HTC Merge and Motorola Droid 2

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.

More on the Merge: Hands-on preview | Photo Gallery | Benchmarks | Forums

HTC Merge and Motorola Droid 2.

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.

HTC Merge and Droid 2

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.

HTC Merge and Droid 2

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.

HTC Merge and Droid 2

Both phones have their power buttons and 3.5mm headphone jacks on the top bezel, but in different locations. No real winner here.

HTC Merge and Droid 2

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.

HTC Merge and Droid 2

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. 

 
There are 43 comments

jim1969 says:

how about comparing performance?

GlobalUser says:

I have been a Verizon BlackBerry (global model) user for years, and I'm looking for a new phone. It has to be global because I travel Internationally for work. I'm ready to jump off the BlackBerry ship and try out an Android device. This may sound like a stupid question to most of you, but since I'm trying to educate myself I'll go ahead and ask, is there any significant difference between something like this new HTC Merge global phone if it is just considered an Android phone and not a "Droid"? Does carring the "Droid" brand give a phone any special features or functions that others don't have, or is it just marketing? I've been waiting for a global Droid (or Android) phone to come out on Verizon and have been thinking that the HTC Merge might be it. So, Android versus Droid... what gives? Thanks!

Impulses says:

Droid is just the Verizon marketing campaign behind some (not all) of it's Android devices... Which includes all Motorola Android phones and I think all of HTC's as well (Incredible, Merge), but not Samsung's (e.g. the Fascinate is not part of the Droid line). That's all it is tho, a marketing thing. Verizon actually has to pay LucasArts to use the word Droid in the campaign, heh.

Just pick whichever device you like best based on hardware and OS customizations (Sense/Blur), altho the latter can always be altered or wiped if you're not averse to hacking the phone a bit (HTC devices in particular have a huge community behind 'em over at XDA Developers boards).

GlobalUser says:

Thanks! I appreciate any info I can get.

JohnB101 says:

Although benchmark result isn't the end of the world, but we do have some indication on how well these two performs:

According to http://smartphonebenchmarks.com Quadrant result:

HTC G2: 1708 (same hardware as HTC Merge)
Droid 2: 1458

So obviously lack of 200MHz doesn't seem to affect the performance overall.

IMO, Qualcomm's MSM7630 processor used by Merge is a pretty decent processor. You can read more about it here:

http://smartphonebenchmarks.com/forum/index.php?/topic/100-msm7x30-msm72...

angermeans says:

You are right, but I am willing to bet this HTC Merge will not have the Droid branding. The first droid was worked on closely by Motorola, Verizon, and Google. Every phone that has had the Droid branding has been a "With Google" phone so I am pretty sure this will be a mid grade phone for Verizon.

Impulses says:

It's not a mid-range phone by any means, based on features alone it's definitely a high-end phone and it competes directly w/the Droid 2, probably bests it in many areas (not hard to best it's camera for instance).

Verizon originally tried to pass this Bing integration/deal as something they'd do w/mid-range phones but that's clearly not the case (the Fascinate isn't a mid-range phone either). It's just a marketing/PR thing, plain and simple, same as the Droid campaign and moniker, same as the "With Google" label.

VZW and HTC opted to participate in the Droid campaign w/the Incredible, Microsoft simply offered them enough money to go a different route w/the Merge.

It also applies to what Verizon considers to be their High End Android offerings.

jxcgunrunna says:

The other comment was pretty accurate but is missing a few things. The Droid line has had all the Google apps and search built in so it plays nicer with your Google accounts. This phone along with the Samsung fascinate could have been "Droid" branded if Verizon wanted them to and if they had Google Search and Maps as their search provider. Having played with the Fascinate, I can tell you it really does detract from the overall experience by having Bing. Not a lot but enough that I would not want to switch.

Motorola did make the Devour which was a Verizon Android phone made my Motorola.

Also, if you need a world phone on Verizon and want Android, wait for the Droid 2 World Edition/Droid Pro. It will be a Droid 2 with a 1.2ghz processor. Once both are out, go to the store and play with them and see which ones feels better, the Motorola or the HTC.

Honestly, you probably will not be able to go wrong with either.

wait. you're making too much sense!

remixfa says:

meh! to both!

its gonna take one heck of a powerhouse phone (with hopefully a vanilla android cuz im tired of these customizations slowing down my updates!!) to get me off my vibrant. i dont miss the keyboard as much as i thought, since swype is there, so whatever phones come out next are gonna need to be uber impressive.

12mpx carl Z lensed, dual core 1.5ghz+, gingerbread, 4inch+ superduper amoled-retina screen.. ect ect ect.

seabass says:

I don't think it's much thicker at all. It does however look a tad longer. I'd like to see the finished Droid pro to see if they change anything else at all.

