If you’ve been following me on twitter or facebook, you’ll know I’ve been debating if I should get an iPhone for more than 6 months now. I’ve been with T-Mobile since 2001 (I think) and have never really found a need to switch… but lately I’ve been wanting a phone that could do more than my Dash. So I began looking at what was out there… and to save a lot of time and ink I’ll cut out some of details and just say that I ruled out the Palm Pre, the T-Mobile myTouch, and any model Blackberry and chose to pair up the iPhone to the Droid for the final race. Of course being that the Droid has only been on the market for a few weeks (as of the writing of this post) I was 95% set on getting iPhone as of October as that seemed like the only option that would fit my needs… but I thought before I took the plunge I’d check out this new Droid phone and give it a fair shake.
Now before I go any further let me be clear on one thing. My reason for writing this post is merely to give my reasons for my decision. I fully admit that I have not done exhaustive testing with both phones equally and thus some of my research may have holes in it, but as of the time of this writing I merely hope to expound on what I know now, and why I choose what I did. There are countless articles online comparing the phones which talk about their pluses and minuses, but this post will be my personal take on the 2 phones, as well as a list of some of the reasons I went the way I did in hopes that it may be helpful for anyone considering switching to either of these phones. And with over 100 comments on my various Facebook posts about about this, its apparent that people are passionate about their phones. As well they should be I guess since its a tool we use daily, sometimes hourly. Anyway I hope this will be helpful to those interested in comparing the 2 phones.
To begin let me share what I was looking for in a new phone.
- Browse the web ability (my old phone did this, but poorly)
- Be more connected (facebook, twitter, e-mail)
- Be able to type into it easily
- Use it to show prospective clients my videos when not near a computer or in my studio
- Have the ability to download applications to enhance my daily activities both at work and at home (tools, games etc…)
- Record video and take decent pictures (for a phone)
- Be able to utilize GPS & Google maps for navigation
- Have good reliable coverage for making calls
- Overall design and layout of the phone and its OS (menus and usability etc…)
- Quick and responsive (flicks, scrolling, application load time)
In comparing both phones on the above items I found that neither phone was perfect to meet all this criteria, but in my research there did seem to be a clear winner for what I hoped to use it for:
- Web Browsing – Droid: Because of of Verizon’s larger and more reliable 3G coverage. Both phones offer web surfing, but the Droid offered more reliability in more places which is why I gave it the win for me. One difference here is that the Droid zooms differently and does not offer the “2-touch” zooming the iPhone does. However it does have multiple zoom levels, and I was able to control it and understand it very easily. The zooming is different than the iPhone, but ultimately is a subjective preference. Any new user could get use to either type of zooming method easily and still interact with the web as effectively regardless of what phone they are on. The Droid also integrates web surfing into multiple places including an exclusive button to launch a search right below on the main display on the phone.
- Social Networking / Being Connected – Tie: Both phones offered effective aps and methods of connecting to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.
- Typing – Droid: The droid offers 3 keyboards, one of which is external to the screen and the other 2 mimic the iPhone’s portrait and landscape on-screen keypads. I’ve been told by those who have iPhones that you get used to the onscreen keyboards, but as a first time user I found the external keyboard a lot easier to use than the on-screen keypad options. Both the Droid and iPhone onscreen keyboards seemed to work very well overall and are nearly identical from my testing for that input method. Some have said they don’t like the feel of the external keyboard on the Droid but I have not found any issues when using it.
- Video Playback – Droid: A clear winner here as the screen is slightly larger (3.7″ vs 3.5″), but more importantly its nearly double the resolution (854 x 480 pixels vs. 480 x 320 pixels). For those non-technical people, the Droid is equivalent to DVD quality playback, where the iPhone is about half DVD resolution. Playback speed (lag time, smoothness etc…) on both phones were comparable. I’ve seen iPhone video and it does look very good, but if you compare side by side, the Droid’s improved resolution and larger screen is easily seen as the winner here.
