Tag Archives | Verizon Droid

Droid vs. iPhone 3GS: An Update

As I wrote a few weeks ago, frustration with AT&T coverage in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood led me to put my iPhone 3GS aside and switch to a Verizon Wireless Droid. I found that I liked the reliability of Verizon’s  service, and loved certain things about Android–but that the overall experience was way less polished and predictable than the iPhone.

Here’s an update: Over the last week or so, I’ve been using the iPhone most of the time. It still has severe issues in SOMA (or at least a bunch of places in SOMA where I hang out–it claims perfect signal strength, but the most reliable thing it does is to drop my calls). Otherwise, though, I’ve spent far less time futzing than I do when I’m in Androidland. I’m coming to the uneasy realization that I may want to use both phones, depending on what sort of limitations I can deal with at any given time.

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Life With Droid: The Good, the Bad, and the Bizarre

From July 11th, 2008–the day the iPhone 3G went on sale–until February 15th, 2010, I was an iPhone user.  But for all the things that are wonderful about the iPhone, I was increasingly fed up with one, um, minor weakness: I had trouble making and receiving phone calls on it. That’s in part because I spend a lot of time in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, much of which seems to be Bermuda Triangle of AT&T coverage.

So after thinking it over for a couple of weeks, I took dramatic action: I bought myself a Motrola Droid from Verizon Wireless. Why the Droid? Well, with the profusion of new apps for Android phones, I figured I needed an Android phone on hand to review them . And the Droid is on the famously dependable Verizon network, is available now (unlike the Verizon Nexus One), and has a keyboard (also unlike the Nexus one).

Oh, and Amazon had the Droid for $109 with a two-year contract, no rebate paperwork involved. Which sounded like a great deal until it knocked the price down to $49.99 shortly after I placed my order…

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Verizon Droid vs. Google Nexus One: The Provisional T-Grid

For the past two months, Verizon Wireless’s Droid by Motorola has had the privilege of holding  the undisputed title of Coolest Android Phone on the Market. But its reign may be short, if everyone’s assumption that next week’s Google Android event turns out to be the unveiling of Google’s Nexus One (aka “the Googlephone”)  turns out to be accurate.

The Nexus One remains unannounced, but there’s information (or alleged information) about it all over the Web. So it doesn’t seem premature to put together a provisional T-Grid comparing it to the Droid. The Nexus One data here is culled from sources such as Engadget and Gizmodo, and for now, you should pretend that each and every field has an asterisk next to it indicating that it’s not confirmed.

What are the key differences between the two phones? The Nexus One (which lacks a physical keyboard) is apparently thinner and lighter. It’s supposedly got an OLED screen which is said to be gorgeous. It runs on T-Mobile’s network rather than Verizon’s (it’ll reportedly only work on AT&T in sluggish EDGE mode). And it’s allegedly got a very fast CPU (1-GHz?) and twice the RAM of the Droid. Plus a newer version of Android that’s been further tweaked by Google.

Okay, enough apparentlys, supposedlys, reportedlys, and allegedlys. Info after the jump–I’ll update it once Google has weighed in…

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This Droid Ad Can’t Be About the iPhone. Right?

Cnet’s Chris Matyszczyk thinks this new Verizon Droid ad is slagging the iPhone. Watch it, then tell me what you think:

I (mostly) like the Droid and like its positioning as a somewhat homely but useful phone. And yes, I agree that the phone under attack in the ad looks an awful lot like a white iPhone 3GS, although the spot cunningly never shows you it from the front:

But the iPhone is anything but a “digitally clueless tiara-wearing beauty pageant queen,” and–unless the ad is taking a very oblique swipe at the thinness of AT&T’s 3G network–it isn’t slow. (Actually, its browser seems to do quite well in comparison to the Droid’s, though neither makes me think of sawblades going through bananas.) I have no idea what it means to be digitally clueless, but I’m positive that the iPhone isn’t. And I can’t believe that Verizon would think that any prospective customer who hasn’t been hibernating in a cave somewhere would buy the notion that the iPhone is clueless in any meaningful respect. (Imperfect? Hell, yeah–but not clueless.)

If the ad’s about the iPhone, it might as well toss in a claim that the iPhone supports death panels for old people, or paroled a vicious murderer, or assassinated Archduke Ferdinand. So I choose to think it’s about pretty phones in general. You know–the digitally clueless ones.

Let’s end this with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”


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Is it Too Early to Start Designing the Verizon Droid II?

Droid IIVerizon Wireless starts selling its first Android phone, the Droid (“by Motorola”) today. I’ve been using a unit loaned to me by Verizon for a week, and remain mostly impressed: The Droid couples impressive hardware with the much-improved Android 2.0 OS, and the result is the first Android phone that’s fully worthy of being compared to the iPhone 3GS and Palm’s Pre. (It’s most definitely an example of the class of device that Walt Mossberg calls “super-smart phones.”)

