Motorola XPRT Android Phone Looks, Feels Like a BlackBerry

Sprint's Motorola XPRT smartphone sports a small display atop a physical QWERTY keyboard. But who will buy it in this day and age? Hardcore enterprise email users.

Normally, when I lead off a gadget review, I note how I've used a phone/tablet as my primary communications or media consumption device for the past X number of days or weeks.

I can't in good conscience claim that with Sprint's (NASDAQ:S) Motorola XPRT, which you can buy now for $129.99 on a two-year deal.

I tried using it regularly for the last week, but kept putting it down in favor of my Motorola (NASDAQ:MMI) Droid X to watch YouTube clips, download applications and do other things I like to do via a bigger virtual touch-screen.

It's not that the XPRT is a bad phone. On the contrary, the device is solid, running Android 2.2 and capably powering YouTube, Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn and all manner of applications with the 1GHz processor. See the rest of the specs here.

The device is almost exactly like the Motorola Droid Pro Verizon Wireless launched last November for $179.99 with a contract. Both devices feature 3.1-inch HVGA (320 by 480 resolution) displays perched atop a full QWERTY keyboard, and both promise encryption to secure corporate data. Both devices enable international roaming in more than 200 countries, which is ideal for the corporate road warrior traveling for business.

The XPRT's similarity to the Droid Pro isn't the problem. The problem is the form factor; the device, which is business-brisk gray and black enclosed in a pebbled plastic casing, looks and works like a BlackBerry from Research In Motion.

As in, the BlackBerrys that used to be super-popular all over the country, but are being ignored or tossed aside for Apple's iPhone and Android smartphones with bigger, crisper touch-screens and even 4G radios.

When I tested the Droid Pro last November, I still believed smartphones with physical keyboards have their place in the world for power email users on the go. Since that time, I've tested over a dozen Android smartphones, with most of them featuring a solid-to-great virtual keyboard.

I'm thinking of Sprint's Samsung Nexus S 4G, AT&T's Motorola Atrix 4G, and my current favorite, Verizon Wireless' Samsung Droid Charge. Heck, I'm even thinking of my own Droid X, which turns 1 year old July 15. Old hardware? Maybe, but the phone runs Gingerbread great.

I'm no longer inclined to use, let alone buy, a phone that trades off the 4-inch or greater virtual keyboard to split the input work between a Lilliputian touch-screen and a classic, BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard. That's exactly what the XPRT, like the Droid Pro before it, offers.