Droid vs. iPhone vs. HD2: HTC could heat things up

The HTC HD2 is a worthy competitor for both the Droid and the iPhone on paper

The HTC HD2 has the makings of an 'iPhone-killer'. It is an impressive device on paper, and early reviews and information on the HD2 suggest that it has the ingredients to compete with both the Motorola Droid and the Apple iPhone in a head-to-head-to-head comparison.

The HD2 matches the Droid for screen resolution at 480x800--dwarfing the iPhone resolution--but the HD2 has significantly more screen real estate with a 4.3 inch display. Initial reviews report that it is blazing fast as a result of its 1GHz Snapdragon processor. It has the seemingly obligatory WiFi, GPS, and 5 megapixel camera features, but also makes better use of the iPhone-like capacitive multitouch screen than the Droid.

While the Droid runs on the Google Android operating system (the first device based on Android 2.0), and the iPhone runs on its own proprietary iPhone operating system, the HTC HD2 is built on Windows Mobile 6.5. In true HTC fashion though, it has customized and tweaked the OS to expand its capabilities. HTC's TouchFlo 3D skin and Sense UI definitely enhance the Windows Mobile 6.5 experience.

Sadly, the three-way cage match between the Droid, the iPhone, and the HD2 may never happen. Timing is everything. As my PC World peer Daniel Ionescu noted, releasing a device at a time when a competing device is dominating the headlines can overshadow it. The Blackberry Storm 2 and Bold 9700 may be very capable devices, but so much attention is being paid to the Droid that you barely know the two devices exist. Even the Droid Eris (also from HTC) is getting much less attention and seems sort of like a consolation prize for those who can't afford the 'real' Droid.

Perhaps HTC is waiting to incorporate Windows Mobile 7 into the device? A good part of the buzz around the Motorola Droid is related to the Android 2.0 operating system. If Droid were just another Android 1.6 device it might not be as exciting. If HTC is working with Microsoft to be the first out of the gate with Windows Mobile 7 it could be a marketing boost for the HD2 and the Windows Mobile 7 OS.

It could just be that HTC is playing the chess game better than RIM and is waiting for the dust to settle. Finding a true iPhone-killer is like the hunt for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster--elusive to say the least. By the beginning of 2010 the honeymoon with Droid may be over and HTC HD2 can dominate headlines as the Droid has done the past few weeks, and it won't have to compete for attention.

That marketing buzz can be a pitfall as well though. Media hype about iPhone comparisons sets up lofty expectations. Even if the device is exceptional, if it doesn't actually steal iPhone market share it is bad for the device's reputation. Instead of focusing on what the device is capable of, users will remember that it didn't live up to the iPhone killer hype. Devices like the BlackBerry Storm and the Palm Pre have already experienced such unfortunate fates.

Even if the device isn't ready, right now--well last week-- would have been the perfect time to release details and begin marketing the device. Once users adopt the iPhone or the Droid they are locked in and may have to deal with early termination fees if they want to switch to the HD2. Marketing the HD2 might give users a reason to hold out for its release and take some wind out of the hype surrounding the Droid.

The HTC HD2 is hitting the streets in Europe, but is not projected to be available in the United States until early 2010. No carrier or pricing information is available yet. The device doesn't do CDMA so that narrows the field to T-Mobile and AT&T.

I am an AT&T customer so I will keep my fingers crossed and hold off on getting that HTC Pure. But, since AT&T offers the iPhone, and Verizon offers the Droid, it would certainly keep things interesting if the HTC HD2 came from T-Mobiile.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com .

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Tony Bradley

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