Android Motorola Droid and HTC Hero Review from an iPhone Perspective -- Smartphone Round Robin

android-iphone4

Google's Android was last year's "new thing", and while Palm's webOS takes that place this year, Android Central brings us their second generation hardware with the likes of the HTC Hero, and the 2.0 version of its OS with the Motorola Droid. That Google enjoys massive tech-geek cachet while at the same time maturing into two such different (potentially fractured?) sets of hardware and software, while being the cloud company and yet not enjoying the most cloud-centric OS in the 2009 Smartphone Round Robin are what make it potentially the most interesting platform this year.

To help me figure it all out, Casey Chan went over the finer points for me and the Android Central Forum members provided tons of great feedback. Thanks to all the 'droidekas!

(And just a reminder, every day you post on my Android Central thread, or any of the official Round Robin threads, is another day you're entered to win one of six (6!) new smartphones!)

Okay, time to get Androidy with it... after the break!

Android: Take Two

First, here's the Droid and Hero tour I got, courtesy of Casey.


[YouTube Video link]

And here are the rest of the contextual links:

iPhone Rene and Android Casey

Hardware Design

Android's two entries in the 2009 Smartphone Round Robin couldn't be any more different. One is made my Motorola, the other by HTC. One runs on Verizon, the other on Sprint (or also on Verizon under the name Droid Eris -- more on that later). One is vanilla Android 2.0, the other is HTC's Sense UI. One is an HD slider, the other an SD slab. One's design harkens to the hard edges of the Millennium Falcon (if MC Hammer had repainted it), and the other the softer lines of the princess (if that irony isn't too rich).

Droid

More specifically, the Droid is a well built slider, impossibly thin -- iPhone thin -- for a device with that type of keyboard. However, that type of keyboard is woefully inadequate on the Droid. It's so flat and so lacking in separation, it really feels like little more than the stick-on it is. If having a better keyboard would have meant having a thicker Droid, I would have been fine with that. Oh, and that 5-way? Yeah, it's a 5-way. It confused all of us. It looks like the chip on our new credit cards, feels like it should be a a touch pad, but it seems to be a 5-way. I'm still not sure though. All I know is that it shoves an already poor keyboard all the way to the even-less functional left.

Again, the irony of mocking Apple as having form over function should not be lost. Other than that -- and it's a big "that" for the hardware keyboard set -- the build quality here is top notch. (Okay, maybe the camera is disappointing given its specs, but like others I hold hope for a software fix).

The screen is fantastic, however. Big and bright and 16:9, it's very much what the next generation of smartphones should be.

android-iphone7

Hero

The Hero is just as well built. Depending on what version you get, it can be chinned or chinless, but the basic clean curves and clear screen is the same. It isn't the monster the Droid is -- it doesn't have the huge keyboard or screen or camera, but that's the point. Not everyone wants a monster, and for those who want more of (I'll say it!) an iPhone form-factor, the Hero might just be the better Android hardware.

android-iphone5

Software Experience

Where to start? Android is now on version 1.5. Or 1.6. Or 2.0. Or maybe 2.1 in beta. And its UI is the Google Experience. Or HTC Sense UI. Or MotoBlur. Or some other stuff like Samsung or Sony are spinning. Is that a software experience or software schism? More on that later.

android-iphone6

Droid/with Google Software

The Motorola Droid runs a Google version of Android 2.0. Compared to previous "with Google" devices, it's good if not great, powerful if not polished. Lightyears ahead of the G1 I tried last year (where it would ask for input when none was possible), but it's still not the iPhone US. It's still inconsistent, and for whatever reason, even though Android 2.0 supports multi-touch, the Google apps on the Droid don't. (And yes that makes a difference on a capacitive device).

If you're heavily invested in Google services (like I am, and like most geeks are), you won't find a better shipping device that supports those services. From a real, honest-to-threads-and-labels Gmail app, to free Google Maps Navigation in the US, if you've decided Google's convenience is worth more than your privacy (and it's a very convenient convenience, which is why most of us have), then deciding Google's own platform best leverages that isn't a hard second step.

As to the rest of the OS, it's pretty much what we saw last year. It's got multitasking but not as well visually represented as Palm's webOS. It's got far better notifications than the iPhone, even if again they may not be as well handled by the UI as webOS. It's also got apps. Not as many as the iPhone, of course, but building quickly and given the open nature of the Android Market, while the apps may not be as many or as polished as the iPhone, they have apps Apple won't even let in the store. (Not coincidentally Google's own Latitude and Voice.

Hero Sense UI

Unlike the Google experience on the Droid, HTC has wrapped up the Hero in Sense UI, an evolution of the TouchFlo UI they previously lacquered on top of Windows Mobile (and will be using going forward on that platform as well).

It's widgety and beautiful, and works much better on the Hero's capacitive screen than its predecessor did on the Touch Pro in last year's Round Robin. The weather animation is still something I unabashedly hope Apple somehow integrates into the iPhone OS. It's still slightly less intuitive and consistent to me than the iPhone UI -- but the eye candy alone balances the scales.

