Motorola's Droid: The Hummer of smartphones

The Droid smartphone is a departure from competing models, but it's not an altogether successful effort. Here's why.

The Droid is a uniquely American smartphone. James Martin/CNET

Is Motorola ready for a comeback? For much of the last decade, Motorola enjoyed a reputation for building great mobile phones -- like the clamshell StarTAC and the ultra-thin Razr -- that were must-have devices for style wonks as well as the high-tech elite. Then along came Apple's iPhone, and smart devices from companies like Research In Motion, HTC, and Palm, and Motorola found itself in the very uncomfortable position of playing catch-up to a pack of ambitious upstarts.

Motorola needs to get back to front of the pack. The Droid , a Motorola smartphone released late last year, is the result of the company's efforts in that direction. It's just a hair thicker than the iPhone and slightly narrower, but the similarities mostly end there. For one thing, the Droid is powered by Google's Android 2.0 operating system. But the most striking feature is its physical keyboard, which slides out beneath the device's 3.7-inch, high-resolution touch screen.

It's clear that the Droid embraces a very different design philosophy than Apple's iPhone. While the iPhone is sleek and rounded, the Droid is square and angular. Where the iPhone seems lightweight and delicate, the Droid feels heavy and rugged -- classic Motorola. Yet more meaningful, perhaps, are comparisons between the Droid and other handsets powered by the Android OS, like the new Nexus One. In this Design Review, I'll evaluate the Droid to see how well Motorola made all the elements come together -- read on in the following slideshow:

Click a picture to enter the Design Review slideshow.

 

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