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Motorola Pro+: When You Wish Your BlackBerry Ran Android

In today's market, having a smartphone almost means that you're also going with a touchscreen device. While the majority of users poke, pinch and swipe their touchscreen with ease, when it comes to typing it's hard to argue against having a hardware keyboard that's available at all times without the need to rotate and slide out.

The only smartphone maker who has completely serviced the desire for a hardware text input is Research in Motion with its BlackBerry smartphones. Of course, gadget lovers know that the majority of the action these days is happening on iOS and Android. For those who don't need the enterprise features and aren't tied messaging community of the BlackBerry, it's a distinct tradeoff between an ecosystem of apps and hardware.

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This is where the Motorola Pro+ comes in with its hardware keyboard in portrait mode. The Pro borrows a lot of its design from modern BlackBerry phones, but it runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which puts it in a whole other category away from RIM's offerings with its full access to the Android Market.

Technical specifications:

  • CPU: Single core 1GHz
  • Internal memory: 4 GB
  • Expandable memory: up to 32 GB
  • Talk time: 8 hours
  • Standby time: 13.3 days
  • Screen size: 3.1" VGA display
  • Screen resolution: 480 x 640 pixels
  • Size: 119.5 x 62 x 11.65 mm
  • Weight: 130 g
  • Speeds: up to 14.4 Mbps
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Camera: 5 megapixels
  • Video capture: 720p

Using an Android phone with a keyboard always in front of you is an interesting experience. It's wonderful to have the full screen available to you at all times during text entry on the Motorola Pro+ while other touchscreen-only devices need to share room with the keyboard. When using the browser or sending messages, you don't need to deal with the odd reformatting of pages whenever an on-screen keyboard would normally pop up.

Of course, the con to this Pro is that the screen itself is smaller than other Android devices because of the hardware keyboard tradeoff. There isn't anything wrong with the 3.1-inch screen, but rather it has to do with the resolution. Some applications are optimized for a screen with more pixels. When installing applications from the Android Market, the phone will remind you to go into your preferences to set what to do in the case of a resolution conflict – which sounds like an oxymoron. In our time with the device, the 480x640 resolution didn't hamper the operation of popular apps and games, but one should still be mindful that there eventually will be a tradeoff.

Anyone interested in the Motorola Pro+ will be so drawn to the portrait QWERTY layout that the form factor concessions won't be a deal-breaker. Obviously, the screen isn't as accessible to touch when in landscape mode because the keyboard will be occupying space on one side.

It's also important to note that the Pro+ isn't one of the phones that Motorola has pledged to upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. That's a bit of a downer, but not unexpected for a phone in the $350 range.

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Sharing the same mid-range $300-400 price point as the Motorola Pro+ is the BlackBerry Curve 9360, which we compared it against. While the BlackBerry has exclusive features such as BBM, those looking for a more complete and modern smartphone experience (with a QWERTY in portrait) will be happier with the Motorola Pro+.

Thanks to our friends at HowardForums and their review of the Pro+, we're able to share with you pictures of a comparison against the current BlackBerry flagship: the Bold 9900.

(Device tested on Bell Canada's HSPA network)

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