Motorola Droid vs. Apple iPhone 3GS

Thursday, October 29, 2009, 18:27 by Tech Correspondent

Verizon has recently been the center of a lot of attention due to the hype surrounding its upcoming Motorola Droid smartphone. Some pre-production samples were made available to some blogs to review and they reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. The phone has been hyped so much, that Verizon’s stock price went up just on the bases of the positive early reviews. And they seem to have put the crosshairs directly on iPhone with their ‘iDont‘ spoof ad campaign.

Over the years since Apple released its iPhone, many other manufacturers have come up with handsets that were supposed to become ‘iPhone Killers’. None has succeeded so far to say the least. From what we have seen so far, the Motorola Droid can be a serious contender to the crown of the iPhone 3GS. Both phones are available from their respective carriers at $199 with contracts. So the battle will be fought not in terms of price, but in terms of specs and overall usability of the devices. Without much ado, as they say, lets move on to a nuts and bolts comparison of the Droid and the iPhone.

Motorola Droid iDon’t spoof video

Motorola Droid vs Apple iPhone 3Gs : Hardware, compared

The Motorola Droid runs on the TI OMAP 3430 550 MHz processor, which is one of the leading processors on the market. From what we have seen, the Android 2.0 OS will help Droid utilize the full potential of this processor. One of the features of the Droid being hyped by Verizon is in fact its ability to switch between multiple applications at run-time – true multitasking. Of course, remember that even the first android phone, the lowly T-Mobile G1 was capable of this. With this processor, there are reports that the Droid will be the fastest Android device on the market when it releases.

The iPhone 3GS is not that bad either when it comes to hardware. It runs on the Samsung S5PC100 600MHz processor, which packs a CPU,GPU and memory controller into a single unit. While the Samsung chip does support multitasking, Apple has not utilized this capability yet. This has been one of the major mocking points of the iPhone infidels for long.

The Motorola Droid is also capable of expanding its on-board storage using a microSD card while thereis no such option on the iPhone. Other hardware specs are similar in both the devices such as WiFi, 3G, GPS, Digital compass etc. Except that the Motorola Droid features a 5MP camera with autofocus and flash as opposed to a 3MP camera ( and no flash ) in the iPhone 3GS. This was one of the things that was mocked by Verizon in its iDont campaign.

Here, it is obvious that the winner is definitely the Motorola Droid.

Motorola Droid photo

Motorola Droid photo

The Display, Keyboard and UI

Here the Motorola Droid has the edge- in theory. For some users, the iPhone’s lack of a hardware keyboard has been a big irritant. The Droid trumps the iPhone there with a full QWERTY slideout keyboard with broad keys for easy typing. If you are not an Apple fanboy, this most likely matters to you.

The screen on the Motorola Droid is also larger than iPhone 3GS both in terms of actual size as well as resolution. The Droid’s screen is a 3.7” one with 854×480 resolution while the iPhone 3GS has a 3.5” screen at 480×320 resolution. In resolution, the Droid beats the iPhone hollow.

Droid vs iPhone comparison: the Droid's Keyboard

Droid vs iPhone comparison: the Droid's Keyboard

When it come to the UI, the Droid has Motorola’s Blur UI customizing the default look & feel of the Android OS. The iPhone 3GS still has the same user interface as the original iPhone. If you want to be nasty, you could say that the iPhone OS is already ageing. But in the end, a comparison of the two at this point is useless. We have to see how the Andoid 2.0 OS and Motorola Blur work together on the Droid, and then perhaps we could take a call on that point. So, a draw for now, then.

Even then,  user interface is often a matter of individual taste. There are many who absolutely would prefer the iPhone OS touchscreen interface over the Droid’s Blur, and vice versa.

iPhone's on-screen keyboard

iPhone's on-screen keyboard

Android 2.0 on Droid vs iPhone OS – the operating system war

Surveys have given high score to the iPhone operating system in terms of reliability and ease of use. The Android OS on the other hand, is open source, and has been promising so far, but it is new. The iPhone OS has gained the trust of millions of users, and has been one of the most innovative when it was introduced.

