Droid Pro — Bridging the Android/BlackBerry Gap

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Motorola (s mot) has been enjoying the popularity of its Android (s goog) product line, and the Droid Pro looks to take Android to the enterprise worker. It starts with the latest Android OS version, and adds a touch screen paired with a QWERTY keyboard that could come straight from the BlackBerry (s rimm) folks. It runs on Verizon’s (s vz) 3G network (EVDO), but adds international GSM to the mix for the frequent international business traveler.

Prior to the release of the Droid Pro, consumers wanting an Android phone had two choices: a large touchscreen-only device or a handset with a touch screen and a sliding QWERTY keyboard. Motorola has merged the two forms with the Droid Pro by combining a 3.1-inch display (320×480) with a QWERTY keyboard that sits beneath the display. The keyboard rivals those found on the BlackBerry, making it ideal for extended text entry.

The Droid Pro has a candybar form that is a little long due to the keyboard sitting beneath the screen. It looks like the phone would be top-heavy for thumb-typing on the keyboard, but that’s not the case. The keys are sculpted like those found on the BlackBerry to prevent typing mistakes in spite of the small keys. With a little practice, it’s possible to get quite proficient using the keyboard, and BlackBerry users should feel right at home.

Motorola has built the Droid Pro for the CDMA network of Verizon (s vz), but has added GSM capability for international use. The Droid Pro can be used most anywhere in the world with the appropriate plan with Verizon.

Standard Exchange Server support is included for enterprise purposes, along with other features to appeal to business users. QuickOffice is included for Microsoft (s msft) Office support, as is Skype mobile for VoIP calls. There’s a VPN client for accessing corporate environments, and the full Google software suite is installed. Motorola has included advanced security features that appeal to enterprise tech support staff, such as remote wipe capability, which makes it possible to erase the memory on a lost phone. Data encryption can be employed for all documents stored in internal memory and on the microSD card.

The Droid Pro may be aimed at the business user, but the Android OS is also consumer friendly. The handset will appeal to any consumer who wants a thumb keyboard like that of the BlackBerry, yet who also craves the Android touch-friendly OS. I showed the Droid Pro to a few BlackBerry users over the week I’ve been testing it, and invariably, the response was positive. BlackBerry owners are curious about the Android phenomenon and found the keyboard of the Droid Pro makes it possible to “ease away from the BlackBerry.”

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Baz

The recent annual PC World “Reliability and Service Survey” as provided by the actual users of devices (albeit PC World readers) placed Motorola well above RIM in both categories – and devices like this might well convince many to go this route instead. While there will still be a strong fan / user base of Blackberrys, one can’t help but hear the rumblings of those seeking something ‘better’ – and disenchanted enough not to wait to see what a new RIM OS or device will do.

rickybrent

Ah, for once I am jealous of Verizon; that reminds me of my Pixi phone, only with android.

Same problem with no arrow keys, though. :( Until I saw the zoomed in pic, I was hoping for a fn+ solution… but I guess most people don’t want the keyboard for ssh. :)

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