The Motorola Droid continues to be the king of Android devices that include a hardware keyboard, and the smartphone which bore the Android flagship crown for some time before the Nexus One. Meanwhile, the Nokia N900 runs Maemo linux 5 - the operating system which - with polish and joint collaboration with intel - will soon emerge as MeeGo and power a host of Moorestown-packing devices. We're doing something a bit irregular by reviewing both phones in one article, but that's again because they're both running on the same Texas Instruments OMAP3 SoC. Let’s dive into both phones and see how they fare.

Motorola Droid - Still Does

As you probably already know, the Motorola Droid marked a turning point for Motorola, for Verizon’s smartphone lineup, and quite possibly a coming of age for Android as the first shipping smartphone with a mature 2.0 release. It wowed the market when it debuted Google Navigation, but puzzled everyone with its initial lack of multitouch support inside all official Google apps - despite packing a full multitouch digitizer.

 

Since launch, the Moto Droid has and will continue to see continual incremental updates. First, the Android 2.1 update added multitouch to the browser, gallery, and google maps, along with a number of other improvements brought alongside the entire platform update. At Google I/O 2010, we’ve now learned that the Moto Droid will see another update to Android 2.2 before year’s end - bringing a promised 2-5x speed boost to Android’s Dalvik virtual machine with a new JIT compiler, full in-browser Flash 10.1 in addition to Adobe Air support, cloud-to-device push APIs, OS-level WiFi tethering, and browser speed increases among other features.

It’s obvious that despite the recent release of the HTC Incredible, the Moto Droid will continue to hold a place in Verizon’s growing lineup of Android smartphones - and likely at a lower price point than HTC’s new flagship. Currently, Verizon is offering a buy one get one free Motorola Droid promption with purchase and a 2-year contract.

 

The Droid’s chief differentiating factor (other than likely continued lower price point) is the hardware keyboard. For so many, having a hardware keyboard is still a fundamentally important feature, though virtual keyboards aren’t as bad as they used to be - and they’re getting better. As an aside, it’s amazing how quickly ‘Big Red’ Verizon turned its lineup around and became host to so much Android hardware.

Nokia N900 - a ‘mobile computer’

There’s no doubt about it - the Nokia N900 is a unique beast. In fact, it’s that uniqueness which makes it a difficult sell for all but the most hardcore smartphone consumers, but also potentially the most powerful. The N900 is a landscape QWERTY slider with a 3.5” resistive LCD, front and back facing cameras, 3G HSPA for T-Mobile bands, and runs the debian derivative Maemo 5 OS.
 

 

I think it’s a fair argument to make that the N900 hasn’t received as much love state-side as it has abroad, or rightfully deserves. That’s probably due in part to only being sold unlocked with no subsidy, by no specific carrier (though it is targeted at T-Mobile for 3G support, and will work with 2.5G EDGE on AT&T), for $499 at retailers like Amazon. But it isn’t just Nokia grappling with that issue - Google recently learned how hard of a sell unsubsidized, bring your own plan schemes are with its Nexus One. In general, it’s hard to sell people on a $500+ smartphone if they can’t try the device beforehand, or get carrier support.

That aside, the N900 is likely the final evolution in a long chain of internet tablets designed by Nokia - starting with the N770 in 2005. Maemo linux has been as open as open source can be since the very beginning; its application manager started as little more than an APT frontend. If you prefer, it can even still be used that way from the XTerm terminal with an apt-get install. It’s a platform that’s been adorned and worshiped as the ultimate linux smartphone platform by hardcore *nix nerds ever since, and I intend to do it justice.

Similar SoC: Meet the OMAP 3430
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  • Zebo - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    with 750mhz processor convex keys and ditching the lame D pad making this the best smart phone for my use talking 5-6 hours a day plus on best network instead of T or TM.

    Reply
  • krazyfrog - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Dude, you chat like an eight year-old lol. Reply
  • CityBlue - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    The latest Maemo5 PR1.2 does bring a welcome improvement to battery life, in some cases as much as 50% improvement to standby time.

    The recently released Opera Mobile on the N900 is lightning fast - it would be interesting to see how that performs in your comparison tests, or the latest Fennec (Firefox Mobile 1.1). The stock MicroB browser is beginning to look a little long in the tooth what with all the Javascript run-time improvements in competing browsers, but it does still offer the most complete web experience on pretty much any mobile device.

    Overall though, a very good and welcome review of Maemo5 which is much misunderstood by a world obsessed with Android and iPhone.
    Reply
  • achipa - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Two small corrections:
    Nokia's next MeeGo device is still going to be ARM (MeeGo is a two-platform OS, ARM and Atom), if there is a Moorestown device far along in the pipelines, it's not Nokia's.
    PR1.2 is very likely not the last update. Nokia has pledged to deliver QtMobility (the mobile device Qt APIs) in a future update, and there is an active Qt4.7 branch for Maemo5 which also suggests work is being done there.
    Reply
  • The Solutor - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Not all the Droid/Milestone's keyboard are flat.

    http://img96.imageshack.us/img96/5872/dsc00180.png

    http://img412.imageshack.us/img412/6551/dsc00176.p...

    This is my milestone (bought in december).

    So there's no need to wait droid 2 to get the raised keys.
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    Interesting... looks like they definitely identified that issue somewhere between finishing the CDMA 'Droid' design and the GSM Milestone. Cool stuff!

    -Brian
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    I read that elsewhere as well. Would be nice if the verizon stores got the newer keyboard models out on display to try Reply
  • BoyBawang - Sunday, June 13, 2010 - link

    Sorry to break your heart dude but the ones with raised keyboard were the early builds. Motorola changed it to flat after reported sliding problems with the raised design Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Actually one of my friends got a Moto Droid Thursday and I had a chance to play with it Friday, it did feel like they had improved the key feel slightly. IIRC the Droids on display had concave keys, this one was slightly convex. Reply
  • solipsism - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    I understand that's because they are in the same package is the reason why you need the BT to be on to get FM, but that can't be too common. After all, most smartphones seem to have WiFi and BT(+EDR) and FM all the same transceiver.

    For comparison, the iPhone 3GS uses a <a href="http://www.broadcom.com/products/Wireless-LAN/802.... BCM4325</ a>
    Reply

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