The tradeoff -- and there's always a tradeoff -- is that it takes time for HTC to spin their Sense UI on top of Android updates, so while "with Google" devices might go to 2.0 sooner, HTC might only get a Sense UI version out later.

And This is Where it Gets Interesting

To recap: Google offers Android on a liberal, open-source license. Motorola makes MotoBlur for their Android devices, but not for the Droid which uses the Google experience. Actually, Verizon owns the Droid trademark and they also offer a Droid Eris, but that's made by HTC and is otherwise called the Hero and runs Sense UI. HTC also made the G1 and myTouch which don't run Sense UI. Oh, and the Droid off Verizon will be called the Milestone.

Apple has the iPhone.

Brand-aid

Contrast those two paragraphs. As a consumer, if you want an iPhone you get an iPhone. As a consumer, I'm not even sure if you know what an Android device is. I've seen Droid commercials here in Canada, but that device won't exist in Canada. I go to my local carrier and try to buy one and get what... confused? And if HTC runs Sense UI on top of Android and Windows Mobile, do I buy an HTC device and not even notice what's running underneath? Or do I just get a Verizon device like Droid or Eris and never know they're Android or are the Milestone and Hero?

What I'm getting to there is branding. Apple offers a single, consistent brand. Google's Android is sundered amid who knows how many brands and while that doesn't hurt individual devices, could it hurt the platform as a whole? (We'll be covering Windows Phone next week, which Micrsoft is now calling Windows Phone because it seems many people who had Windows Mobile devices had no idea what platform they actually had -- does that answer the question? We'll see.)

evolution_of_android

Frak-ture

So the Droid outside Verizon will be the Milestone. And the G1/myTouch off T-Mobile are the Magic/Dream, and on my carrier they might be stuck on Android 1.5 forever, because Google only updates "with Google" devices and HTC may only be updating Sense UI devices, and Rogers certainly doesn't seem to care. These are devices sold in 2009.

To contrast again, even an iPhone 2G from 2007 is currently running the latest iPhone 3.1.2 software.

I'm tempted to say for an average consumer it won't matter because they won't even be aware of updates. They'll buy the device they want and when and if it doesn't update (if they even know it didn't update) they'll just buy the next device. But I don't think many average consumers buy Android devices yet (possibly with the exception of the much-hyped Droid on Verizon, who had a paucity of smartphone selection previous to its release).

In general, I think more savvy, geeky users seek out Android, and seek it out specifically, and they're exactly the type of user who will and should care.

And not just because they may not get the latest Android OS, but because the breadth of Android platforms out there, from 1.5 to beta 2.1 makes a huge target for developers, and not in the good sense of the term. With the iPhone (and iPod touch) there are 50+ million users most of whom updated to 3.x at some point when they plugged into iTunes (and we won't get into Google still lacking an offline sync/backup/media management tool like iTunes). So the choice for developers is targeting tens of millions of almost identical Apple devices, or nearly a dozen Google phones on 4 different versions of the OS, running one of 3 different UI layers, with at least two different screen resolutions and an odd assortment of input methods (touch only, touch and keyboard, touch and keyboard and trackball/trackpad/etc.)

To put that in some form of end-user perspective, when I first got the G1 last year I went to Android Market and downloaded a Snake game and was told to "push up to start", and it took forever for me to figure out what "up" they meant. (The screen, the keyboard, the trackball?)

When one of our writers got the Droid, she tweeted exactly the same problem.

It's hard enough to make a truly spectacular app. It's harder still to make it when you can't count on consistent hardware specs or software implementations. Users may not know or notice this, but they feel the lack of great user experience it can lead to.

(Apple needs to pay attention to at least part of this as well if they intend to compete in screen resolution this year).

android_force_close

That Android Thing

Let's be clear -- as much as Apple runs iTunes on low-margins to promote the sale of iPods (including the iPhone), Google gives away web services to promote the attraction of our eyeballs to their advertising. They're just as happy if those eyeballs are looking at Google services on an Apple or Microsoft or Rim or Palm or whatever platform, but if Microsoft or Apple (for example) ever locked Google out to promote their own services (like Bing or MobileMe), Google would have a problem. (Just look at how Facebook locks out Google for an example).

Enter Android. By having their own platform on the market, Google knows there's one place from which they can never be locked out. And more than that, they can use it as a lever to promote the technologies that best serve Google services -- things that make the web, and hence WebApps run faster and more reliably. That's good for everybody, but make no mistake -- Google does it because it's good for Google first and foremost.

I state all this not because that makes Google any different from any other for-profit company -- or platform in the Round Robin -- but because it makes it the same, and for some reason the technorati often likes to assume Google is different. No company is. I'm not sure any company can realistically afford to be.

Which brings us back to Android. Google's current Mobile OS is a conundrum. It's a traditional platform OS from the company that's usually anything but. I still half-suspect Android was acquired solely for the reason stated above -- to guarantee Google couldn't be locked out of the mobile space. Then when Palm released webOS, Google smacked their head and Chrome OS was born. That the most traditional of all smartphone companies beat the new kid, Google to the web-ification of mobile is amazing, and it raises some interesting questions and concerns about the Android platform.

