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Summary:

Our coverage of Android smartphones continues with a head-to-head look at three of the top phones currently available: Motorola Droid 2, Samsung EPIC 4G and the HTC EVO 4G. These phones are superphones that clearly showcase the capabilities that Android brings to the smartphone space.

Android smackdown featured

Our coverage of Android smartphones continues with a head-to-head look at three of the top phones currently available: Motorola Droid 2, Samsung EPIC 4G and the HTC EVO 4G. These phones are superphones that showcase the capabilities that Android brings to the smartphone space. Two of the phones have sliding QWERTY keyboards to facilitate text entry, which are shown to good effect in the video. Two of these phones are the only phones in the U.S. capable of working on the Sprint 4G (WiMAX) network. The video shows the phones up close and personal; which one is right for you?

The phones compare favorably in performance, as all are equipped with fast 1 GHz processors. The Droid 2 has a TI OMAP processor with a dedicated GPU, the EPIC 4G has a Samsung Cortex A8 Hummingbird (not Snapdragon as stated in the video) and the EVO 4G a Qualcomm Snapdragon. The performance is similar on all three phones, and it’s fast.

The displays are all different:  3.7-inch LCD on the Droid 2, 4-inch Super AMOLED on the EPIC 4G, and 4.3-inch LCD on the EVO 4G. The EPIC 4G screen is brilliant, as clearly demonstrated in the video. The narrow width of the smaller Droid 2 may be an issue for those who surf the web on the phone. The EVO 4G display is not nearly as vivid as that of the EPIC 4G, but the additional size makes a difference for extended work sessions.

These three phones are easily as good as anything else on the market, and compare favorably overall. If a QWERTY keyboard is important to your intended usage, the EPIC 4G wins the showdown with the Droid 2: That dedicated row of number keys gives it the nod. If 4G connectivity is critical to you and you live in a Sprint 4G area, either the EPIC 4G or EVO 4G will work well. Which one gets the nod comes down to screen choice and whether you need a keyboard or not.

Don’t miss our expanded coverage of the phones to help decide which one may be just what you need. Our Mobilize event next month will highlight all aspects of the mobile scene; hopefully we’ll see where Android is may be heading in the future.

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d): To Ship or Not to Ship — Product Launch in the Smartphone Era

  1. I’d like to see a detailed comparison of cameras on the current crop of top tier smartphones. The Droid X (8mp) didn’t impress me, but Kevin and PCMag really seemed to like it. Hm.

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    1. I’m not a great photographer so I’m not the one to do a photo quality comparison I’m afraid. For my needs I have found all of these cameras to be pretty similar. Decent but not great.

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  2. Great review but you missed out the UI which is just as important I feel. While these devices all have great hardware, the EVO comes out tops for me because of the Sense user-interface that not only covers the gaps that’s missing in Android but also does it gracefully and beautifully.

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    1. I decided to keep this an overview and not a detailed review of the 3 phones which appears (or will appear) elsewhere. The UI can be seen in the video and if you watch carefully they are operationally very similar.

      I like the Sense interface too but as far as using the phone it is just a series of widgets with functionality that can be largely duplicated with 3rd party widgets in the Market.

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      1. The phones seem slower (UI wise) than the old iPhone 3G that I have. Examples from your video listed below:

        02:30 -> 02:42
        You say there are no performance differences, but Droid 2 clearly lags during the swipes
        07:25 -> 07:40
        Both 4G phone browsers lag as well.
        08:13 -> 08:45
        More examples of orientation lag and swipe lag.

        Let me just say that I am a huge Android fan, and have had (and loved) android phones since the G1, but I cannot help but notice some things that the so-called iGod Steve Jobs would not have ever found acceptable. Android SmartPhones are getting extremely sophisticated now, but to take that last step I think Android needs every bit of polish that it can get.

