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Motorola Droid, powered by Google's Android 2.0 OS

A Droid phone in the wild  (Source: AP)

The iPhone has more apps than the Droid phone and is a bit thinner, but it lacks a physical keyboard, arguably an inferior screen, a worse camera, no support for Flash, and a lack of true multitasking, forcing app backgrounding. Apple is reportedly planning a price cut on a reduced memory iPhone 3GS (8 GB) to try to stay competitive.
Apple once again is challenged in the smartphone arena

While the Blackberry is currently the bestselling smartphone, thanks largely to a strong core of business users, sales numbers indicate the iPhone dominates the multimedia entertainment phone market.  Verizon's Droid phone, which launched on Friday, may change that as it looks to be solid competitor to the iPhone in many ways.

Droid ships with a 16 GB microSD card, but is expandable up to 32 GB, allowing it to match the highest-capacity iPhone 3GS (which does not have expandable memory).  The phone is ever-so-slightly thicker than the iPhone, at 13.7 mm (vs. 12 mm for the iPhone 3GS).  It also packs a slide-out physical keyboard, which some customers prefer.

Droid also has a better camera (5.0 megapixels vs. 3.0 megapixels on the iPhone), a dual LED flash (the iPhone has no camera flash), and a nicer screen.  The Droid's screen bests the iPhone's both in pixel density and size (3.7" and 265 ppi for Droid, 3.5" and 185 ppi for the iPhone).  It also bests the iPhone in battery capacity (1400 mAh v. 1219 mAh), though the actually operating battery life has not been extensively benchmarked versus the iPhone.  Like the iPhone, Droid features multi-touch technology, something Apple claims to hold a copyright on and reportedly strong-armed Google out of with the original Android operating system.  And like the Palm Pre, true multitasking is supported.

Other advantages include its support of Adobe Flash (allowing full-fledged internet browsing), a technology that Apple has rejected.  It also compares favorably with the iPhone on price, coming in at $200 after $100 mail-in rebate with a new contract, versus $199 (with plan) for a 16 GB iPhone 3GS, or $299 for a 32 GB iPhone 3GS.

Along with the launch of the new phone on Friday came official details on its tethering plan.  Like the Blackberry Storm 2 and several other Verizon handsets, Droid phones indeed have an option to serve as a mobile internet connection for your PC and laptop at home or on the go.

One of the long standing complaints about the iPhone is that AT&T still doesn't offer tethering services with it in the U.S.  While tethering may soon be in sight, as it is supported by the current version of OS X software on the iPhone, many wonder how much longer they will have to wait.  Some of these users are now eying Droid, as tethering is now officially available for it.

The phone's tethering costs are similar to Verizon's other 3G phone tethering offers, reportedly.  For any user with a qualifying handset, they pay a maximum of $50 per month for 5GB of data transfer.  Most users have access to a $30 per month rate, if they have the Unlimited Wireless Email, Email and Web for Smartphone Feature or Plan, Nationwide Premium Plan and others -- which nearly all Verizon's smart phone customers opt for. 

Customers with Verizon's $79.99 per month PDA/Smartphone Nationwide Email plan get a nice perk -- the ability to pick up tethering for only $15 per month.  Customers jumping on tethering should be careful, though, overages (after the first 5120 MB) run at 5 cents per MB, or $51.20 per GB.

The tethering option at $30 per month, while not overly cheap (it doubles Droid's $30 data fee), does stack up nicely compared to Verizon's wireless broadband cards, which also use the telecom's 3G network.  These cards, available in USB and PC Card forms (typically free or at minimal cost after rebate) are offered with plans of 250MB of data for $40 a month (10 cents per MB overages) or 5 GB for $60 per month (5 cents per MB overages).  The only other apparent downside of choosing tethering on Droid or Verizon's other phones is that it may prove a significant drain your phone battery when in use.

