Review Roundup: The Droid Delivers The Goods - InformationWeek

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11/6/2009
02:06 PM
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Review Roundup: The Droid Delivers The Goods

Chomping at the bit to pick up your new Droid? Before you pull the trigger, check out a round-up of the latest reviews, along with some deals that could save your company some money.

Chomping at the bit to pick up your new Droid? Before you pull the trigger, check out a round-up of the latest reviews, along with some deals that could save your company some money.First things first: Wirefly is offering the Motorola Droid for just $149.99 with free shipping (and the usual, required two-year contract). That's about $50 less than you'll pay at most retailers, if you're willing to wait a few days for your new toy to arrive.

Also keep in mind that Verizon also launched another Android-powered handset today. The HTC Eris (aka Hero) lacks the Droid's slide-out keyboard and offers a lower screen resolution, but it's available at Wirefly for just $50.

Check out InformationWeek blogger Eric Zeman's latest post for more information about the Hero. You can also find a longer review of the Hero at PCWorld, where reviewer Robert Anthony pronounces it a solid, low-cost alternative to its Motorola sibling. (Disregard the price information included with the review -- if you're paying $200 for this handset, then you're paying way too much.)

As for the Motorola Droid, the reviews are in, and they are overwhelmingly favorable.

According to Newsday, the Droid "has enough punch to take on iPhone." Reviewer Jose Moreno is especially taken with the Droid's roomy display, built-in keyboard, and superior flash camera and video-recording capabilities.

At CBS News, Larry Magid declares the Droid the "best challenger yet" to the Apple iPhone, although he is understandably wary of buying into the "iPhone killer" hype. Magid notes that unlike the iPhone, users can swap out the Droid's battery and bundled 16GB memory card, and he concludes that the Droid's user interface is almost -- but not quite -- as intuitive as the iPhone.

At the Los Angeles Times, reviewer Mark Millan declares the Droid "the best phone on Verizon." Like many other reviewers, he highlights the Droid's touchscreen, which is both larger and higher resolution than the iPhone's display.

Over at the New York Times, David Pogue declared the Droid "a killer phone," noting that Verizon's "superior cellphone network" is less likely than AT&T's network to drop calls in places like Manhattan or San Francisco.

It's worth quoting Pogue's pithy summary of the Droid's and iPhone's relative merits: Since Verizon seems to want a Droid-iPhone faceoff, here it is: the Droid wins on phone network, customizability, GPS navigation, speaker, physical keyboard, removable battery and openness (free operating system, mostly uncensored app store). The iPhone wins on simplicity, refinement, thinness, design, Web browsing, music/video synching with your computer, accessory ecosystem and quality/quantity of the app store.

The Wall Street Journal's venerable Walt Mossberg also has plenty of nice things to say about the Droid, calling it a "smart success for Verizon users" and a "credible alternative" to the iPhone.

Of course, all of these reviews also call out some shortcomings in the Droid. It's a hair thicker than the iPhone (about a millimeter and a half), although that is understandable since the Droid includes a keyboard and the iPhone does not. The keyboard itself, however, earns mixed reviews; most of the reviewers echo SFGate's Ryan Kim, who said its relatively flat, hard-to-differentiate keys contribute to minor usability issues.

Most of the reviewers, like Pogue, still give the iPhone an edge in terms of its user interface, industrial design, and the sheer number of available applications -- although at this point, it is entirely possible that the Android smartphone ecosystem will quickly grow to rival the iPhone App Store in size and variety.

A cynic might argue that these reviews say more about the desire to see someone -- anyone -- wipe the perma-smirk off Apple's face than they do about the Droid's actual merits. And the self-conscious attempts not to label the Droid an "iPhone killer" are a bit amusing, since they ensure that a Google search of that exact term will return links to every last one of these "not an iPhone killer" reviews.

In any case, the pressure is on Apple to hit a home run with its next iPhone release. And if the reviews start to question whether the iPhone qualifies as a "Droid killer," you can bet that a lot of folks in Cupertino won't be very happy.

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