It's Monday and time for a new Superphone Smackdown. This time we take the obvious route (more obvious than the iPhone 3GS comparison that will be coming tomorrow) and compare the Google Nexus One with the Motorola Droid, or Motorola Milestone as it's known in Europe. Among current Android phones, these two beasts have the closet specs and will both be available on the same carrier (Verizon) in a month or three (if you're in the UK you can use the Nexus and Milestone on the same GSM network right now).
They both have very high resolution capacitive displays, a fast CPU and the usual entourage of high end smartphone features: GPS, 5 megapixel camera, WiFi, Bluetooth and expandable storage. But if there's one that polarizes folks, it's the slate vs. hardware QWERTY keyboard thing. Obviously if you're absolutely allergic to on-screen keyboards, the Droid is a no-brainer. If you're not terribly commited to hardware keyboards, then read on!
Speed: Nexus One wins. When Google sets out to market a superphone, they go for the best. And that's currently the 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU in the Nexus One. That said, the Moto Droid's 600MHz ARM Cortex A8 really kicks booty and it's a pretty fast phone. But poor Droid, the Nexus One is faster. While the Droid can stop to think every once in a while, the Nexus One is already there.
The Nexus One has double the RAM of the Droid (512 megs RAM vs. 256) and that means more apps can run concurrently. Depending on the requirements of future Android versions, the Nexus One is likely more future proof should a later version require more RAM.
Design and Build Quality: Oooh, this is a hard one. I call a tie with the Nexus One winning for aesthetics and the Droid winning for build quality. Not that the Nexus One doesn't look and feel like a high end phone, but Moto managed to get even more metal into the casing and one of the nicest feeling QWERTY slider mechanisms in the business. And the Moto is crazy thin for a phone with a sliding QWERTY keyboard.
Display: Nexus One wins. They both have 3.7" capacitive touch screens running at nearly identical resolution but the Nexus One's AMOLED display is just so darned vivid and pretty. Better yet it doesn't distort and bloom reds and yellows as do some other AMOLED displays. Movies just look better on the Nexus One. But we give credit to the Moto Droid for having one of the sharpest displays in the business and it's a bit more viewable outdoors.
Sound: Moto Droid wins. Through headphones we'll take either, but the Moto's speakers are quite loud and clear while the Nexus One's speaker sounds distinctly budget and quiet.
Software: Nexus One wins. It isn't just that the Nexus One runs a somewhat newer version of the Android OS (2.1 vs. 2.01), but the Nexus One is the mother ships's own product and should see OS updates before other phones. Especially since there's no carrier to get in between Android OS updates and your phone. But we give credit to Moto for enhancing syncing and getting MS Exchange calendar sync working before Google did it themselves.
Phone reception and call quality: Again this is a tie. The Moto has the best reception we've ever seen on a Verizon phone. Seriously, I think it could get a signal inside a lead-lined room. The Nexus One has average reception. Now, we'll have to wait and see how the Verizon version of the Nexus One does, but so far Motorola has always rocked on reception while HTC (who make the Nexus One) tends toward average reception.
Call quality goes to the Nexus One. The Audience voice processing chip and dual mikes make for extremely good outgoing call quality-- some of the best we've heard from a cell phone. The Moto tends to sound just a bit hollow.
Camera: Nexus One wins. Seriously-- even after updates and tweaks, the Droid's camera is terribly mediocre despite the high resolution and autofocus lens. The Nexus One's camera is pretty decent and we like both the photo and video quality, though Nokia's N900 and Nseries phones in general trounce it.
GPS: Tie. Virtually the same software and both have a good aGPS.
Text Input: Motorola Droid. Though it's by no means one of our favorite hardware keyboards, at least the Droid has one. But for those who don't plan on translating War and Peace and don't enter gobs of text, the Nexus One's good on-screen keyboard is just fine. It's as good as the iPhone's and goes one up with haptic feedback. And don't forget that you can speak instead of type using the Nexus One. Though the Droid will be able to do that too when it gets Android OS 2.1.
And the winner? The Nexus One by 1 point!
Here's our video comparison of the Nexus One and Motorola Droid where we take a look at speed, 3D gaming, web browsing and display quality:
Our take: If you like Android, you really can't go wrong with either phone right now. They're both top of the line smartphones that are fast enough to handle any current application on the market. We did note smoother gameplay in our test 3D game, but nothing that would make us spurn the Moto. However, when it comes to future-proofing, as much as that's possible in a very fast moving industry, the Nexus One gets the nod. Make faster phones and more demanding applications will come; the Nexus One's faster CPU and double helping of RAM ensure it's ready.
Be sure to read our reviews of these two Android smartphones: