Finally, the Motorola DROID has arrived. RIP iPhone. Actually, probably not, but the DROID is slick, if slightly flawed. Ever since the phone was first announced, Verizon has been pitting it directly against the iPhone with “iDon’t” ads mocking Apple’s marketing campaign. Although one should not expect iPhone fans to suddenly switch carriers and buy a new phone, the DROID does deliver on many of its promises, great news Verizon subscribers and those not yet converted to the Apple army. Should you get one ($200 after $100 mail in rebate)? Read on and decide.

Reviewers across the board have praised the DROID’s appearance. Black, sharp corners, hard angles, with a heavy feel (it is 25% weightier than the iPhone). Motorola’s new phone is more macho than metro in appearance. Hands-on reviewer site Engadget calls the look, “staunchly defiant,” as it differs from the curvy designs favored lately. Additionally, the users eyes are massaged by the large (3.7 inch) and pixel full (WVGA res at 480×854) screen. Journal tech guru Walt Mossberg takes issue with the fact that the screen lacks multi-touch functionality, like the two-finger zoom found on the iPhone, and also points out occasionally lag in dealing with the touch screen. This is the early story of the DROID, some wins, some losses.

If the gadget is a pleasure to look at, it is an even greater joy to listen to. Engadget calls it, “one of the best sounding devices,” they’ve ever tried. Multiple reviewers noted the great call clarity, which is a compliment to the phone as well as Verizon’s network. Nice to see that it is still important for a phone to actually make calls…

Two other hardware features, the keyboard and camera, apparently lack the sizzle of the screen and speaker. Most hands-on reviewers have been less than positive when speaking about the usability of the keyboard. The slide-out QWERTY board has flat keys that have made it difficult to type accurately and quickly. Could just require getting some used to, but the phone does feature a touch screen keyboard with auto-correct, just in case. The 5.0 megapixel camera, with flash, has the ability to take reasonably nice pictures, but can be slow to focus. Many rate the camera as just okay, as the hardware and software could be expected to work together better. Movies, though, were reported to be brilliant.

Considering this a smart phone, not a weekend fling, what’s on the inside actually matters. Users will notice a number of slick features that come thanks to Google’s Android 2.0 OS. One grabbing a lot of early attention is the free GPS navigation system, powered by Google Maps. Also, the DROID allows multiple apps to be run at the same time, a feature not found on the iPhone, and also supports multiple email addresses. Speaking of emailing, that is just one of the options provided after tapping a thumbnail of a contact. Your only dilemma will be choosing between hitting call, or Facebook, or Twitter, as the DROID aims to please social networkers. New York Times’ David Pogue says moving around on the phone is, “lightning fast,” although he notes that web browsing is quicker on the iPhone. (Pogue also understands the time-value of money and notes if you buy the phone at Best Buy, you’ll get your $100 rebate on the spot.)

One glaring gap between the would-be-rival phones is music and video capability. The iPhone dominates in this category as the DROID’s ability to synch with one’s computer is certainly not seamless. As one reviewer put it, the iPhone can replace an iPod, while the DROID cannot. Also, the DROID market lacks the massive volume of apps available for the iPhone, 12,000 to 100,000, respectively. How many apps are required before you are labeled cool?

So what does all this mean? Universally the early reviewers have agreed that the DROID is an outstanding phone, though none can award it the smart phone crown worn currently by the iPhone. DROID does do things the iPhone can’t, like swap batteries, but it also falls short in other areas. Loyal Verizon customers will love it. iPhone users will probably keep dancing to their cutesy, hip music. Those in middle will have to decide which features are most important. The main accomplishment of DROID? Competition. That is what makes good companies, products, teams, people better. Now two phones are fighting for the top spot, and they will force each other to improve.

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