GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (LIN) - You can't get much for a penny these days. The cost of most things has far exceeded the formerly copper Lincoln head. In fact, the cost to manufacture a penny costs more than the penny is worth. But there are still some things in life to be had for a penny. A ride on the horse at Meijer? Insert coin. You can even find a fancy new Android phone for a penny (provided you look in the right place and are willing to tie yourself to the device for the next two years).
The Motorola Devour comes with a list price of $499.99, but with your two-year contract agreement one can be had from some outlets for that pretty penny. While the phone has plenty of positives, even for a penny, the Devour may not hold your appetite for the full two years. Verizon sent me a device to test out since it launched, and while there are things I really like about the phone, it's held back in some key areas and unless you're dead-set on owning one, there are better phones out there.
The Motorola Devour shares a few features with it's older (in age) brother, the Motorola Droid. Both Droid and Devour run Android (though the Droid runs version 2.0, while the Devour runs 1.6), they're both sliders, both have a microSD slot and both are pretty hefty (the Droid weighs in at 6 ounces, the Devour tips the scales at 5.89 ounces).
If you're looking for a Android device with a slider keyboard on the Verizon network, these are your two choices. In my Droid review, The Droid You Should Be Looking For , I said "The Motorola Droid is a fantastic device, and one I would use as my personal phone without reservation. It does many things, and it does them well. I don't hesitate to put it in the upper echelon of mobile devices along with the iPhone and Pre. In fact, in some ways the Droid outperforms those two phones. I used to tell my friends that were on the Verizon network that they had something to look forward to when the Pre came out next year, but now I'll tell them that they can stop looking to the future, and instead look at the Droid. If you're on the Verizon network, or are considering switching and want the best device available, this is the Droid you should be looking for." I still feel that way. The Devour just doesn't measure up.
At first glance, the Devour is a pretty impressive phone. It has a brushed aluminum case with an optical tracking pad. The slider has a spring to it that is actually superior to the Droid. The spacing on the keyboard buttons is improved. The Devour also runs the MotoBlur software that syncs together all of your social networking accounts.
But after time, the Devour's inadequacies really became noticeable. The keyboard with the incredible spring and nice keyboard spacing is less than stellar, because the spacebar is in between the v and b keys. Really, whoever decided to mangle the keyboard layout should have reconsidered. It's unnatural to type on, and if there was a word requiring the b, n or m keys I found myself mangling it consistently. I'm also kind of irked that the keyboard has the Fn and Shift keys on the right-hand side, but that's mainly personal preference to have them on the left. The keyboard has a dedicated numbers row, but with regards to the Fn keys, it's a bit perplexing that they chose to put symbols like !, @, #, $, % etc. that are naturally associated with the numbers row to instead be put in the QWERTY row. I was also a bit disappointed that there was no dedicated "@" or "," keys on the keyboard.
The optical tracking pad also felt limited while performing some tasks. I felt there are things (like playing games) that are better suited to your traditional D-pad. It was not totally off-putting though.
Social networking also takes a sidestep and maybe even a step back on the Devour, and that's mainly due to MotoBlur software the device runs. While the concept of being able to see all of your social networking updates on the home screen with widgets sounds fantastic, the execution of the design is limited. If your total friend/following number on Facebook/Twitter is similar to mine (in the low hundreds), the device just doesn't cycle through updates fast enough. You can change the speed in the settings, but the quickest transition is 30 seconds. Also, there's a lack of speed when wanting to check all of your updates. At one point, I had more than 500 updates that were unread and I just ended up logging on to Twitter and Facebook to check them out because I wasn't going to swipe through every one. It's a more laborious process than I'm interested in, because on almost every other application, including the Facebook for Android app and TweetCaster (a new Twitter Android app I tried out), you can scroll through every update with speed, looking for key words or people that you want to read more about. MotoBlur does include a couple of other widgets like news and weather that you can modify, but they're not compelling enough over the other news and weather widgets that are already
available for Android.
There's a certain heft to the Devour. Even though it's spec sheet says the device is lighter than the Droid by 0.1 ounces, it actually feels heavier. I asked Droid owners which felt heavier in their hands and each one said the Devour and asked for a scale when I told them it was lighter.
By far, one of the most disappointing aspects of the phone is its woefully small screen. While it's virtually the same size as the Droid, the screen size shrinks dramatically, the Devour's screen is 3.1" to the Droid's 3.7". It also loses plenty of pixels, with a resolution of 480x320 instead of the Droid's massive 854x480. Same size but having a smaller screen is a definite mark against the phone.
