First looks from CES: Google Nexus One and Motorola Backflip

Two days, two new Android smartphones

Two new smartphones demonstrated at the CES show this week offer a glimpse into some of the fascinating features to come to Android devices.

I got a chance briefly handle and use both , an Android phone built by HTC and shown by Google Inc. at CES, and Motorola's Backflip, also an Android device.

The Nexus One's ability to turn speech into text in any text field seemed very powerful, and the accuracy of the speech-to-text was high, even in a loud room.

Google's Nexus One smartphone
Google's Nexus One smartphone

It also has a striking interface, with the ability to use a video wallpaper with 3D images. In one of the wallpapers in the device, you can see undulating water with leaves floating on top, and touch the water to produce waves.

The device is sleek, and silver, almost the feminine version of the Android, compared with the noted masculine attributes of the square, black and heavy Droid, another Android phone by Motorola.

Still, I was surprised the Nexus One seemed a bit heavier than I expected, maybe just because it has the stylish features that remind me of the Palm Pre and should just feel lighter as a result. (The Nexus One weighs 4.59 ounces, while the Droid weight 6 ounces.)

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Motorola's Backflip offers touch capability on the back of the main screen.

Motorola's Backflip has a 3.1-inch touchscreen, and a physical QWERTY keyboard that can be folded back behind the screen. The touchscreen can be propped up like a side table alarm clock, meaning you don't need to use a docking station for that functionality.

Easily the coolest thing about the Backflip is the ability to touch the touchscreen from the front, but also from the back. I am trying to figure out exactly when I would want a touch ability from the back of an icon, but I think it would be valuable when showing off something on the display to another person while moving a cursor around.

Motorola said developers will be building applications to use the back touch functionality, so we'll have to wait and see.

The only detractor with the Backflip seems to be the flat keys on the physical keyboard, a complaint raised about the Droid.

Sanjay Jha, the head of the consumer phone unit at Motorola, said that the Droid keyboard concerns had been heard by Motorola's engineers, and would result in changes in a next-generation Droid.

Presumably what the engineers decide could be applied to the Backflip keyboard as well.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, send e-mail to mhamblen@computerworld.com or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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