Here we go again: Another swaggering company claims to have the iPhone killer. This time, it's Motorola and Verizon Wireless, with the Droid. You've seen the "Droid does" campaign, but let's cut to the chase: The Motorola Droid does not do that much. It's a real letdown after all the hype, with some amazingly dumb design decisions, such as lack of a multitouch screen (no gesture support) and a hard-to-use keyboard.
Worse for Motorola is that HTC, a company hardly known for its investment in design, has come out with a better Android-based smartphone. The consumer-oriented HTC Droid Eris has a surprisingly good user interface that could teach Apple a thing or two.
[ See which smartphone InfoWorld rates best for business in our six-way ultimate mobile deathmatch -- and create your own ratings with our Mobile Deathmatch Calculator. | Get the full scoop on the HTC Droid Eris in Paul Venezia's review. ]
Despite the flaws, the Droid does show real movement in the high-tech industry to truly compete with the iPhone. The Palm Pre earlier this year was the first credible competitor to Apple, while the Droid and the Droid Eris move that competition along. The iPhone remains the victor, but the number of viable competitors is sure to rise further.
Deathmatch: E-mail, calendars, and contacts
The heart of what a smartphone user does -- maybe even more than talk -- is deal with e-mail and calendars, both of which tap into your contacts database.
The Droid's Email app is superficially similar to the iPhone's, but it lacks much of iPhone Mail's richness. For example, both let you select multiple e-mails for deletion, but the Droid doesn't let you quickly delete a message without reading it (the iPhone does it with a swipe gesture). The Droid's Email app doesn't let you move e-mail into folders, and worse, you can't search e-mails from the Email app in the Droid.
[ Compare the Motorola Droid and iPhone side by side in our Droid vs. iPhone mobile deathmatch slideshow. ]
Although Motorola advertises the Droid as supporting Exchange e-mail, it does so in limited circumstances. If your Exchange server doesn't have any ActiveSync policies enabled, you should be able to access Exchange e-mail from the Droid. If such policies are enabled, the Droid will let you connect to the server and send e-mail (I had to reboot the Droid after Exchange setup to get it to work), but it won't display your messages or folders. (My colleague Paul Venezia's testing shows the Droid can get e-mail from an Exchange server that does not use ActiveSync policies.)
It's not clear if the Droid supports any Exchange ActiveSync policies -- the tech support staffs at Verizon and Motorola had no idea, and the Web sites provide no details. The iPhone doesn't support all ActiveSync policies, but it works with a commonly used subset, and if it can't connect to Exchange due to a policy conflict, it sends you an alert.