Two OMAP 3430 Phones: Nokia N900 and Motorola Droidby Brian Klug on June 10, 2010 9:29 PM EST
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.