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  3. Nice phones but sorry none of these are quite up to iPhone 4 standards yet but they are getting very very close.
    Not exactly industrial grade, rather cheap plastic phone with unpolished and inconsistent UI. And don’t even get me started on the quantity and quality of their Apps. Most of the decent Android Apps are clearly just imitations of the original iPhone Apps, hardly any innovation at all, strictly diaper school copycat coding.

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    1. That didn’t take long.

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    2. Is your mouth red from all the Kool-Aid you drank this morning? hahaha.

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  4. Android 3.0 on a 4.3 inch screen with sliding physical keyboard on VZW LTE, ftw- opps that’s mid next year- when my account’s for re-up

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  5. Quick question, the Samsung Epic 4G comes with Froyo (2.2)? In the Engadget review they said it came with Android 2.1. Thanks.

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    1. Good question. The EPIC is shipping with 2.1 but I’ve been told Froyo update is very close.

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  6. On the Epic, the 4 TouchWiz buttons at the bottom of the screen that say Phone, Contacts, Messaging, Applications. Can they be customized or gotten rid of? Barring that, is it possible to disable Touch Wiz and use something else?
    I was also interested that the screen size diff. btn 4.0 and 4.3 didn’t look like as much of a diff. as I expected. That’s good. Looks like the Epic has all the EVO has and more with the exception of the screen size? Is that your take as well?

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    1. The Epic is very solid and I like it a lot. I can see no way to get rid of or to change the 4 icons in the dock.

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      1. Based on my use of the Captivate and generic Galaxy S, I think you can change the 4 dock apps on the Epic, but it’s not exactly intuitive. You have to go in the applications launcher and choose a different sort method and then you can modify which apps are in the dock.

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  7. so which do you like better – the Samsung Epic or the EVO? is the smaller screen size on the Epic going to bother EVO users?

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    1. I think it is very close. If the keyboard is a factor, the EPIC wins hands-down. Personally, I prefer the slightly bigger EVO screen. Very close as I said.

      I’ve seen complaints about the GPS performance of the EPIC. I haven’t seen that yet, but haven’t used it a lot. The EVO GPS is flawless, and as good as I’ve seen on any phone.

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      1. Thanks for the feedback. Any comments about the differences in battery life between the two?

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      2. I’d say battery life has been comparable, with perhaps a slight nod to the EPIC.

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  8. I notice how you and Kevin have become quite fond of Android lately, which is perfectly fine for me ( I dont’t care for the Android vs. IOS wars). At the same time, most of your current tweets concern fixes or updates for what seem to be numerous Android issues. So, I am wondering, is it possible that you are more fascinated by the future potential of Android than by the real product?

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    1. I can only speak for myself but the tweets are purely informational. Android is a solid current platform and I have no issues with using it heavily daily.

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      1. Have you used the alarm clock function? If you have text message or email come through while the alarm goes off you lose the screen to turn the alarm off. Or for some reason if you multitask some times you can’t go to a previous app. Or it doesn’t even show up as one of the 8 last tasks. This is just a few of the many complaints I have with android. Never ran into these issues on blackberry iOS or the Pre. While other people categorically say android is crap. I’ve got real problems that just never get addressed. Unless they have something better than froyo in the next few months i’m off this droid train. I’m putting android on notice.

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  9. Our company just switched to VZW and a few of us got Droid 2′s instead of blackberries. I’m looking at this from a former iPhone perspective and I gotta say I am impressed. I had an iPhone 4 most recently and the driod 2 is a solid device.

    One thing that I really noticed on the motorolla phones is that exchange emails are quite a but nicer compared to the HTC offerings. Quite a few more bells and whistles and since I spend about 89% of my device time there, it’s pure win.

    All in all Android has come really far and is just about on par with the idevices.

    I did check out the evo and the driod x but when you take into account the space used by a soft keyboard, it wins. If I could get an Epic on VZW, I’d be all over it.

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  10. performance-wise their very similar? in my opinion the only phone that has a fluid interface is the epic 4g… kind of sad when you know that the other phones have the same processor

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    1. Similar performance is my personal experience with all three phones.

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