Why I disagree with @Arrington about Droid

Mike Arrington, founder of the famous and influential TechCrunch blog, and I totally disagree about the Motorola Droid and whether or not it’s a great product or not. To be fair to the Droid I’ve been using it all week to see if my opinion changes (I left my iPhone at home when I went to Denver this week). My opinion of the Droid has not improved after using it. And if that makes me an Apple fanboy, that’s cool. When another device actually is better than the iPhone I’ll tell you and then we’ll see who has their credibility left.

Looking at the comments from my Droid vs. iPhone vs. Palm Pre post (hundreds of them) there are quite a few that think I wasn’t fair to the Droid. They think the Droid completely beats the iPhone.

They are wrong. Totally wrong. But, at least in Arrington’s case I can understand it. Yesterday on the Gillmor Gang (hopefully the audio is up soon so you can hear the disagreement) he explained why: he is looking for a device that runs Google Voice. Now that I’ve installed Google Voice on my own Android I sort of get where he’s coming from.

It’s just that I don’t care all that much about voice. As long as I can talk for a while on the phone I’m happy. The iPhone fits that bill. But Arrington wants a voice-routing machine. With Google Voice he can tell it to route calls to other phones. Plus anyone who leaves him a message has their voice mail turned into text and something that he can listen to from his desktop.

Arrington is voice centric. If you are voice centric the Droid already is better than the iPhone (it has better voice quality, which I’ve tested out with Dave Winer and it’s on a better network too — provably so in my case because the Droid lets me talk all the way to San Francisco while iPhone cuts out for about five minutes of the drive while you go over Devil’s Slide).

So, why do I disagree with him over the Droid even though it’s arguably a superior voice phone to iPhone?

Because I’m web and Twitter centric. I use my phones for Twittering far far more than I use them for voice. So I care about things like how easy is it to navigate through Tweets. Or how easy it is to zoom in the web browser to check out pieces of photos and such.

From this aspect the iPhone kicks ass. The Facebook app is far better. The selection of Twitter apps are far better, have more features, and are far nicer to use. The Web browser looks better and is easier to enter data into. Plus, the iPhone has multi-touch everywhere while the Droid doesn’t have it (although some say you can load an app to give you multitouch, but that’s really a lame answer).

Anyway, I’ll do a video to show you some of the differences and why I disagree with Arrington and you can listen to the Gillmor Gang when Steve gets the audio up.

But really this isn’t all that interesting to me. If the Droid works for you, wonderful. It works for me too. It just isn’t a great product yet. I have a feeling the a great Android device is coming, though. I’ll see you then!

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Thumbs up for iPhone.. not found a phone I like better for my needs. Granted other phones do provide better features for some. You forgot to mention it's also the best music player/phone combined, unless that's not important to you either.

  2. But don't you think that the device here doesn't really matter ? As you can install pretty much any Android OS on any Android devices (with some tweaks…), the product here is not really the Droid but the Motorola's version of Android.

  3. Scoble – another thing to note: just as you mention Arrington's need for integration with Google Voice, I have just as much need as a heavy Mac user to have all of my Mac world sync up with my iPhone world. I use MobileMe to sync my contacts/calendar in the cloud. I also sync all of my media I buy or rent in iTunes. Most importantly, I use various Mac apps which sync to companion iPhone apps (most notably OmniFocus and 1Password – both of which have Mac/iPhone apps that sync). Although Mac users are smaller than their Windows counterparts, I don't really see how a Mac user beyond a novice who just uses it to check email perhaps, would use any other phone. If you want rock solid integration with your Mac and the apps you use, I don't see there ever being another option.

  4. Google mobile maps with Latitude and Layers – iPhone really falling behind…and Twitter kind of makes more sense when it's alway running in background…IMHO

  5. The way I see it is that both are you are not arguing which handset is better, but which one has better apps! Google Voice, Facebook, and Twittering are just apps.

    So if Apple didn't reject Google Voice, Mike would be still on his iPhone. And if Tweetdeck and Facebook actually developed comparable versions of their iPhone apps for Android, you Robert wouldn't be so hard on the Droid.

    As for multitouch, that's also a software problem. Droid is perfectly capable of multitouch, I know my G1 can. But Google decided not to include because of Apple's software patents, which is a whole different point of contention.

  6. I am looking forward to your video showing the differences. I can not care less about google voice as it is not available here in Germany.

  7. @scobleizer I think Michael is comparing the phones. You have taken it to another level. You just want an internet surfing device. The fact that it also makes calls is secondary to you. But I believe that more than 90% people want to use it mainly for voice.

