The smartphone market is just as active as ever, with tons of devices pouring in from manufacturers, old and new, and that can only be a good thing for the end consumers. Phones with hardware QWERTY keyboards were a bit lacking in the previous years, but 2011 really changed things up – there are already half a dozen good keyboard-equipped handsets out there, but the end of the year really brings out the best in the manufacturers and network operators, it seems.
One of the best high end landscape QWERTY smartphones is already on the market – the Samsung Captivate Glide is basically a Galaxy S2 in appearance and internal hardware, but the keyboard really makes it shine. And just now, Motorola announced the Droid 4, which was quite unexpected, but it’s great news, since it looks like it will be a phone worthy of being called a flagship. If you need a new smartphone and you simply need a hardware QWERTY keyboard, these are your best choices right now – but which one should you get for Christmas?
Exterior and Display
The design of both smartphones is pretty standard, yet unique in their own way – while the Captivate Glide maintains the sleek look of the Galaxy S2 (well, it’s a bit thicker, but still), with its rounded corners and pretty standard finish, the Droid 4 uses Motorola’s new hexagonal look, which debuted with the Droid RAZR and is one of the most attractive designs out there. Both phones are pretty sturdy, although the Droid RAZR would win a competition with its strong metal frame. The Captivate Glide isn’t far behind, though.
The display is frankly a letdown on the Droid 4 – yes, the PenTile matrix may be better at saving battery life and being more readable in sunlight, as well as brighter in any conditions, but a lot of people don’t like the sacrifice in picture sharpness due to the decrease in sub-pixels. Still, the 4 inch 960×540 pixels screen is plenty enough for any kinds of tasks, unless you really like looking at high definition pictures and observing all the details (video is perfectly fine). The 4 inch Super AMOLED on the Captivate Glide on the other hand, pops with colors, but the 800×480 pixels resolution is starting to show its age, even though the picture is pretty clear and sharp.
Hardware features and performance
The hardware features are pretty much the same for both handsets – aside from the lack of 4G LTE on the Captivate Glide (which frankly, is more of a burden than privilege, since you’ll go through the battery in less than half a day with the LTE radio on) and the lack of NFC on the Droid 4, both devices have the usual Wifi N, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, 3.5mm audio out jack, GPS, two cameras (8 and 1.3 megapixels on the back and the front of both phones), as well as HDMI out capabilities. The QWERTY keyboards are comparable in size and ease of use, although the Droid 4 has the keys slightly more raised, making for a better experience for prolonged typing, plus some might like the 5 rows, with one dedicated to the number pad.
The performance of both the Samsung Captivate Glide and the Motorola Droid 4 should be about the same in pretty much all apps – the former uses a dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor with NVidia’s own GeForce graphics adapter, while the latter features a TI OMAP 4 series dual core running at 1.2 GHz and using the new version of the PowerVR SGX540 (which is 50% faster than the old one in the Galaxy S). With 1 GB of RAM on both handsets, you’ll see the same speed no matter how many apps you’re running at the same time. The Droid 4 has more storage space – twice the amount found on the Captivate Glide at 16 GB (vs 8 GB), plus a micro SD card slot, which is also present on Samsung’s device. In the long run, more internal memory is better since you’ll be able to have total memory when you buy a bigger micro SD card.
There’s really not much to be said about the software – both handsets run Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread, and both use their respective manufacturers’’ skins and customizations – Touch Wiz on the Captivate Glide and MotoBlur (which got better in the latest incarnations), and choosing between them is a matter of personal preference, although you can remove them (probably). Of course, both phones will get the Ice Cream Sandwich update as soon as its ready, so there’s no problem with that.
At about the same cost, it is a bit hard to choose between the Droid 4 and Captivate Glide, but to make it easy, you basically have to choose between the design, storage space, 4G speeds, display, keyboard and the carrier – err, OK, maybe it’s not that easy, but it’s a start :-). Either of these phones will do fine as your only smartphone for the next few years, although I would choose the Droid 4, personally – it just has a more balanced feel and spec-sheet, overall.