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There has been a lot hype about Verizon's new Android phone, cleverly named Droid. Reviews have been mostly positive overall, but I find myself wondering: What does it offer the consumer that the iPhone does not allready offer (in many cases in a more polished form?) The answer I have come away with is, not a whole lot. Touted features like open development (which frankly is kinda vague) and multi-tasking aren't particularly important to your average consumer. It isn't going to make checking their e-mail, browsing the internet or tweeting on twitter or facebook any better. Their music and media browsing and viewing experience is still great*, in fact the lack of media sync on the Droid (its all drag and drop) hurts the regular user here a bit.

On the other hand what does it offer the geek? Quite a bit, and their advertising reflects this. Open development (in the sense of no limitations on what an app can do at least), ease of tweaking the device to do strange and powerful things, multi-tasking, etc. now become useful selling features.

But as Nintendo and Apple have discovered geeks are a small fraction of the larger group of People Who Buy Stuff (tm). My little sister has an iPod touch, my dad really wants an iPhone, these aren't tech savvy people. To them the Droid features that the iPhone doesn't offer are basically meaningless, so the question for them is, does Android offer the ease of use and ability to do things that the iPhone does. In short, does it help me do what I want it to do. For most people the answer is probably not.

Make no mistake Android is still leaps and bounds beyond the pre-iPhone smart phone OS's, and current non-smart phone devices. If using AT&T is not an option, or not a desired path for you, then the Droid (and other Android phones) are pretty good devices to consider. Although the app market for Android isn't as robust as the iPhones, its certainly growing and should give you most of what you would want, especially as a casual phone user looking for the latest casual game or twitter client.

As someone who is a satisified iPhone user Android, Blackberry, WebOS and their various hardware incarnations are important to me only in what they might do to spur Apple to improve its product. Unfortunately I haven't seen many features or improvements that are compelling enough that I think it would push Apple, so I am left relying on Apple's own internal drive to make great products for the bulk of future iPhone improvements, atleast in the short term. Still, good luck to the Droid, more options and more competiton are definitely to our benefit as consumers.

* Listening to streaming music like Pandora in the background is about the one area I think the average user would beneift from background app support and I hope Apple considers allowing it on a case by case basis for just such examples.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 7th, 2009 12:25 am (UTC)
The reasons I'm curious about the device: mechanical keyboard, no itunes, downloading apps outside of an app store, and the potential to support business models that Apple hates (Real is working on a version of Rhapsody for this device.) Full Rhapsody support alone would make me go out and buy the thing this second. Real did port over their streaming Rhapsody player for the iphone, which is nice, but requires an internet connection. I would have likely purchased an iPhone years ago, but I really hate iTunes.
Nov. 7th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
From the verious reviews i've read, the mechanical keyboard on this is crap, thats the biggest knock on it actually. In order to make the device as thin as they did, the keyboard keys are flat and have very shallow click to them. There is also the issue of being slightly offset because of the direction pad thingie. I can't speak to this on experience having seen one, but the Gizmodo and Engadget reviews both brougth this up as a complaint.

I'm not sure I have asked you this before, but what in particular do you dislike about iTunes?
Nov. 7th, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
Hmm, that would definitely turn me off. I liked the keyboard on the G1. My fingers are fat and clumsy so I can't do the touchscreen type thing.

I don't like how Apple forces you to use iTunes with their devices. iTunes is decent as a music library but it is bloated, not designed for high DPIs, and very slow if you load a ton of mp3s (I have a collection of approximately 30k mp3s and it typically takes about 10 minutes to start on my computer.) I would prefer to just use the OS to access the memory in my player. I don't like having to sync my device each time I connect. I don't like iTunes automatically deleting things (or threatening to do this.) I also really hate how you have to pay to update the firmware on the iPod Touch just to be able to download apps. I'm not opposed to having to use special software to download or even play DRM mp3s, but I like having options. My Sansa allows me to use Rhapsody, Napster, and other DRM-based subscription services. I can even play those files on compatible software applications like Windows Media Player and Winamp. But Apple forces you to use iTunes and pay a fee just to keep using your device. :P It's really backwards, in my opinion.
Nov. 7th, 2009 01:44 am (UTC)
I've never had a problem with perf, but then again I have an order of magnitude further songs :)
You don't have to sync every time you connect your device, there is a checkbox on the main page for the device in iTunes that you unclick for that.
The iPod touch upgrade cost was due to accounting rules which have since changed, but even so, how many devices have you owned that normally give you upgrades that add features for free? I think my xbox/wii are the only ones.

As for the subscription thing, well Apple doesn't think there is a very large market for subscription music so there's really not a lot of incentive for them to support it, especially if it means helping to promote rival services, it may be annoying for the customer, but from a buisness standpoint it does make sense.

I can understand not liking and wanting to use iTunes, and since Apple takes an integrated app approach that is a turn off for you. But again the fee to use the device? If you didn't pay the upgrade charge the device would still work exactly as it did when you purchased it, you are paying for the addition of new features, so that one I don't agree with you on.

It seems like other than perf with a gargantuan collection of music your real critique is not of iTunes so much as it is of Apple's integrated approach to their devices and lack of support for subscription services. Which are great criteria to buy a different device, but you sure are missing out on a great device in the iPhone, i LOVE mine, its the best thing i've ever owned, I use it so often and don't have to bring my laptop with me anymore.

Droid doesn't sync with anything music wise, everything is drag and drop, so that is an advantage for you there, but without sync, you don't get playlists, so thats a tradeoff. Not sure how/if it works with subscription stuff, but since anyone can write an app for it, I suppose each service will do just that.

Incidentally you could use iTunes just to sync your music and use some other app for managing/playing it. You can tell iTunes to look anywhere you want for your music collection, there's even a folder now for sticking music in to add it to iTunes automatically.

Oh I forgot about the hi-DPI thing, you are right about that, although there is a large text option, I don't know if its flexible enough, but Apple has the internal tools in OSX to support resolution independence in apps, so hopefully they fully implement it for 10.7 or something. Not sure about the Win7/Win8 side of things on that. I'll check with SteveB at work :)
Nov. 7th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
I just tried the keyboard on a co-worker's Droid and it was actually pretty nice. The buttons aren't as clicky as on the G1, but they are larger. They are off center, but no more than on the G1.
Nov. 7th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Says the girl with teeny tiny fingers ;-)
Nov. 7th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Here's some of Engadgets comments on the Droid, note the keyboard comments:
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Nov. 7th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
Really? I love the absence of flash and its bloated, poor performing, inaccesible nature. I have not found a single flash site that I need to go to or miss. Heck on my iPhone ESPN.com doesn't crash like it does on the desktop, nor do I get stuck with auto playing videos.

Plus with the
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 7th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
And there are still places that publish information in Microsoft .pub files, doesn't mean we should keep supporting them.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 8th, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
True, I don't hate .pub files :D

That said, no its not 100% fair comparison, but frankly I think Flash needs to be relegated to casual online games. Its bloated, slow, and bad for accessability. Anything that hastens its demise is great in my book. Just as Apple did with the old serial ports, ADB ports, etc. when they switched to USB, i'm glad to see them abandoning Flash. The web is better off without it and i'm willing to pay the price of occasionally not being able to view a websites content who hasn't switched over yet. The critical mass behind the iPhone will hopefully help push that change when coupled with HTML 5/JavaScript gaining the ability to replicate most of the features of flash, especially its demise as a video player.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 10th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
FYI, apparently Android only allows Apps to be installed on internal storage. The Droid has a whopping 256 MB for App storage.

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



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