The iPhone vs. the Droid?
December 12, 2009 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Are you considering the iPhone or the Droid? Which one did you get and how did you decide? I am already a Verizon customer; also my sister has an iPhone and is willing to add me to her plan if I choose the iPhone.
posted by sandra194 to Computers & Internet (32 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you can, I would consider waiting just a bit, to see what Google is up to.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:32 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

It was time for me to upgrade my smartphone recently, and after debating between the iPhone, a Blackberry, and Droid I went with the Droid.

My boyfriend has an iPhone, so I've spent a decent amount of time looking things up on it, texting people, using google maps, etc, and the lack of physical keyboard was a dealbreaker for me. After spending a fair amount of time using his iPhone and my iPod touch, I just never got quick enough at typing on the screen.

The other problem experienced with boyfriend's iPhone is the bad reception and data service. We live in an iPhone-saturated city, and there's been many instances when he and my other iPhone-owning friends simply cannot make calls (large outdoor concerts, downtown, and more) but the rest of us with Verizon and other services are OK.

In terms of reception/data, contrast to my Droid experience: last week we were on 3G using the GPS turn-by-turn directions while streaming Pandora. Somehow we managed to launch Youtube by accident, yet all three things kept streaming and functioning perfectly at the same time with no cutting out. iPhone owning boyfriend was amazed.

I'm happy with my choice - the Droid has been great so far. Spending time with an iPhone first was definitely valuable.
posted by soleiluna at 8:07 PM on December 12, 2009

The only thing I can say about the iPhone is it is SOLID. Everything I ask of it- it does. I have not played with the Droid just yet but unless it can make me fly I would take the iPhone any day.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:08 PM on December 12, 2009

You're asking an impossible question, but just for fun:

1. I love the iPhone and have good service. If you don't, then no matter how nice the phone it's worthless.

2. If you want to have more control and fiddle with everything the droid might be a better choice.

3. For polish, quality of apps, integration with a mac (if you use a mac) iPhone is a better choice.

As far as the keyboard, just test it out. I can write as fast on an onscreen keyboard as I can on a physical keyboard, and if the physical keyboard isn't a good one, it's worthless (some are good, some not). If you think you can't write fast on an iPhone watch a teenager with one. Most users that can't make the switch are either old, coming from a blackberry, or tried it for a few hours and gave up.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 8:18 PM on December 12, 2009

I love my Droid.

I've had a Blackberry for the last two years. I used to think it was the coolest phone I'd ever owned.

The Droid is far and away the coolest phone I've ever seen. While the UI and animations aren't as polished as the iPhone, the actual functionality is leaps and bounds better. And if you're already a google user (gmail, google calendar, gTalk, etc.) the integration is awesome. I haven't used the web-based gmail interface in days (aside from a long project-design email).

If you're a developer, or care, installing a non-Market application to the phone is a 5-minute process involving absolutely no bullshit gatekeeping. Install the SDK, plug in the phone, and send it over. While most of what you want is in the Market, it's pleasing to me to know that I *could* get something elsewhere if I wanted. And as a mobile apps developer, it's the best goddamn development experience I've ever had with a phone. It's more welcoming than Blackberry, even.

Frankly, the Droid is the first phone I've ever felt that I truly owned. Where I felt like the phone obeyed my will as opposed to the carrier's or manufacturer's. I wouldn't be feeling that way if I had an iPhone. It might be flash. But it's like the days of leasing a phone from Ma Bell.

For me, the deciding factor was that the iPhone is an appliance, but the Droid feels like a computer. Apple constantly tells developers what they can't do on the phone (and so consequently tells you what you can't do on your phone), while Google says, "Here's a cool new feature. See what you can do."

You couldn't pay me enough to use an iPhone. Meanwhile, the Droid is easily the best $300 I've ever spent on personal electronics. Even moving from T-Mobile, and paying $40 extra a month, I still feel like I'm getting a deal.

Oh, and Verizon EVDO kicks the shit out of AT&T's HSDPA. Also, the commercials are right... look at the coverage maps.
posted by Netzapper at 8:39 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

I love my iPhone to death, and treat it like a computer as much as I do my actual laptop, and the range of apps is absolutely unbeatable.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:46 PM on December 12, 2009

As has been stated, without knowing a lot more about you, there is no real way to answer your question, so here's my personal experience. To put some of this in perspective, I'm an e-mail engineer for a rather large company, and service providers give us demo phones of pretty much every device they put out. We get these from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, for some reason T-mobile doesn't want to play.

