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Motorola Droid vs. Apple iPhone 3GS: finally, a contender?

Verizon's newest smartphone powered by new Android 2.0 OS

By and Brad Reed, Network World
October 28, 2009 04:19 PM ET

Network World - Today's formal unveiling of the Motorola Droid smartphone on Verizon's network was an anticlimax, given most of the details had been leaked days earlier. Nevertheless, it's the boldest, most open iPhone challenge yet.

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The announcement in New York revealed a handset almost exactly the size of Apple's wildly successful iPhone, but with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. And it's the first smartphone to run the new Android 2.0 operating system.

The event underlined the conviction, or at least the hope, of Motorola and Verizon that cutting edge, Android-based wireless devices can challenge successfully the iPhone for a big chunk of the still-nascent U.S. market for cellular data.

The iPhone has been unexpectedly successful in the enterprise as well, with one recent study finding that nearly one-quarter of its enterprise respondents were supporting the phone. Android will find it tougher going at least initially: Apple has offered a range of OS updates to meet enterprise security and management requirements, and has garnered support from enterprise software developers and integrators.

The Droid licenses Microsoft ActiveSync, so the phone can connect to corporate Exchange servers. But there are no details yet on what features and capabilities the initial implementation actually supports. For example, according to one reviewer there is no support for encrypted e-mails.

Verizon triggered a headline-grabbing controversy last week with quietly in-your-face TV commercials that mocked the failings of a smartphone called "iDont" and promising that the Droid would make up for all of those deficiencies. Now that details about the Droid are out, here's a closer look at the Droid vs. the iPhone 3GS.

1. Hardware

It's been widely reported that the Droid uses the 600MHz Texas Instruments' OMAP 3430 system-on-a-chip, which is also used in the Palm Pre. The Motorola spec sheet only refers to an underlying ARM Cortex-A8 processor, which is the basis for both the TI chip and the Samsung S5PC100, also a system-on-a-chip with CPU, graphics processing unit and memory controller, the heart of Apple's iPhone 3GS.

The Motorola spec sheet doesn't mention clock speed, but ARM's information says it's adjustable from 600MHz to over 1GHz. The Cortex-A8 was introduced earlier this year, designed as a very high-performance chip that can use less than 300mW of power. It includes components for multimedia and signal processing, and for optimized compilation of Java and other bytecode.

The Android OS was developed for the ARM architecture, and Google and ARM have worked closely to optimize the OS and the Android browser.

Edge: It's a draw. Both processors have similar core capabilities. "Your mileage may vary" based on differences in the implementations

2. Screens and keyboards

Both the Droid and the iPhone are offering big multi-touch screens. Motorola says the Droid's 3.7-inch diagonal display, with 480x854 pixels, or over 400,000 total pixels, boasts "twice that of the leading competitor." The iPhone 3GS offers 480X320 on a 3.5-inch diagonal screen.

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