Verizon jumped into the Android game with both feet last Friday, selling the much hyped Motorola Droid and its more-than-capable little Sis, the HTC Droid Eris in stores across the nation. With the US' number one wireless carrier now selling phones built around Google's Android OS, the platform is poised for a big uptick in mass consumer adoption. Heck, AT&T might even start carrying a Google phone before too long.
We want to take you on a quick tour of Android from a consumer perspective to help you better know the lay of the land, talk smack about iPhone/WebOS/Windows mobile at your next cocktail party, or even pick up a new smartphone to call your own. Here's a quick rundown of every Android device currently for sale on a US carrier, and a few that are expected in the coming months, led by John Walton, PhoneDog's resident Android Guru and Managing Editor of DroidDog.com, the place to go if you really want to get to know Android.
John Walton, PhoneDog Editor and Founder, DroidDog.com; Noah Kravitz, Editor-in-Chief, PhoneDog; Aaron Baker, News Editor, PhoneDog; Adriana Lee, Lifestyles Editor, PhoneDog
David, Founder, TmoNews.com (for his T-Mobile expertise); John Edgar, Android Geek and Friend of the Dog
NOTE: We've broken this article into two parts for your ease of reading. Part One covers currently available Verizon and Sprint Android phones. Part Two covers available T-Mobile phones and upcoming Android devices already announced or strongly believed to be coming to the US market within the next several months.
NOTE: All prices are given as on contract/after rebate when bought direct from the carrier.
NK: CLIQ is T-Mo's best Android device, at least until Behold II comes out. I actually prefer CLIQ's keyboard to Moto Droid's, and while the aptly named MotoBlur system is a bit overwhelming, I found the Messaging and News apps to be pretty handy.
AB: I like the overall form factor of the CLIQ, but am not a fan of the QWERTY keyboard or the battery life. For social communication, the CLIQ is top notch, and MOTOBLUR provides a good level of customization.
AL: As a newbie to MotoBlur, it left me a little confused. How do I shut some of this off?? Social networking or news fiends will like the pushed info on the homescreen, though it will drain your battery drier than a vampire at a blood bank. I like the hardware QWERTY and the capacitive screen (though there's no "pinch/zoom" for pics — bummer), but mostly, the unspectacular looks and sheer thickness of this device would make me look elsewhere to get my Android fix.
David: In my 24 hours with the CLIQ I have found MotoBlur to be, as Noah said, overwhelming. So my first move was to the Android Market for a task killer. If you love social integration this device will answer your prayers, with a slick keyboard to boot. Some might prefer a little more of a generic Android experience, however.
JE: I like the CLIQ. It's a solid phone with Motorola providing some great tweaks to vanilla Android 1.5. Two-thirds of MotoBlur is awesome. I love the Messaging and Status widgets. After some testing, I determined that the confusing Happenings widget is responsible for keeping the processor clocked to max, thus draining the battery. I wouldn't buy a future phone based on it having MotorBlur.
JW: myTouch feels very nice in the hand, and if all of them featured the upgraded specs of the Fender Limited Edition this phone would be much higher up on my list. As it is, myTouch isn't exactly on the front lines of hardware tech. Still I think it makes a nice gift for the casual user who wants a comfortable phone that they can adjust to their tastes.
NK: Unless you really want a touch-only Android on T-Mobile, skip it. Or at least wait to see how Behold II performs after it's launched later this week. This is old hardware backed by an annoying ad campaign (though as David points out, it is an effective ad campaign).
AB: I feel like the myTouch 3G is the cheap sedan that's trying to compete with the mid-range SUV. Sure, it's a good entry-level Android handset for someone who is entering the arena for the first time, but I'd opt for CLIQ and MOTOBLUR over the myTouch 3G (especially for $20 more).
AL: Cuter than its predecessor (the G1), MyTouch seems like a decent upgrade from the original Android phone. But compared to other offerings, the lack of 3.5-mm headset jack, lackluster vid quality, and syncing problems are annoying. And the virtual QWERTY could use some tweaks. (Why won't it go landscape for Google search terms? Ugh.)
D: Love, love, love the size of this device. As pocket-friendly as smartphones can come, and the ad campaign music might annoy me but everytime I hear that song, I think "MyTouch." Mission accomplished. This phone still appeals to the user looking to jump into the Android game and succeeds in winning over many a T-mobile customer.
JE: I believe this was a fail by T-Mobile. I would have loved to have seen a jump in RAM and ROM specifications. This device does not have enough memory, especially with how big in data size apps had become and quantity of apps that were available in the Android Market, at the time of its release.
JW: I have been a fan of the G1 since release, and while definitely aging, this QWERTY-packing, awkward chunk of kit can still hold its own - if only for the hacking, tweaking geek set. Average consumers seeking a keyboard should probably look elsewhere for an updated Android, though I love the G1's keys.
NK: G1 did a great job of getting Android launched and into the hands of early adopters and developers. I never much liked typing on the shallow keyboard, and so would much prefer a Moto CLIQ to this, despite CLIQ's smaller display.
AB: I tend to forget that this thing is still on the market. Great first Android device, but the chin, keyboard placement, and battery life made me return this phone within 4 days of getting it.
AL: Simply put, the G1 was great in its heyday. Say whatever you want about the hardware (chunky looks, terrible QWERTY, big chin, etc...), there was nothing else quite like it on the market when it came out. At this point, though, only open-source geeks or tech museum curators should even consider it. There are way better offerings now (and even better ones about to drop).