I was a windows mobile fan for quiet some time. Had the HTC phone from T-Mobile for a few years, the one with the slide out keyboard, windows mobile 5.0 with the MSFP so I could use activesync at work. Then I moved over to AT&T with the Tilt, that was nothing more than an upgrade to my t-mobile phone. About this same time, I got my current job where I got to play with a lot of devices for evaluation purposes against our environment. I've worked with blackberries (bane of my existence on the server side) Windows moble, iphone, and most recently Droid.

The iPhone was the first phone, that when they took it away from me at the end of the demo period, I went out and bought one. In the Metro area I'm in, we have great coverage. I've been all up and down the 35 corridor from DFW south, and have never had a coverage issue. I was in NYC last year with no problem. The only area I've had a coverage problem is surprisingly the Seattle area, but I had a problem there when I was on T-moble as well. I use data more on this phone than any other phone I've ever owned. It's just easy to surf the web on this phone.

My experience with the droid isn't so good. It does not support activesync natively, there is a third party app for that. If you're wanting to sync with your work e-mail, make sure they're going to allow that. The lock code is a bit different, you have to trace a pattern or "gesture" instead. Not so intuitive to someone who has used a blackberry, iPhone, or win mobile device. Again, along the 35 corridor, no coverage issues. Honestly, after spending a few weeks with the Droid, I would personally not trade in my iPhone for one. We are also not approving them for access to our e-mail environment as they don't support many security requirements we have.
posted by Karmic_Enigma at 9:05 PM on December 12, 2009

I have a G1, which I got long before the Droid was ever announced. Frankly, I wouldn't want a phone without a SIM card, that's locked to one provider.

The G1 is nice and I'm not sure what makes the Droid so much better.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 PM on December 12, 2009

I got a palm pre when it first came out... I'm not going to recommend one phone over the other, because I think each phone/os has it's strong and weak points, and you should find the one that fits best for you... but I might recommend that you read up on the news and reviews that are out there for the various phones you're considering. One of the websites I've found very helpful in understanding exactly what my phone can and cannot do is part of the "smartphone experts" community that has sites for iphone, droid, blackberry, nokia, and windows mobile. The articles on these sites review and compare the different features and quirks of the various phones in detail.
posted by kaudio at 9:31 PM on December 12, 2009

The G1 is nice and I'm not sure what makes the Droid so much better.

The G1 is very tight on internal memory. It's unlikely the G1 will ever get Android 2.0 or higher because of memory constraints. It seems like it would have been easy to put more memory in there in the first place, but whatever. Also the Droid screen is 480x854 vs 320x480 for the iPhone or G1.
posted by GuyZero at 9:34 PM on December 12, 2009

We are also not approving [the Droid] for access to our e-mail environment as they don't support many security requirements we have.

The guys at my large company say that they're very close to having a fix for this very issue,so you might want to reinvestigate that soon, say after the holidays.
posted by intermod at 9:38 PM on December 12, 2009

I'm not at all a fanboy, but XKCD pretty much nails it.
posted by intermod at 9:40 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've owned an ipod touch for 3 years. I also had an iphone (when I tried AT&T) for a few weeks. I had the Motorola Droid for a week, then returned it for the HTC Eris. The Eris is wonderful. It's aesthetics and pocketability are much better than the larger Droid, and smaller than an iphone. The UI is especially nice;basically Android OS skinned with HTC's refined "SenseUI." The call quality is very good, the keyboard is as good as the iphone's (and far better than the Droid's software OR hardware keyboards), and if you give it a couple days, the battery life improves and is at least as good as the iphone's. I highly recommend you go to a Verizon store and try both out.

I wanted to love the Droid, but couldn't. Too big and clunky, and the physical keyboard was unnecessary for me. AT&T's service just isn't good enough, and as a phone the iphone is lacking, IMO. I should add that I like having my music player separate from my phone, because if I used one device for both functions, I'd kill the battery extremely quickly. Therefore, I'm loving my Eris/Touch combo.
posted by rbf1138 at 9:48 PM on December 12, 2009

I just terminated my iPhone contract, replacing it with a Droid.

It is bigger and clunkier and less svelte. But some of the things the Droid can do make the iPhone look stupid in comparison. I will use an iPod touch to keep my application investment, but the Droid has been an incredible experience even if there have been a couple of very minor quirks.

If you are not a techie, you're better off keeping the iPhone; the Droid requires a little technical knowledge to get the full benefit out of it.

