I used the 10-year-old original Motorola Droid for a week
- The original Motorola Droid was released 10 years ago on November 6, 2009.
- The phone popularized the Android operating system with its touchscreen and iconic slide-out keyboard, and it was one of the first direct rivals to the iPhone.
- We put the 10-year-old phone to the test to see how it would hold up by today’s phone standards.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Abby Tang: Using this phone 10 years later is a lot like using no phone at all.
We are coming up on the 10th anniversary of the original Motorola Droid, which was a very iconic phone. It launched Android into relevancy. I’m gonna use the Droid for one week to see if it’s even usable 10 years later.
So, my dad used to work for Motorola for almost 20 years.
Myles Tang: I was director of product strategy and operations for the mobile-devices business.
Abby: He has this bananas collection of, like, hundreds of old phones. He calls it his museum. It’s just some boxes in his basement, but that is where I got this Droid from. That’s fine.
Myles: Dust off the cobwebs on a lot of this stuff. I mean, this has been a long time ago, you know?
Abby: 10 years.
Myles: 10 years exactly, yeah.
The Droid was important at the time because Verizon didn’t have the iPhone, and it was the first of many Droid variants that were launched at Verizon through subsequent years. The original Droid had 512 meg of storage, 256 meg of RAM, a 5-megapixel camera. It was the first Android device to support the Eclair operating system and the first Android device to support Verizon’s network technology.
Abby: I just like, aah, that… that old keyboard smell, you know? I got my two phones. I’m going to swap my SIM card out into the Droid. We will see if it functions. Now, the original-original Droid was Verizon-exclusive. So this is technically a different version, but it looks exactly the same. The other ones that I have do not even have the SIM-card slot. My current phone has a nano SD card. I hunted down this bad boy so that I could fit it into the Droid again. We’re gonna trade the nano for the chonky.
We’re gonna turn it on. I don’t know what the power button is. Oh, it’s the one with the iconic power symbol on it. Oh. “Please insert a SIM card.” OK, so we’re gonna need a plan B, I think. T-Mobile, nothing. Verizon, nothing. Target, nothing.
So, what we’re gonna do is I am going to go data-only, sort of. My current phone will be my WiFi hot spot, and this phone will talk to it. ‘Cause I don’t really call or text anybody anyways.
Here’s what I’m going to look out for: I’m gonna track how long the battery lasts. I’m gonna see how terrible the camera is. I’m gonna see how long I can operate with the current operating system before I update. And then, after I do that, I’m going to see if I can download and use any of my apps. I gotta watch Instagram stories.
So, how’s my week been?
Using this phone 10 years later is a lot like using no phone at all. I cannot update the OS. There is no app store. The app store is the Android Marketplace, which became defunct in 2012 when they replaced it with the Google Play store.
The Google Play store can only be used on Jelly Bean or higher, which is 4.1, I believe. So basically I can’t do anything but take pictures and listen to music.
The camera is not bad. There’s only one; it’s only 5 megapixels, so all the photos look like something my mom would take, but they’re…they’re not bad. I was able to take a photo on the Droid and upload it straight to Facebook onto my News Feed, which I was honestly super impressed by. I wasn’t able to tag anybody or add a caption, so there’s just a random photo of my coworkers on my feed with no context, but it did work.
It is updating the News Feed in somewhat real time, but you can only get two posts at a time, only text posts, profile pictures and usernames do not show up, and if you try and click older posts to update the News Feed, then the whole app shuts down.
I looked into rooting the phone, which is basically jailbreaking for Android. Basically, rooting would allow me to force an OS update on the phone, but I wasn’t able to accomplish that, so we’re still stuck at 2.1.
The process of physically plugging your phone into the computer and dragging and dropping songs into a folder was so nostalgic. I haven’t downloaded a song in years. I only stream on Spotify. I don’t have music stored locally on my actual phone.
I thought I was really going to like the physical keyboard, but my thumbs are too pudgy, and it’s hard. I like the “click, click, click”; I like the physicality of it, but the actual functionality of it is more difficult than it needs to be.
The Droid is definitely not going to let you do everything that a modern phone will let you do now. That’s, like, an understatement.
I mostly miss my apps. I want Instagram and this dumb solitaire game that I’ve been playing.
As we finish this up, I’m gonna really try to actually use it instead of ignoring it.
So, the camera is crappier than I thought it was. I tried taking a video of my cat in my kitchen. It was nighttime, but the light was on and I was sitting on the floor. And with the camera, if you point it up towards stuff near the top of the room, it’s bright, but if you point it down to the cat, there is nothing. It is complete darkness. The camera just shuts down, basically, and pretends that it doesn’t have to do its job.
It’s so, like, foggy. No matter how much I clean the camera, everything, it just looks like I’m in a room filled with smoke. I only had to charge the battery twice. Over the entire week. If I was connected to a network or constantly using the phone or constantly connected to WiFi, the battery would have been eaten up. But just the fact that it is that old and lasted that long anyways I still think is impressive.
If you have an old Droid laying around, it would be really useful as, like, an MP3 player for a child who only needs 60 songs and doesn’t want to access any other features a phone should offer.
Phones are updated so quickly these days that, like, one year to the next, they’re obsolete. When you buy a fridge, you want that fridge to last forever. When you buy a TV, you want the TV to last forever. With a phone, you buy the phone, and you want it to last until the next year when the new version of that phone comes out. So it’s not that surprising that after 10 years, this phone does not work.
I haven’t tried the speaker quality; let’s do that. Let’s listen to this. [tinny beat] “Goofy Movie” is the best Disney movie. Don’t @ me.