Mossberg partially reviews Motorola Droid: The best Verizon has to offer

Apple Online Store “Verizon Wireless customers tend to love the company’s fast 3G network. But many tech-oriented Verizon loyalists gripe about the carrier’s high-end smart phones, which haven’t matched the cachet and versatility of the Apple iPhone sold by AT&T. In fact, some Verizon customers have switched to AT&T simply to get an iPhone,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“But this week, Verizon is rolling out a device that finally gives it a more credible alternative. This new $200 phone is the Motorola Droid and it’s the first Verizon model to run Google’s Android smart-phone operating system. I’ve been testing the Droid, and while it has some significant drawbacks, I regard it as a success overall,” Mossberg reports. “It’s the best super-smart phone Verizon offers, the best Motorola phone I’ve tested and the best hardware so far to run Android. I can recommend the Droid to Verizon loyalists who have lusted for a better smart phone, but don’t want to switch networks.”

“Currently, Android offers over 12,000 apps. That is just a fraction of the 100,000 apps available for the iPhone, but it’s well above what the newer BlackBerry or Palm phones offer,” Mossberg reports. “The Droid is also the first phone that runs the 2.0 version of Android, which sands off some of the rough edges of Google’s platform and adds some features—notably, a free voice-prompted turn-by-turn navigation program. Android still isn’t as slick or fluid as the iPhone’s OS, in my view, but it has some functionality Apple omits, including the ability to run multiple third-party apps simultaneously.”

Here are some snippets from Mossberg’s review:

• Droid only a tad longer and thicker than the Apple product, but it’s 25% heavier, which makes it less comfortable to carry around in a pocket
• 3.7-inch screen looks great, but lacks multitouch features, such as two-finger zooming, and it seemed less responsive than some other touch screens I’ve tested
• $200 price comes only after a $100 mail-in rebate, requires a minimum $70 monthly service plan for two years, and text messaging costs extra
• Unfortunately for lovers of physical keyboards, I found the one on the Droid to be pretty awful [with] flat, cramped keys that induce too many typing errors, yet lacks auto-correction
• Another downside: The Droid’s screen has only three panels for displaying apps, versus 11 on the iPhone
• Droid comes with 16 gigabytes of memory, in the form of a removable card, and can handle up to a 32-gigabyte card

MacDailyNews Note: The Droid ships with only 256 MB available for app storage. Google Android does not support installation of apps to SD cards, so developers face a very real and rather stifling limit. Many of the most popular iPhone apps (games) easily exceed 100 MB, so not very many quality apps would fit on Droid. That’s probably why Droid can only use three panels for displaying apps. It’s a very real issue which, unfortunately, the usually comprehensive, but lately quite sloppy, Mossberg neglects to mention in his review. To ask him why he glaringly omitted this rather important information in his “review,” contact:

The full review is here.

MacDailyNews Take: Talk about “Broken Promises.” Verizon gives Microsoft a serious run for their money in the “trust me, this time it’s going to be different” department: LG Voyager, HTC Touch, BlackBerry Bold, Samsung Omnia, BlackBerry Storm, Motorola Droid…

With Verizon’s newly doubled early termination fees (From US$175 to $350) for Droid and other smartphones, buyers will need to choose whether they should double their risk on Verizon’s latest iPhone-lookalike-not-workalike or if they should just make the smart choice and go get an Apple iPhone.

46 Comments

  1. Another Droid flaw:

    Only 256MB of on phone storage. Everything else you have to store on mini SD cards and swap them in and out as needed.

    Surprised most reviews iDon’t mention this.

  2. This is stupid really. That’s why it is very difficult for phone companies to compete with Apple. To me, Apple made it very compeling for me to stay with the iPhone: like storage. Why do phone companies insist on SD cards. Its just plain stupidity. I have a work cell phone with an 8gb SD card. I hardly use it because the Samsung phone is a piece of crap. Here’s why the Samsung HTC sucks for me:
    1. Stylus. This is so antedeluvian and very antiquated. It’s plain torture.
    2. Physical keyboard. The chicklet keyboard is so small that I make multiple key entries…and it does not have autocorrect on default.
    3. Circular mouse button. This is so useless. It is so slow because you have to be carefull to not overshoot or accidentally press one of those keys on the keyboard.
    4. User interface. This is the worst UI. WinMo 6.0. Not very responsive. Targeting is off most of the time.
    5. Storage. Enough said.

    If phone companies can make it compeling enough, then perhaps, you may have some competion. Otherwise, this is all moot…and Apple wins.