Apple made the iPhone because Steve Jobs wanted an iPhone. Yeah they figured they could sell 50 million of them, but primarily Jobs is a diva who wanted to dent the universe one more time. I'm guessing RIM makes BlackBerrys because they're just as passionate about that pushy little platform. Elevation Partners may be sinking money into Palm in a bet to get a part of the huge mobile pot of the future, but if Rubinstein hadn't have wanted it he could have stayed retired on his giant pile of Apple-bucks and let Palm churn out the Treo 900. And Microsoft... well I don't really get the feeling Ballmer cares about Windows Mobile any further than he thinks Microsoft needs that screen in its collection, and I think that's part of their core problem (but we'll get to that next week).

Google has much the same problem as Microsoft -- the people at the top don't seem to be, and really don't need to be, as passionate about their platform, and that shows. Now I'm not saying Andy Rubin, who founded Android isn't passionate, and I'm sure many of the Googlers are deeply passionate about Android, but at the top Android doesn't exist because Eric or Sergey or Larry just had to have that phone. It exists, like I said, so that Google can't get shut off from mobile eyeballs by a competitor.

And that's what the Android thing feels like to me. Not the product Google wants themselves (that might be Chrome OS), but a strategic move they decided to make.

droid_hero_g1

Conclusion

Yes, Android offers killer Google services integration. If Google is your life, Android is clearly the OS for you. If you don't use Google, I'm not sure there's any reason to get Android over another device. Don't get me wrong, it's good at everything, but unlike the other devices, it's not killer at any of them.

It doesn't have the UI or handle media as well as the iPhone, it's not the communications monster BlackBerry is, it's not full-on Linux like Nokia's Maemo, and it doesn't make the web manifest, nor handle multitasking or notifications as elegantly as Palm's webOS.

If you're on Verizon or T-Mobile or Sprint and want something iPhone-like. If you can't stand Apple's dictatorial control over the iPhone app ecosystem. If you want a hardware option other than the full-screen slab. If there's some dealbreaker for you about the iPhone then Android is a good alternative.

Which is crazy when you think Google makes this OS. They're the megacorp of the 21st century. They're a verb. They have more money and talent and reach than almost any other company. They make Android... but I think the problem is they don't champion it. Again, their ultimate C-level goal isn't to make the best smartphone on the planet, they're goal is to get the most eyeballs on the planet, and that means making great stuff for every platform.

Now it's quite possible that Google will keep iterating and by this time next year it could be head and shoulders above everyone else. It could be the "iPhone killer", swarming over Apple's device with a hive of Android-powered alternatives, some of which are clearly better in many or most ways. Anything is possible when it comes to Google. (Though people used to say that about Microsoft as well, but again we'll visit that next week).

In the end, this is a very different review than I expected to write, and I think that's because of how much I expected from Google this year. Arguably Android has as much if not more potential than any other platform, yet now in year two it still doesn't seem to fully realize it. It doesn't seem as ground-breaking as it should. Just look at how far Palm has come with webOS out of almost nowhere. Google's had longer than that with Android and far more resources than Palm. That makes no sense to me, except that it's exactly how Google has positioned it. For now.

Next year Google might just announce free cell service for everyone in the US. Then it's game over.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter, App.net, Google+.

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There are 68 comments. Add yours.

Chris says:

iPhone win's yay go iPhone

Alex says:

There's something about google that I just dislike more and more. It's turning into Microsoft. It's not about making the best product because they're too focused on ad revenue. I want to give my money to a company that wants to give me the best experience out there. And right now, that's apple.
I think I'm gonna ban google from my life, especially now that they're taking info about my life and storing it all. lol. As soon as I find a viable search and email alternative, consider it done.

jasonact says:

I still haven't found a phone that I like more than the iPhone.
That said, there is a lot to love about the Android OS. We all know that Apple isn't shy about "borrowing" UI elements and other tech they can get away with. I just hope they "borrow" the right elements from Android for iPhone OS 4.0!

cardfan says:

Good thoughts and I agree with just about everything you said.

cardfan says:

@Jason There's not much i'd want apple to borrow. The best thing about android is some of the google apps & services.
Palm is the one Apple needs to borrow from :)

iDavey says:

@Alex
So no other company takes your info when you sign up for an email? An online service? Hell..iTunes takes your credit card info just to get into the iTunes Store. So my point is...why is everyone hopping on Google?
@Rene
I think this portion of the Round Robin should've been done after the Jan 5 announcement. Because if they are actually going to make the Nexus One the average for which developers and manufacturers start from (since nothing has actually been confirmed yet) then all those thoughts could be settled.
For once I agree with you...there seems to be too many thoughts of what Android is. Yet, this only applies to the "with Google" phones. Sense UI and MotoBlur offers enough additions to raise it up to a great experience.
I await N1 because the icons and widgets are finally looking more mature and professional (I hate the kiddy white stock widgets). They're adding flair to it. I just really want the N1 to be the bar for everyone to start from.

