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Motorola Droid vs. Apple iPhone 3GS

Can the Motorola Droid take on the iPhone 3GS?

  • Microprocessor: Droid has as its digital heart a Texas Instruments' OMAP 3430 system-on-a-chip (see diagram), clocked at 600MHz. The iPhone 3GS uses a Samsung S5PC100, at the same clockrate. But both chips are based on the same underlying technology: ARM's Cortex-A8 design, geared for very low-power use, and high performance. The A8 includes onboard 2D/3D graphics accelerator, signal processing, and optimized compilation of Java and other bytecode.

  • Keyboard: Droid is one-upping iPhone on the keyboard: Offering full QWERTY layouts onscreen and in horizontal sliding form, instead of software only. The critical issue in both will be how well the Droid's typing actually performs. The debate about hardware vs software typing is probably over: Few iPhone users complain.

  • Applications: Apple App Store clearly has the edge in numbers compared with Android Market: About 100,000 iPhone apps to about 10,000 for Droid. But if 10,000 gives you all you need to get started, that's more than enough. Droid leverages a host of Google-based services, and offers the free, just-released Google Maps by Navigation, a turn-by-turn navigation app that marries the phone's GPS with Google Maps. At left: The App Store's "Genius" recommendations; at right, Android Market's top paid apps.

  • Operating System: Droid is the first device with the latest, more polished version of the open source Android operating system, version 2.0, with some big changes: Multi-touch, synchronization with multiple e-mail systems (including Microsoft Exchange), and a new framework that lets software developers exploit the core sync engine for their own apps. But Apple's had the iPhone OS in release for two years, and J.D. Powers surveys find consistently very high user satisfaction with its reliability and ease of use. Android lets you run multiple apps at the same time, but this fact alone won't cause user conversions

  • Web browsing: Both Droid and iPhone offer advanced browsers, and Apple's was key to the iPhone's spectacular success. Both browers are based on the open source Webkit engine, both have user interfaces designed for mobile use and touch, and both implement the emerging HTML 5 APIs, which now let browsers store and use apps and data locally without a network connection. Droid will support Flash 10 in 2010, and now supports a double-tap to zoom in and out. At left: Apple's mobile Safari browser; at right: The Droid's Android browser.

  • Motorola's new Droid 3G smartphone could have what it takes to grab a chunk of the mobile data market and rival the iPhone's success: big touchscreen coupled with a sliding Qwerty keyboard, robust Web browser, the improved Android 2.0 operating system, and tight integration with Google services. This slideshow looks at both phones, based on their specifications.

  • Overall design: The two phones are remarkably similar, a bold design decision by Motorola, inviting a straight-up comparison. They're almost identical in size, and weight, with the Droid (at right) being just slightly thicker. The Droid's 3.7-inch diagonal screen is a tad larger than iPhone, but a much higher number of total pixels: Droid 480x854, iPhone 640x480.

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