Tomorrow is [supposedly] the big iPhone Verizon announcement. Verizon is holding a big, fully media covered, event in NYC. Tech bloggers from the major publications are headed to the Big Apple (Techcrunch, as an example). This is a major.big.deal….in a post-CES techworld where there is nothing much else going on.
A few facts (as we currently know them): the Verizon iPhone 4 will be essentially identical to its GSM-cousin except that, and this is my guess (i.e. I have not read it anywhere else), it will be a worldphone, which means it will work on essentially any network anywhere (except for 4G/WiMax networks). Cool. The iPhone is an amazing piece of hardware. It is the best hardware on the market (assuming you do not want a keyboard). Its software (iOS) just works and has ~150,000 more apps than its nearest competitor (the Android market).
I recently purchased a Droid 2 Global on Verizon, which means that I essentially have the “best” smartphone currently available on Verizon. “Best” is clearly subjective but it has the fastest available processor, a great screen, and is a world phone. Most importantly, it is running the latest publicly release build of Android (2.2 except for those Nexus S customers on T-Mobile with 2.3). However, the phone is far from perfect – the software is sometimes sluggish, it tends to reset on me every time I plug it into my computer, and it is heavy (partially due to the keyboard), and battery life is so-so. Despite years of false rumors, I was fairly confident that the iPhone 4 was going to launch on Verizon in winter 2011. So why didn’t I wait and why is all this extra hype a bit bothersome?
1. I have bought into the Google ecosystem in most ways (although I try to use Bing here and there). Outside of work, Gmail is my main email program. Google maps is my go-to map program on nearly a daily basis. Google voice is awesome. Google calendar is my personal calendar system. On the iPhone, these [mostly] work but not nearly as well nor do they receive the fastest updates. As these are my daily go-to programs, I want the best.
2. Lack of control. I have an iPad, which is essentially the same iOS running on the iPhone, and while it is great, the lack of control over the system and how I use it, bothers me. Granted, if you are willing to give up a lot of control over your main computing device (i.e. your smartphone) in exchange for a rock-solid OS, then the iPhone is a good choice. I like to modify things to suite me so the iPhone is no way to go. Note that on the iPad, which I really only use to consume media, I care less about control. My phone is simply a more important device, which means I care more about how it works.
3. Apple hype – I am sort of annoyed by the Apple hype. Don’t get me wrong, I love many Apple products and own four of them (iPad, iPod touch gen 1, Macbook Pro, and MacMini hooked up to my TV). They almost always tend to work. However, so do things in the Cloud (see my review of Google CR-48). No smartphone works really well without a connection to the Internet and the Cloud. Apple makes beautifully designed gadgets but that does not make them inherently better. The hype is simply overblown. This is the launch of a phone you have already seen on a network you may already use. Sure, the network is ten times better than AT&T but this isn’t groundbreaking. Really, why do you care? Are you going to break your two year contract with your carrier to upgrade early or switch to Verizon? Waste of money but go ahead.
4. Apps – Apple has the most apps by a good margin. However, Android has a huge number of Apps, as well. Every App I have needed, I can find. There are a few that I would want that I cannot but this has not bothered me greatly. The best apps do launch on Apple but, once again, how many apps do you need? I am a power user and I am happy with Android. Having the best and most recent apps (except for Google apps) is a big plus but not a game changer.
5. Keyboard & Swype – this isn’t a major reason since plenty of Android phones do not have physical keyboards. However, slowly typing out messages on a virtual keyboard without any assistance is tough (even on a much larger iPad). If you are on an Apple device, since Steve Jobs controls the market, you only have one keyboard to choose from — the stock one. However, if you are on Android, you not only can choose a hardware keyboard (like I have) but you can also use different keyboards like Swype, which makes “typing” on a touchscreen much much faster.
In the end, I am happy that there is more competition in the smartphone market since it simply means better devices for all of us. The lack of the iPhone on Verizon and other major US carriers has been a huge boon for Android, which, now that it is a viable and stable platform, creates even more competition. However, remember, the Verizon iPhone, while great, is still just a closed-system beautifully designed Apple device. It is tempting to want one but Android is at least just as good and offers plenty more hardware options.
Enjoy the insane news coverage tomorrow!
A few side notes/edits: 1. Verizon generally does have a slower but much more robust network. If you prefer fewer dropped calls, go with Verizon. 2. AT&T is faster – I did a simple test this morning. iPhone 4 with two bars of service vs Verizon Droid 2 Global with full bars of service: AT&T iPhone = 1.5Gbs up and 1Gbps down with a ~300ping. Verizon Droid: 800Mbps up and 800 Mbps down with ~300 ping. AT&T is faster. Plus, I should add that you can talk and use the Internet at the same time on AT&T, which is sort of nice if you don’t really want to pay attention to your conversation!