Verizon’s Motorola Droid: Best Android phone, but it’s no Apple iPhone

Apple Online Store Motorola’s “Droid has its weak spots, and some of them are heartbreaking. The big one is polish and simplicity; the Droid just doesn’t have enough. Techies may go nuts over its flexibility, but normal people are in for some floundering. Sometimes the keyboard doesn’t light up when it should. Sometimes the screen image doesn’t rotate when it should,” David Pogue reports for The New York Times.

“The camera has an LED flash, which helps at close range at night, but the camera itself is balky and slow to focus and fire. You can record videos (at a high 720 by 480 resolution, although they don’t look any sharper) and upload them to YouTube, but you can’t trim the dead air off the ends first [as you can with Apple’s iPhone 3GS],” Pogue reports.

“The Droid doesn’t work outside the United States, as the iPhone does (for an added fee). There’s no iTunes-like auto-synching software for the Droid, either, so loading music, photos and videos is a drag-and-drop operation,” Pogue reports. “The Droid’s Web browser is good, but slower than the iPhone’s. And you have to zoom in and out by tapping +/- buttons or double-tapping the screen. That is, you can’t control how much to zoom, so you get far less control (and pleasure) than “pinching and spreading” with two fingers on the iPhone and Palm Pre. Ditto with maps and photos.”

“The real bummer, though, is the apps. The Android Market may offer 12,000 of them, but the iPhone store has 100,000 — and over all, they seem to be more useful and imaginative,” Pogue reports. “Shopping is more awkward on the Droid, too, because you have to do it all on the phone; you can’t use your computer, as you can for the iPhone. There’s not much room for the apps on the Droid, either. Although Verizon includes a 16-gigabyte memory card for your music and photos, apps have to be stored in a 560-megabyte chunk of built-in memory.”

MacDailyNews Note: Actually, Pogue is being far too generous: Only 256MB — that’s not a typo — of Droid’s built-in 512MB ROM is available for apps. That’s right, just 256MB. Our iPhones’ current average total for apps is 682MB and they’re not even close to being maxed out (112 apps average). Motorola Droid: “iDon’t have enough space for apps.” And, just like that, App-Lack™ gains a secondary meaning. Motorola Droid. Featuring App-Lack™ Squared: Not enough apps to choose from plus not enough space to store them! Those are some selling points, you’ve got there, Motorola and Verizon.

Pogue reports, “Droid-versus-iPhone deciders should also take into account the iPhone economy: that universe of docks, cases, chargers, Web sites and information that surround Apple’s hype monster.”

Full review here.

Mark Milian reports for The Los Angels Times, “After spending plenty of time with the iPhone and MyTouch, we realized just how much we don’t miss physical keyboards. Granted, the Droid’s isn’t as nice as most Blackberry keyboards. We spewed just as many typos on the Droid’s black-and-white-and-brown keyboard as we did on software keyboards. Only problem is that we’re not offered automatic corrections like we get on the touch-screen keyboard.”

MacDailyNews Take: John Gruber said it best: A hardware keyboard is a significant selling point for only one group of customers: those who already own a phone with a hardware keyboard, and that group is a niche. A nice niche, but a niche nonetheless. Here’s why. Most normal people have yet to buy their first smartphone. That’s why the stakes are so high — it’s a wide open market frontier, but it won’t remain that way for long. Normal people aren’t planning to do much typing on their new smartphones, and they’re probably right. Any smartphone QWERTY keyboard, software or hardware, is going to be better than what most people are used to, which is pecking things out on a phone with a 0-9 numeric keypad. I type far better on my iPhone than I expected I’d be able to, and that seems to be true for everyone I know who owns one. The only people who struggle with the iPhone keyboard are those who are already accustomed to a hardware smartphone keyboard.

Milian continues, “Google’s operating system has come, it remains several steps behind Apple’s iPhone in many respects. Even though we ripped on Apple for leaving out the copy-and-paste feature for so long, there’s something to be said about how it was finally implemented. It’s simple and works incredibly well.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple takes the time to do things right.

