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Smart Droid 2 Keyboard Dumbs Down Phone

The Droid 2 and its QWERTY keyboard is great in many ways, but users sacrifice size and smarts for it.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Thinking of replacing your BlackBerry but sweating giving up its business-ready keyboard? Give the Motorola (MOT) Droid 2 from Verizon Wireless a look ($199 after rebate and with a two-year plan).

It gets to be a broken record around here, but how amazing is the fall of Canadian smartphone maker

Research In Motion's


BlackBerry line of smartphones? In spite of new models such as the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and commitment to such bells and whistles as the BlackBerry App World, BlackBerrys as mobile devices simply do not compete with true first-tier units including the


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iPhone 4 or


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Which puts the small-business type in a heck of a mobile-device jam.

On one hand, hard-QWERTY keyboards offer exactly what the small-business doctor calls for: superfast, two-thumb text entry for bombproof email and documents. On the other hand, to get that keyboard, users must give up on such smartphone luxuries as four-inch screens and well-integrated business apps.

Considering all that, any advance in touch-based phones that has a reasonably good keyboard play is a hot topic here on planet small biz. And earlier this summer,


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announced what amounted to an upgrade of its popular half-keyboard, half-touch-based Droid smartphone: the Droid 2. The unit sports an improved processor, tweaked keyboard and other new features.

Initially, I dismissed the Droid 2 as merely a "me too" upgrade. But in the two months or so since, the phone has chiseled an interesting niche in the small-business market.


A business-ready smartphone that has a good keyboard.

The appeal of the Droid 2 is simple for the small business: It's a reasonable blend of a spacious easy-to-use QWERTY data entry tool and a high-power, app-friendly touch-activated smartphone. First off, the 3.7-inch screen is bright and can manage high-quality media apps such as



's mobile tool. The unit's zippy one-gigahertz processor gives the Droid real processing oomph. I was impressed with not only the five-megapixel camera but the video tool as well. The clips were solid. I also like the dead-easy


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Apps integration and solid, business-worthy calendaring.

But the real news for getting work done is the integration of the touch-based Android 2.2 operating system with the keyboard. You really can do two-thumb data entry, a la BlackBerry, on the hard keys and touch the screen as you need to: Sending email, managing documents or handling a presentation is way slick on the Droid 2.

For my money, it's the cleanest hard screen/touchscreen interface on the market.


A true, top-end smartphone.

Who knows why, but a keyboard is a complete buzz-kill for a mobile device. So even though the Droid 2 gets points for a spacious QWERTY, the unit is downright bulky. It's double the thickness of a phone such as the


Galaxy S at about one half-inch. And there is an overall clunk factor in using the unit. You will find the activation keys cramped, the screen a bit too small at times. And processing speed takes a hit when managing heavy keyboard commands such as data entry or using tricky keyboard functions.


Motorola and Verizon deserve credit for combing the bugs out of the original Droid. And if your business life demands a keyboard, by all means give the spiffy Droid 2 a look. Just expect some solid pangs of smartphone envy with this device.

Yes, you get a keyboard, but at a price.

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Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on Fox News and The WB.