Android phones aren’t always the best for the business set, but that’s not for a lack of trying. Last year, Motorola and Verizon Wireless brought us the Droid Pro, a phone aimed right at BlackBerry defectors. Now Sprint users get their own version, the Motorola XPRT (see what they did there?). The XPRT is pretty much the Pro reborn on a different network.
Is it still good enough for the business-minded? Let’s take a look, after the break.
There aren’t too many hardware differences between the XPRT and the Droid Pro. They’re almost the same size and weight – the XPRT measuring 61 x 120 x 13 mm and weighing 145 grams – plus have the same 3.1-inch TFT display and a 1-GHz TI OMAP processor inside. Essentially, all of the good things about the Droid Pro’s design made it into the XPRT.
The phone does feel solid and comfortable to hold one-handed. The volume buttons are in a convenient place on the left edge, just across the screen from the calendar button on the right edge.
The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack sit on top; the micro USB port on the lower left of the phone. A soft white LED casts a halo around this port, so you can find it even in the dark.
The back of the XPRT is slightly different from its Verizon cousin. The Droid Pro’s smooth plastic battery door starts off thicker at the top, then slopes down just under the LED flash. Here the matte plastic comes with an etched pattern that provides some extra grip. And the phone remains the same thickness from top to bottom. It’s still easy to pry off the back to get at the 1860 mAh Li Ion battery, micro SD and SIM card slots. You won’t need to remove the battery to get at the cards — a big plus.
As a fan of large smartphone screens, I assumed that the XPRT’s 3.1-inch display would be too small for me to deal with, especially with a resolution of 320 x 480. Not so. It’s fine for reading e-mail and news feeds, and even web browsing was comfortable. When I needed a bit of extra space, I just rotated the phone sideways (orientation switching is on by default). As with the Droid Pro, the trade-off is acceptable if you really want a full keyboard at the ready on the front.
The small keyboard is very BlackBerry-esque, and those used to this style should find it easy to get up to speed on the XPRT. The slanted keys help with accuracy, especially if you have no fingernails and type with the pad of your thumb. Typing with nails isn’t as comfortable, but the keys don’t fight against you too much thanks to the light matte coating. Still, a wider keyboard and keys would suit most serious typists better.
The biggest drawbacks are that the numbers don’t get a dedicated row, there are no arrow keys, and that long-pressing the keys doesn’t bring up the characters you can access by pressing the ALT key in most cases. The last issue may be because you’d have to move your thumb up to the touchscreen to choose the character, anyway, which isn’t any more convenient than just pressing ALT. A long press will bring up alternate letters (ones with accents and the like) for relevant keys.
The lack of arrow keys is more of a pain, especially if you find it hard to accurately place the cursor using the touchscreen.
Under the Hood
The XPRT runs on a 1 GHz TI OMAP processor and 2GB of ROM with about 0.95GB available for apps. The phone comes with a 2GB micro SD card and will take up to 32GB.
The XPRT, like the Droid Pro, benefits greatly from having a more powerful phone’s processor even though the hardware doesn’t tax it much. Even with over a dozen apps running in various states, the phone didn’t slow down and offered up good performance. We loaded up Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds Rio and experienced smooth gameplay (even if the screen was a bit too small to make the games enjoyable).
The XPRT will last even heavy users a whole day and then some thanks to the 1860 mAh battery and the small display, which doesn’t need a lot of juice. Even with the power hogging Google+ app installed, the XPRT lasted over 24 hours with medium usage. During an hour-long Google Talk session the battery only lost about 10 percent.
As with the Droid Pro, the XPRT is 3G only; no 4G on board.
Call Quality and Speaker
In my time with the XPRT I saw anywhere from 2 to all 5 bars on Sprint’s service and across the board call quality remained clear on both ends. The speaker – a narrow, oblong affair inside a wall – offered decent volume when turned all the way up. Enough to hear callers even with a high speed fan running in the background.
Despite Gingerbread being ready and available for some time now, the XPRT is running Android 2.2 Froyo with the Motoblur skin on top.
The Motoblur interface will be familiar to anyone who’s seen a Motorola Android phone from the Droid X onward. Seven home screens, like other Froyo phones, proloaded with a combination of apps and widgets. Motoblur’s trappings don’t hold much appeal for me, but I do like that you can resize widgets by tapping and holding to select, then dragging the edges. It’s very Honeycomb-tastic. The widgets for turning wireless radios and Airplane Mode on and off are also very welcome.
Icons for Phone, App Launcher, and Contacts are persistent at the bottom of each home screen, but I wish there was a way to customize what goes here. One-touch access to contacts is redundant when you’ve got the phone launcher right nearby. A browser launcher would be more useful. Here Motorola could take a cue from Samsung; in the TouchWiz UI users can put whatever apps they want in that space.
Since this is a Sprint phone, you can’t escape the Sprint goodness when it comes to pre-loaded apps:
Sprint Football Live
Sprint Music Plus
Sprint TV and Movies
Sprint Mobile Wallet
The Mobile Wallet app is a convenient portal to a service which allows users to use the device as a credit card. Right now only Namco Wireless and Skymall are listed as partners, so maybe this one of those apps that will be good to have in the future.
Other apps on the device:
3G Mobile Hotspot
Manage SIM Card
Motorola Phone Portal
Motorola Social Networking manager
TeleNav GPS Navigation
IPSec VPN/Basic VPN
Motorola’s Profiles feature allows users to set up different groups of home screens for different scenarios. The XPRT comes with just two: Home and Weekend (you can rename them). It’s nice that Motorola makes it easy to switch between your personal and work widgets. You might not need quick access to your social media buddies during the work week, and on the weekend you might not want that Exchange mail widget in your face. However, I would like to see a third profile as on the Droid Pro.
Bucking the dual-camera craze in Android phones, the XPRT has just one rear-facing 5MP lens supported by a dual-LED flash. The camera is nothing to crow about as it takes decent but not very detailed images and passable 720 x 480 video. It’s good enough for YouTube or sharing on social networks.
The wrap up
The bottom line on the Motorola XPRT is that it’s the Droid Pro, but for Sprint. If you’ve been lusting after that phone but didn’t want to make the jump to Verizon Wireless, now’s your chance. No, the XPRT doesn’t have the biggest touchscreen on the market, but it does utilize the pixels it has pretty well. And if you really need that always ready keyboard and candybar form factor, this phone definitely delivers.
And since the XPRT is a world phone, globetrotters won’t have to worry over switching phones when traveling overseas.
For $129 with a two-year contract (and a $50 mail-in rebate), it’s a nice price as well.