Why We Switched – Comparison of the Motorola Droid Vs. iPhone and Blackberry – Co-post from Rachel Kay and Kai MacMahon
Rachel: I’ve used Blackberry since the days of black and white text and purple plastic casing.
I was Blackberry’s biggest cheerleader! I told the world that business people needed to be able to write emails fast and you couldn’t do that with an iPhone! I could browse the Web and Twitter, sure! But what I really needed to do was send email!! Team BlackBerry!
I asked my friend Kai MacMahon, VP for Ogilvy’s Digital Influence team in New York, to co-write this post with me because he’s been captain of Team iPhone since the beginning. Kai is far geekier than I (I mean that in the most complimentary way ), tends to be an early adopter of all things gadgety and would probably vote Steve Jobs for president if he made the ballot.
Out of nowhere Kai replaced his iPhone with the Droid. I was shocked, but curious as Kai seemed to be ecstatic about the purchase. So remembering change is good, I read the techno-heavy reviews on Engadget, Gizmodo and other sites, and decided to make the leap, changing out my only three month old Blackberry Tour. In this post Kai and I intend compare the three phones in non-geek speak, to help you figure out if it might suit your needs. In addition, we welcome your own comparisons in the comments below.
I’ll let Kai kick us off.
Kai: A couple of months ago I made the decision to ditch my iPhone (I’d had one since the first one came out… yup, I was one of those idiots that paid $599 for it on opening day!) and switch to the Motorola Droid. There were a couple of reasons for this: first, and most important, AT&T network is under such strain in New York and San Francisco that multiple dropped calls were a daily occurrence, and the phone would frequently fail to pick up the 3G network: a frequently very poor data experience. Not good. The second reason (and the catalyst for me ditching Apple & AT&T) was that Apple deemed my iPhone’s warranty invalid because the water sensor in the headphone jack had been triggered, despite the phone never having come into contact with water (a little research online found many, many other cases of people claiming the same thing… a case of an over-sensitive water sensor perhaps?). These two factors combined led me to take the drastic step of switching networks and phones, and giving Verizon and the Droid a go. So now that I’ve had the phone for a little while… what do I think? and how does it compare to the iPhone 3GS?
Well, let’s lay it out clearly first off: The Droid is nowhere near as elegant a phone as the iPhone is. It definitely feels like a first generation phone: lots of great ideas, but plenty of flaws also. Does that mean it’s not as good as the iPhone? well, that depends what you want it for. Here are my top three pros and cons for Motorola’s flagship smartphone, the Droid:
Droid vs. iPhone
This may soon be a moot point, if the iPhone to Verizon rumors are true (although it feels like they’ve been around for aaages now), but the difference having a decent network has on your mobile experience just can’t be overstated. To contrast…. on the iPhone I would often have to wait three or four minutes on coming out of the subway for the GPS to locate me, as the phone desperately tried to connect to the 3G network. On Verizon, I step out of the subway and it picks me up within seconds. Live radio streamed to the phone sounds absolutely perfect. I’ve had one (ONE) dropped call in the months I’ve been using it. Every time I see the AT&T adds slamming the Verizon network I’m reminded of how much better Verizon’s is.
Look, I love Apple as much as the next guy, but the truth is iTunes sucks nowadays. Ridiculous bloatware that loses file associations, takes forever to load, tries to control my experience and frankly makes things much more difficult than they need to be. On the Droid you just drag the music or video files you want onto the phone, and you’re done. It’s a little more manual (doesn’t ‘auto-sync’ like with iTunes), but a million times more flexible: copy a file onto the phone and it’s immediately available. Easy peasy.
Want to listen to your last.fm channel, write an email, have Skype open and stay logged in to gchat all at the same time? No problem on the Droid, no can do on the iPhone. It may not sound like a huge deal, but once you get used to having a handset that multi-tasks, it’s tough to imagine going back to one that doesn’t. I keep IM and Skype open pretty much all the time I want to be contacted, and never have to think about logging in (unless I want to).
DO NOT BUY THE DROID FOR IT’S PHYSICAL KEYBOARD, I can’t stress that enough. It sucks. Nice idea, but the phone would have been much better without the keyboard, which is big enough to make the unit a little bulky, but not big enough to be practical. I haven’t yet found a situation where the digital keyboard isn’t superior, and nowadays the only time I slide open the keyboard is when I’m showing people the keyboard I don’t use.
Motorola and Verizon sold pretty hard on the supposed 6.4 hours of talktime that the phone gives, but I’ve not gotten anywhere near that. As with all smartphones, performance increases when you turn off GPS etc, but what’s the point in having a device if you turn off all the features? Battery life improves immeasurably if you turn the phone off, but then I can’t make calls with it. The reality is, battery life sucks on all smartphones still. That will improve with time, but the Droid doesn’t break any new ground here.
Apple’s touch-screen on the iPhone is head and shoulders above everything else out there, and multi-touch is a big part of that. The Droid’s screen isn’t exactly bad, per se, but it feels a little clunky when compared with the effortless elegance of the iPhone. I would expect this to be one of the key improvement in future iterations of the Droid.
