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Tech Report – Motorola Droid 2

Last week, analyst firm Gartner confirmed that Android phones had overtaken Research in Motion’s BlackBerry to become the top-selling operating system in the U.S. Year-on-year, Android’s market share surged 30 percent to 34.1 percent, while BlackBerry fell to 33.3 percent and Apple’s iOS dipped to 22 percent.

Of course, the big advantage for the Android platform is the number of new Android phones that are coming onto the market. Hardly a week goes by without another major launch. And, unlike the iPhone, Android phones enjoy the huge advantage of being sold by every major carrier.

This week it’s Motorola’s turn to unveil the Droid 2, distributed exclusively through Verizon. The Droid 2 is the successor to the original Droid, which remarkably is just one year old. Since that time Motorola has released the Droid Incredible and the Droid X, so they have had plenty of opportunity to gauge what works and doesn’t work in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The Droid 2 comes with a 3.7-inch screen, which while smaller than some recent smartphones is slightly bigger than the iPhone 4. The display is sharp and vibrant and the touch-screen offers the pinch-to-zoom and swipe features that Droid owners have come to expect. The Droid 2 is only 0.54-inches thick and the rounder edges give it a much sleeker look than its predecessor.

Of course, the biggest difference between the original Droid and later versions is its slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The Droid 2 keeps faith with that design, offering a choice of both the physical keyboard and the touch-screen version. Although the keys can be a little stiff, the physical keyboard is roomier than the earlier version and will be sure to attract additional BlackBerry fans.

Like other Droids, the Droid 2 features seven home screens for easy access to all the shortcuts and apps. It has the usual Android/Google options, with the added advantage of a walk-through set-up when you first boot up the phone. It allows easy syncing of e-mail and consolidates contacts across all platforms, including social networks.

The Droid 2 is the first smartphone to ship with Android 2.2. Additional features include hands-free voice dialing over Bluetooth, improvements to the camera and camcorder, and a better browsing experience. As well as the standard apps, the Droid 2 comes pre-loaded with Blockbuster on Demand, Kindle for Android, as well as Verizon services such as NFL Mobile and VCast video.

The Motorola Droid 2 is available for $199.99 (after a $100 mail-in rebate) and requires a two-year Verizon contract. The Droid 2 can also be used as a mobile hotspot for up to five other devices. This will cost an additional $20 per month for up to 2GB of data.

(For Star Wars fans prepared to wait a month, Verizon will be bringing out a special R2-D2 version of the Droid 2 sometime in September!)

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