    1. More than 90% of the people don’t buy Smartphones, they buy Nokias. Those that do, want MORE than a phone. And I agree with @ninthart, the Droid / Android may improve, but you can bet your horses that Apple isn’t gonna stop at 3GS as well.

    2. That’s why Nokia and them have the 90% of the market they have. =)

      For the 10% smartphone market the needs differ some.

  8. Well there is a lot of room for improvement thats for sure. I was on the Android OS since day 1. Been through Android 1.0, Cupcake, Donut, and now Eclair (don't have a Droid yet). But let me tell you that Android as an OS improved leaps and bounds in only 1 year, and thats when we only had the G1 in the market.

    Imagine the improvement with the influx of companies adopting Android. Especially the Android market. More handset would translate to more developers and developing hours.

    Now I put my Android pom-pons down :D

  9. Well. I agree in general there are more high-quality apps on the iPhone, and if your life really centers around twitter and facebook, yes, your experience will be better on the iPhone than on the Droid.

    The thing is, I’ll take Android’s vastly smaller marketplace over Apple’s app store any day. Why? Because its openness and the capabilities of Android OS allows for more interesting things. Even with iPhone’s however many apps, you frankly can’t do a lot of things. iPhones can’t add widgets. iPhones can’t change the home page so you have different and creative navigation schemes around the screens (see dxTop). iPhones can’t have a seamless Google Voice integration such that all your calls are set up to go through it. iPhones can’t do navigation with satellite maps and street view out of the box. As for media capabilities, may I suggest all Android users to check out a little app called “i Music” (ironically named :)). This will NEVER be available on the iPhone and quite frankly, reason enough to doubt anyone who claims Apple’s app store single handed beats Android’s offerings, even today. And we all agree that Android marketplace is about to go through an explosive growth.

    But honestly, with all said and done, you cannot seriously write off the Droid as a “failure”, which is what you did on your first post. Now it seems that even yourself don’t seem to think it is…all your arguments just say that it is not a “good fit” for your personal use cases…you should make your stance clearer rather than making attention-drawing claims that you can’t back.

  10. Maybe the android apps are not as great as the iphone's yet, they are not equal in overall software quality neither but it's partly due to the customizability of Android . I think Android already gives so great possibilities for web centric people like me: tethering works so great and you don't need an extra plan, multitasking, for example chatting on gtalk while surfing the web – it's amazing to be able to do that on a phone! For me this is already enough reasons to switch to Android…

  11. I love how everyone bangs on about Android improving over time as if Google and the handset manufacturers who support them are the only ones who move forward.

    The iPhone 3Gs isn't going to be the last ever iPhone, you know.

  12. So, the iPhone is a great product because it meets Scoble’s needs (and the many flaws it has don’t bother him)

    The droid is not a great product because, while *you* might like it, and like the advantages over the iPhone it has which *you* need, and the flaws are not that important to you; *you* are not The Common Man, like Scoble!

    Plus, Scoble has totally found a couple of inferior UI kinks that totally prove his point, because they are the definition of a great product. With videos!

    Nope, I cannot find a flaw in that logic at all.

    (I’m sure you’ll say “but my 3 year old can use the UI!”, and the greater number/quality of apps means it’s for everyone. Maybe, but maybe the growing selection of apps on Android might be good enough for many people)

  13. Scoble: I think the problem is that you (and a lot of commentors) are taking a phone to be a generic device. It’s not … anymore. A phone and more specifically, a smartphone, like the droid or the iPhone is a very personal piece of tech and so one size will never fit all. It’s like an MP3 player. A lot of people own and love the iPod but that doesn’t mean that Apple is the only company left producing MP3 players. There are other companies still making mp3 players because there are other people who have different requirements that are not fulfilled by Apple’s iPod.

    The same is true for iPhone vs. Droid vs. Pre.

  14. I am with Arrington, not because I am a heavy user of Google Voice yet,but because of the bigger picture.
    What Google is doing with Google Voice is only the beginning of a major shift. If my phone is like my PC with an open OS and applications I chose, why use AT&T or Verizon's dialing mechanisms?
    We're getting close to an era where voice becomes just another Internet application.

  15. I have GVMobile on my iPhone and it works just fine for Google Voice usage. So… I don't see how GV is a dealmaker on the Droid phones.

  16. 3GS won't be the last iPhone, but that's besides the point. The iPhone is centered around 1 manufacturer, Apple. Android harnesses the strength of a dozen companies that, combined, have more research power than Apple.

    That's the power of open source in action.

