Of all the pretenders to the iPhone's crown, it is the Motorola Droid handset which has made the biggest impact, with sales of more than 800,00 racked up since the handset's release in the US on November 6. Now, the model previously dubbed too macho in appearance for the European market and passed up by major UK phone networks will see a release on this side of the Atlantic.

The phone, which runs on the Google-backed Android operating system, incorporates a 5 mega-pixel camera and a slide-out physical keyboard, as well as a 3.7 inch touchscreen. It will be released not through high street retailers, but via an exclusive partnership with UK technology retail site Expansys, who are selling the handset alone for £449.99, and for £50 with a T-Mobile Combi 30 contract costing £35 a month. In the UK it will be known as "Milestone", a change possibly linked to the fact that the name "Droid" is used in the US under licence from George Lucas' production company Lucasfilms, who copyrighted the term following its use in the Star Wars films.

In a statement from Motorola, the manufacturer cited international interest as a key reason for the release. "The device has received a great deal of interest from customers and consumers around the world," it said.

"The Milestone is designed to set a new standard in smart phones, with superior speed, power and features. This is a phone for consumers who are excited by the latest technology, and are willing to try advanced handsets and new mobile applications, particularly those that help them manage their fast-paced lives."

Backed in the US by a high-profile advertising campaign designed to highlight the shortcomings of its Apple competitor with tag lines such as "iDon't multitask", a reference to the iPhones inability to run apps simultaneously, the Droid has made a strong impact in the American mobile market. YouGov’s BrandIndex, which measures daily public perception for more than a thousand brands, has charted the growth of Motorola as a significant force in the mobile phone market over recent months, with Droid's release coinciding with the manufacturer rising above both Blackberry and Apple in tests of positive sentiment.