Droid Doesn’t

Update: I believe the issues discussed below were caused some faulty hardware from initial, first day shipments.  With an updated Droid (i.e. new hardware), the issues below have disappeared.

Have you seen all those signs and advertisements about the Motorola Droid and how the Droid “Does” while hinting at how the iPhone does not?  I am here to report that after a week of playing with a Droid, it most certainly does not do what one would expect.  Read below although my thoughts are summed up beautifully by Stewart Alsop here.

The Droid promised many things – Android 2.0, beautiful hardware, tons of apps.  Sadly, it only partially delivered.

The machine (it is no longer just a phone) is slow: It takes a very long time to search for information (this is powered by Google, right?), taking photos or making videos is nearly impossible (holiday example: I wanted to make a video of my brother jumping in a lake after his golf ball — the video only started working once he was out of the lake…thanks, Droid, for messing up that opportunity), and the phone constantly brings up inane error messages requesting me to wait or force quit.  I hate to say this, but didn’t we move past crazy error messages now that Vista is gone?  Apple just works.  Google (online) just works.  I shudder to think about a mobile machine that fails — ex: 911 emergency and your phone requests that you wait or force quit to make a call.  Please.

Android 2.0 – this is where the Droid [likely] fails as the machine itself is filled with power.  Android is still for power users (i.e. the tinkerers and guys who like to dig into their software).  No regular user wants error messages.  They just want their phone to work.  Android 2.0 is impressive when it comes to things like Maps (the driving directions are wonderful and death knell to the GPS companies such as Garvin).

Hardware: Pros – beautiful screen and slim profile.  Cons – useless keyboard, terrible camera, heavy.  The battery lasts for less than half a day.  NOTE: I force quit a huge number of programs to try and a) speed things up and b) save battery.  It does not help.

I was rooting for the Droid.  I want Moto to succeed (I like underdogs and I think competition is good).  I want Google to succeed (someone needs to compete against the iPhone).  However, the Droid, in its current form (and before any major software updates), is a failure.


Holiday smartphone guide: Motorola Droid vs. Blackberry Bold 2 with some iPhone and Pre thrown into the mix

My good friend S, who works at a major law firm, wrote me a few days ago asking an age old question: buy the Motorola Droid or go with the tried and true Blackberry platform on their new, slick BlackBerry Bold 2.  My friend had no idea the puddle he was jumping into when he asked me that question…

If you do not want to read the whole post, here is a summary (I would also check out Mobile Crunch’s phone gift guide here):

Best network (in order of quality): Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile

Best smartphone option on each: Verizon = Droid, Sprint = Pre, ATT = iPhone, T-Mobile = Bold 2

Best choice for consumers: Droid or Pre

Best choice for business (but just barely now): Blackberry on any of the networks

Best choice for cost: Pre or anything else on Sprint.

The email(s)

Below is an edited version of our email conversation.  I hope this helps anyone out there who is asking themselves – what smartphone should I buy this holiday season.

S asks: my plan is up for renewal and I am thinking seriously about moving from T-mobile to VZ to use the Droid [editor’s note: VZ and Moto, those weird ads are reaching people, nice].  I know you work in the industry and pay attention to this stuff, do you have thoughts on the matter?

Me:  I do have thoughts on the matter, in fact!  I love phones way too much and hate the fact that my co makes it difficult to use other phones [with service that they pay for at least]. [editor’s note: my company provides me with a global data plan and phone.  The only requirement: I have to use a BlackBerry].

S, to start off any decision, you have to ask yourself this question: is the service more important or is the phone?

If service is more important, than I would go with Verizon (or, to be honest, Sprint).  I know of too many people with issues/dropped calls on ATT.  I never experience any on Verizon and very few on Sprint.  I can’t speak for Tmobile but since you have it already, you can judge that service for yourself.  Note: VZ used to have an edge in DC with the metro but now all the platforms have service on all the carriers (VZ is still the only one with service in the tunnels, I believe).

If service is not as important, then it is a device decision.  You need to ask this: what is my main phone use?  If you main use is for work, then a Black Berry is still better (although only barely at this point if your company supports non-berry email devices).  If your main use is personal emails, then the sky is the limit.

