I am no stranger to the iPhone. I was working as a Mac Genius In-Training when the original iPhone was released. I got my first iPhone 6 weeks after they were released. A year later, I upgraded to the 3G when it was released, and then again to the 3GS last summer. I’ve spent more money than I care to think about in third-party apps. So why did I give it up? Well…
After owning the 3GS for several months, I started to grow tired of the whole experience. The 3GS is no doubt the best iteration of Apple’s hardware, but it looks and feels like the models before it.
More importantly, the iPhone OS seems … stagnant. OS 3 and OS 1 have more in common than they differ from each other. Even with the addition of push notifications and third-party apps, the iPhone OS hasn’t evolved that much.
On a slightly different front, I was also tired of the endless Update/Jailbreak cycle that I — like many others — had fallen into. Keeping my iPhone the way I wanted to was becoming a hassle.
After almost 3 years, I was ready for a change.
Why the Droid?
When I purchased it in January, the Motorola Droid was the top dog when it came to Android devices. The Nexus One had been announced, but just for T-Mobile, which I wasn’t thrilled about. Don’t get me wrong, the Nexus One is a slick phone, but until it shows up on Verizon, the Droid is their best handset.
My dad has the HTC Hero on Cellular South, and after spending some time with it, I wasn’t a big fan of HTC’s Sense UI. On an older device like the Hero, it seems to slow down over time, and it holds up updates from being pushed out to customers. I’m pretty set against owning a skinned Android device.
When Motorola and Verizon started marketing the Droid, they aimed squarely at geeks. It worked. This phone isn’t pretty, light or sexy. It’s rough, dark and chunky. It’s the phone that Batman would use, without a doubt. I like the hardware keyboard and the design. The Nexus One may be hot, but the Droid looks like it could beat up any other phone on the market.
Why not WebOS?
When I bought my phone, WebOS devices were only on Sprint. I looked at the Palm Pre and I liked what I saw software-wise. While they aren’t a ton of apps out there for WebOS, the core apps I needed were. Palm has a killer mobile OS. The way it multitasks and integrates multiple cloud services is very slick, and it looks downright beautiful.
Sadly, their hardware is lackluster. The Pre is far better than the Pixi, but it still feels cheap and rather breakable.
Now that the Pre Plus is on Verizon, it is a harder choice, but I the Droid still wins in my book. Now, if Palm ever releases a device that is closer to an iPhone, hardware-wise, it would be hard for me to ignore it.
AT&T vs. Verizon
I know that comparing one cellular network to another is a tricky thing to do. And while the general censuses is that Verizon’s network is better and more robust that AT&T’s, I have to agree. While Verizon’s 3G doesn’t seem as fast as AT&T’s (of course, that might be due to differences between the iPhone 3GS and the Droid), I get better coverage with Verizon in the places I visit in the course of a normal day.
As AT&T has highlighted in their ads, Verizon’s network is like AT&T’s older EDGE network, in that browsing isn’t possible while on the phone. I had gotten used to being on the phone and looking information up online with my iPhone 3G and 3GS, and I miss it on the Droid.
Verizon’s plans are usually a little bit more expensive than AT&T’s, but I love the flexibility they offer. I can go online and add or remove features from my plan, without adding time to my contract.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
The flexibility of Android is amazing. It’s really what drew me to the platform more than anything. Don’t like the software keyboard? You can replace it. Don’t like the home screen? Use another program to arrange your icons. Every nook and cranny of the OS can be tinkered with.
Of course, when people compare the iPhone to Android, two things are always mentioned: the openness of Android, and the ability to run apps in the background.
Indeed, the ability to run 3rd party apps is great, but comes with a price. I’ve found it’s pretty easy to blow up my Droid while playing with system-level applications.
It’s the same story when it comes to running applications in the background. It’s nice when I want it, but things can get out of hand. But the ability to run PDANet, listen to music and check email at the same time is pretty slick.
But that’s the beauty of Android: the developers leave it up the end user. If I want to burn through my battery in three hours by having 14 apps running at once, I can. It’s up to me — and that’s very appealing.
I do suffer iPhone withdraws from time to time. Android is rough. It does some things in weird, awkward ways. For example, copy and paste simply sucks on the Droid. Text-correcting is painful without sliding open the keyboard and using the D-Pad. The apps aren’t as polished, and there aren’t as many apps. And don’t even get my started on the awful, awful camera on this thing. It’s useless.
Fragmentation is a huge problem with Android. Right now, the Droid is the #2 phone in the Android universe, so I don’t run into issues. But as my phone ages, I expect to be left out of more and more features. Hopefully the rumor that all phones will get upgraded to 2.1 will ease these concerns. The update has been due “soon” for the Droid for months now.
Despite the issues, I love my Droid. I like that I don’t carry the same phone 90% of people my age carry. I like exploring the Internet for third-party apps I can install without jailbreaking my phone. I like that PDANet is available on the App Market — no shady business required. The notification system is quietly brilliant. All-in-all, Android is a very capable platform with a bright future. While time will tell what I do when my current contract ends, for now, I’m really happy with the Droid.