jhghjgjhg says:

wow iphone wins on an iphone site? who would have thought
enjoy your Stockholm syndrome

iDavey says:

@cardfan
I agree. I think EVERYONE should borrow some UI flair from Palm. I love the font, the rounded edges, the gray background.
On my G1 I actually have a ROM that has turned my phone into a Pre-Android hybrid. It's beautiful

Jake Houston says:

Interesting review. Android is THE Apple alternative. It's for everyone who for whatever reason, doesn't want an iPhone. So far, it's the only alternative that has proved itself viable in the market.
The review said: "I don’t really get the feeling Ballmer cares about Windows Mobile". This is very true. Windows Mobile has been left derelict for years. WinMo version 6.5 still runs on the same kernel as WinMo 5 did back in 2004. No updates. The kernel is not optimized for any of the new ARM processors, such as Snapdragon. The Snapdragon's 720p HD video decoding is disabled on all WinMo phones, because Windows Mobile doesn't recognize it. The old apps with stylus interfaces don't work with new capacitive screen phones. Even Excel can't be used effectively on a capacitive device.
Windows Mobile is what you'd call a derelict operating system. It was first abandoned by Microsoft, and now the software developers have abandoned it (its Marketplace store is not expanding).
And you think Android is mediocre?

jonesdavide says:

Interesting review, but I think this was more a review of Google's mobile philosophy than a review of the Droid or Hero.
I'm an iPhone 3G owner, and unless Palm wows us again at CES, my next phone will probably be an Android device. Like you said if Google holds all my data, the best device for me is probably Android.

Ratnok says:

I am an Android owner and I agree with everything you stated. It was refreshing to hear such an unbiased approach from an Apple site. I will say one thing though. Palm is dead as a doornail. The Nexus One is already implementing everything (including better card style visual multi-tasking) that WebOS does. Developers treat WebOS like the plague, and as of right now, it's too late to catch up. WebOS has less than 500 apps and Android has over 20,000. Projections have the Android Market at 150,000 by year end 2010. No amount of flashier multi-tasking will make up for that gap in useful applications, especially when Android is evolving as fast as it is- 3 major updates in only 1 year. In 2012, it will be Android, Blackberry, and the iPhone. The rest will be dead in the water, including Maemo (Nokia), Bada (Samsung), and WinMo.

ericg1840 says:

Good review couldn't agree more with most of the points. The other day I was in the android marketplace on a Droid at work and one of the apps had a price that was in Euros and after the price it said "about 2 US dollars" that is a sketchy App store to me

James says:

Referring to the droids keyboard to the right of it the trak pad or 5 way, in this post what is a 5 way ?

jearley says:

I'm feeling more and more "pigeon-holed" by verizon. While they are offering (finally) real, viable smartphones, I'm still not sure about Android. The droid phones have a lot of features and functionality....oh, and customization, it seems that the interface just isn't as smooth and refined as the iphone. I think that the android hand sets will become better and better, though I still pine for the Apple. I'm more or less stuck with verizon, and there data fees (ouch), so my choices are limited.... but here's hoping.

Austin web designer says:

Wow what an interesting article I am still using my iPhone 2G and I think it still beats most phones out there. Anyways good article there

frog says:

@Ratnok , except that those 1000 apps on WebOS are actually apps ... not themes, like the vast majority of "apps" on the android market.
WebOS & Blackberry are well ahead of Android. Which is sad, because I really thought Google might do something special.
It's just a mobile platform for the Linux desktop crowd

Ratnok says:

@frog - I'm sorry dude, but your statement about the "vast majority of apps on the Android Market are themes" is absolutely NOT true and Palm does NOT have 1,000 apps on it's Market. I know you'd like for it to be reality, but it's not. I just did some research and I was wrong about one thing. Palm is finally up to a bit over 800 apps. WEEEE!!!!!
Even if 60% of Android's apps are useless(which is nothing more than Palm fanboy hopes and dreams) and even if all of Palm's apps are incredible, that still means that there are more than 10 times as many useful apps on Android than Palm. That's the reason the HTC Hero sells more units than the Palm Pre on Sprint (well that and the Pre's crappy keyboard), and Palm's offerings keep dropping in price. You can hope all you want for Palm, it's a lost cause.
Don't even mention Blackberry's app store. Not only is it woefully overshadowed by Android and Apple, but most of it's apps won't run as intended on the Storm. The Storm is the only TRUE smartphone Blackberry has (my opinion). The rest are very powerful business messaging phones and little else. The screen size of the other Blackberrys makes them not even in the same league as the iPhone and Android phones, and their UI's are horrendous- hence the need for the creation of the Storm.

