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Smartphone smackdown: Motorola Droid vs. iPhone 3GS

Droid could be Apple's most serious challenger yet. Here's why.

By Brad Reed, Network World
October 19, 2009 04:35 PM ET

Network World - Several devices, from the BlackBerry Storm to the Palm Pre, have hit the market hoping to be an iPhone killer, but none of them have so far succeeded. And while it's unlikely the new Motorola Droid will knock the iPhone off its perch as the top consumer smartphone in the world, it could be in a position to pose the most serious challenge yet to the iPhone's unquestioned supremacy.

Podcast: Could Droid diminish iPhone adoption?

One reason for optimism is the fact that the Droid is the first Android-based phone being sold exclusively by Verizon. Although Verizon has lagged behind Sprint and T-Mobile in releasing devices that run on Google's open source mobile platform, it is aiming to catch up quickly. Verizon and Google recently entered into an agreement to jointly develop wireless devices based on the Android mobile platform. With more than 86 million wireless subscribers, Verizon is the largest carrier so far to support Android-based devices.

The other big reason for optimism is the device's hardware: Like the Palm Pre before it, the Droid uses Texas Instruments' OMAP 3430 processor, which runs at 600MHz and integrates several different functions, such as graphics processing, onto one single chip. This will give Droid users the ability to run multiple applications at once and switch between them without having to close any of them.

The combination of strong hardware, Google's brand strength and Verizon's network could present the iPhone with a formidable foe over the next few months. In the rest of this article, we'll break down the differences between the Apple iPhone 3GS and the Motorola Droid, from their hardware to their operating systems to their carrier strengths.

Round 1: The hardware

As noted previously, the Droid runs on the TI OMAP 3430 processor, one of the top processors on the market. All indications are the Droid will exploit the processor's potential to the fullest, as Verizon is touting the device's ability to run simultaneous applications as one of its key features. In addition to its application-switching capabilities, the TI OMAP 3430 is also a very fast processor. The Boy Genius Report says that the processor has made the Droid "the fastest Android device we've ever used."

Of course, the iPhone 3GS' processor is no slouch either, as its Samsung S5PC100 processor also runs at 600MHz and includes a central processing unit, a graphics processing and a memory controller all on one chip. The iPhone's processor has the ability to support multiple applications at once just as the TI OMAP 3430 processor does, although Apple has not chosen to utilize this capability yet. Even so, the Samsung S5PC100 compares very favorably with its rival at Texas Instruments.

Edge: It's a draw. Both processors have similar capabilities and ensure that each device's users will have top-notch processing power in their hands.

Round 2: Keyboards and screens

One of the few complaints users have about the iPhone is that it doesn't have a physical QWERTY keyboard users can access for easy typing. The Droid plans to one-up its rival by offering users a full horizontal slide-out keyboard that features broader keys than devices such as the BlackBerry Tour.

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