I like the physical keyboard.
posted by arimathea at 11:28 PM on December 12, 2009

I had an Omnia with Verizon for 6 months or so. It was quite nice, but the GPS wouldn't work. Started paying for the Verizon Nav program, but it rankled that I couldn't just use Google Maps. I sent a dozen letters and they were real sorry and all- but it took a lawsuit to get the GPS chip freed. Hurray, I said and waited for the chance to use G Maps. Still didn't work after the deadline.
SHEESH. How much did they want to lose me as a customer?
My iPhone with a Mophie battery pack is my dream phone. It holds my music, videos, a PIM of my choice and...the GPS works without lawyers.
posted by flowerofhighrank at 11:29 PM on December 12, 2009

I have the HTC Hero (not sure what it's called in the States) mainly because in Canada it is cheaper than an iPhone 3GS (but the same price as an iPhone or an older Blackberry Bold), and since I'm locked into a 3-year contract I wanted a phone that would age well (I'm aware that the Hero uses 2-year-old technology), and I like the fact that Gmail and many other Google apps and products (but not Google docs!) are seamlessly integrated into the platform.

I also dislike Apple products (especially iTunes).
posted by KokuRyu at 12:40 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a Droid, which I love. I have always liked my friends' iPhones, but been unimpressed by AT&T's spotty coverage in, well, lots of places I've been. The Droid is, by far, the best phone I've owned, and while it has minor flaws (that you've undoubtedly heard about), they're pretty minor.

Am I the only person who's a bit sick of the iPhone/Droid advertising race to the bottom? What's next: Verizon's "iPhone: you're shit-outta-luck if you want your phone to do that." followed by AT&T's "Droid: Hitler would have loved it!" I mean, come on!
posted by JMOZ at 6:05 AM on December 13, 2009

Here are a couple articles about the Droid by some well-known technologists.

Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid (by Dave Winer)

Droid Doesn’t: It’s Not Ready For Prime Time (by Stewart Alsop)
posted by bengarland at 6:53 AM on December 13, 2009

Netzapper raises what I think is the right point of differentiation above:

And if you're already a google user (gmail, google calendar, gTalk, etc.) the integration is awesome.

If I were starting from scratch, and didn't have any qualms about changing my mobile number rather than porting it, I'd get set up on Google Voice, then grab a Droid.

Gizmodo posted a pretty terrific primer to GVoice yesterday, but the one thing I'd add to their pitch is that GVoice takes contacts management from the static (here's the info for Bob) to the dynamic (here's the info, and how would you like to contact Bob?), capturing your associated actions for that contact in one searchable application.

The striking thing for me (a long-time GrandCentral/GVoice user prior to getting my Droid) was how logging in to the Droid for the first time with my Google identity pushed everything I'd spent years aggregating in Gmail/GVoice/GCal/etc right to my mobile device. Plus, just by logging in the device recognized that I was a GVoice user, and asked me if I wanted to use GV by default to make all my outgoing calls. This is a huge benefit, as my GV number is 610-XXX-XXXX, whereas my device's number is 847-XXX-XXXX. By using GV to make the outgoing calls, my contacts won't be confused over who's ringing their line, and every outgoing and incoming call to the 610 number is logged, so I can easily prepare my business expense reports at the end of each month. It's a completely seamless experience.

The Google integration is, for me, the main value of getting the Droid over the iPhone.

Full disclosure - I have to carry the Droid, as I consult for one of the three parties invested in its success, so iPhone's not an option for me anyway.
posted by GamblingBlues at 7:03 AM on December 13, 2009

AT&T: Depending on your location, you may have "subpar" performance on your phone. (San Francisco or Manhattan). AT&T is trying to limit users who are using too much bandwidth to solve this issue. (These users, of course, are already paying for "unlimited" data.)

Verizon: Has very good 3G coverage. Had a horrible reputation of gimping their phones to nickle and dime customers. (Droid was not the case since Google had very direct involvement on development I heard).

iPhone will not be bundled with AT&T for too much longer (contract up in 2010) and Droid will most likely come out on Tmobile if rumors are to be trusted. And so far they are pretty convincing (screenshots and all)

iPhone has a big marketshare thus many more apps, but Android is catching up.
iPhone has good integration with iTunes but Droid has good integration with Google applications.