Ankush Shah says:

Quite contradictory that in several countries outside of the US the "Google" OS doesnt let you run any of the google apps on it officially, without rooting and getting a ROM with Marketplace on it.
This basically makes my Magic a brick anyways without the apps support and need to use a lot of third party apps

stc14 says:

@Ratnok. --no offense, but you are being rude.
Also, you happen to be wrong. As of new years eve, and at this current time, (having checked my own palm pre) there are exactly 1000 applications in the Palm Pre App Catalog in the United States.
Anyway, this was a very good review of android and google as a whole Rene. I was delighted to see the insight and fair thoughts when judging not only android, but also the iPhone and other major platforms.
Very well done. :)

rfbrown says:

I just bought the Moment from Samsung (with Android ) How does it stack up with the group?? Thanks Bob

Neil says:

Google will dominate because Android is the most portable OS ever created... period.
It will appear on all kinds of devices; ARM-based phones are just the beginning. And since all their apps are a Java deviant, porting an existing application is a piece of cake (they ported Quake in no time). Not to mention the iPhone development is so locked down it's a wonder so many apps have been created. As Ankush Shah mentioned above, Google has some licensing issues of its own, but c'mon... development on Android is 100% free, and it's an open source JVM that runs on Linux for cryin out loud!! It's the most ideal development environment EVER!
Also, the fact that they're building a custom JVM AND a custom distribution of Linux may be the reason for the slow development that the author complains about, but I trust that Android's UI design will soon improve. I also think that Android will end up running faster and lighter than iPhone OS, since Google is paying so much attention to optimization.
I don't know why the author has so much love for webOS when mobile networks are still so unbearably slow. I wonder if the author realizes that webOS is just Linux with a beefed up Javascript API.

Neil says:

@Ratnok
You said it, brother. Android is where the apps are at.

Pre-2-1 says:

@ratnok
I disagree that palm is "dead as a doornail"
in the course of 6 months, palm has launched a new operating system, released at least 10 OTA updates (3 fairly major), 2 devices running webOS, brought an app store starting with ~15 apps out of beta with 1000 applications (thanks for the confirmation stc14), and brought the pre to a few countries with more on the way (confirmed verizon in the U.S.).
And, they have done all of this while in bad financial standings and with a very small employee base.
Yes, I will admit, they are throttling the potential of the operating system with an unactivated GPU sitting in the Pre, but they have in the latest update (1.3.5) they lade foundations for this.
Finally, (sorry for dragging this out (: ) they are going to present at CES in a few days. Although we don't know whether they will unveil webOS 2.0, a Pre 2, or merely more carriers, I have high hopes for them. After all, last year at CES, everyone expected a little show, maybe with a refresh of PalmOS, but Palm shocked everyone, unveiling the Pre, and the unique and clean "Deck of Cards" WebOS.
I personally feel that with WebOS being new, iPhone a marginally unchanged behemoth (with rivals slowly catching up), and Android maturing and spreading, that we won't have a very clear view of what is to come in the smartphone world until this time next year. This year feels much more like a beginning of change.

Ruffinius says:

Will somebody just bitch slap iPhone groupies. Yes you may be locked into a plan and stop your whining cause we will have a better phone sooner than you. Slap!!!

MaTiCeK says:

That's some really deep thoughts in the end there. Especially the "Next year Google might just announce free cell service for everyone in the US. Then it’s game over.
" part may prove visionary.
Well as long as it's not in Europe, I'll stick to iPhone. :)

Anonymous says:

"By having their own platform on the market, Google knows there’s one place from which they can never be locked out."
Unlike Apple on the iPhone Google can be locked out of Android. It's the manufacturer/carrier who decides if they want Google services on their Android phone.
Just look at OPhone for example.
Google got no control about that type of Androids.http://www.ophonesdn.com/

frog says:

@Ratnok - I'm hardly a Palm fan, just pointing out that Androids "market" is an absolute mess, and perhaps as much a hinderanxe right now as anything.
Sure the "geek" crowd are fine with it. Heaven help Google, or whoever is providing support, if the masses start to adopt it. And what's the point of they don't?

Rene Ritchie says:

@Neil: With regards to portability, OS X today runs on an media player, smartphone, a TV box, laptops from ultra-portable to massively powerful, desktops from mini to 8-core, and a server. And it may soon run on a tablet. That's fairly portable, and because Apple is behind all of it, and they do software and hardware, developments in one can and do benefit all of them.
If HTC does something wonderful with Sense UI, that's proprietary, and doesn't benefit a Moto device one bit, never mind some other companies proprietary set top box, tablet, or netbook layers.
So again, every approach has pros and cons.
@Anonymous: I was referring to the platform, not every device on it. Google could get locked out of an OPhone but a month later drop the Nexus Two with even more free-as-in-Google services. If Apple locked them out of the iPhone, pre-Android, that would have been a huge problem with regards to their foothold on the mobile web.
@Ratnok: I'm of the mind set that for users, the UI is the application and whether Palm ultimately succeeds or not with webOS, last year they provided a few really smart UI concepts that pushed forward smartphones in general again. That's a good thing for all of us.
No one platform needs to fail for the others to succeed. Quite the opposite. Before the iPhone the smartphone space was like the browser space before Firefox. Complacent. Apple's success has been a boon to lovers of all smartphone platforms because it's forced everyone else to up their game. Hopefully Palm and Android and the rest are doing the same now. As many of them have to be competitive as possible for consumers to win.