I don’t expect every Verizon customer who’s currently lusting after the iPhone to buy a Droid instead, but I think a meaningful percentage will–and that overall, they’ll be pleased.

But the Droid is hardly above criticism. As I’ve been using one and mostly enjoying the experience, my mind has been racing ahead to…next year’s model. (I’m assuming there will be one: Already, Verizon is releasing another phone in the Droid lineup, the Droid Eris.)

So here’s my quick wishlist for the phone I’m calling the Droid II–the next major collaboration between Verizon, Motorola,and Google.

A better keyboard. I want to like the Droid’s wide QWERTY keyboard, but so far I can’t muster much enthusiasm for its feel–the overall thinness of the phone has resulted in keys without enough travel for truly satisfying typing. (I do like the fact that it frees up all of the handsome screen’s 854-by-480 pixels for content, not virtual keys.)

It’s gotta be possible to squeeze a better keyboard into the space the Droid has–for one thing, the little five-way controller to the right of the keys seems superfluous on a touchscreen device. Dump it, and you could widen the keys and make them more comfy. I’d also be tickled if the Droid II took a cue from the AT&T Tilt I used to carry and angled the screen up when you slid out the keyboard.

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Verizon’s Droid and the Importance of Pinching

Android CrabWhen I compared the Verizon Droid to the iPhone 3GS last week, I said that the Droid didn’t have multi-touch input–based on the fact that I’d used it a lot and encountered no instances when it did. A commenter said that the phone did indeed support multi-touch, and I tweaked my item. Essentially, the phone is capable of multi-touch; it just chooses not to use it.

Today, Rob Jackson of Phandroid pointed out that the Android image editor Picsay uses multi-touch, and serves as proof that the Droid can do it. He’s right, and Picsay shows the power of controlling your phone with more than one finger at a time. As with iPhone applications, it lets zoom in and out of images by pulling and pinching them. It’s wonderfully fluid–at least as good as the iPhone’s multi-touch.

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iDon’t Think the Droid’s iPhone Attack Will Work

droiddoesVerizon is spending a lot of money advertising its upcoming Droid smartphone. It’s everywhere–from commercials on TV to bills posted on construction sites. But I question whether the iPhone-mocking focus of the ad campaign can generate broad appeal.

The ads target the iPhone’s shortcomings, such as its lack of a camera flash and the rigid application development limitations imposed by Apple. They include statements about the iPhone such as “‘iDon’t have a real keyboard,” “iDon’t allow open development,” and “iDon’t run simultaneous apps.'” Those points resonate with me, because I’m a member of the tech punditocracy.

The question is, does the average user care about things such as open development? I’m an iPhone owner, and Apple’s draconian policies don’t really affect my overall experience. There are still plenty of apps to choose from. I haven’t met too many disaffected iPhone users, probably because the user experience–while imperfect–is pretty great.

Beyond the jailbreaking crowd and some grumblings about Google Voice, I have never heard anyone complain that he or she didn’t have all of the applications that he or she wanted on the iPhone. Verizon’s clumsy wording doesn’t help either. The message would be more effective as something like “iDon’t permit all the apps you want.”

Verizon’s playful advertising campaign keeps the Droid fresh in my mind, and initial buzz on the device is favorable. I might consider buying it when I need a new device. However, that would involve switching carriers, and would leave much of my iTunes music library orphaned. My music, video and phone are all-in-one now, and I do not want to have to carry around a separate iPod.

I chose to buy Apple’s DRM music format, as well as to be locked into AT&T’s network. Aside from some intermittent dropped calls, and poor reception in areas that Verizon fully covers, I’m happy with my decision. If I’m a hard sell, I’d venture that people who don’t care about things like running simultaneous apps aren’t really getting what’s so special about the Droid.


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Verizon Droid: First Impressions

