Release Date: 11/9/2009
OS: Android Froyo 2.1
Carrier: Verizon Wireless
The Good: Excellent design, lots of power, superb features from Google, amazing camera
The Bad: App store is still young, processes running in the background kills battery life, keyboard is a bit cumbersome
Google has been known for revolutionizing the internet and now they are with their Android phones. The Motorola DROID (A855) is the newest and most advanced phone on the market right now, and this bad boy does an awful lot. A lot of people are going to compare this phone to the iPhone, but the DROID trumps the iPhone in features and freedom. I will discuss, first, the tech specs and compare them to the iPhone head-to-head so you can see how powerful the DROID truly is.
The DROID has a 550 MHz processor, and to be specific the Arm Cortex A8 processor that is also present in the iPhone 3GS by Samsung. The 3GS is clocked only 50 MHz higher and can be overclocked to 800 MHz. To compare that the original Xbox has a 733 MHz processor. So can the DROID be overclocked to this as well? Most likely. With a monster processor, the DROID can multitask and has one of the first actual mobile OS (besides Windows Mobile 7). This also means maintaining processes running in the background to gain battery life, uninstalling apps (not just deleting them), and a lot more, but we’ll get to that later. The iPhone, however, can not multitask due to the OS running on it, and the processor is only used in games.
When it comes to graphics the DROID still hasn’t been pushed to its limits. There are very few 3D games on the Android Market, but as of right now the iPhone stomps the DROID in the graphics department. The DROID has a 200 MHz PowerVR SGX 530 GPU. The iPhone has the same, but due to the slightly better CPU, is can currently outperform the DROID. The iPhone has been on the market for quite some time, so there are bigger better games available. The DROID should start getting the same quality soon. They both have 256MB of RAM, so under the hood, they are pretty much the same.
The DROID has a slightly bigger screen sizing in at 3.7″ and the iPhone at 3.5″. Do 2 millimeters matter? Yes, it does. There are a good 2 millimeters on the top of the iPhone that could be a screen, but for some unknown reason, it’s not. The DROID has a higher resolution of 854×480 and 265 PPI (pixels per inch). The 3GS has a 320×480 resolution with only 163 ppi so the DROID has double the resolution of the iPhone. That is great for people wanting to watch high-res movies on their device.
Both devices have the same input such as the 3 axis accelerometer (tilt sensor), digital compass, Multi-touch display, proximity and ambient light sensors etc. The DROID is a bit heavier than the 3GS, but only by 1.2 oz. The DROID wipes the floor with the 3GS’ camera. The DROID camera is 5MP compared to the 3GS 3MP. The DROID has dual LED flash and geotagging and it can even run higher than 30 FPS. The 3GS has all this except the dual LED flash and this is a huge plus.
When it comes to storage the DROID wins with its external memory option. You can insert up to a 32GB micro-SD card, but you’re stuck with the 3GS’ internal memory and have to pay a huge price for more. The DROID even comes with a 16GB micro- card when you buy the phone. So when it comes to comparing junk under the hood they both have the same hardware, but the DROID has the extra tidbits that push it over the edge.
GUI: Graphical User Interface
The DROID has an excellent GUI and the whole marketplace is run by the community. There are programs such as PandaHome, OpenHome, GDEHome etc that allow you to change “themes” for a small price or for free. These also change icons, clock widgets etc. The DROID has a great interface that is more like a computer that gives you a desktop, then a slide up the menu where all your apps are stored. You can drag and drop as you see fit. The iPhone, however, is plagued with the mundane Apple OS that only show apps in a grid format with a black background. Sure you can change your “wallpaper” but this is only when the phone comes out of sleep mode so it’s rarely seen. This makes every iPhone look the same so the DROID wins in customization by a long shot. There are four touch buttons located at the bottom of the screen which are your back button, menu, home, and search. You will use these buttons a lot so Motorola and Google were smart to put these here.
Apps: Who’s Better?