While there are many upsides to Verizon customers when it comes to the Droid phone, one downside is its app marketplace.  There reportedly are a bit over 10,000 apps in the Droid marketplace, while Apple's marketplace just surpassed 100,000.  As mentioned, the iPhone also manages a close win in thickness and additionally the iPhone 3GS processor, an 800 MHz Arm processor underclocked to 600 MHz, slightly bests Droid's processor, which is a 550 MHz Arm processor.  However, with Droid trumping the iPhone 3GS in many other areas, Apple is reportedly a bit spooked.  According to Boy Genius Report, the Cupertino giant is considering a $99 8 GB iPhone 3GS in time for the holiday season.

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My mini-review
By JuPO5b4REqAYbSPUlMcP on 11/9/2009 12:47:27 PM , Rating: 1
I've used since Friday Morning, a good 3 days worth. I am thinking of returning mine.

1. The battery life hasn't lasted more than 14 hours, even with moderate use. The phone has died overnight with 10-40% charge as I went to sleep.

2. The GPS/latitude functions absolutely drain this thing dry. They are almost useless, in other words. You MUST remember to turn off GPS after you use it or you are looking at 4-5 hour use.

3. I left wifi on last night, and the phone was dead this morning. apparently you can't tell it to time out if it can't find a signal?

4. Phone has hung 2-3 times a day using built-in apps. On Saturday I couldn't power it on until I removed and put back the battery.

5. Miss having crucial information on the home screen like calendar entries and other crucial information.

6. App selection is pretty bad. The few games I tried were very lame.

7. GPS accuracy is fairly bad. My girlfriend's iPhone is accurate to a few hundred feet. The Droid was putting my location .5 miles away.

The good:
- Best browser. Noticeably faster than iphone's, and I prefer the interface to any other browser.
- Gorgeous display.
- Sound quality is much better than any phone I've used. The reviews pan the voice quality but I'm amazed by it.

This phone was released unready. I recommend waiting until they update the firmware/software a few times. The hardware seems decent it is the software than needs work.

RE: My mini-review
By damianrobertjones on 11/9/2009 3:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
I like your honesty, instead of the 'this phooon rulez'

Refreshing. Google does usually = unfinished.

BUT saying that, the Hero is a nice phone.

RE: My mini-review
By mcnabney on 11/9/2009 3:48:03 PM , Rating: 2
1. Turn off WiFi if you aren't using it. In fact, there is a nice little, free, app just to manage power with a minimum of fuss.
2. The extreme stress tests have this thing going through the battery in 7 hours when the processor is running something complicated, brightness set to max, GPS on, and all radios going (BT, WiFi, EVDO, CDMA). Not too bad. I put the thing in the dock every night and I have never seen more than one bar missing. I don't really use it for games though.
3. Odd that you are having GPS issues. Mine is very accurate. Might be something wrong with the calibration. If you go back to the store, have the store device and your device pull-up their locations and see if it is just your phone.
4. The app store will grow, especially with so many devices coming down the pipe. It took a long time for Apple to hit 100k, but I don't see a reason Android won't.
5. I totally agree with you about video and voice quality. I don't think that the press is really explaining how sharp an image this damn thing can produce. And the voice quality is flawless - something else seldom mentioned - but I also noticed that my music also sounds better now. I'm not really sure what is in the Droid that causes this.

RE: My mini-review
By Spuke on 11/9/2009 7:06:57 PM , Rating: 2
Does it have stereo bluetooth? Thanks.

RE: My mini-review
By mcnabney on 11/10/2009 1:24:03 AM , Rating: 2

RE: My mini-review
By Cr0nJ0b on 11/10/2009 10:18:51 AM , Rating: 2
I always find it interesting when I read responses like this. The issue as I read it is that the phone isn't ready. Nothing pisses me off more than buying a $300+ product and finding that some idiot forgot to add the basic details that a user would need. Your response though, can be summed up as... "there's a fix for that!"

You don't like the battery life..."there's a fix for that"

You don't like the wifi leaving itself on..."there's a fix for that"

GPS isn't working..."there's a patch for that"

I think the point is that if the product doesn't work as advertised out of the box, sans tweaks, you have failed in the development department. I'm just not sure if it's google's developers or Mototola's developers who should be help to account.

