What's the Best Android Phone on Each Carrier?
Dear Reader: The Android operating system may be the first serious competitor to the iPhone platform -- with a slick interface and tons of cool applications. Unlike Apple's tightly policed Apps Store, Google's Android Market lets you download any program written by any developer.
Google Nexus One
When it came time to put its name on a phone, Google went all out. The .45-inch thick Nexus One is nearly all screen -- and what a gorgeous screen it is. The 800x480-pixel resolution shows more detail than a DVD and probably beats most HDTVs for quality, thanks to the use of OLED instead of the typical LCD technology. Colors, especially greens, are lush, and blacks are as dark as coal. All the better to show "Live Wallpapers", the gorgeous 3-D animated desktop patterns introduced in the new 2.1 version of the Android OS.
Eye candy aside, the high-res screen also comes in handy when reading long emails or jam-packed calendars, for example. The capacitive touchscreen on the OLED is very responsive and generally quite accurate. Driving the whole phone is the Snapdragon chipset that includes a one-gigahertz processor, 3-D graphics and HD video support. Translation: The Nexus One interface is extremely snappy.
Be warned, though: A few users have hit snags. In some cases, the touchscreen virtual keyboard misinterprets taps. In others, the phone pops off T-Mobile's 3G network and drops to a pokey EDGE connection. Google owns up to both glitches and has promised either software or hardware fixes. For T-Mobile subscribers, the Nexus One is worth the risk. None of its other Android phones come close in performance or design.
Motorola brags that the Droid is the thinnest smartphone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Our take: Fatter would be better. The "keys" are simply painted on a stiff sheet of plastic, and the tiny grooves between them provide virtually no tactile feedback. Fortunately, the virtual keyboard works quite well -- especially when turned to wide "landscape" orientation.
When closed, the chubby phone's 3.1-inch (480x320-pixel) LCD is on one side and a (disabled) physical keyboard is on the other. Opening the phone flips the screen all the way around to hover over the (now activated) keyboard -- so the phone looks a bit like a mini laptop. The keys are big and easy to press, and the screen-keyboard setup feels very familiar and natural. Bonus features include a touchpad behind the screen -- an odd but effective way to maneuver the cursor. The Backflip also runs Motorola's handy Motoblur software; which is a kind of dashboard that shows updates of all your communications -- texts and emails, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter feeds -- in one glance.
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