- Applications (apps) – iPhone: This one is pretty obvious as the iPhone has been around for over 2 years now and so it has (as of the writing of this article) over 100,000 apps, where the Android OS (what the Droid uses) has closer to 10,000 apps. In doing some browsing on the Android “Market” though I found that many of the popular apps people use on the iPhone have already trickled over to phones running the Android OS. Will the Android apps ever catch up to the iPhone? Hard to say, but new apps are created every day for both systems, and any developer will want the revenue from non-iPhone phones as well and are likely already working on creating Android compatible versions, so I’d guess that this advantage will slowly even out over time.
- Record Video and Pictures – Droid: I gave the Droid the win due to it’s 5 Megapixel camera, flash and high quality video capture (the iPhone is a 3 Megapixel with no flash). The iPhone does offer (on newer 3gs models at least) video recording and in-phone video editing as part of the OS, but there are free apps available to in-camera editing on the Android system as well. In an “apples to apples” comparison though the Droid’s video recording quality is easily better than what I’ve seen the iPhone produce. Both phones offer auto focus assistance and a simple “ease of use” application for taking photos and video.
- GPS – Droid: The Droid is the only phone running Android’s new OS 2.0 (at present) which offers voice instructed turn-by-turn active tracking GPS navigation similar to that of a Garmin or Megellan GPS unit. The iPhone offers google maps and GPS, but not with the feature set the new Droid boasts.
- Reliable Coverage – Droid: While some people may have little to no problems with their iPhone coverage, its hard to beat Verizon’s coverage and 3G network. I can quote multiple people using iPhone’s who hate AT&T and complain of dropped calls all the time, and at the same time quote multiple Verizon users who say its rare to drop a call after years of using them. Verizon wins over AT&T in the end (at least for now anyway).
- Design and OS – iPhone: While this is a very subjective item, its hard to beat Apple when it comes to their classy product designs and ability to “make things easier” for people to use and understand. The iPhone’s feels better in your hand, and is very simple and easy to use. That being said I personally found the Droid’s OS to be easy to use and understand. There are many features on the Droid that I liked such as detailed battery tracking (to see what phone functions and applications are using the battery most) as well as many things that are easily customizable without requiring you to plug it into a computer to change (like re-arranging icons on the screen or installing widgets not just app shortcuts on the main menu).
- Responsiveness & Reliability – Tie: But just barely a tie… and leaning towards the Droid as a winner because of reliability. As far as responsiveness to scrolling, flicks and speed, both phones seem to be nearly the same. However the Droid seems to be more stable when running Aps and “freezes” less than the iPhone based on my experience and what I’ve been told by iPhone users. This is a difficult thing to quantify however, so know that my research here is limited on both systems and conclusive data on the subject would require more time on the Droid (since its so new), and more accurate research on the iPhone’s side as well.
So if you haven’t guessed, or knew already from my twitter/facebook account… I went with a Droid. There are of course other factors involved, but I didn’t weigh them as heavily in my decision… but if you are considering one of these phones you might want to also consider:
- Service Cost: Both wireless providers were comparable in price for what I wanted, however visual voice mail was an additional $3 for Verizon (but totally worth it in my opinion).
- Integration into your life: I am not a Mac user, so my ability to use a Droid over an iPhone was more appealing as it let me use a G-mail account (or in my case G-mail Aps that work with my domain www.coastline-studios.com. I use iTunes a lot, but have stopped buying from the iTunes store because I hate their DRM and want more control over where and how I want to play my music. For what it’s worth you can use iTunes music (not purchased by the iTunes store of course) and sync it with your Droid. Something I haven’t had time to do yet to be honest so I can’t talk about that in detail just yet. So if you have a lot of music purchased from iTunes, or if you run mostly on a mac and/or have a .mac account (which isn’t free by the way) and run your e-mail through that, it may make more sense to go iPhone for the sake of an easier transition and integration into existing your computing life.