Milian continues, “On the flip side, selecting text on the Droid drives us nuts. The option is hidden behind a menu screen; there’s no clever magnifying glass to help you grab the right section; and to copy, you have to again find the option somewhere in the menus. This design choice underlines a prevalent problem that still plagues Android. Some fairly common actions are hidden, including the basic ability to delete apps.”

MacDailyNews Take: How Microsoftian of Google.

Milian continues, “As a game system, Droid is severely lacking. As a media player, it’s even worse. The iPhone can sufficiently replace a standalone iPod. The Droid won’t. Getting songs onto the thing is a hassle. No media sync, no smart playlists, no TV shows or movies.”

“We love some of the features Motorola built exclusively for this handset… For example, the Droid phone book integrates with your Facebook contacts,” Milian reports. “But these little perks don’t make up for the intuitiveness and maturity of the iPhone’s operating system that Android has yet to match.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’d tag Droid with the title of “poor man’s iPhone,” except it’s more expensive ($2.99 a month for visual voicemail Verizon?!). Plus, that whole 1/10th the apps combined with 1/128th the app storage vs. iPhone 3GS is quite the deal breaker. Speaking of deal breakers: Don’t forget about Verizon’s brand spankin’ new $350 early termination fee, either, ya hear? And, so, the fruitless search for an “iPhone killer” continues (hint: it’s coming, around next June, from Apple). It’s no wonder that Verizon’s so interested in getting an Apple iPhone deal.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Edward W.” and “iSteve” for the heads up.]

46 Comments

  1. Gulp. Sorry sis.

    I guess I shouldn’t have emailed my sister and told her about the Droid. Doesn’t sound much better than her LG Dare.

    She can’t switch to ATT because she has multiple people on her family plan.

  2. It’s pretty bad at the start when you have to compare yourself to another product an set yourself up for disaster. Verizon should of never tried to compare Droid to iPhone.

    Hate to say it but google has gone the route of MS in the phone business and OS business. As many machines as possible with out any true quality control.

  3. MDN picked a very good word there niche…..Android is filling the temporary niche of selling smart phones to wireless carriers that do not have iPhone at the moment.

    just my $0.02

  4. He forgot to mention the universe of products for any other phone. Cheap batteries that may or may not work or pay those wonderful OEM prices, memory chips in all sizes with different read speeds and security, special wired headset connectors, lots of open and closed door hatches to get out your card, charge, plug headphones. Replacements for battery covers.

    I leave anything out?

  5. Another iPhone killer come and gone.

    This is like watching a Western where one wannabe after another comes to town to try to win a shootout with the legendary sheriff. In the end, each gunfighter is left in a pool of blood on Main Street as the townspeople look on.

    Companies don’t seem to understand that you cannot beat Apple by simply copying what they do. Only one company beat Apple that way and it when when Steve Jobs was young, arrogant, and stupid. Steve, however, learned from his mistake, his competitors have not.

  6. Thought typing would be a drag on the iPhone. Once I got used to it, though, I prefer it. It’s the future.

    Cramming a physical thumb-board into a smart phone is like including a wagon tongue on a car.

  7. Just like people have tried the cheap, generic MP3 players then returned ‘burnt’ to the iPod, so too people may try the Pre/Storm/Droid and get burnt then return again.

    There is a reason Apple gear costs so much and it is that quality really does cost more. If Google want to play at the same price point they had better lift their game.

  8. Well, at least now it’s clear why the Droid’s first TV ad was a list of things the iPhone couldn’t do. When your basic functionality is this lacking, your only choice is to attack your competitor.

    I cannot believe the Droid doesn’t come with syncing software. Both iPhone and Blackberry have syncing software. How does the Droid plan to compete if its users have to move songs, movies, and photos manually?

    But I’m sure there will be plenty of contrarian tech-geeks who will sing the praises of this thing. They’ll go on about how having to move stuff manually gives them more “control”.

    ——RM

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