High Programmer > Alan De Smet > Rants > Reviews > Android phone review: Three weeks with Droids

Android phone review: Three weeks with Droids

I've had Android based phones for a bit over three weeks now. I initially had a Droid Incredible for about 2 weeks then moved to Motorola Droid. Both Droids were on Verizon, while the iPhone they replaced was on AT&T. In short: I was sick of my iPhone, the Droid Incredible isn't very good, and I'm quite happy with my Motorola Droid.

Form Factor

All of the phones are similar. The Droid is the largest, but it's not so large that I care. I liked the Droid Incredible's rubberized back the best, and the partially rubberized Droid's back next, while slightly disliking the iPhone's slick metal back. However, that's a very minor issue.

Winner: Tie


iPhone: Good. A bit lower than the Droids, but not a problem. Readable in sunlight.

Droid Incredible: Weak. Beautiful inside, but almost unusable in sunlight.

Droid: Very good. Apple's silly "Retina Display" aside, apparently about 240 DPI is where I stop seeing pixels under normal conditions. Looks great. Readable in sunlight.

Winner: Droid


iPhone: Erratic, with lots of dead zones. My gut says that the antenna itself is fine, the problem is AT&T.

Droid Incredible: Unusable garbage. Barely usable service in my house and plenty of other locations. I never saw 4 out of 4 bars of signal, and 3 out of 4 was rare. It might be matter of being poorly calibrated, but since the signal meter can be calibrated however the manufacturer likes, why would they calibrate it to look bad?

Droid: Strong reception. I've seen a handful of dead zones inside of large buildings.

Winner: Droid, by virtue of a good antenna and Verizon's excellent coverage.

Battery life

iPhone: Good. Only good for about a day and a half, I never particularly feared I was going to run out in less than a day. A day of moderate use might leave me at 30% battery left.

Droid Incredible: Unusable garbage. I was constantly trying to minimize battery usage to make it a full day. On one occasion it failed. What's the point of having a 1 Ghz processor and beautiful screen if I can't use them as I will. Interestingly, the battery report claims it's spending most of the battery on "Cell standby" and "Phone idle." If just idling drains the battery in about 16 hours, this is crap battery. When I returned the Incredible for this very reason, the Verizon person said she though it was okay; she just had to remember to charge her Droid Eris immediately when she got home. This is a sad coping mechanism for a bad phone.

Droid: Very good. I can play games, browse the web, check email, and make moderately heavy use and still have 50% of the battery left at the end of the day. I have no worries about draining the battery under normal usage. I did turn the brightness down to the bottom, but I find the screen plenty bright that way.

Winner: Droid, although the iPhone is close behind. The Droid Incredible completely fails.

Main User Interface

This is the application switching user interface and the stock applications.

iPhone: Nice and functional. A bit annoying that removing an app in the middle of the screen causes all of the rest of the app icons to move. Applications are fine.

Droid Incredible: HTC's Sense UI is well designed and polished. I preferred it to the iPhone user interface. But Sense UI comes at the expense of slower Android operating system updates.

Droid: Droid just has the basic Android user interface. It's a bit clunky in places, but is perfectly serviceable. Having a single list of all of the applications alphabetized is nice, but only having three screens of "quick" links is lame. It's good enough, but not quite as good as the iPhone's interface.

Winner: Droid Incredible/HTC Sense UI, followed closely by the iPhone, then the Droid.

App Store

iPhone: Apple's app store is well moderated. The highest ranked lists of apps tend to be genuinely good apps. The comments aren't full of spam. However, you don't get told what access a given app will use and many apps will never be available because Apple doesn't want them there.

Android: Google's app store is a mess. The highly rated apps are frequently garbage. Many are obviously copyright infringing, including a glut of jigsaw puzzles and wallpapers for popular television series and movies that I'm confident aren't licensed. The comments are glutted with spammers advertising their own sites, mostly app warez sites. Finding good stuff is hard. However, there is good stuff in there. And once you decide you want a particular app, you're told exactly what access to your phone the app needs, a great feature. Furthermore, the restrictions on what can enter the App Store is very limited; as a result the average quality is lower, but you're not facing Apple's censorship. I value freedom to run what I want on my phone highly, so this is important to me.

Winner: Tie. The iPhone app store is a better experience, but it comes with Apple's fickle censorship. Apple also needs to tell you what access a given application will use up front.


iPhone: Solid virtual keyboard with very good auto-correction.

Droid Incredible: Good virtual keyboard with good auto-correction. The keyboard was actually hard to use until I calibrated it, which was a bit annoying.

Droid: Good virtual keyboard with good auto-correction. Also, a physical keyboard. My iPhone taught me that I could live without a physical keyboard, but the Droid Incredible convinced me that a physical keyboard is a great bonus. I can see more of the screen while typing, helpful for large forms, email, or crossword puzzles. It makes using SSH much more pleasant. Unfortunately Droid's physical keyboard is only so-so, the very flat design makes it a bit harder to accurately type with your thumbs.

Winner: Droid. The iPhone is currently the best virtual keyboard I've used, but the physical keyboard is too nice of a bonus.

Random other thoughts

With great power comes great responsibility. With multitasking and minimal app review comes the responsibility of managing your own battery. Happily, Android comes with a handy Battery application that tells you what applications and hardware have been using up the battery. Typically I don't worry about it, but when my battery drains surprisingly fast it's handy to open it up and see which app was the offender.

The web browser on Android has a nice trick. In addition to zooming in on a column of text when you double tap on it, it actually zooms in to make the font a nice readable width. If the column is too wide, it dynamically narrows the column appropriately. It Just Works and makes reading web pages even easier.


I love my Droid. It's a great phone, and I anticipate being happy with it for years.

I wanted to love the Droid Incredible, but I was constantly watching the battery. Unusable garbage.

I demand freedom with the things I own, and this includes my smartphone. As such, I'm glad to be rid of Apple. That I'm also rid of the malign incompetence of AT&T is a bonus.

2010-08-18: Typo fix. "I failed" became "it failed".

This page can be discussed over in my comments. There are currently comments.

Contact webmaster - Copyright © 2010 Alan De Smet (2010-06-27)