- Need for Specific Aps: At this time in my life there aren’t any services or applications that I need that are only available on the iPhone. Everything I need is available on the Android Market as well as the iPhone so far. However if you know you want to use a certain app, you should check to make sure its available for the phone you want to use. I may run into an app I want or need down the road that is only on the iPhone, but it hasn’t happened yet… and if it did, I’m sure it would only be a matter of time until it became available for the Andorid market.
- Number of “Homepage” App Shortcuts: One of the reviews I read said the Droid only had 3 pages of apps, where the iPhone had (I think) 10. I was a little disappointed when I heard this as I thought I was going to be limited in how many aps I’d be able to store on my phone. HOWEVER the truth is that you can have as many apps installed as you want on the Droid, but only 3 pages of shortcuts. This may be a deciding factor for some people, but for me it was no big deal. With each page holding 16 shortcuts on the Droid, it seems like it would be difficult to find and fill 3 pages (or 48 aps) that I would use “regularly”. And after all, the main menu is easy to navigate and get to, so finding “non home page” apps is not a problem on the Droid.
- Facebook – Contacts Integration: The Droid offers the ability to sync with facebook which means that you can choose to have it pull your contact’s facebook pictures into your phone as well as link their profile to your phone. You can choose to have the Droid sync with all your Facebook friends, or just the ones in your phone contacts (what I chose). This was a bonus feature for me, but also could be an important feature that someone may want to know when selecting a phone… so I thought it was worth mentioning.
- Multiple Aps Running at the same time: The iPhone currently supports only one app running at a time, where the Droid supports multiple apps running at the same time. For example, you can play music from Pandora then launch and view some pictures, or check e-mail and then switch to facebook to answer a question. This is worth considering as well when choosing between the iPhone and the Droid.
A few other features I really like on the Droid are:
- The notification bar: A clever way of displaying all your notifications in one place without interrupting you if you are in a call, or doing something in another app…. you can pull down or “peak” at the notifications at your leisure. Of course if you want to be interrupted you can set up the notifications to play a sound or vibrate the phone. The point is you have control, and can choose how much interruption you want for things.
- The “buttons” on the face of the phone below the display screen are very helpful for quick navigation and ease of use. A home screen button, menu button, back button and search button are always at your fingertips. I use them all the time. If you hold over some of these buttons for a full second you get additional pop up menus… one with helpful shortcuts to recently launched aps. Nice!
- Voice search for Google. Self explanatory, but oh so useful. Especially if you don’t want to try to type things in, or are in a hurry. You get the information you want fast just by pressing a button on the phone and saying what you want to search for. Cool!
- Calendar views. It’s a small thing, but I use my calendar all the time and the “views” this phone offers are the best I’ve seen compared to any other phone I’ve seen or used including the iPhone. For example I like how the 31 day view shows a very general availability of your time using green bars. It’s also easy to “flick” navigate between days, weeks or months quickly and intuitively.
- Contacts favorites. I love how you can “star” your contacts to mark them as favorites. Say you have 300 contacts but call the same 20 people all the time. Instead of scrolling through all the contacts, simply select the tab at the top to contacts menu to “display favorites” or recently called contacts. It’s just smart and so thoughtful in its design and usability.
- The “Multimedia Station” and “Car Mounts” are brilliant. I’m sure there might be devices that do similar things for the iPhone, but right out of the gates the new Droid phone has 2 great accessories available that make a ton of sense to use. I have the Multimedia Station so far, and LOVE IT! Probably will get the car one soon too.
- The Droid comes with 16 GB of storage which is expandable to 32. The iPhone has only an 8GB or 16GB version. For me this is key as I hope to load it up with high resolution videos that I’ve made.
- A removable battery is nice as well as so you can replace it easily or pack an extra one if you need the extra battery life in between charges. Lets keep our electronics alive longer!
To wrap things, up both phones are fantastic. There certainly points that I did not touch on and a lot more that could be said about both phones, but for the purposes of this post I hope that I was able to provide my point of view on these phones and explain why I went with the Droid of the iPhone. I hope it was helpful to anyone who’s considering either of these phones. In the end its just a tool and not worth getting bent out of shape over… get what works for you. : )
– John Pottenger