The Motorola Droid, coming to the Verizon Wireless network Nov. 6, more than holds its own against the Apple iPhone on AT&T and the Palm Pre on the Sprint network. At least on paper, that is.
BillShrink.com monitors more than 10 million wireless plans in order to compare offers and help consumers spend wisely - it offers its "true cost calculator" free of charge - and in addition to the smartphone marketplace monitors gas prices and credit card, savings and CD offers.
It recently line up the Droid, iPhone and Pre for a side-by-side comparison, and the result? The Pre is the least-expensive option of the three, the iPhone offers access to the most applications, and the Droid is neck-and-neck with the iPhone on pricing and options - except when it's beating it.
The Droid and iPhone have 16GB storage capacities, to the Pre's 8GB. The iPhone and Pre offer five hours of 3G talk time, while the Droid offers 6.4. (Standby time is another story, with the Droid offering 270 hours to the others' 300 hours.)
All three offer Wi-Fi and GPS, though the Pre doesn't also offer a digital compass, as its competitors do, and while all three have cameras, the Droid's is 5 megapixels, while the iPhone and Pre come with 3-megapixel models.
You'll get voice commands with the iPhone and the Droid, though not the Pre, and while all three have application stores, in Palm's App Catalog you'll find 258 to choose from, BillShrink reports, while the Android Market offers 10,000-plus and Apple's App Store is tallied at 93,200.
When it comes to multitasking - that is, running several applications at once - the iPhone is a no-show but the Pre and Droid can juggle six at once.
For some, however, the contest may be settled by dollar signs. BillShrink puts the average unlimited usage plan - that's unlimited voice, messaging and 5GB of data - at $149.99 for both the iPhone and the Droid, while the Sprint network will be delighted to offer you the same for $99.99.
BillShrink doesn't forget those device-subsidizing two-year contracts, however, and reports that for 24 months of ownership, plus tax, an unlimited plan will run $3,799 for both the Droid and the iPhone, while Palm Pre users will pay $2,549.
For an average plan, those numbers fall slightly but stay in line, with iPhone and Droid users forking over $2,839 to Pre owners' $2,309.
There is of course more to phones than the numbers game, however, and shoppers may also want to keep in mind the networks they're committing themselves to. In a statement on Sprint's third-quarter earnings - or rather, losses - Sprint CEO Dan Hesse stated that the network was "declared the most reliable by PC World magazine," and that it was the only telecom company in the top 100 of Newsweek's 500-strong Green Ratings list. (It ranked at number 15.)
In September, the CFI Group reported that in customer satisfaction surveys, consumers were far more enthusiastic about their iPhones than they were about their carrier, AT&T, which they ranked at a 73 out of a possible 100 points. Verizon ranked higher, but while 86 percent of surveyed customers said Verizon was their "ideal carrier," only 38 percent said their phone was their "ideal phone."
Verizon surely hopes to change that with the Google Android-running Droid, which analysts are already saying might have the best chance of any smartphone yet of holding its own against the iPhone.