This holiday season is filled with awesome devices.  To your specific question: Droid vs Bold II.  I tested the Droid this weekend.  In short, it is an awesome device but the physical keyboard is terrible.  However, the on-screen keyboard is as good, if not better, than the iPhone.  If a software keyboard does not bother you and [your law firm] supports non-BlackBerry email devices, the Droid is a great way to go.  The GPS/Google Maps is awesome.  There are a ton of apps (best non-iphone number of apps).  One bad thing: it is a bit buggy right now and not super intuitive all the time but a) Google is constantly innovating and updating their software, b) less intuitive only because there are so many options and things you can do (vs Blackberry). [editor’s note: I hate the fact that my Blackberry seems like such a controlled device.  However, I am a geek who loves to install and test out different apps.  The average user appreciates how stable and difficult to mess-up the Berry platform is for users].

The Bold II, from everything I have read, is going to be the best BlackBerry out there this holiday season.  Of course, it is still a Blackberry.  Minus their email/calendar functionality, I basically hate all things made by RIM.  I think they try to put in just the minimum to make it work and know they have a captive audience [ie lazy Corporate IT staffs].  All Blackberry’s are chronically short in memory (for use with apps), their software is extremely outdated even with a fancy new software skin, and their browser is terrible.  Finally, their app store is small.  With all of that said, the hardware [of the Bold 2] looks good, is probably rock solid (i.e. hard to break), and the software just works (of course, it can only do maybe 50% of what the Droid can do).

So what are your priorities?  Truthfully, this is a very difficult call.  I probably lean slightly towards the Droid but only slightly.  Blackberry is still probably much better for work.  [Editor’s note: while I do use my Berry a lot for work and it is an important productivity tool, I also use it for personal things.  An ideal phone should be able to do both.  The average user should ask themselves – what % of my time do I do work with my phone and what % is personal.  If it is more personal, then you have no reason to buy a Berry].

Adding the iPhone and Pre to the discussion

S replied and I brought up other options (since this holiday is filled with them):

Since you only asked about VZ/Tmob, I kept the discussion to those phones.  With that said, if you care about price, my favorite phone from a functional/looks standpoint is the Palm Pre.  It has the best hardware design out there this holiday.  Supposedly the hardware keyboard is okay (better than Droid).  Apps are weak but probably not too far behind Berry.  I happen to think Sprint’s network is really good (a lot of ppl have left so they have extra capacity).  My friend who is a lawyer for Sprint absolutely loves his Pre.  He writes a lot of emails on his phone so he obviously doesn’t mind it from a corporate perspective.

If you do not mind a non-keyboard phone on a terrible network [i.e. AT&T] but with an app for everything, then the iPhone is still king of the hill.  I happen to think that Apps are a bit overrated once you hit a certain number but that is a discussion for another time.  The iPhone is a beautiful piece of hardware with great underlying software.  Of course, it is also owned by nearly everyone.  Think different!  (check out this iPhone vs droid battle, here)

Editor’s side note on Apple and iPhone apps: If the phone can do 95% of the same things as the other phone but has better key metrics (such as the network, hardware, and core software) then will a larger app catalogue really make the difference (since every app store will have all the major programs)?  Ex: Apple computer software (i.e. Leopard) vs. Windows.  Windows likely has millions more apps than Apple yet many people still prefer to buy a Mac.

S’s response (we are taking this offline and going to lunch to continue the discussion):

The long email is definitely appreciated.  I also spend way too much time thinking about phones (probably spent 10 hours in the last few weeks reading up now that I am out of contract).  And what you are saying jives with what I’m generally reading/thinking.  My thought right now is that I’m going to wait for the December 11 software update for the Droid to see whether they fix the fact that you can’t search Exchange Sync emails (and hopefully a few of the other bugs I’m reading about).  Unfortunately, not being able to do that is a non-starter for me since it’s so important for work.  If they do fix that, I’m leaning towards the Droid.  The Google Navigator looks awesome and I generally think Android is a more fun platform if not more functional from a work perspective.  I may also wait to see what this new HTC Android phone due out in December ends up being.  I really wanted to get something new as soon as I went out of contract, but it seems like giving it another month to let the holiday roll outs play out is a good idea.