Android version 2.0 seems to be the best version of the OS yet. HTC has also announced today that it will be releasing an update for their Hero smartphone to Android 2.0.

Another thing is that if features are lacking in the original OS, there are a lot of modded versions available which add these features, due to the OS being open source. In fact, the hackablilty and moddability of Android phones is something that is loved by its owners. On an iPhone, you are seriously limited in being able to mod it, and you always stand the risk of bricking your iPhone if you do.

The stock internet browser is pretty good on both the devices. Both have Webkit turning the gears underneath – the iPhone browser is Apple’s mobile Safari built on Webkit, while Motorola Droid has its own browser, again built on Webkit. So it comes down to which offers a better browser experience – and a comparison of that is not possible till we get out hands on a production Motorola Droid.

Android 2.0  on the Droid includes Google Maps as a GPS navigation app out of the box while iPhone supports this through third part applications. Other features include Flash support which is coming soon to Android probably in 2010, while it has not been announced yet for the iPhone. If you compare the Droid or the iPhone to the upcoming Nokia N900, though, it will beat them hollow here with Flash support from day one.

The main thing about the Android OS is that its performance depends on the device running it. So we will have to wait and see whether it does turn out to be the fastest Android device yet as many have reported. Slight advantage here to the Motorola Droid, we think.

Applications available – Android and iPhone app stores

The iPhone can get apps from Apple’s huge App Store which currently has 93000+ apps. But Apple is pretty restrictive when it comes to what apps they allow and what they don’t. While the Android Market hasn’t grown much yet and has only around 12k apps, it is much more open. Another plus point is that android apps are also capable of being installed from elsewhere and not only directly from the Market. The Android Market is currently nowhere near as big or even comparable to the Apple App Store.

Also Android applications are capable of tweaking the OS and customizing the interface while iPhone apps run inside a sandbox.

Carrier – AT&T vs Verizon

Both the iPhone and the Motorola Droid come locked to their respective carriers. iPhone users complain frequently about AT&T, and Verizon keeps coming out in front of AT&T in customer satisfaction rankings as well as studies on call quality and data coverage.

Verizon has so far lacked a crowd-pulling device such as the iPhone. Their BlackBerry Storm didn’t turn out to be what it was meant to be and they are now waiting for the Storm2 and the Droid to see if they become the flagship device that they have been hoping for.

Verizon is also all set to become the first carrier to support 4G when it rolls out its 4G LTE technology sometime the next year.

Conclusion

This comparison may seem to have been overly biased towards the Droid. Some may go as far as say it was written by an Android/Google fanboy .. if there is a thing as that. But iPhone remains the reigning champion in the smartphone arena. From the first looks, the Motorola Droid does seem like a serious contender to the title. We will have to wait till November 6 when the first lucky buyers take home and unbox their Droids, to see if it does become that one device which finally brings Android into the mainstream for mobile device users.

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3 Comments

  1. AK said on Friday, October 30, 2009, 11:40

    when probably Droid will be lauched in india..????????

  2. Fredphoesh said on Monday, November 9, 2009, 12:23

    Hi
    Interesting review, thanks…
    One of the things reviewers often miss WRT a disadvantage of the iPhone, is what for me is THE REASON I will never buy one.

    MUSIC!
    With the iPhone, you have to use quicktime, itunes, a proprietory cable. You cannot drag and drop folders of music to and from your phone.

    I detest all of that (and I own two mac computers of my own). I like being able to plug in to a generic USB, on ANY computer anywhere, and just add or remove or copy music to and from the device as much as I want, no interference from a freak controlling Apple.

    This would make iPhone (or an iPod for that matter) completely unacceptable to me.

    Mark UK.

  3. Mike said on Saturday, January 23, 2010, 6:09

    The three main things I see as an advantage on the iPhone is :
    1. It feels good in your hands. The droid feels like the same cheesy piece of plastic as do all slider phones.
    2. No real moving parts. I have personally delt with several slider type phones that fall apart quite frequently. Anyone with knowledge of mechanical things knows that the more pieces that move the faster it will break.
    3. 99% touchscreen I mean would you buy a typewriter to replace your laptop? I think not! Even computers are going touchscreen and there must be a reason.