Could the Droid X Replace Your Laptop?

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The Droid X appears to be an opening day hit. Motorola's new smartphone--Verizon Wireless' answer to the Apple iPhone 4 via AT&T and HTC EVO 4G via Sprint--has already sold out online and at various retail shops across the nation. The ongoing iPhone 4 antenna soap opera has no doubt helped spur interest in the Droid X, as have positive reviews and Verizon's aggressive and snarky ad campaign.

With its large 4.3-inch display, 8-megapixel camera, HDMI output, and the ability to capture high-def (720p) video, the Droid X has a strong multimedia focus that's resonating with consumers. But could the phone be a suitable laptop-replacement for business too?

For most of you, of course, the answer is a big, fat no. If you're deskbound and spend much of your day working with large spreadsheets, documents, presentations, or other files that demand a big display and a full-fledged productivity suite, the idea of a smartphone as a primary business PC probably seems like a joke.

But phone manufacturers disagree. Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha in June announced plans for a 2GHz Android smartphone that would ship by the end of the year. (By comparison, today's speediest smartphones, including the iPhone 4, Droid X, and EVO 4G, feature 1GHz processors.) Jha also predicted that mobile computers (i.e., laptops) would be replaced by smartphones in the enterprise within a few years, according to published reports.

A 2GHz smartphone chip would have its pros and cons, of course. The pros: More horsepower for video conferencing and training, and faster access to enterprise applications. The cons: A power-hungry CPU that's bound to drain your smartphone battery faster than today's 1GHz processors.

What about the Droid X? Could it cut it as a laptop-replacement device? For field workers, the answer may be yes, albeit with a few caveats. First, the phone now running Android 2.1 would need Android 2.2, the latest version of Google's mobile OS--an upgrade that's slated to happen later this summer.

Android 2.2 adds several business-friendly features, including enabling network administrators to secure sensitive data by remotely wiping users' phones. It also offers calendar sync for Exchange, better security with PIN-based lock-screens, and the capability for an Android e-mail app user to search and autocomplete names from the company directory.

In terms of hardware features, the Droid X just might work as a laptop-replacement--well, for some employees. The phone's impressive multimedia toolkit, including an 8MP camera and 720p video-capture, is handy for workers who spend a lot of time in the field, such as insurance claims adjusters.

For filling out online forms, the Droid X includes Swype, a data-entry tool that lets you enter text by sliding your finger across the on-screen keyboard. (In my tests with the Droid X, I've found Swype superior to single-digit tapping, although there is a brief learning curve.) And the HDMI-out port is handy for business travelers who frequently do PowerPoint presentations on the road.

What's missing? The Droid X could use a built-in Pico projector like the one in the new Samsung Galaxy Beam. That device projects a 50-inch presentation onto a wall and is convenient for product demos and training sessions.

Other smartphones? I've found the EVO 4G's battery life to be pathetically short, and a laptop-replacement phone needs to run at least a day before dying. And it's hard to recommend the iPhone 4 until Apple resolves the handset's antenna glitch. Samsung hasn't announced a release date for the Galaxy Beam in the United States.

The Droid X may be the latest, and perhaps greatest, mobile phone on the market today, but it'll be forgotten within months as newer, faster, and more feature-packed handsets take its place. Still, the device does point to a future where the laptop-replacing smartphone is a reality for businesses.

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