A little while ago I had the opportunity to test a Motorola Droid X for a week to see if this iPhone fanboy could be converted to a Android Aficionado. So, I dropped the iPhone 4 off with the sitter and took on the Droid X exclusively.
The following is a blow-by-blow recount of the week broken down by features that are important to me in a mobile device. For some background; I’ve been lucky enough to have every version of the iPhone. I’ve never used or bought a phone running Android (assuming you don’t count that time I had I replace the one I dropped in the port-o-potty).
Could the Droid X make me change my mind? Check it out my review below.
To be honest, I’m the sort of amateur photographer that likes to shoot photos of special events and hopes that they turn out OK. I don’t have a huge photo collection and I don’t know a thing about composition, lighting or color. I shoot from the hip and if it looks good or I can find an app that will improve it easily then I’m all for it. I don’t get too hung up on the details.
The Droid X boasts an 8 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash compared to the iPhone 4′s 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. The iPhone also has a front-facing camera that is absent on the Droid X. Out of the box, the Droid shoots at a 16:9 aspect ratio while the iPhone shoots at 4:3.
I took these 2 photos to show you the difference in both the Droid X and iPhone 4′s output. The Droid photo below was left at automatic and the iPhone 4…well, it doesn’t have any settings to mess with. The only editing I did was to resize the images to fit within my blog’s layout, but if you click on the actual images you’ll see them in their true form.
I took quite a few images to compare both cameras and it always seemed like the iPhone’s photos were much crisper and the colors were truer to form. There were some aspects of the Droid X that some of you more experienced camera enthusaists may enjoy. The Droid X allows you to tinker with the settings and change different options. I also liked the actual button atop the Droid X which makes it act more like a real camera. It allowed me to keep the camera steadier than the iPhone. I’m sure you all have a batch of photos that have become blurred by trying to steady the iPhone’s camera and pressing the on-screen button.
Both video cameras shoot 720p HD video. Add in the HDMI port and the Droid X wins hands down, however Apple has a few offerings, namely iMovie ($4.99 app) that simply is the best video editing app on a phone. I’m not sure I’ve used iMovie on my laptop since getting it.
Because I’m a simple kind of man when it comes to my photography and video, I’ve got to give the edge to the iPhone. On paper, the Droid X may have some better specs, but the front facing camera and the iPhone’s ability to make me look like a better photographer out of the box without all the work gives the iPhone the upper hand in my mind.
This is where the Droid X has the biggest benefit – the Verizon network. I often checked both phones in the same spot only to be disappointed that my iPhone would constantly top out at 2 or 3 bars while the Droid was rockin’ 4 or 5. Now, this could all be smoke and mirrors in how they calculate the number of bars..blah, blah, blah. Not that I’ve had a huge amount of dropped calls or slow network speeds with AT&T, but I do miss the quality and stable network that Verizon provided.
It’s hard to have the so-called Jesus-phone and not be able to make a call or look up something until you get into cell range. The network is the biggest handicap that the iPhone has. In this case, its very easy to give the advantage to Droid X and Verizon.
I keep a lot of music on my iPhone 4 and am constantly switching it in and out for new tunes. You plug the iPhone into your computer (in my case a Mac Book Pro) and iTunes gets to work. It easy, it syncs and bang, you got music. I will admit that it’s probably not the most optimal process and at times iTunes is a bear to work with, but I’ve worked through my issues and we’re both back on speaking terms.
I had the Droid X for a week and I never did figure out how to get music on the damn thing. Every time I tried to plug it into my computer I would get a “this is an unsupported device” error. I googled some suggestions, but many of them required hacks and work arounds – a process that seemed much convoluted than hooking it through iTunes and letting it do it’s magic. I wasted too much time that could have been spent listening to 500 Days of Weezy.
I don’t want to have to think or struggle with my music. I want to listen to it on my terms not the terms of 2 tech giants that seem to quibble over which system to support and favor.
Many Android proponents will argue that Apple is a closed system. I hear your point and its very valid, but Apple does a heck of a job at making sure I can easily buy and listen to my music when and where I want to. I’ll give up some freedom for that. In the music department, I’ve got to give a big edge to the iPhone.