Surprise! says:

...and the results are now through for 'THE IPHONE BLOG' mobile shoot-out...
...the winner is...the iPhone...
...well a shock victory there readers/listeners/viewers...
lol :0 :) :p

Wonderwebb says:

My Sony ericcson p800 wipes the floor wiv all these phones and operating systems.

Rudy says:

I like google's OS but with them saying they will not come out with a google phone but simply provide the software..... And then turn around after all these companies spent time developing hardware and what I call free advertising they become competitors by making a "google" phone. That's pretty evil. Google I hope to see you advertise all phones running android if you plan on selling the nexus on your homepage. Or your sir have damaged the way I see you. Google I see you

dev says:

Puh-leeze, Rene. You know very well why Android devices do not support multi-touch, especially in the US -- it is due to the threat of a lawsuit from Apple's ludicrously overbroad patent on gestures -- not their implementation of gestures, which can and should be patentable, but the very gestures themselves when used on a touch surface. It is disingenous at best to make any comparison of the two devices without specifically mentioning this big, ugly, "WHY" at Apple's feet.
If you seriously have not reviewed it, here is a tinyurl link to US Patent 7,479,94 http://tinyurl.com/ahyoy3

dev says:

grrr...my fault, tinyurl link is wrong. Here is the pcmag article around the time of its awarding instead:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2339661,00.asp

Ryan says:

Its sad that so many people can come up with great ideas for a smart phone and yet Google and apple fail to listen

Rene Ritchie says:

@dev -- I assumed so at first but Engadget went through all the patents and couldn't find any that showed Apple had claims on any of the functionality Google's apps were missing in the US. There could be a gentleman's agreement between Schmidt and Jobs, of course, but that's speculation.
(i.e. is there a patent on "pinch to zoom" or "multitouch keyboard input"?)
http://www.engadget.com/2009/11/04/some-more-perspective-on-the-droid-an...

deee says:

hi
good review, especially for an iphone blog. I'm from Europe, i have multitouch and don't know much about your mobile plans.
I disagree in some points, i don't think sense ui is less friendly than iphone ui and i had an iphone before my chin htc hero. I'm very sorry about Palm, wich os it's very good i think. I really would prefer android to compete with palm instead of Apple, to get better inhancements in the competition.
I agree with the fact that Google exactly as others companies works for profits but you are in contradiction when you say that steve jobs and RIM are moved by passion... i think it's always strategical business.
"Let’s be clear — as much as Apple runs iTunes on low-margins to promote the sale of iPods (including the iPhone)"---> i think that they sell iphone to promote itunes, and to get customers informations as well as Big G.
I'm not a especially a defender of Google but i nor think that it is evil, or at least just as the others. I used Google because till now it gave me the best internet services and at small prices(free).
sorry for my english

Joe M. says:

@Ryan-
"Its sad that so many people can come up with great ideas for a smart phone and yet Google and apple fail to listen"
Hey, Ryan. Have you ever designed a piece of electronic equipment? Believe it or not, there are constraints and trade-offs that have to be made during the design process. Keep in mind that a handheld device is powered by a battery, and is not a desktop system that has an unlimited power source.
Many of the features that people would like to see in a handheld are battery eaters (yes, including multitasking!). And since a smartphone is a PHONE, it's pretty important to maximize battery life in order to have the phone available when you need it. I know. If the battery is replaceable, what's the problem? How many people do you know that carry extra phone batteries around with them? The point is that not all ideas and wishes people have are realistic to implement in a smartphone.

Shahpur says:

While there are many aspects which make sense in this article (i.e. that Android is not Prio 1 for Google CURRENTLY), i don't understand all the hype about WebOS.
I had a testdevice of the Palm Pre, and while it is a very nice smartphone and WebOS is an interesting OS with a lot of potential and style, i don't think the notification system is any better than Androids. In fact android manages multiple notifications much better with the shade conept. And HTC Sense UI is up to par with the WebOS PIM apps. I just can't see the Palm app market explode anyime soon, and that's one of the most important criteria nowadays. So we have to see whether WebOS will ever unfold it's potential to the fullest.
Also Android is a webcentric OS and was there before WebOS, so you can't only compare ChromeOS to WebOS (and claim that Palm beat Google in this area time-to-market wise).
I can't see the big difference between a Blackberry Bold and the HTC Hero (other than the blackberry os getting really old by now). Both devices seem to be carefully crafted, and Android as an OS which does a great job of giving the User all functionality he needs. Just take a look at the much wider homescreen configuration options in example. Therefore i really don't understand how you could see "passion" for nearly all other competitors, and no passion for Android at all from Google. Sounds too biased for me...

Shahpur says:

@frog: sorry but the palm market is just as full with nonsense apps like any other app market. The only difference is: 1000 (palm) vs. 15000 (google).
There is no difference in the app garbage percentage.