RE: My mini-review
By Spuke on 11/12/2009 3:31:53 PM , Rating: 2
point is that if the product doesn't work as advertised out of the box
What doesn't work on it? I read it that there's some configurations he would like to see not that things didn't work.

RE: My mini-review
By sxr7171 on 11/12/2009 5:31:15 PM , Rating: 2
I know the feeling. As a former Nokia customer, trust me I know the feeling.

I don't know how they would rush it out before even figuring out power management for GPS and Wi-Fi. That's the kind of thing that makes you wonder if these guys are serious. It's the same exact same feeling I had with Nokia.

It's fine to miss some functionality, but it's not okay to release a device in such a condition that you wonder if one actual human being tested it out for one day before shipping the whole lot out.

RE: My mini-review
By heulenwolf on 11/10/2009 12:03:03 PM , Rating: 2
GPS can perform extremely poorly in certain unfavorable environments such as indoors or in "urban canyons." Apple supplements GPS with their Skyhook service which can get a reasonable estimate based on cellular towers and wifi base stations even in places where GPS performs poorly. While 1/2 mile error shouldn't be the norm for GPS, its certainly within the max error GPS can have in worst case scenarios. That's the problem with GPS for people tracking that system developers don't often take into account: most of the time error is in the single or double digit meters, a small fraction of the time error is in the triple-digit meters or single-digit kilometers. The GPS chip makers or board vendors still do poorly in detecting and reporting when the error is ridiculous. Is it always off by that much or just the one sample?

This explanation isn't meant as an excuse for the Droid. Better system design can solve this problem if they make it a priority. Its just an explanation of how GPS isn't the solution we consumers want it to be all by itself, yet.

RE: My mini-review
By Hoser McMoose on 11/12/2009 10:26:38 PM , Rating: 2
GPS can perform extremely poorly in certain unfavorable environments such as indoors or in "urban canyons."

One other point of note, GPS accuracy after a 'cold boot' of the GPS chip (which will certainly happen when the phone is brand new and may or may not happen when you pull the battery) will typically be very inaccurate for this first 15 to 20 minutes until it downloads the GPS almanac. Seeing a half-mile error within the first few minutes of powering up a brand new GPS device is not unexpected.

RE: My mini-review
By sxr7171 on 11/12/2009 5:27:20 PM , Rating: 2
I appreciate your honesty and despite currently using an iPhone GS, I wanted this phone to blow away the iPhone.

Some things you list need to be put into perspective.

1. 14hours is fine for a modern smartphone. Every smartphone I've bought needs about one week for the battery to develop it's full usable life. Also any new toy will be used a lot since it is new. 14 hours under moderate to heavy use on a new battery actually bodes well for battery life. As a 3GS user I can tell you that if I forget to charge it even one night it will die by mid-morning the second day. I'm actually a very light user. I use it for e-mail and about 1 hour of music a day. A friend of mine tells me that the Palm Pre has slightly worse battery life than the 3GS.

2. GPS battery life sounds terrible. In most phones leaving it on will kill it. But I think Apple and even Nokia have found ways to conserve power with intelligent auto-on/off functionality even when a GPS app is running. I hope there is a software fix for this.

3. Yes, a real problem. Sounds like the software isn't as thought out as it should be. Reminds me of Nokia.

4. This is a real problem. iPhone OS post 2.1 has been the most stable phone OS I have used in my life bar none. I'm not a fan of its UI or its lack of openness and lack of multitasking but its stability keeps me a customer.

5. Yeah this is very "Apple-like" where form is pushed above function. I can see why Apple would do it, but I would expect better from Google. This lack of home screen thing better not become a trend.

6. I guess it's got to start somewhere.

7. Bad news. I hope it's software fixable.

Would really like for the GSM version to come out, but I must admit this the first time I have ever been jealous of a Verizon customer's phone selection.

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