Droid has a better camera (with flash) and screen but is heavier. It also has a QWERTY keyboard that has mixed reviews. Its virtual keyboard is getting positive reviews from what I can tell.

iPhone has smooth interface and is user-friendly supposedly. (I do not own one, not much experience, but I believe that's the general consensus)

I own a Droid and it is my first smartphone. I have friends that have iphones and Sprint Hero (another Android phone) and we all love our phones. Play with the phones and see how you like them. The one thing that tipped the scale for me is the multitask capability of Droid - it feels natural to me.

Good luck and I hope you have a lot of fun with your new phone!
posted by jstarlee at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2009

Have you read our fearless leader's take on the Droid? Go here. He was extremely critical of it. All I can tell you is the Droid is a friggin brick that weighs a lot and has sharp corners. It's the antithesis of the sexy iPhone.
posted by CwgrlUp at 8:19 AM on December 13, 2009

I would have gotten an iPhone except I'm on Verizon, as is all of my family, and AT&T's coverage here (Rochester, NY) is mostly awful.
posted by tommasz at 8:22 AM on December 13, 2009

I have and love the Droid for many of the reasons listed above...I just came here to emphasize that the camera on the Droid (5MP vs. 3MP on iPhone 3GS) is really useful now that they've fixed the auto-focus problem. Some people complain about the interface, but the pictures I just took to complement hardware installation are actually usable for work. I was so happy that I didn't have to go back and take the same pictures with a regular camera.

I've also recorded video of a band playing at a coffee shop to some success; of course it's not camcorder quality, but it's surprisingly great for such a small device that provides so much functionality that you're going to bring with you everywhere anyway.
posted by hellogoodbye at 9:00 AM on December 13, 2009

You might find this interesting in making your choice. In yesterday's NY Times it was reported, according to some major insiders, that AT&T's network far outshines Verizon's (or any other US carrier).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:10 AM on December 13, 2009

I absolutely, completely agree with everything Netzapper and arimathea said, and also had a chuckle in agreement at the cartoon strip posted by intermod. I've owned various Palm OS systems (Clie, Centro), my wife has a Blackberry Tour, she also owns an iPod Touch 2G, and she and I both owned Verizon XV6800s (HTC Titan) with Windows Mobile which we ditched very quickly in favour of Centro and BBTour because we both hated them.

First and probably most important: AT&T is a dealbreaker for us and many, many other people because of the crap coverage quality. Ditto T-Mobile. We'll never ever leave Verizon unless something really bad happens with them.

When I originally heard about Android I was skeptical and on the bandwagon with all the other Google/privacy/sell-your-soul crap. It took me less than fifteen minutes futzing around with a Moto Droid a couple of weeks ago to know that I wanted one more desperately than I've ever wanted any similar technology in my life.

The actual detail of the experience is something I'm going to post on my blog in the next few days. I won't self-promote or link the site here, but will summarize with an analogy:

Imagine a house - very large indeed, marble floors, wonderful view outside of the windows, awesome paintings on the walls, comfortable and expensive furniture arranged neatly and sensibly. You live in this house. If you want to eat, you need only speak your meal wishes and a meal - either exactly what you wanted or else close enough that you don't mind that it wasn't cooked exactly to your specs - is delivered to you through your front door. You accept the delivery, either for free or by paying a nominal sum, and chow down delightedly. You have an expensive Saeco coffee machine in which you can make delicious Kona coffees. Idyllic. Until the day that you want to push the couch a little closer to the telly. You find that the couch is bolted down. You can't leave the house because all the doors are bolted shut from the outside. You can't move your bed, you can't move your coffee machine on the gold-flecked, black granite kitchen island, you have to sit at exactly the same table in exactly the same seat to eat your meal. What's more, you can't actually paint the walls of any rooms - to begin with, you don't have any paint, and the walls remain a pleasant shade of white regardless of what you try to smear on them. And, weirdly, you can only operate one device at a time. You need to turn off your coffee machine before the toaster will operate. Need to stand up, put your pants on, buckle your belt, and wash and dry your hands before the toilet's flush button will work. Need to flush before the toilet door will open. And get this. A friend calls you up and tells you excitedly to turn on the telly. You put down the phone and rush to turn on the telly. Then you come back to the phone only to find that the line is dead. You can't call your buddy back until you turn the telly off. Your house is pretty, well-designed, but completely uncustomizable with only enough power for a single appliance to function at a time and it all needs to be operated in a sensible, logical, concise manner.