DroidVerizon Wireless’s Droid won’t show up in stores until a week from Friday, but the company has shared loaner devices with technology journalists and bloggers, including me–PC World has a good roundup of the first reviews. After having spent a bit time with it, I’m not surprised that Verizon is trying to encourage hands-on coverage of the device in the days leading up to its release. A few random thoughts:
Yes, it’s impressive. I keep saying that we’ve been waiting for the first great Android phone, and here it is–Android 2.0 is a much nicer OS than its predecessors, and the Droid shows it off to excellent advantage. No, it’s not an iPhone killer, but I think a meaningful percentage of Verizon loyalists who have been sitting around waiting for a V-iPhone will get this instead, and be pleased. And there are certain things about the Droid–the screen, the openness, Google Maps with navigation for free–that’ll provoke a feeling iPhone users aren’t used to: envy.
High-resolution screens are going to change smartphones. The Droid’s 854-by-480 screen is a delight–it allows for a dozen thumbnail previews of Web pages that are crisp enough to be recognizable, and Google Maps satellite imagery dazzles. If I were the maker of any other touchscreen smartphone, I’d be scrambling to match it right now.
The Droid flies, mostly. The phone’s relatively robust tech specs compared to previous Android phones pay off: The interface generally matches the fluidity of the iPhone (with a few exceptions–when you pull down the list of status updates, it’s herky-jerky) and the browser, like that of the iPhone 3GS, is a joy to use. I need to use the phone in more places before I form conclusions about data speed, but I have noticed that sites designed for use on mobile devices seem to pop into place–no waiting required.
The keyboard is a plus, but not for the reason you might think. I’ve come to the conclusion that vertically-oriented phone keyboards like the ones on BlackBerries and the Palm Pre are more usable than horizontal ones like the Droid’s, because they let you thumb-type without having to stretch your hands too much. And while the Droid keyboard is decent, the phone’s thin case doesn’t leave much room for travel. But here’s why I’m glad the Droid has a keyboard: It leaves all of the phone’s pixels available for stuff that would otherwise be eaten up by the on-screen keyboard. That’s a boon for apps which require a keyboard all or most of the time, such as instant messengers and word processors.
The iPhone still rules for entertainment. This is an area where Android 2.0 doesn’t seem to have changed much–it’s still got a music player and a video player and an integrated version of Amazon’s MP3 store, but the apps are pretty basic and there’s no way to buy or rent movies or TV shows.  Eventually, Android’s openness could make it a more appealing media platform than the iPhone, since purveyors of content will be able to develop cool apps without worrying about whether Apple will approve them, and audio-related ones can run in the background. But for the moment, Android 2.0 feels like Google has ceded the media race to Apple. And Verizon and Motorola didn’t do anything to compensate.
The iPhone OS is still more elegant and intuitive. You can pick up an iPhone and figure out nearly every feature (keyboard excepted) with virtually no learning curve, and once you know what to do, you can do it with remarkable swiftness. Android, on the other hand, is solid overall, but it feels a little more like a desktop OS that’s been shrunken to phone size. There are things that are hard to remember–every time I pick up an Android phone, I need to retrain myself on some tasks, such as how to install widgets. on the desktop
The Droid isn’t Verizonized. When word began to leak out about the Droid, lots of skeptics said that Verizon Wireless would hobble Android. On the review unit loaned to me by the company, however, there’s little evidence of Verizon’s involvement except for its logo on the case. It feels like an Android phone, not a Verizon one, and seems as open as any other Android device.
Google Maps with Navigation rocks. I said that iPhone owners might be envious of certain Droid features, and this would be one of them. So is Google Voice (which isn’t preinstalled on the phone, but is available on the Android Market rather than being stuck in App Store approval limbo).
More thoughts to come–anything in particular you’d like to know about the phone?

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The T-Grid: Verizon Droid vs. iPhone 3GS

So Verizon’s Droid is official, and officially arriving a week from Friday.  I’m smart enough to know it’s pointless to call any phone an iPhone killer, or even a potential iPhone killer–and that competing with the iPhone is much more about software and overall integration than it is about hardware specs. (If you could kill the iPhone through trumping its specs, it would already be a goner.) But the Droid does pack better specs than the iPhone 3GS does in many areas–including its screen, which has well over twice as many pixels. It runs the promising Android 2.0 OS. And it’s on a network that doesn’t provoke much in the way of squawking from customers. In short, it’s the most formidable Google rival since the Palm Pre.

I have a Droid in hand (lent to me by Verizon) and will report in with a hands-on report soon. But as is my wont, I’m going to begin with a features comparison. Note that the information that follows mostly doesn’t take third-party applications and products into account.

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Droid Arrives Next Week

droidVerizon has stopped teasing us about its upcoming Android-based Droid phone and made it official: The Motorola phone goes on sale a week from Friday. It runs Android 2.0, has a slide-out keyboard and a 5 megapixel camera with flash, and comes bundled with a 16GB MicroSD card. It also has a beta version of the first edition of Google Maps to do turn-by-turn navigation. (Imagine what’ll happen to the navigation industry if every phone version of Google Maps does that for free.)

Droid is $199 on a two-year contract after a $100 rebate, which is pretty much the price it needs to be to be competitive with the iPhone 3GS.

Here’s a video from Google on Android 2.0, which looks like it’ll be a significant advance on the nice-but-sorta-spartan first version of the OS:

I haven’t seen a Droid in the flesh yet, but early buzz on the phone is exceptional. The only truly great next-generation smartphones to come along so far are the iPhone and the Palm Pre; on paper, at least, it sounds like there’s a chance the Droid will join them.


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