By Steve Van Dinter Special To Channel 3000
Motorola DROIDRating: 4.5 out of 5 Price: $199 with 2-year Verizon Contract www.droiddoes.com
"It could be an iPhone killer"... We've heard that time and again the past few years but no phone has truly come toe-to-toe with the iPhone. Well, this time around there's some out-of-this world competition.
If you're in the market for a new phone, looking for one with more bells and whistles, or just have to have the latest and greatest let me introduce to you Motorola's DROID.
You've no doubt seen the ads which make a direct attack on its closest competitor, the iPhone, and for good reason. Looking at it spec for spec, the two phones are nearly identical -- 16gb of memory, 3G as well as wifi and onboard gps. The DROID does edge out the competition though with a 5 megapixel digital camera compared to 3 megapixel for the iPhone and the ability to multitask. The only spot it falls short is when it comes to applications -- 10,000 available on the DROID but nearly 100,000 with the iPhone.
One of the first things you'll notice about the phone is its huge 3.7" touch screen. A quick slide gets us to our home screen where we have shortcuts to our favorite applications.
Four bottom buttons provide quick access to things we need like a back button, a menu button, home and my favorite the search button.
Hit the search button and say any keywords and it instantly shows Google results for the search.
Or say something like "navigate to Overture Center" and instantly GPS launches. But this isn't your ordinary GPS, it's Google's newest application, called Google Maps Navigation only for phones like this one running its new operating system, Android 2.0. This is a free -- yes free -- app that does everything your typical GPS does and more. You don't need addresses, just say a restaurant, point of interest or pretty much anywhere and the phone will do a quick Google search, confirm with you the result and you're off.
It features free traffic reporting and the ability to navigate via map or street view. And when you get close to the address, you'll always get street view to make sure you know what you're looking for. And since the maps are downloaded each time over the Internet you never have to worry about upgrading.
So that's some of the cool things you can do with voice. Another option is a touch input. But if you prefer buttons for texting, it also has a full slide-out qwerty keyboard. The HTML browser loads pages in a flash and that's thanks to the speedy 3G network or wifi connection as well as a fast processor.
Adobe has also announced that within a couple of months you'll be able to download Flash giving you nearly the same multimedia browsing experience on your phone as at your computer.
Speaking of multimedia, you can download videos from your computer to the device or use an app, like tv.com's to watch streaming videos.
The apps are all found at the Android Market which has more than 10,000 to date and a surprising number of them are free. They'll fit just fine on the phone's 16gb memory card, which comes pre-installed.
When it comes to the bottom line, it's a near perfect phone.
What I liked: it's a touch screen, but super responsive with no lag. The Android 2.0 operating system is speedy and allows for multitasking like opening an email and doing a quick Internet search at the same time. You don't have to purchase or subscribe to GPS -- it's all free. There's support for Microsoft Exchange servers, meaning most work e-mail will work. The five megapixel camera is pretty decent for a phone and the qwerty keyboard will alleviate any fears of going all-touch.
The Downsides: I found the keyboard to be a bit hard to get used to as the buttons aren't raised a whole lot and the screen does smudge a lot, so get used to wiping it off frequently or just living with it.
It costs $199 with a 2-year plan and is only available on Verizon Wireless. The phone goes on sale Nov. 6.