If you’ve got an Android phone, let me know in the comments your experience in getting it to work with iTunes.
You see tons of comparisons in the number of apps each store has. The Android Marketplace will boast that they have a gazillion and then Apple will come back and say they have 2 gazillion. We all know that you only use a handful of them on a regular basis so those numbers don’t impress me much.
I did have access to a few apps that I really wish were available to the iPhone. Google Goggles which allows you to search by simply taking a picture of the object is super cool. There are iterations of it on the iPhone, but nothing truly compares to the app made by Google. In addition, the fact that the Droid X came with a navigation app is pretty nice for those of us that travel a lot even though the voice was sometimes difficult to decipher and would often phonetically sound out directions so that “East on North Parkway” sounded like “Go East on N Parkway”
The one app that I missed and would often sneak way to check on my iPhone was Words With Friends. The Scrabble knock-off is only available in the Apple App Store. Insert Bob sad face here.
Often times, I do find myself just browsing the App Store to see what’s new or hot. It easy to use and ties in very nicely with iTunes. Android doesn’t really seem to have such a place outside of the phone itself where you can peruse its latest offerings.
I like the aspect that you could try a fully-featured Android app for a limited period of time before deciding to buy it or not. Apple requires that developers publish a second watered-down lite version. I wish they’d change that.
All-in-all, this category is a push. Both stores have their pros and cons and there weren’t too many apps that were exclusive to a specific platform. As a consumer, I like the fact that they’ll continue to push each other to get better.
- Battery life – I didn’t notice any big differences in the length of battery life on either device. They both lasted over a day with heavy use. I’ll call it a draw.
- HDMI – I’m not sure how much I’d use it, but the HDMI out port a nice feature that the Droid X offers. Use it to rent a movie from Blockbuster on your phone or show off homemade videos to the in-laws. Advantage Droid X.
- Mobile Hotspot – For $20 extra/month you can network up to 5 devices to the Droid. The iPhone allows you to tether 1 device for the same price (assuming your phone is not jailbroken). I can’t imagine the experience you’d have if you had 5 devices connected to one phone, but I can’t picture it being too good. Since I haven’t had much experience with either I’m going to call this one even.
- Flash – Once the Droid updates to Android 2.2 (the version I was working with had 2.1) later this summer it will have full flash support. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you surf to that one site that is littered with Flash videos and navigation. Small advantage Droid X.
- Visual Voicemail – I love visual voicemail on the iPhone which allows me to see who called and easily access all my messages at the touch of a button. Visual Voicemail on Verizon will run you an extra $3/month which just seems chincy. Advantage iPhone.
- Widgets – Android allows live widgets on multiple home screens. It’s nice to just glance down at the phone and get a weather update without having to fire up an app, but it’s not a deal breaker for me. Small advantage Droid X.
- Input – The Droid X allows you to enter data into your phone using a method called Swype which means you never have to take your finger off the keyboard. It’s neat-o, but has a small learning curve. I’d probably stick to the tried and true hunt and poke method. Small advantage Droid X.
- Screen – The iPhone Retina display wins by a landslide. It’s not even close in this department. Big advantage iPhone.
The Experience and My Pick
Apple has done a fabulous job of making sure the experience you have with the iPhone 4 is a complete one. From the moment you plug it in to syncing it with your computer and using it on the daily basis, they cram a lot of thought and detail into every nook and cranny. Droid X has a lot of advantages over the iPhone 4, but using the Droid X, the experience felt a bit fragmented and awkward - like one department worked on one section without collaborating with the others. I had to think and take a few seconds about what button to push and which option to use. For me, the iPhone 4 iOS makes sense and works as one cohesive unit.
In the end, I think I’ll stick with my iPhone 4, but the Droid X is definitely an option I’ll consider if I ever get fed up with AT&T. Maybe it’s because I’ve had 4 years to learn and evolve with the iPhone and it’s hard to be a convert in only a week. Heck, maybe all that iPhone 4 cake has got to my head.