Would you be interesting in selling your vibrant? I've been looking at moving to T-mo and am very interested in it.

angermeans says:

LOL +1 sir

thaghost says:

i may have a vibrant for you. if ur seriously interested, hit me @ iseenher@hotmail.com

Impulses says:

I don't think OS customizations really delay updates as much as people like to believe... The EVO has had 5 or more full OTA updates in about three or four months, including the full Froyo update and even one additional update after that; and Sense is tied deeper into OS than any of the other manufacturer OS skins.

Ultimately, if both the carrier and the phone manufacturer are comited to timely updates, they'll be there regardless of OS skins or customizations... And I'm still a bit more comfortable w/HTC and Motorola in that regard, after all, Galaxy S owners are still waiting for Froyo. ;)

jelly roll says:

The merge looks way thicker and it has the hump

Dropp says:

I would love an android phone with a keyboard. Get with it at&t damn!!!!

drizek says:

I think this thing absolutely destroys the Droid 2. It's really all about Bing, but both phones need to be hacked up anyway since the Droid has the horrible Motorola skin. One you run a custom launcher, the performance and keyboard of the Merge put it over the top.

I think the average consumer would rather have Sense + Bing than FailBlur + Google.

LOL @ Failblur

Impulses says:

You don't need hack up or root a device to run a different launcher on it... Honestly the only big drawback to an un-rooted phone w/Bing as default is that you can't access Google search from the hardware button on the device, that's about it. You can still use Google search and voice search... I do agree manufacturers should just give people a choice even if they make Bing the default tho, here's hoping HTC comes thru w/the Merge so people that aren't interested in rooting it don't have to do so just to address that.

jxcgunrunna says:

I was going to say exactly that. No need for even Root to install ADW or Launcher Pro.

Have you used the Droid 2? With it, you have the option of not using any of the Motorola widgets and the new Moto-Launcher is not bad to use. Although, I normally use Launcher Pro since I paid for it. (Frankly the Motorola one is much faster but not as customizable) There is not much you can do about the Bloat-ware unless you root or replace the ROMS.

Luckily, there is plenty of RAM for apps 512 MB and 8GB of on-board App storage! I have a 32GB SD card for a total storage capacity of 40 GB! With the D2, I have more than doubled the number of installed apps that I had on my D1, before it would begin to studder and slow down. It come with swipe and a higher resolution screen (by 54 Pixels) the Speaker works well for me and both the the Desk Dock and the Car Dock is awesome.

ChrisX#AC says:

If you want hackability, stay away from Moto... It's a GREAT device but the efuse chip really killed it for me. I have the Droid X (which is essentially the same as the D2 except for screen size and keyboard) and the overclocking and ROMs and just overall hacking fun is lost bc of the stupid self destruct button Moto installed.. don't get me wrong, I love my phone, but if I had done my homework before I bought it I would've picked the incredible instead..

hoosiercub says:

I really wish people like you would stop dramatizing about the 'efuse' like its goddamned 9/11... the D2 and DX are amazing phones.. Hacked or not.. you can obtain root, and install customized versions of the ROM with the stock kernel which is just fine since last time I checked.. it worked just fine. You have your wireless tether, root explorer, etc... get over yourself, seriously.

likwidsoul says:

Maybe I missed something but doesn't the droid 1 have an efuse in it too and as far as I know that hasn't stopped anyone from hacking the hell out of it.

Kamar234 says:

The D1 doesn't have any kind of locked bootloader, only the Milestone, which is the European version. I had a fascinate and traded it in for a DX and I am thinking hard about going back to the fascinate. I had it rooted, and Debinged in less than five minutes. The touchwiz skin is actually pretty good. I am very surprised, but it adds a lot of usability to android. The ninjablur adds nothing to the phone but confusion. This phone looks pretty good as well, but I keep dreaming of the fascinate's display. It's beauty haunts my dreams.

Bond32 says:

Haha I like the big elephant reference for bing.

GlobalUser says:

I have been a Verizon BlackBerry (global model) user for years, and I'm looking for a new phone. It has to be global because I travel Internationally for work. I'm ready to jump off the BlackBerry ship and try out an Android device. This may sound like a stupid question to most of you, but since I'm trying to educate myself I'll go ahead and ask, is there any significant difference between something like this new HTC Merge global phone if it is just considered an Android phone and not a "Droid"? Does carring the "Droid" brand give a phone any special features or functions that others don't have, or is it just marketing? I've been waiting for a global Droid (or Android) phone to come out on Verizon and have been thinking that the HTC Merge might be it. So, Android versus Droid... what gives? Thanks!

The "droid" line is just the name given to the verizon line of android phones. What makes it a "droid" is that is uses google for everything; default search, email, maps, etc. Phones like the samsung facsinate are still Android phones, but aren't sanctioned by Google since they use Bing and whatnot as their proprietary software. You'll notice that the droid line of phones will all say "with google" somewhere on the back where as others wont.

