I’ve reviewed the Droid Eris twice before, when it was called the Hero. The difference is that Verizon’s selling it for half the price, making it the cheapest Android phone you can buy—and the best, for the money.
Eris is Verizon’s other Droid phone. It really is a remodeled Hero, running Android 1.5 and HTC’s vaunted Sense candy coating—documented CSI style here—a $200 phone stuffed inside a thinner $100 body, like a Corvette engine shoved inside a Saturn. It’s admittedly less exciting than the titular Droid, an industrial beast running Android 2.0. But I have the feeling Verizon is gonna sell a lot more of these things, because, again, it’s $100.
Designing for the Middle of the Road
The Eris is rubbery blob, a narrow oval that’s as subdued as a phone could possibly be, but there is admittedly something comforting about the Eris’s utter lack of personality—it’s completely non-threatening, like a middle manager. It’s so generic it’s almost artful, actually, a design that is nearly perfect for a cheap phone.
The four main Android buttons are touch sensitive, bleeding into the black bezel, hovering over the dead-centre trackball and hard chrome buttons for phone and end. I’d like a dedicated camera button, but a volume rocker is all we get. The camera lens stares out the back, disturbingly more reminiscent of an eye than most cameras sticking out the backs of phones, probably because of how stark the rest of the phone is.
Hardware and Camera
The actual guts and screen are the same as past Hero phones—which is to say, nearly the same as all of HTC’s other Android phones so far. The 480×320 screen’s still nice, even if it feels dated now that the Droid’s massive screen, beckoning the next generation, looms large over it. Oh yeah, HTC? Can you get rid of your stupid, pointlessly different version of the mini USB port? Let’s go to micro USB now, yeah?
The still camera’s better than the Droid though, and about the same as the Sprint version of the Hero, performing pretty decently in low-light situations. Video, not so much:
Software and the Endgame
I’ve already covered HTC’s Sense UI in depth, and it is the exact same on the Eris. It runs just as fast as the Sprint Hero, if not a teeny bit quicker. I will say that after using Android 2.0, it does feel like a step backward in some ways, mostly because of the single Google account limitation. But HTC’s confirmed Android 2.0 is coming, so it won’t be an issue for every long.
And really, the fact that Android 2.0—half the reason the Droid is excellent—is coming to the Droid Eris is why, in the end, it’s such a steal. It’s running on Verizon, it’s going to have Android 2.0, and it’s $100. It’s a great phone now, and will be better still soon, making it kind of a perfect storm for people on Verizon looking to ditch their dumbphones—but not Verizon—for something more capable, but who are put off by the Droid, whether it’s the steroids or the higher sticker price.
It’s last month’s darling. But it’ll run this month’s software. For cheap. And that’s pretty spiffy, actually.