Brian C says:

I've been following this round robin closely trying to decide whether or not to leave my iPhone. Thanks!

Brandon says:

Once the hero gets android 2.1 its game over for the iPhone.

Jason says:

I'm a Pre user, in love with my phone, but always looking to make sure there isn't something better on the horizon. This article was a great read. It really cements my belief that iPhone and Pre are the 2 best phones available today...that could all change at CES...we'll see.

adam says:

This is the most biased review I have ever read. Completely rediculous. By the way, I typed this comment on a droid that I got yesterday and made zero mistakes.

Stuart Taranto says:

As an early adopter of android, I was very pleased to have a real keyboard. Even though my iPhone loving friend will argue that it's progress, I disagree that the exclusion of a keyboard on an all touch advice is not a good thing at all. Until voice recognition and software keyboards are improved, I will always prefer a keyboard with my fat digits. Fingers come in all shapes and sizes and until these phones are so smart that they know exactly what I mean to type, I will always wish that there was one on a phone as nice as the nexus one.

Sean says:

A couple nights ago I compared my buddy's new HTC Hero with my iPhone and it wasn't even close. Everything loaded twice as fast on his phone and he's paying much less per month. I'm switching to Sprint in July.

NefCanuck says:

See, there is one thing that may sway me to the Droid (Or Milestone as it will be known in Canada upon release) and it's the very thing that you cite as a dealbreaker.
That something is the included slider keyboard. Even if the tactile feel of the thing is utter crap, it's easier for me to manipulate than a smooth screen such as the iPhone for writing emails and texting.
The bonus of having the entire screen available for viewing as one types cannot be overlooked either.
The issue of platform fragmentation is of course a major strike against the Android OS, but the proof is in the pudding I suppose.

Lidieh says:

AT&T's line quality is such that calls through their network can't be understood. So much for a good alternative. Phooey.
I want an iPhone on Verizon. Come on Apple...
Maybe I should just tape a shuffle to my free phone.

Patrick says:

You iphone people are so funny. For some reason you think Apple is a non-profit organization filled with saints who spend most their time on missions helping people in 3rd world nations or something. No, Apple is just as profit driven (and that's a good thing) as Microsoft or Google. If they weren't you wouldn't have your precious iphone.. as there would be no reason to improve a product to get more customers. To bad they're so proprietary in EVERYTHING they do, otherwise I might own even one of their products.. as it is, I like choices and once you own an Apple product, you have no more to make.

Jerry says:

This is the worst of all the Smartphones round robin.. you can feel the hatred for android.. and you can tell it's an APPLE FANBOY ... who fears that Android just might be better..
In the article he's guessing about what Google's intentions are instead of dealing with the facts...
he goes on to give credit to WEBOS over Android.. I own a PRE .. and I can tell you WebOS does not multitask better than Android.. the only thing that Web Os does is closing apps easier.. (which is also a curse because you cant have an app run in the background unless you have a card open) .but every otehr aspect of multitasking android handles better.. Widgets right from your homescreen.. 3rd party utility apps that integrate with the OS ... Apps for WEBOS are almost like the Iphone .. standalone apps..

adam says:

Your wrong google g1 aka dream run at 1.6. Mytouch3g aka htc magic getting update 2.1 runs 1.6 in meanwhile

DaveIsAwesome says:

One thing I agree with very much is that Android is the OS for the phone geeks out there. For example, my SMS/MMS app is HandcentSMS, something I downloaded from the Android Market that allows me to do so MUCH more then the stock messenger, things like allowing text messages to pop up when my phone's locked, having custom backgrounds in my conversation screen, and many other things. Same with my phone's browser. I use the Dolphin browser which has multitouch (GASP!) on it. So well I believe Android has many of the advantages that other OS's have, these advantages usually don't come stock with the phone, you have to 'supe' it up (heck there's even alternate virtual keyboards that exist in the market).
So what's my point? My point is I think Google may be going in a different direction with Android then other companies are going with their mobile OS. I think Google is focusing more on the developers then anything else. In the future I would expect to see many websites of different developers on the internet with pages dedicated to the apps and widgets they've developed, with little 3D bar codes on them that you scan with your phone's camera that link you to their app in the Android Market (how's that for mass app management).

jacob powell says:

I currently own the HTC hero which I belive heavily is the best Android phone out the sense of the ui sense is unbelievable n it holds thousands of applications n it may not be an iphone killer but it has the iPhone bewt in several areas such as the 5.0 mega pixel camera which simply puts the iPhone to disgrace n the web pages look way better

Jasiel says:

By reading all that stuff, I've made up a conclusion: If I am used to iPhone's functionality or WM/RIM's productivity, I'll just waste money getting an Android device or I'll even get disappointed when I see how incipient is this OS. Did I get the wrong ideia? May I say that Android is strongly web oriented (Google's services) so that it doesn't privelege "offline" apps like office, PIM, games, media, GPS, etc?

coolfx35 says:

So currently i'm on AT&T. I'm sick of the service issues I have in this area, so I'm going back to verizon. The droid seems like an obvious choice.
I love my techy toys and sharing info / playing with new ideas on boards like this, so I just wanted to introduce myself and say hi!!
I'm REALLY looking forward to being able to customize the interface and sounds on the device!! those restrictions drove me nuts on iphone!
If you haven't already, check out http://www.Motorola-Droid.org it's an awesome fans site for Droid owners.