To many of us, having bing as the default engine instead of google is blasphemous since it takes away from the whole "android experience" but it all depends on your preferences. If you want a global android phone with a bitchin keyboard this is it. And sense is just plain sexy, i miss it after switching to my Droid X(still love it though).

Hope this helps

Impulses says:

I wouldn't say that they aren't "sanctioned" by Google, just not the right word for it... The whole "With Google" thing is just more marketing (deals between Google and the manufacturers for marketing purposes/labels, etc.). My EVO 4G doesn't say "With Google" anywhere and it's as much of a Google phone as any Motorola phone is, I'm not sure if the Droid Inc says "with google" but it's running the same software as the EVO basically (Sense customizations on top of Android).

To me having Bing as the default search engine, particularly on an HTC phone, is not the end of the world... It's easily remedied, but if you're not very comfortable tweaking, hacking, and rooting your phone then that might be a different story. Even phones that come w/Bing as the default search engine can still run all of Google's apps tho, you might just not be able to set some as defaults or change tie-ins to the hardware buttons, etc.

jxcgunrunna says:

I would say the Droid 1 is more "Android" than anything out there short of the Nexus One. The G1, G2 and D1 are about as "Android" but not sold by Google as you can get.

GlobalUser says:

Thanks! I appreciate all the info I can get. So you are saying you like the HTC better. Correct?

Impulses says:

"The HTC"? Which HTC? The Merge vs the Droid 2? I dunno, the Merge isn't even out yet but if you need a world phone it's probably your best bet, either that or a G2 from T-Mo. The world edition of the Droid 2 is still a bit too much of a rumor w/no real release date.

I like Sense over Motoblur in terms of looks/functionality, but hardware-wise I like the X.

Honestly the best thing to do is youtube previous htc phones, see if you like the UI, and make a decision based on your preferences

Impulses says:

Or just try them out at the store! Best way by far to get a feel for the size and the UI changes that might most annoy you would easily jump out.

easy1jay says:

By any indication of the volume rocker on the Merge, I'm curious if it's going to have a dock for it. And if they can stick landscape Sense on this thing, why not on the Incredible?

Impulses says:

Just use a different launcher... Unless you're hopelessly enamored with HTC's widgets there's no reason not to. ADW and Launcher Pro are much more customizable and useful and they both support landscape mode (and scrollable widgets!).

Honestly, I love a lot of things about Sense (the Peoples app is very slick imo), but the launcher is the one thing that still seems absolutely worthless to me, with that big honking phone button and a +/customize button that you can't change to anything else. How many times a day, or even per week, do you add something to a home screen after you've set it up?? It's just a step back from the vanilla launcher if you ask me (at 'least that has a browser shortcut).

Plenty of replacement widgets out there that mimic or best HTC's anyways... Beautiful Widgets, Pure Calendar (regular & Grid, I use both), Pure messenger (once customized it blows the Friendstream widget away), Pure music, Beautiful Widets (for clock/weather), SwitchPro, etc. Those are my favorites, some will run you a buck or two but they're well worth it.

mcook1670 says:

Why does everyone hate on blur or sense or whatever? It's basically widgets. Don't like it install launcher pro and quit you whinning. I had a eris rooted with customs roms and now I have a D2 rooted and took the custom rom back off and running philblur. I perfer it to some buggy custom rom. There are great roms out there, but right now the stick blur works and the phone is plenty fast. Do you really think you can notice the difference between the different clock speeds? A computer yes..humans no

Mano123 says:

To whoever said at&t get with it....welll sorry but at&t will never have high end phones well not anytime sooon, it sucks because I have at&t and if I could afford throwing out early termination fees id go with verizon or sprint. This is the phone I really want. Especially considering its an Htc phone and the make of it :) and that sexy red on the keyboard.

uberspeed says:

I already emailed ATT and told them if by Dec they don't have anything worthy (oh say dual core, at least 4inch plus, FFC, etc) then I'm jumping ship and I'll gladly pay ETF's. They offered me an early upgrade. Yay... to what, an iphone I already told them was subpar in the email I originally sent them? I love ATT, in my area they have been great for me since 1995 and I love their network speeds and simultaneous voice and data but they are expensive and lack of high end Android devices is driving me nuts right now. (History of the World reference: NVTS, nuts!)

DoubleA319 says:

I think this comparison should have also included the G2. Can we expect to see one sooner rather than later?? Maybe a video review of all 3?

DoubleA319 says:

As a matter of fact, here is a pretty good video review of Droid 2, Epic, 4g & G2. This review focus solely on the keyboards: http://www.droiddog.com/android-blog/2010/10/keyboard-showdown-epic-droi...