Is The Droid An IPhone Killer?

The Droid phone i

The new Motorola Droid smart phone features built-in turn-by-turn navigation. Russel A. Daniels/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Russel A. Daniels/AP
The Droid phone

The new Motorola Droid smart phone features built-in turn-by-turn navigation.

Russel A. Daniels/AP

For two years, some of the biggest names in consumer technology have been trying to outdo Apple and its wildly popular iPhone.

Apple teamed up with AT&T to market the phone, and ever since, their competitors have been working desperately to try to outcool what is widely thought to be the coolest smart phone.

The latest contender came out Friday — it's called the Droid. The product is an effort among Verizon, Motorola and Google, and its "iDon't" marketing campaign directly targets the iPhone.

Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of the technology blog Engadget, had a few weeks to play with the device. So is it an iPhone killer?

"No," he tells NPR's Guy Raz, "and I'm not sure that it has to be."

Topolsky says there are a number of things the Droid does better than the iPhone: It's offered on Verizon, the largest carrier in the country; it has a 5-megapixel camera with flash; it has a real keyboard; it features built-in turn-by-turn navigation.

It's also the flagship device running on the second version of Google's mobile operating system Android. Unlike the software that powers the iPhone, Android is available on a number of devices, increasing the opportunities for developers who want to create applications.

Topolsky contrasts this with Apple's more restrictive philosophy. "The iPhone is pretty much closed. Apple has it their way, and that's the way it's got to be."

Verizon's marketing push for the Droid consists of ads directly attacking the iPhone and AT&T's 3G coverage — AT&T even sued Verizon over the latter ads, saying they were misleading.

Even so, the iPhone isn't even the No. 1 smart phone on the market right now, says Topolsky, "but it really is the most visible."

"It's the cool device that everyone wants to have," he says. "It's sort of the device to beat."

Given the choice between the two, Topolsky says the iPhone still has the edge, based on the number of quality applications already available for the device.

This is far from the first time a device has come along to directly challenge the iPhone — the BlackBerry Storm and the Palm Pre, for example, are two smart phones with a lot of hype that failed to change the game.

"The Pre is a great phone, but it doesn't have the kind of huge push behind it that Google could give something — and they're a formidable company when it comes to the tech sector," Topolsky says.

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