double checked and it’s enabled in both apps. Not sure exactly what’s going on there, but it really seems like kind of a biggy. The keyboard and soft key’s backlights are also inconsistent. I’ve been having the display set to “auto” since I started running this software. It does work in very obvious situations, but it’s not reliable. Neither is screen brightening. The auto function from the ROM seems non existent. Even in the darkest of conditions it seems blinding. This is a big battery waste considering the screen is my main battery drain. More of an annoyance, the hardware keyboard does have a suggestion bar, but I have to press back once to put down the keyboard and then again to get out of the app. More clicking = less streamlined experience. I’ve only had about 4 random hot reboots, but this is about on par with some heavily customized setup on Froyo. That is really not that good a record, Motorola. That’s all I can find for bugs with the official unofficial software, let’s hope Motorola or the community finds some way to patch these up before too long.
Annoyances: These are all purely my opinion and how I feel about the stock software. This is the bad side of things and there honestly isn’t too much to say. The long pressing the Home button bringing me to the App drawer can be either a pro or a con to some, but I personally feel like it’s a waste. Maybe I’m just too much of an AOSP purist, but I see nothing wrong with the regular app switching in Android. Maybe a little more visual approach ala WebOS would be great, but Motorola didn’t do that this time around. The lockscreen still feels like a waste, but I’ve been spoiled with WidgetLocker (highly recommended). I wish more than the stock app would pull up lockscreen controls or like HTC’s player since 2.1 have album art support. HTC’s approach was great and I miss that. Motorola would do good to take a page from them in the UI alteration department. This isn’t a comparison post but considering these are 2 of the most prominent custom overlays out there there’s bound to be some crossover. I’m not sure if this counts as an annoyance, but could they make the social networking widgets even a little bit useful? They’re decent looking, but more or less worthless. Nobody thinks twice about dropping your software for AOSP, Motorola. Work on changing their minds with the next update. I did experience some incompatibilities with certain apps, specifically Weatherbug and WordPress. Seeing as the latter is more than a little important to me also helped influence my decision. I have yet to hear of any updates fixing these. On another note, if this software update had brought HDMI support, that would’ve been great. Oh well. Maybe OTA?
Pros: SPEED!!! This is one of the fastest stock ROM I’ve ever had the joy of using. I’ve played with a lot of Android phones on the market, nothing too exotic, but enough to get a good idea of the competition. Compared to the only other shipping Gingerbread phone, the Nexus S, this really brings our phone right up to par. Granted the Nexus S has a lot more features (minus the microsd slot), but overall UI speed and general performance game and browser wise this brings my Droid R2D2 right into the same realm. This phone has decently stellar hardware and more than enough RAM, the only thing really killing it was the software. I hardly ever had hiccups going to and from apps, browsing was almost as quick as my laptop over WiFi. It was just really really impressive. Even using it decently heavily this stud still lasted a whole 22 hours before hitting 15%. That’s pretty much the golden benchmark. A normal light days use will let me leave it off the charger all night and not have to plug it in till noon. Stability is great, but like above there were certain random force closing, but a vast majority of apps will work just fine. You’ve seen my benchmark posts in previous posts and I will reiterate here: I will miss the cajones this ROM had. No slowdowns ever and emulator performance was beyond awesome. Mario Kart 64 ran with sound almost flawlessly. That’s my gold standard for ROM testing now, by the way.
Overall: Not quite there yet, and lacking some favorite features from custom ROMs this leaked “official” update is great. Not perfect, not killer, but way better than good. It’s pretty great and I’d encourage any stock D2 or DX users to give it a shot. I can guarantee that you’ll be addicted to the speed and battery life, if not entirely in love with the new face of Blur. I have my own little issues with it, but nothing entirely deal breaking. I think the main reason I’m going back on it is just my love of custom ROMs. The ability to switch between them and my stock R2D2 experience (not an issue for a majority of users) is invaluable. I love all my Star Wars goodies, I’m a nerd! I can’t help it! Once custom ROMs based on either this build or the official OTA come out I’m sure I’ll be running one of them ASAP. Apex and Liberty are both confirmed to be working on updates to their respective ROMs with Gingerbread. There’s also been talk of the Ultimate Droid FINALLY coming to the DX/D2 scene. This software is in a little awkward position because it is slightly faster than custom 2.2 based ROMs, but it lacks some features I really love and missed.
Final Thoughts: Anyone running a stock D2/DX (probably isn’t reading this) should try this out. It is fast, it is 99% stable and will give you better battery life. If you’re like me and looking for a fully customizable interface (my main draw to Android as a platform) then I’d recommend flashing it to try, but you’ll probably end up waiting like me for custom ROMs with this base. It won’t be too long, but this great little update from Motorola will be enough of a bandaid for some I’m sure. It’s just not quite customizable enough for me yet. Who knows? Maybe Motorola’s OTA will unlock the bootloader and the update will be prerooted! And maybe pigs will fly out of my ass. Here’s to dreaming…
Till next time, you stay classy, World Wide Web.