If you haven’t logged onto the internet, turned on the TV, or flipped on the radio in the last week or so, there’s at least still a chance that you’ve managed to somehow shield yourself from the barrage of hype and fanfare surrounding the Motorola Droid. Slated to touch down in Wirefly’s virtual store November 6, the Droid is already being billed by some as a wireless world messiah – the one that will finally unseat Apple’s iPhone and become the must-have gadget that the masses lust after.
Does the Droid truly have what it takes to succeed where other iPhone -killer-hopefuls have failed? Well, just as Verizon Wireless’ iPhone attack ad (at right) shouts loudly from the roof tops, there are certainly a number of things that the Droid does that the iPhone doesn’t. But are they enough to take on Apple’s iPhone?
If you had considered the iPhone, but then decided that you couldn’t live with a virtual keyboard, you’re not alone. Although most would agree that the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard does its job, and in most cases does it well, there will always still be those who will never be satisfied without a full physical keyboard. The Droid’s ‘real’ keyboard will undoubtedly appeal to this demographic, and stands to sway a potential iPhone buyer to go the way of the Droid.
The most resounding complaint about the iPhone is its inability to multitask. Sure, the case can be made that Apple’s fairly recent addition of push notifications (pop-up windows from select applications) provides multitasking abilities. But, when push comes to shove, iPhone users are likely to be green with envy after seeing the superior multitasking capabilities of Android devices and of phones previously lauded as potential iPhone killers, most notably the Palm Pre.
With few exceptions like the music player, the iPhone can only have one application open at a given time. If you’re having an instant messaging conversation but want to check the weather, for example, you must close the instant messaging application in order to access a weather app. The Droid will allow you to continue the same instant messaging conversation while you do anything from check the weather to send an email.
When it comes down to simple megapixel math, the Droid Does win. The iPhone 3GS’s camera is a respectable 3-megapixels, while the Droid sports a 5-megapixel camera. As a general rule of thumb but not a certainty, the more megapixels the better the photo quality. As the reviews hit the web (including Wirefly’s very own, of course), it will be interesting to see how the Droid’s camera stacks up against the competition — both in photo and video quality.
As an engineer close to the early development of Android succinctly put it, a phone running Android gives you “the ability to have your cell phone do whatever the heck you want it to do.” While you can add whatever apps you want to the iPhone (as long as they are available in the App Store, of course) and arrange their icons in whatever order you please, the iPhone’s customization options stop there.
With Droid and every other Android-powered phone, the customization options are virtually limitless. If you don’t like the way your Android phone handles text messages or voicemail, you can download a different interface. Android also allows for the addition of folders, widgets, and shortcuts to settings and applications.
The concept of widgets — small applications that automatically display updated information on-screen — is nothing new. In fact, Apple was one of the early widget pioneers, offering support for widgets built into its desktop operating system. Yet, the iPhone doesn’t support widgets, while there are Android widgets that display anything from the weather in the phone’s current GPS location to Twitter updates.
While Apple arguably aims to provide the best user experience by unequivocally restricting the iPhone’s hardware and software, Android looks to accomplish the same ends very differently – by inviting innovation from anyone with a contribution to make. While developers must go through a rigorous approval process to make their wares available to iPhone users, anyone can offer applications and widgets for Android, including applications that effectively change the phone’s core-interface.
The Droid is armed with a dual-LED flash. The Apple iPhone is flash-less. Sure, if you rely on your cell phone to capture frequent shots in darkly lit rooms, a flash may indeed be on your list of required features. Either way, the Droid joins a veritable army of flash-toting cell phones. Yawn.
Road warriors live and breathe by their cell phones, and chances are that when their battery dies, they have a second one at the ready to pop right in. While seemingly every other smartphone on the planet allows for interchangeable batteries, Apple decided to go against the grain. Despite the downsides of not being able to easily insert a new battery, there are mobile battery packs and chargers available for the iPhone that will effectively get the job done if you’re in a crunch.
While there are third-party applications that provide the iPhone with turn-by-turn GPS directions, they come with a somewhat hefty price tag (e.g. TomTom’s GPS app will run you $99). The Droid will be the first phone to feature Google’s new turn-by-turn GPS application, complete with voice guidance and voice commands.
For the vast majority of people, the iPhone 3GS’s 16GB-32GB of internal memory (depending on the model) should be plenty of space. But in the case that it’s not, the iPhone does not have a removable memory port. The Droid comes with a 16GB microSD card, and the port can accept up to a 32GB card.
Devouring the iPhone, the Droid boasts a 3.7-inch, 854×480 pixel touchscreen, compared to the iPhone’s 3.5-inch, 480×320 touch display. The added screen real estate promises to mean less scrolling when web browsing and checking email. And with anticipated DVD-quality video, the iPhone simply can’t match the Droid’s entertainment experience.
In more ways than not, the Droid’s specs best those of the iPhone. The Droid offers capabilities that iPhone users can only long for, and running the latest version of Android, the Droid won’t be subject to many of the usability gripes leveled at early Android phones.
The iPhone, however, has virtually always had a lackluster spec sheet. After all, the iPhone just got the likes of basic MMS messaging. Yet, the iPhone has managed to develop a passionate and loyal following that appreciates its intuitive interface and finger-friendly gestures.
The Apple ‘ecosystem,’ closely integrating iPhone, iTunes, and the App Store is also a powerful draw that can’t be overlooked. Combined with the relative ubiquity and familiarity of iTunes, users love the ability to synch their phones with the popular music application. They also love the ability to browse and download applications through iTunes without having to turn to their phones.
There is undoubtedly an ever-evolving Google ecosystem made up of Google search, Gmail, Maps, Docs, Voice and a slew more. If Google brings the Android Market and a competitive media synching solution to the desktop, the search engine giant’s bid to forever change the face of the wireless industry may not be too far off.
In fairly little time at all, Android has managed to amass more than 10,000 applications in the Android Market. Though undoubtedly impressive, it’s still a far cry from Apple’s nearly 100,000 apps. Most every iPhone user has one or two apps that they feel they couldn’t live without, and until the catalog of available applications more closely mirrors that of the iPhone, those used to the conveniences offered by their favorite iPhone applications won’t find the Droid a viable candidate for their next upgrade.
Without a doubt, the Motorola Droid will prove a formidable iPhone competitor, and may even lure some iPhone users away from AT&T. The true measure of success, though, will not be how many loyal iPhone owners the Droid can convert or how many handsets are sold as compared to the iPhone. Instead, success can be defined by how much traction the Droid can win the Android platform and by how many Verizon Wireless subscribers forget that they ever wished that the iPhone would make the leap to Verizon’s network.