Surprise! The Droid Eris is a better smartphone than the Droid

HTC's iPhone-like mobile device is more advanced in key areas than the Motorola Droid, whose physical keyboard is hard to use

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The Motorola Droid's biggest disappointment is its keyboard: The flat keys are hard to use. I could not easily tell which key I was pressing until text appeared on the screen. Plus the flat, low-travel keys were hard to press with my thumbs, so I ended up doing one-finger typing using my index finger. The result was that I simply could not touch-type on it as I could on a BlackBerry Bold. The lack of tactile context meant I had to look at the keyboard to type, and that made it much slower to type on than on a BlackBerry keyboard -- or even than on the Motorola Droid's onscreen keyboard.

I know that BlackBerry users hate touch keyboards, but the truth is that the Motorola Droid's touch keyboard is much easier to use than its physical keyboard, with good visual clues as you tap and nice autocomplete and autocorrect capabilities, which you can disable if desired. (The HTC Droid Eris' touch keyboard is even better than the Motorola Droid's -- and I would say as good as the iPhone's, with easier access to special symbols.)

If you won't get an iPhone because it has no physical keyboard, and you've realized that the BlackBerry Storm 2 is one of the worst touch-based smartphones ever made due to having both a bad keyboard and a bad touchscreen, I'm sorry to say the Motorola Droid won't satisfy you, either. The Palm Pre is probably your only realistic choice, and its keyboard is not as good as that in the BlackBerry Bold, Curve, or Tour.

But if you're not wedded to using a physical keyboard and not willing to use AT&T as your carrier to get an iPhone, the HTC Droid Eris is a great choice. (But be careful: The HTC Hero offered by Sprint is not as good as the HTC Droid Eris, despite superficial similarities.)  I only wish HTC had a model with the Motorola Droid's larger screen size. The HTC Droid Eris' screen size is usable -- the same as a Palm Pre's and slightly smaller than an iPhone's -- but the extra half-inch would make it fantastic.

If I were Apple, the HTC Droid Eris is the competitor I'd be most worried about today.

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This story, "Surprise! The Droid Eris is a better smartphone than the Droid," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile, Google Android, iPhone, and Microsoft Exchange at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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