Droid X vs. iPhone 3G: Review #1

This is preliminary, based on three days with the Droid X.

In short: Droid X is a fantastic phone, very customisable to what the user wants, but the iPhone does still trump for usability and simplicity. I love Droid X, and if/when Verizon gets an iPhone, I wouldn’t automatically jump back to it. It would actually be a very tough choice between the two. But I wouldn’t buy a Droid X for my Dad, as the iPhone’s simplicity would suit him better.

Droid XWhat I like:

Customisation: Incredibly customisable. I can choose what notifies me and how. I can choose not just what apps appear on what pages, but add widgets to pages. (This is an awesome feature that is much cooler, IMHO, than the iPhone “tons and tons of icons”.) The one thing that is a little tricky is getting used to where the settings live. Some live in the main Settings area and some live within the app itself. But no huge deal, really.

Set up: Set up was fairly easy for me. Added all my accounts quickly. The harder part was getting the right balance of notifications. I get a lot of email, especially through my corporate email. I don’t need you to vibrate everything time I receive an email! Or that phone would never be still.

Notifications: I love the pull-down notification window. So much better than the iPhone’s one-notification-overrides-another thing.

Display: Love the screen – it’s huge and looks way better than my 3G screen did. I know that the iPhone 4 screen is supposed to be the greatest screen ever created (blah blah blah) but I’m loving Droid X’s.

Sign in: The pattern sign in is crazy cool! Instead of a numeric code, you can sign in based on a pattern of connecting dots.

Outlook and Exchange sync: The basic integration with corporate email is okay, but not great. E.g. I can view calendar notices, and know that someone invited me to a meeting, but not reply to them. (You could reply on iPhone.) However, I downloaded the TouchDown app which integrates better than iPhone. Not only can you reply to calendar invites, but you can create them, including adding people, and syncs with tasks. This is huge for me, as I’m a big user of Outlook tasks and always found it frustrating that I couldn’t get access to my tasks on the iPhone. (There are third party applications you can use for this, but they crashed my desktop Outlook so it was a no-go.) Without a third party app like TouchDown, I’d say that iPhone’s Exchange is better, but with TouchDown, Android wins. And for the record, I’m willing to buy apps that make my life easier, so that’s not a “lose” for me.

Google Voice: The Google Voice integration is awesome. On iPhone, it would forward SMS to my phone but nothing more than that. Right now Google Voice is controlling my whole phone, transcribing voicemail etc. It’s fantastic.

Typing: Having played around with others’ Droid (the original Droid, not Droid X) I was wondering how the keyboard would go. The iPhone on-screen keyboard just seemed better than Droid’s. However, the Droid X keyboard is great, very good at predicting and correcting. I also like the way that the selection and copy/paste works.

Camera: is amazing. Zoom and flash? Awesome! Only downside is that I don’t have the steadiest hands, and it does seem like sometimes it doesn’t want to take the pic because I can’t hold the camera steady enough.

In-built navigator: I have nav in my car, but still, awesome!

Universal inbox: Pulls all your unread emails, texts, Facebook messages (etc) together from all your accounts so you can read unread mail in one place. Very cool!

Network: So far, Verizon is kicking AT&T’s ass, but to be fair, I’ve had three days on Verizon and only a few phone calls, compared with two years of experience with AT&T, where the bad may stand out more than the good. I will say though that the 3G data (e.g. web browsing) is a lot faster on my Droid X. Not sure how much is the device and browser vs. the network though.

What could be improved:

Battery life: So far, battery life hasn’t been great. I do think it will get better as I get used to a phone that multi-tasks and manage the battery better, and I also hear that Froyo will help in that respect too. I made it about half the day before it was already at 50%, and that wasn’t actually with crazy-heavy usage. My only goal is for it to be the same as my 3G was. (I could make it a day but not with heavy usage.)

