Thanks to Best Buy Mobile (who has been supplying some of the devices we get to review), I got my hands on the Motorola Droid and have been playing with it for a couple weeks. So what follows are some of my impressions of the phone, strictly from the point of view of a person newly coming into this platform.
At times, there may be an iPhone bent because, well, I can’t help but compare this to my own handset. Plus, those “iDon’t” and “Misfit Toy” ads from Verizon just really beg for a comparison (not to mention the similarity under the hood — the processors are basically the same). But geekspeak aside, the following are what I think the average consumer is interested in knowing about this phone. So I focused on the design aspects and most-used features, while trying not to go into spec overload. (If you want a detailed analysis comparing the two phones, including more specs to geek out over, be sure to check out the iPhone/Droid Dogfight videos here.)
Okay, so here goes —
WHAT IS ANDROID ANYWAY?
I’m starting here, because this will impact your experience more than anything else. So here’s a very basic summary of Android and why you should care:
Android is an operating system, just like the one on a PC or Mac, except it’s for mobile devices, netbooks and other gadgets. In this case, it runs a phone, like Mac OS X or Windows runs a computer. The reason people are excited about Android is because…
Number 1: It’s from Google, and the company has a huge fan base.
Number 2: It’s not limited to one phone or carrier, like the iPhone. Since there are Android phones on T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint right now, people have a broad array of choices.
Number 3: It is tightly integrated with the Google services that many people already use — like Gmail and Google Talk, Voice, Contacts and Calendar — making Android phones more like an extension of people’s computers or a communications hub, with a phone built in.
Number 4: It has an app store just like the iPhone. Some think it’s even better, others think it’s worse. Here’s why: The Android Market has roughly 10,000+ apps, but there are more than 100,000 in Apple’s App Store. So there are more choices for iPhone apps. But, the App Store’s plagued by fluff and various silly programs. The Android Market may not have as many choices, but it also doesn’t have as much clutter — at least for now. (But there’s been a huge surge of interest lately in making Android apps, so there will be way more programs on the way.) Android also allows for multi-tasking (or running more than one app at once, which the iPhone can’t do).
Number 5: It’s basically open source, which means that anyone who wants to make Android apps can, and any user who wants them (i.e., YOU) can get them. In contrast, due to Apple’s tight control, there are a lot of cool, useful iPhone features, apps and accessories that never quite reach us, the consumers. But on the flip side, that tight control is also responsible for the iPhone’s simple and easy user experience. (Android may take more time to learn and configure, but these users have way more customization options over their phones. Just something to think about.)
Number 6: Okay, so back to the Motorola Droid. Here’s one of the big reasons for the buzz: Droid launched as the only handset with Android 2.0. This version is more polished than its predecessor, and includes a lot of great features including unified inbox (for multiple email accounts), more manual camera controls and — what might be the most exciting — Google Maps Navigation. This app, which debuted on this version of Android, offers voice-navigated turn-by-turn directions, just like those TomTom or Garmin car units.
So these seemed like the biggest things an average consumer should know about Android. In a nutshell, if you’re the type that wants more control over your own user experience, then it is definitely worth checking out. But know there’s a higher learning curve for this than for the iPhone. So it’s just a matter of your own individual preference: More control/bigger time investment (Android) vs. Less control/easier experience (iPhone 3GS).
Did I leave anything important out? Help fill in the gap and weigh in below.
UPDATE: Google Maps Navigation is now compatible with an older Android version, 1.6. (Thanks for the update, K Twist!)