So… which phone is better? Well, it boils down to personal preference, though I would not recommend either phone for business use (unless it’s as a backup to a Blackberry): the battery life isn’t there, and the keyboards just don’t cut it.
If you’re looking for the most elegant phone experience out there, the slickest UI, and the overall best design… the iPhone wins hands down, but if you want the versatility of an open platform, the freedom of not being tied to Apple & iTunes, and the ability to run multiple apps at once, I’d go with the Droid.
Oh, and did I mention the lovely network?
Rachel: Droid vs. Blackberry Tour
While Blackberry does a good job finding Facebook information for existing phone contacts, Droid did everything aside from looking in my yearbook and finding my old classmates. Droid instinctively merged all Facebook, phone and other contacts into one powerful address book with contact information I didn’t even realize I had. Incredible.
For obvious reasons Droid takes this because it’s an exclusive feature of the device. While I thought this was nifty I didn’t really think I’d use it. Turns out it’s a pretty awesome feature – simply tell Google what you want to search for and off it goes. While it isn’t the best for sophisticated searches, it worked for quite a few things I was looking for and saved time by not having to tap my search in (see keyboard).
One of the reasons I wanted to pass of my Tour was because browsing was so cumbersome. It took forever for a page to load, if it did at all. The Droid has a beautiful, crisp screen and lighting fast speed. Now I enjoy reading blogs or doing searches online.
The Droid has a deliciously bright, big screen which makes it easy to read or watch videos. The Tour isn’t bad, it’s just no match for the Droid. That said, the Droid is designed more with Web browsing and entertainment online, so it’s no surprise it trumps the Tour.
While this is more the functionality of the apps as opposed to the phone itself, I used Twitterberry on Blackberry which now feels archaic compared to Seesmic for Android. It loads your feed quickly and easily and enables you to message people without confusion or freezing. It also alerts you to @replies, DMs or other communication on a message bar at the top of the phone.
You can open different browser windows in Droid. ‘Nuf said.
Notifications – Droid wins
It’s pretty easy to tell on if you have an email, text, or voicemail on Blackberry, but Droid houses a nifty drop down menu to show you at-a-glance every communication, including tweets, headed your way. While there are more steps to access a communication on the Droid, the experience is cleaner overall.
Bluetooth – Droid Wins (for me)
I thought this would be the one deal breaker for me, as rumors flew that the Droid didn’t integrate with Bluetooth in some vehicles (namely BMW, which Blackberry syncs flawlessly with). If it’s possible, Droid actually paired even easier with my car and the sound is even better. But if you are on the road a lot, I caution you to ask the dealer first about your particular vehicle.
Kai will have more to say on this subject, but Droid obviously kicks Blackberry’s berries on apps. So far I can find out what Lifetime movies are playing (shut-up), turn my phone into a flashlight, have turn-by navigation, calculate tips, find a restaurant, or scan a barcode to find deals on things I want to buy. And that’s just the free apps!
A few years ago, when the world didn’t reply so heavily on its mobile devices for entertainment and information, the Blackberry was a great device. I still think its good, but if you rely on your phone for more than email, it makes sense to switch it out for the Droid. The only area in which the Tour excels is simplicity in checking emails or voicemails. There are simply fewer steps and you can do it all with one hand. That said, the Droid goes beyond email and becomes an information hub and portable entertainment device, keeping you connected with those outside your inbox and giving you more for the money.
This is one area of improvement for Droid. While Gmail is a breeze to integrate, if you use business email from any other source you may not even be able to use it. It’s easy to set up incoming email from different servers on Blackberry. It took hours and three Verizon employees to figure out how to put my email, powered by Yahoo small business, onto my Droid. I also had to purchase additional software for $40 to sync my phone with Outlook. This was a pain.
I’m giving this one to Blackberry because I miss being able to text with one hand. It’s simply not as easy to type on the short screen or the long screen, and the slide-out keyboard doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, I think it adds unnecessary weight and will probably disappear in later installments.
Because you are using much more multimedia and many more apps, you will simply suck up more battery power on the Droid. This can be minimized my not running too many things at a time and limiting the number of apps you download.
Neither of the cameras is that great, but I’m giving this one to Blackberry however I’m up for negotiation. The pictures seemed brighter and more clear, and the flash is better. I took two separate pictures of rainbows after different storms. The Blackberry picture showed the colors very nicely, while I could barely make it out on the Droid. In addition the camera on the Droid is so loud it wakes sleeping cats you are trying to capture. That said, the Droid makes it cleaner to send or share photos.
You’ve heard our thoughts, now tell us yours? Which smartphone do you think trumps the others and why?
Kai MacMahon serves as VP of Digital Strategy for Ogilvy’s 360° Digital Influence team in New York. Kai has more than ten years experience in the interactive space with leading U.K. and U.S. companies including AOL, Netscape, Digitaria and others. You can find him blogging at www.kaimac.com or on Twitter at @kaimac.
Rachel Kay is president of RKPR, a boutique agency specializing in national consumer brands. With experience in both the agency and in-house setting, Rachel has worked with top tier brands including Kashi, ConocoPhillips, Clinique, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Samsung, Kodak, Givenchy and many more. In addition to co-founding SoCalPRBlog, she also writes at www.CommuniKaytrix.com. You can follow her on Twitter here.