As mentioned above, the Devour runs a dated version of a the Android OS because it comes with 1.6 preinstalled (even the Droid running 2.0 hasn't been updated to the current version which is 2.1. At the time of this writing the release has been pushed back with no ETA given). Now, running older software may not seem like a big deal to some people, but for me I'd rather see the latest tweaks and fixes present of the latest OS, if I'm going to buy a new phone. That being said, the Devour still has the things I like about Android: multitasking, Google-centered features like Google Voice and GMail, the Android Marketplace with tens of thousands of apps, and a decent browser.
On the browser front one thing stood out to me: I couldn't outscroll the page rendering. I'd flick my finger as fast as possible and the page would scroll naturally, no rendering was shown on screen. I was doing this while connected to a WiFi network, but it was impressive how there were no hiccups at all. That being said the browser still ranks in third place for me. I prefer the WebOS browser on the Palm smartphones and Mobile Safari on the iPhone because of their built-in multitouch features that the Devour and most Android phones lack. Even without multitouch it's still a better browser than what I've seen on BlackBerry phones and many Windows Mobile devices (though that could change now that Microsoft is transitioning to Windows Phone 7, but those phones aren't available yet).
Google Maps has been upgraded for Android 1.6 to include the navigation feature, which was one of my favorite aspects of the Droid. Google Maps will route your trip, give you directions and show you locations along the way. It's just like a loaded navigation unit you can buy at the store, except it's free. Because of the included navigation features of Google Maps, I'm puzzled by the the Verizon Navigator being included on the Devour. It just doesn't make sense that it's there. While the Verizon Navigator is fully capable and a good navigation unit in its own right, I can't say that it's $10/month better. That's a personal decision every user will have to make though, but I'd definitely recommend checking out the free navigation in Google Maps because it adds so much value to the phone.
Both the Devour and the Droid have a microSD slot that you can take advantage of by installing a card upto 32GB in size. I like the prospect of added storage because gives control back to the customer. It also cuts the cost of increasing the storage because it's cheaper to by a seperate card than pay the premium some phone manufacturers levy on devices. The Devour comes with a 8GB card pre-installed, which is half the size of the Droid's 16GB pre-installed card. I don't find this a huge problem, as if I was going to use either device for the long term I'd probably invest in a 32GB card. Having increased storage out of the box would have been nice, but it's not the deal-breaker for me like other aspects of the phone.
The Devour came preloaded with some other Verizon apps, not just Navigator and they're all pay to play. VCAST Music with Rphasody and VCAST Video along with Visual Voicemail are all available if you're interested in incurring additional monthly fees.
I liked the speed of the Devour, while not the fastest phone on the planet, I had no problems running apps simultaneously. I'll attribute the speed to the 600 MHz Qualcomm chip inside (which is clocked faster than the Droid's 550 MHz Arm Cortex A8 processor). Both phones have 256 MB of ram and 512MB of ROM.
The camera on the Devour was a bit of a letdown. With no flash and just 3MP it failed to take very compelling photos. While it's "just" a cellphone, I find myself snapping more pictures lately with the phone in my pocket than anything else. While the Droid's 5MP camera certainly didn't wow me with its pictures, it at least had a flash and extra resolution. The Devour also didn't take very good video. While the Droid was shooting video with DVD resolution (720 x 480), the Devour maxes out at just 320 x 240. The sharpness in my recordings was absent.
I didn't have a problem with call quality or battery life. Everyone I talked to came through crisp through the handset or on speakerphone. Battery life was strong enough
to get me through the day with moderate use, though if I really tried to kill it, I could burn the battery down.
So is the Devour worth a penny? Though, when you factor in the price of the two-year contract you're tying yourself to, you're better off passing the coin to a kid at Meijer for the penny horse. I still love the Android OS, even in its 1.6 form because it is so closely integrated with other Google services I use, but there are better Android phones out right now with more compelling features than what the Devour has to offer. I would still recommend the Motorola Droid to customers looking for a new Android smartphone with Verizon service (you can find it for pretty cheap online). For those looking to branch out the Palm Pre Plus has features found on no other phone with its mobile hot spot wi-fi technology.
Questions or comments? Shoot me an email . For shorter, more frequent updates on Technology and Video Games, follow me on Twitter .