Editors' note: The Devour will be available in Best Buy stores on February 25, 2010. It will arrive in Verizon stores and on the carrier's Web site in mid-March.
Motorola rightfully got a lot of mileage when it introduced its Droid smartphone late last year. With a loaded feature set and a satisfying performance, Verizon's first Google Android device was a quality phone in many regards. So can Moto repeat its success with the Motorola Devour, Big Red's third Android handset and the carrier's first with MotoBlur? Well...just about.
Indeed, there's much to admire about the Devour. We love its sturdy casing, the feature set is functional, and the performance is agreeable. We also dig the quirky thumbpad next to the bright, though somewhat small, display. On the downside, we're wondering why we only got Android 1.6--I still say that this fragmentation is one of Android's biggest flaws--and the user controls need work, but the Devour remains a solid addition to the Android family. It does make for a less-complicated alternative to the Droid, particularly if you need a full keyboard, but it won't save you much cash. At $149 with service and a mail-in rebate, it's only $50 cheaper than its predecessor. Keep in mind that you'll need to purchase a Verizon data plan.
As Bonnie Cha aptly put it, the Devour could be the Droid's little brother. The two devices share almost the same shape and the Devour is just about the same size (4.4 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep). And like the Droid, the Devour weighs more than many smartphones in its class (5.89 ounces). Though the extra heft may make you a bit wary, the payoff is a sturdy device that has a comfortable, solid feel in the hand. It's all because of the "extruded aluminum" that wraps around the Devour on all sides. We enjoyed the metal skin--not only for the extra protection it adds, but also because it gives the phone an attractive sheen. And in any case, we don't mind a heavy phone. Moto also gets props for the rubber sidings and the tapered ends that give it a much sleeker look than the Droid.
The Devour's display is bright and vibrant (480x320 pixels; 65,000 colors), though we wish it were bigger than 3.1 inches. It doesn't take up the phone's full real estate and it looks a bit lopsided. The size appears to be because of the curious placement of the touch control just below the screen. The back key, home button, and menu control are placed to the right side of the phone, leaving a gap where a fourth key would logically be on the left side. Below that gap is the aforementioned "thumbpad" (that's a Moto term) for navigation. Its location in the phone's bottom-left corner is convenient, but you wind up with a lot of dead space next to it. We don't know why Moto didn't combine all of the above controls into one row, thus making space for enlarging the display.
On the upside, the touch controls are responsive. You don't get the lag time that we found on the Nexus One. We also liked the thumbpad quite a bit. Part physical control and part optical mouse, the thumbpad has a dual purpose. You can use it to select options by pressing down (the control actually moves and you hear a sound), and you can move between home screens and menu selections by swiping your finger over it. It does take some acclimation because of its small size, but we were hooked once we got the hang of it. It's easier to use than a trackball or a toggle. With most touch-screen phones we tend to stick with onscreen navigation completely, but the Devour could sway us to mix it up. You also can adjust the thumbpad's sensitivity.
Speaking of which, the capacitive display is accurate and responsive. It includes an accelerometer and a proximity sensor, and you can adjust the wallpaper, brightness, and backlight time. You can't calibrate the display, but vibrating feedback helps ensure that you're selecting an option. The phone dialer and Android interface are similar to other handsets with the operating system. You can customize the five home screens with shortcuts, and the menu interface has an easy-to-use, icon-based design. Though the Devour has a physical keyboard, you also get an Android virtual keyboard.
The Devour's slider mechanism is well constructed. The display locks into place on both ends, and you can open and close the phone with one hand. The keyboard is spacious and we appreciate that the keys are raised slightly. Yet, we had a complaint about the layout of the keys. Though normally we approve of dedicated number keys, the Devour makes a big sacrifice to get there. Because there are only three rows total, the space bar is squashed between the V and B buttons in the bottom row. That's not a placement we enjoy; in this case we'd rather see the space bar gets its own row with shortcut buttons and the function/shift controls.
Completing the exterior are the power button on the phone's top end and a volume rocker, voice dialing control, and camera shutter on the right spine. You can easily find the volume rocker when you're on a call, but we'd prefer a more tactile power control. The camera lens is on the phone's rear side, but in a change from many phones you won't find a battery cover there. Instead, the battery and microSD card slot are accessible via a door on the phone's left spine. It's rather unusual, but it works well. We also commend Moto for adding a 3.5mm headset jack and a standard Micro-USB/charger port. They're conveniently located on the phone's top end and left spine respectively.
As a MotoBlur device, the Devour takes a different approach to contacts management. The whole point of MotoBlur is it merges all of your contacts--whether from an e-mail account, your Facebook page, or saved to the phone--into a master list. Read our Motorola Cliq review for a full description, as the experience is no different here. Though at first we were slightly unsure if we liked the MotoBlur, we now approve heartily. The trick is to learn how to use it effectively.