It is possible to move furniture around and even leave this house. You discover a wrench under a loose board in the attic - when you lift this board there is a glow that emanates from it which is reminiscent of the briefcase scene in Pulp Fiction. You unbolt some furniture with this wrench. Now you can move your couch closer to the telly. When you do this, a little plaster falls from the roof. You think nothing of it. You remove your back door from its hinges and take a careful step outside. Immediately a cabinet inside your house falls over behind you, and the sky clouds over with purple and a cold wind starts to blow. You walk back into the house nervously looking for a sweater and all of a sudden all the doors and windows are wide open. You can move furniture around now. You can decorate the walls. But when you sit in a chair, the fucker collapses. Other chairs remain solid. You have bedbugs in your bed for the first time. You can make your own food. You can go down the road and buy Mexican. Tastes great, but you have to rush to the crapper and shit like a busted coke-dispensing machine a couple of hours later where you've never gastro before. You buy different furniture and paint and household items. You find that you can now toast and microwave food at the same time, but the toast often comes out burned and the microwave sparks even when there's no metal inside. WTF? Some gadgets work great - better than the stuff you had before. Some work worse and have the potential to seriously injure you. But your idyllic life is over in this house. You continue to live there and maybe you think it's better, maybe you think it's worse, but you can never again be sure that you will be safe, comfortable or healthy in there because you ate the Forbidden Apple.

That house is the iPhone.

Far as the Android OS is concerned, it's the same thing - except with all doors and windows wide open, the weather doesn't go batshit when you walk outside, it's prepopulated with Ikea furniture which ain't bolted down - some nice, some tacky, no granite countertops, no Saeco machines, just a Mr Coffee dripolator - and for the first time in your life you are able to blend, dripolate, grind, toast, poo, pee, talk on the phone, listen to music and juggle several flaming skittles - all at the same time. And, you receive promos in your mailbox from Saeco stating that they'll have their coffee machine available for hookup in your house soon.

Move your grandparents and people who don't give a toss about customization into the iPhone house. They'll love it and they'll live there happily forever in their Truman Show world. Me, I'll kill myself before I'll ever drink Apple's kool-aid. The Droid is the greatest bit of miniaturized tech I've ever bought. All I got to say. Sorry for the book-length response. Seacrest out.
posted by tra at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2009 [7 favorites]

Just to provide a counterpoint to the "the Droid integrates perfectly with Google services" argument, I have my iPhone calendar, mail, and contacts syncing just fine with Google. All my mail is through Gmail, all my contacts are in Gmail, and all my appointments are with Google Calendar. No problems editing, adding, viewing any of this on my iPhone using the built-in Apple apps. The only thing lacking is app integration with Google Reader, but I find that the mobile web interface for this is excellent anyway so I never really care.

The lack of an official Google Voice app on the iPhone sucks, but you can jailbreak your iPhone to use the free GV Mobile app from Sean Kovacs. Jailbreaking the iPhone is super easy these days, just point and click using a program called PwnageTool. You also get other benefits such as the ability to "tether" your computer to the iPhone and use it as a 3G modem.
posted by bengarland at 12:55 PM on December 13, 2009

Consumer Reports says: "Despite the network problems, a staggering 98 percent of iPhone users in our cell-phone-buying survey were satisfied enough to say they would definitely or probably buy the phone again." Quoted from this site.
posted by jeri at 1:56 PM on December 13, 2009

From the article: Google fails to address app storage issue with Droid and Android 2.0
For most applications, we want a small file size to limit the download times. When it comes to 3D games though, we need a ton of space for all the high-res textures, audio, and video.
Applications can store secondary data on the SD card if they want.
posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on December 13, 2009

I went with iPhone despite its numerous shortcomings because iPhone OS has had over two years to mature, while Android is still comparatively new. (Droid wasn't around, but I was considering the G1, myTouch, and Palm Pre.) Maturity means a lot in the software world.

When my iPhone contract runs out, Android will have two more years of improvements and bugfixes. I'll probably go that route if Apple doesn't become less restrictive by then.
posted by Nameless at 9:25 PM on December 13, 2009

Applications can store secondary data on the SD card if they want.

Well, yes, they can. But that data can't be part of the initial .apk. It must be downloaded by the application itself.
posted by Netzapper at 10:12 PM on December 13, 2009

The SD storage issue is an architectural quirk compared to the simpler configuration on the iPhone but at the end of the day doing the download of data files as a secondary step is a pretty small issue that's for developers. End users aren't really affected by it at all.
posted by GuyZero at 10:05 AM on December 14, 2009

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