D: Within 20 minutes of using this device the slide out keyboard had my right hand cramped up and ready for an ice bucket. Have the expectation this device will find itself on the EOL list shortly, making way for better looking and better equipped Android devices.
JE: Its quirks are well documented. I will say this, though: the latest Android phones have instilled greater appreciation for G1's combination of trackball, touchscreen, and keyboard . Interesting to note that the HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 has been removed from HTC US's products page. The G1 is looking out at a large green pasture.
JW: I've generally had good luck with Samsung phones and get along just fine with TouchWiz. I'm not so concerned about the Cube interface as I am about the device's power. Specs are hard to come by at the moment and video demonstrations don't tell the whole story. If Behold II packs a decent punch, I'd like to give that Cube a spin.
NK: Goodbye myTouch 3G, hello Behold II. Though I'm not so sure about that "Cube" interface.
AB: Noah is spot on - I couldn't have said it better.
NK: Stop sucking up, Aaron ;-)
AL: I wouldn't consider this a "pretty phone," so looks aside, everything depends on the specs and how the Cube performs. So far, the UI just looks like a novelty gimmick to me, but I really hope it proves me wrong.
D: Having not yet seen this device but having been shown plenty video covering it, the "Cube" interface looks more beautiful than functional to me. I for one, love TouchWiz and can't wait for a Samsung/Android lovechild on T-mobile.
JE: I love TouchWiz on feature phones, but I'm concerned how it translates to the user working in conjunction with Android on a smartphone. Reminds me of the Compiz cube desktop from Ubuntu. Sometimes I disable it because it just gets in the way. But the Omnia, after the last update to TouchWiz, is an awesome phone.
(Photo via theunlockr.com)
JW: Second only to Sony Ericsson's X10 on my list of anticipated Androids, Passion has me all giddy for a phone that can run HTC's Sense without a single stutter or trace of lag. This is the stuff of legend, and will cause plenty of folks to jump ship and sign new contracts - regardless of escape fees.
NK: Android 2.0 plus HTC sense on a fast device with a huge touchscreen? Please, please, please let the rumors come true - including the one about this being available in the US before this Christmas.
AB: 1 cup HTC, 1 cup Android 2.0, 1 cup Sense UI, 1 cup speed - the recipe to a truly great Android device. Needless to say, I'm excited about this one.
AL: 1 GHz Snapdragon processor running Android, part deux, with Sense? The mere thought makes my toes numb. (It's even got the rollerball I love!) Simply cannot wait to get handsy with this phone. I wonder how many people are holding off on the Droid because of this. I'd have to say I don't blame them.
JE: I agree with all these points. I love Sense. That being said, some of the features of the Sense UI are wasted on me. Like John, I don't use all seven screens because it's easier to pull things from the app drawer than go horizontal 6 screens. Sense leaves me longing for another desktop like the Huawei Pulse's Canvas UI with 3 screens up and 3 screens down that can zoom out to one big desktop.
JW: This phone has me excited like no other. Will Sony Ericsson's custom interface and apps meet the hype generated by leaked videos and enthusiastic rumor posts? It's hard to say right now, but this UI, known as Rachael, is getting the introduction HTC's Sense deserved - albeit overseas - with the support of a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor.
NK: I'm excited for this one. Android may be the solid, modern OS that Sony Ericsson needs to showcase their skill in designing user interfaces and multimedia-heavy handsets.
AB: I'm looking forward to this as well. Android is building quite the reputation, and I look forward to seeing more Sony Ericsson choices in the US market. If they were subsidized on a carrier, that would be even better.
AL: Specs ahoy! If the rumors pan out, and it does feature an 8 MP camera, 4-inch screen, Snapdragon processor and 32 GB of onboard memory, this will be an amazing beast of a phone. And i can't wait to see the release version of the Rachael UI up close and personal.
JE: Sony Ericsson is my favorite manufacturer. I am a little worried about the comments from people that have had time with the UI. By all accounts, Rachael is not "ready for her closeup, Mr. DeMille". A big time processor can actually exacerbate bugs within a UI. There is not much time left before her curtain call. Fingers are anxiously crossed.
JW: I think this launch is more about Dell's officially diving into the cell phone game than it is about creating the greatest Android on the market. That said, I've been impressed with Dell's direction and engagement with consumers in terms of R&D over the last couple of years, and I'm rooting for them.
NK: Just because it passed FCC muster with AT&T-compatible banding doesn't mean AT&T's going to carry it. Though they really should; not everybody wants an iPhone.
AB: Yes, it's floating around in the US, and yes, it passed through the FCC. Perhaps more importantly, it shows where devices are headed (much to my dismay): large, touchscreen-only devices. I would guess that we'll see the 3iX in early 2010.
AL: Dell's day job is all about offering low- to mid-range specs for desktop computers, so it's no surprise that its premiere offering didn't shoot for the moon and unveil a top Android competitor. Having said that, I think the arrival of this phone, if it does land on AT&T, has a chance of success (since it would be the only Android phone on the carrier).
JE: This arranged marriage was destined to happen. Dell produces more Linux machines than any other company except Quanta Computer (who produces the OLPC or One Laptop Per Child computer). I expect great things from this partnership.