Free iPhone Themes says:

I don't know about the functions, features, etc. But iPhone definitely beats its rival in design and style. I once saw a video review about iPhone 3G, 3GS and Palm Treo. Palm Treo has speed more than those two iPhone types, but still it won't beat them in style. I think iPhone is the best gadget but Apple have to try to create application or something like RIM's Blackberry Internet Solution.
Thanks.
Andriy

logan says:

iphone > droid > hero
i have all 3. phone phanatic. and i love the droid but it's too stinkin big. they don't show you that in the commercials. and I got 2 iphones and 3 hero's off of gsmallover.com for the fam and so far i love them all. iphone definately over the hero though, don't like the feel of the hero and the iphone is super practical and honestly i've had over 20 phones and still the only one i can see coming close is the htc hd2. but so far i like all 3.

pg says:

funny review of android.....
you dont review the android phones as much as your prejudice against anything not apple.
ive had a iphone infact i got a second one given to me yet they are tucked away in the kitchen drawer.
what you fail to see from behind your iphone is that android phones can multitask, yes with a android you actually can do two things at the same time.
and furthermore i dont have someone sitting on my shoulder deleting things on my phone that isnt in their mind "politically correct" anymore.
and just the fact that i have to wipe my iphone to be able to get that music my brother made to get it with me home is a jawbreaker.
and only syncing with "my itunes" is silly.
start by looking at the things objectively when reviewing and not from inside your "hating all things not apple" and you propable will find things alot sunnier in life.

Poch says:

I read the review not knowing that this was an iphone site. I was thinking "This author is either very misinformed or very biased", until I saw that this was an iphone site.
Then it made sense: You're just another zombie AAPL fanboy.
I'm looking for REAL reviews, with FACTS, not more Jobs-worship.

Dan says:

But, even though the concensus is iPhone wins, Apple and Verizon don't want to talk and I can't stand ATT service! (or lack thereof). So for an iPhone substitute on my Verizon service I have no choice. My question is, WHICH droid-- the Eris or the Motorola?
I'd appreaciate an emailed response if anyone has real expertise here.

Jim Cosenza says:

I pre ordered a HTC Incredible from Verizon on the 19th and fed ex delivered it to my door on the 21st. How it happened no one knows. I went to Verizon Wireless Store to see about getting a belt clip and they had to take pictures of it in the store... It is activated and let me tell you the IPhone should be worried!!!! I have owned just about everything and I can tell you the IPhone should be worried way to go HTC and Google!! WAY TO GO!!

Luca says:

Please: DO NOT buy HTC phone
I bought my hero at the end of 2009 being reassured by the seller (three.co.uk) and in various press articles that the android OS 2.1 was to be released imminently and would open up the market to newer and even better apps. But after a few weeks I noted that the update was needed to get the phone workable; eg, my desktop win pc boots in less time than the htc phone :(
I've been watching all the rumours fly around about late march, april 16th, april 26th, early may and now June... JUNE release date (the google release was in late october and nexus google-HTC phone with android 2.1 was in early january).
Meanwhile on the HTC site there are NO clues as to what is happening or what might happen. It's still a good phone but I was very much hoping to use a few of the features of 2.1 and I couldn't be LESS impressed by HTC's attitude to keeping owners NOT informed about what's going on.
I have NO confidence in a June release and am beginning to suspect that HTC are allowing these constant rumours to circulate to keep people buying heros whilst never actually bothering to update them at all. Why should they, with so many new phones to sell coming on line?
In the end, this is the first, last and only HTC phone I purchased. no more HTC for me.
or yes.... if you sell me it for £100, it does not worth more money...

Lynn Wright says:

Great post I must say.. Simple but yet interesting and engaging.. Keep up the awesome work!

jay says:

@DaveIsAwesome iphone has had the red laser application which does the same thing but better for a very long time. sorry but iphone has you beat

Dan says:

I think you have done as much as you can to confound the information about how complex the mobile phone market is. By stating the same point thrice, it doesn't make it true... Google only creating Android to avoid being locked out of the market, is mere partially substantiated rhetoric. I agree that all of these companies make decisions that are ruthlessly competitive and for their own benefit first. What more is their to say. Apple is a BAD company, don't forget it - their marketing is really the one thing that is most advanced at the moment and the only thing that sets them apart from the rest.

Which smart Phone is better - IPhone, Droid, HTC, etc? says:

HTC Evo Winds hands down!! Has a Bigger Screen, Has a Faster Processor, Has a Better Camera, Is a WiFi Hotspot, Has HDMI out, Don't have to live on At&t, oh and if has a kick stand!

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