It all comes down to the apps. Who has more right? Well, the iTunes marketplace has hundreds of thousands of apps that the DROID doesn’t have so the iPhone wins there. However, the Android market is ever-growing, and thanks to the user run community a lot of great apps are showing up that the iPhone can’t run. These include a lot of customization apps and loads more. Apps are easier to run on the DROID since there is no iTunes type program. The app store is run off the phone, downloaded from the phone as well. If you don’t want an app anymore you go to your settings and uninstall it. Google also allows you to refund anything you buy within 24 hours and Apple does not support this. While iTunes may have more stuff, Android has better customer service and a better community and setup. There are really no “hardcore” games for the DROID like there is for the iPhone, but it’s getting there. You do not want to get a DROID for a gaming system just yet for sure; stick with your iPod/phone.
Features: Welcome to Google Town
The DROID has a lot of little things going on in it. You can do everything a touch screen phone can do, but it also has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The buttons were a little flat and the top row is hard to get at if you have big fingers, but it works well. If you tilt the phone sideways you can type with a landscape keyboard or use Google text-to-speech. I found this feature extremely useful when typing long messages or writing reviews for apps. Since this is a Google phone you get all their awesome apps such as Google Earth (yes it’s in 3D and you can see every detail) and Google maps. Switch to your “car app” and press navigation. Speak your selection (i.e. Phoenix, Arizona) and Google will give you directions for a car, bus, or walk (God forbid you to walk that far!). Press get to navigate and the phone will speak you the directions. It doesn’t update in real-time, but it does update as you drive down each block.
Google Sky is a fun app that lets you point your phone in the sky and it will show you, in real-time, where each constellation and the planet is. You get plenty of excellent Google apps such as Gmail, YouTube (yeah Google owns YouTube), and Google Goggles which allows you to take pictures of products or objects and the phone will scan it and search it for you. There’s even a Google search bar on the desktop with a text-to-speech button next to it. Brilliant. There are plenty of other apps such as the Amazon store, eBay, Bank of America, MLIA, FML, and even ShopSavvy. This app allows you to scan a barcode and it will tell you where you can find it cheaper online or locally. Of course, you have all your social networking apps like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace which run great.
When it comes to things like ringtones, pictures, and videos, the DROID delivers. You can store any MP3, or picture and set them as wallpapers, notifications, or just ringtones. Mount your SD card via USB and just create the folders. No having to sync with a program on the PC. Total freedom is what Google gives you and this is what I love.
Problems: It’s Not Perfect
There are some issues with the DROID, but not many and they are minor. The biggest one is the running processes in the background that can kill your battery even in sleep mode. You have to get the Advanced App Killer app and every so often check everything you don’t want running and kill the apps. Another problem I ran into was that since most of the apps are user made they can be glitchy and screw up your phone so watch out and read reviews before downloading anything. You could say that the major issue is the app store. There is a lot of apps, but some of it is junk. There aren’t any excellent games available, and the app store doesn’t have any sort feature except Top Paid, Top Free, and Just In.
For a $550 phone (if you pay for it without a plan) the DROID delivers and trumps the iPhone in every direction except the apps. The DROID is a very advanced phone and is for people who love using their phones constantly and make it a part of their everyday life. With a sleek design, excellent features, sturdy hardware, and monster processing power the DROID should be the #1 phone in 2010.
Now after I have had this phone for 18 months I don’t like it as much. The phone started having issues with serious lag, slowdown, and just hardly responds anymore. The touch screen lost sensitivity after about a year, plus the hardware is ancient compared to what is out now. Due to that, all the apps are now optimized for higher-end phones so the Droid is left in the dust.
Overall the phone just doesn’t really work anymore internally. It won’t come out of sleep mode some times, won’t answer calls, turns off randomly, and the internet is just impossible to surf due to the now weak processor. Hardware wise it has stood the test of time with many drops, slides, fumbles, and kicks. Not a single crack or anything, but thankfully this phone is now discontinued. If you have the original Droid you are probably finding the same problems even after a factory reset. The phone was great 22 months ago, but now I just absolutely hate this thing. If I were to amend my score I would give it a 4/10 now, but of course, that’s unfair and should be remembered for how great it was at the time of release. Did I also mention that the appraisal price for the phone is about $20 nowadays?