  3. iPhoner complained about the limited (256MB) on-phone storage, the rest of the available storage in interchangeable SDs. Well, I feel the opposite! Oh, Yes! I should have been noted. As a positive. That 256MB ought to be enough for your core apps, unless you are excessively greedy, while the SDs give you nearly unlimited storage for non-core items. Those tunes you want to sort through, or the latest game.
    I, too, am “Surprised most reviews iDon’t mention this.” ;^)

  4. The storage situation is one of the biggest flaws with Android. You can’t even run apps from the microSD cards, you have to move them from the card to the meager internal memory. And whenever you start to run out, you’ve got to play around and juggle what apps you can fit on the phone vs. what you’ll carry on the memory card.

    It was bullshit like that which made me hate smartphones to begin with. Then came the iPhone.

    Once you go with that heaping amount of internal memory, you can’t go back. Who could turn down a chance to have 32gb of trouble-free flash memory? And it’s hard for other phone makers to match it because Apple sucks up almost all of the available flash on the market.

    The seamless storage experience is a major part of what makes the iPhone so great. Apps are getting bigger and bigger and Motorola is years behind. I have 455mb worth of apps on my phone at all times and I carry a tiny amount compared to most iPhone users.

  5. Competition is good, and Apple, unlike Blackberry, isn’t going to be sitting on their thumbs. I would fear June for the competition when the next iPhone comes out…and besides…the iPhone, according to the competition, and also those who have never flipped through the app store, has 50,000 more iFart apps available, still leaving 50,000 usable apps to choose from and growing.
    RIMM has just plain sat there and watched the bandwagon go by…I had alot of faith in their vision, and now am very disappointed.
    Their app store, along with WinMobile, has had time to rule the world, and Blackberry had hardware to exponentialize it, but their vision stagnatized while the two ceo’s(note, lower case) got their massages every day.

  6. @DLMeyer, I guess I’m “excessively greedy.” I prefer my 32GB onboard memory that has all my stuff to having one mini-SD card with some of my music/photos/apps and another mini-SD card with different music/photos/apps and another mini-… etc. etc.

  7. “The Droid is also the first phone that runs the 2.0 version of Android.”

    I was able to update my 1.0 iPhone to 2.0 and 3.0 on the first day the newer versions of the iPhone OS was available. But, as with WinMO, Android buyers may be stuck with the version of the OS that shipped with their phone unless the manufacturer releases an update. But by that time these handset makers are moving onto their next model(s). The only way to stay current is to buy a new handset. Some choice.

  8. “That 256MB ought to be enough for your core apps, unless you are excessively greedy.”

    Nonsense. Who are you to dictate to me what’s enough for my core apps? I get enough of that from Steve Jobs.

    It’s not only the amount of apps you must take into account but also the SIZE of the apps. I only have about 30 apps on my iPhone right now but it comes out to 455mb. Basics like The WordBook dictionary app, the World Factbook app (two of my favorites) can be huge. Then there’s the graphically intensive games, news apps with stored articles. I have the Kindle app with multiple books stored. And I barely scratch the surface since I hate browsing the App Store.

    You can’t have handcuffs on memory if you want a great app experience.

  9. who the hell wants to carry around multiple cards. I guarantee any really business would hate to have a card for work, then for music/movies, having 256MB really does limit the amount of Apps you can have.

    The games on my iPhone take up huge loads of memory, plus my work apps. iPhone is almost crossing the horizon of being the supreme all in one device.

    So no having a microSD is not an advantage except for playing SPY and secretly handing off nude photos of your ex.

  10. @ DLMeyer

    I see your point. I guess. Maybe.

    Well, actually no. I have a 32GB iPhone and it currently has 923 songs, 446 photos, 128 Apps (Including a 1.2 GB TomTom App) 137 videos, over 60 podcasts and a 1.14 GB iTunes movie rental.

    Current available storage = 7.1 GB

    Kind of negates the need to carry SD cards around don’t ya think?

    Also – the free Google navigation app only runs with a cell connection. That wouldn’t work very well in the Colorado mountains. I guess you could always buy an app that downloaded maps of the entire U.S. at over 1GB. “Hmm, which card was that on again? Oh crap! I left that one at home!”

  11. Strip the apple badge from the iPhone and MDN will call it a piece of junk. MDN’s critique is worthless and has no point on any blog. These news links can be found on any other site 24hrs before MDN even posts them. Check the date next time MDN, these are old articles. Old news is no news.

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