HootSuite Android application: Okay so this one isn’t Motorola or Android’s fault, but the HootSuite app for iPhone is way better than the HootSuite app for Android. HootSuite for Android unfortunately only supports multiple Twitter accounts, but no Facebook accounts. This was a huge portion of my iPhone use, so I’m seriously begging for an update to this ASAP. In the meantime though, the social networks feature that comes with the Droid X does let me post to Twitter and Facebook, but only to one account of each.

User-friendly-ness: [I know that’s not a word, but you know what I mean] I love Droid X so far. But I would buy my Dad an iPhone. It’s just more intuitive and easy to use for those who don’t want to put in the time to figure out all the nuances. But for those who want a ton of control over their device, Android seems better in my opinion.

Droid X vs. iPhone 3G: The Back Story

Recently I made the switch from an iPhone 3G with AT&T to a Motorola Droid X with Verizon. There will likely be a number of posts of the transition, as folks sure do seem curious!

A little background: In the United States (where I’m located) the iPhone is exclusive to the AT&T network. Unlike in other countries where you can get an iPhone on any network, if you want the device you need to be with AT&T. My husband and I were with AT&T prior to the iPhone, using Motorola Razr. We weren’t thrilled with them to begin with, but stayed when the iPhone was released. Our frustration with AT&T (even back then) was the network quality. We frequently raised our eyebrows at the AT&T “network with the fewest dropped calls” tagline. Not in our experience … !

We jumped on the iPhone bandwagon with the 3G. Now, let me say very clearly: I really like the iPhone. The switch wasn’t motivated by a hatred of the device itself. My two years with iPhone were mostly enjoyable ones. It synced my work and personal email. It gave me on-the-go access to my calendar. It let me access Twitter and Facebook and mobile banking. It was my first smartphone, and I loved it. But as far as making calls go, well …. it wasn’t actually so great at that …

About a year in to our two-year contract, I’d had enough. I called AT&T and they blamed it on the device. Their argument was that because I got so many dropped calls in all different places, it had to be the device, not their network … even though I was on their network in all of those places. So I followed their advice, had to completely factory restore the phone (massive pain, by the way, since my contacts weren’t synced with anything) and nothing changed. In fact, the Genius Bar tech looked at my phone data and said I’d dropped 20% of my calls in the last week. Sadly, that actually sounded a little lower than usual. I also had a wonderful conversion with an AT&T employee that went like this:

Me: “So what if I restore my iPhone to factory settings, follow all the instructions both you and Apple give me, and nothing changes. You’re telling me that you will do nothing about this?”
(I had asked about them waiving the early termination charge, or
anything, really!)

AT&T: “Yes, that’s right.”

Now, at the same time, my 3G had become very buggy. Buttons becoming unresponsive, text taking a long time to type, etc. (I heard, from those who switched to 3GS, that it was much more stable and responsive, but the 3G did seem to be on its last legs.)

A few months shy of our contract expiration date, iPhone 4 came out. I was torn. On the one hand, I wanted off AT&T. On the other hand, it did look good. On the other hand, I actually wasn’t as blown away by as I had expected iPhone 4. (Wow, I have a lot of hands …) Given the anticipation, I expected more. You can read my thoughts on it here. I will, however, confess: I actually pre-ordered one. Okay, another confession: I actually pre-ordered TWO. (One for my husband, one for me.) But I couldn’t stand to go pick it up. It gave me an uncomfortable feeling, like I was a fool who had been duped.

So I left the iPhone 4, and started researching Android. It seemed like it might fit for me. I’m a huge fan of Google Voice, which I heard integrates well. Based on the devices on the market, and upcoming handsets, I chose Droid X.

Which brings us to now. We ordered our Droid Xs on a Sunday, they arrived on Thursday. Verizon had set us up with temporary numbers until we port over our AT&T numbers, so until our contract ends (a week after receiving our Xs) we are using the temporary numbers to get used to the phone. (Naturally, if we port our numbers to Verizon even a day early, AT&T will charge us $60.)

But you want to hear the best part? We signed up for AT&T U-Verse at a time when AT&T were giving you $400 in gift cards to sign up. We paid for our Verizon Droids with AT&T’s $400!

So this brings me to the actual review …