Android has a long history with slider keyboard phones. The G1 was the device that started it all. And it was the Motorola Droid that really brought Android to the mainstream on Verizon. (We now have its sequel, the Droid 2.)
So how does the HTC Merge (remember, it's not yet been announced, and that name's not necessarily final) stack up? After the break, we pit the Merge against the Droid 2 in a battle of brains, brawn and beauty between a couple of Verizon sliders. Let's check it out.
Keyboard for keyboard, I've always had a preference for HTC. Let's face it, the original Motorola Droid physical keyboard wasn't exactly great. And while the Droid 2 (seen above) has some improvements, the keys are still pretty well crammed together. The HTC Merge takes one of my favorite slider keyboards -- that of the Touch Pro 2 line -- and improves things even further.
I actually like the blue stenciling of the Droid 2's FN keys better than the red on the Merge. But blood red is Verizon's chosen color (most likely), and that's just he way it is. It's just a little too dark on the black keys for me.
From the front, both phones are pretty equal. The screens appear to be about the same size (that'd be 3.7 inches). Capacitive buttons are capacitive buttons. The Merge's search button is red, which is a nice touch, though not really a necessary detail.
Both phones have a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. The Merge wins out in video recording (at least as far as specs go), with a maximum resolution of 1280x720p, versus the Droid 2's 720x480.
Both phones have their power buttons and 3.5mm headphone jacks on the top bezel, but in different locations. No real winner here.
The Droid 2 has a physical button for the camera -- the HTC Merge doesn't. It's not that big a deal, but we'd rather have it than not.
The left-hand bezel of the Merge has the volume button and microUSB port. Really nothing to talk about here.
Aside from the keyboard, choosing between these phones likely will be more about what's under the hood. The Merge is a world phone, with a SIM card for use outside the United States. But we're also expecting a world phone edition of the Droid 2. The Merge has HTC Sense, whereas the Droid 2 has the Motorola Blur customizations.
And then there's the elephant in the room -- the inclusion of Microsoft Bing on the Merge, in lieu of Google search. We're going to withhold judgment on that for a little bit until we see an actual production unit. Maybe we'll get lucky and Verizon will give us some sort of option. (Unlikely but we're optimists like that.)
For a lot of us nerds, it's going to come down to hackability. HTC devices are notoriously open to tweaking, and we'll go ahead and assume that'll be the case with the Merge.