  17. My wife has an iPhone and I just got the droid a week ago, I have tested the two side by side and the twitter apps are better on the iPhone, the facebook is about the same and as far as web surfing goes the droid blows the iPhone out of the water. I don't see how some so “web-centric” could like the iPhone better for surfing. I'm not a cell phone or tech geek so I don't give a damn about apple vs. droid, I picked the droid because it was available when my plan was up and I need the verizon network for reliability reasons, but the droid is a better browser, better navigator, better literal phone, better email in and out box, better camera/video camera and the car mode just crushes anything the iPhone can do for convenience when driving. The iPhone is a better music player, better app haver, “prettier”, better social networker and lighter.
    Point is they are both good phones so don't be a fanboy or sheep for either, it's just a phone and by summer 2010 they'll both suck compared to something new!

  18. Scoble, found you from Twitter.
    I think everyone will have their opinion. There's a lot of things it doesn't do very well and other things that it excels in versus the iPhone. The point is that one chooses a phone based on a number of factors, the most important of which is whether or not it meets your needs. Maybe it doesn't work well as well for you because you are data-centric. There are, however, a huge assortment of Twitter apps available that negate the differences between the phones.

    BTW, I dig the lists feature on the sidebar. Nice.

  19. “But really this isn’t all that interesting to me. If the Droid works for you, wonderful. It works for me too. It just isn’t a great product yet. I have a feeling the a great Android device is coming, though. I’ll see you then!”

    Again, you are focused on apps…. apps for social networking mainly.
    You like the stuff in Apple's market more than the stuff in the Android market.
    Apple has quantity and in the case of some of the most popular social apps, it has the quality too.
    You can win that debate…. for now. Inevitably, Android market will improve… a lot!

    So, it matters not which Android device you have…. as long as you feel the same way about the Android apps. But you end with “I have a feeling the a great Android device is coming, though. I’ll see you then!” which just makes no sense in the context of your core argument. You are not putting any emphasis on the Motorola Droid as a failed product… only the 3rd party software options. So in essence you are saying that all Android devices are a failed product on this basis alone. Since the Moto Droid is currently the best Android device and only device with Android 2.0 OS, it is used as the umbrella object for the tired iphone killer headline (no such thing as an iphone killer). Their is just a serious lack of organized balance in the case you have been trying to make in order to express your lack of satisfaction.

    Personally, I look at Android 2.0 as the real beginning. Because even Apple had an OS at one point that only internal eyes evaluated and used and it started out way behind what the masses were given on launch back in 2007. With Android, being open source and a totally different vibe of a product…. the early guts and UI were put on a phone and put on the market. It may not have been a success in the traditional sense (The Apple Success Meter) but it was not meant to. It was intended as an introduction and a way to start developer interest and momentum…. leading up to Android 2.0 in 12 months or less.

    Anyway… I wish you would appreciate your popularity and status more in the tech blogging sphere. Maybe then you would think through things before posting heavily tilted arguments that are not sound.
    Not liking Android and pointing out how iphone apps are better is one thing. But to make grand statements against the entire Android software and any device that runs it is just silly and tactless.

    But hey… who the hell am I? :)

  20. No, it is a failure as a product, when compared to the iPhone. I won't go back on that and don't recommend regular people get the Droid — the iPhone is a far better product. But Android isn't a product. Look at all the comments here. They overlook that fact.

  21. Like I said, this is Windows 3.1. It signals a shift is brewing in the phone marketplace. But we have yet to see the product that puts it all together. That's coming, I believe, but the Droid isn't it.

  22. Yes, tons of flaws. I was presented with an application error (java.com.blah.foo) in the first minute of operation.

    I also was surprised that none of the early reviews pointed out the obvious flaws I've seen thus far — horizontal lines in photos, super-slow camera, video/audio not sync'd in recorded videos, etc. Oh, and don't mistype your youtube username when trying to share your video, I have yet to find a way to change that, it just keeps asking for a password for the wrong username. And the email I sent to share the video was blank. Good stuff.

    Oh, and the $3/mo visual voicemail sucks as well. You can't hear the audio of the message unless you use the speaker phone on full volume and it's responsiveness is not good, having to poke the play button 3 or 4 times to get it to play.

  23. The iphone is about as good as it's going to get when it comes to interesting apps due to the draconian limits Apple imposes on developers. Android has a long way to go to catch Apple with the breadth of apps but the ceiling for what is possible is much higher with Android than it is with Apple unless Apple radically changes course.

  24. I think the point is that the improvements made by Android are and will continue to be made at a significantly higher pace. The innovations from 3g to 3gs are much less significant than say original iphone to 3g or Android 1.0 to Android 2.0.

  25. There's just one problem with your argument Scoble. Software can be patched, upgraded. The hardware that drives the quality of the audio however, is not so easily fixed. So while I agree with you about the iPhone being the stronger contender with applications, software is just that, soft. It can be ripped out repaired and replaced much more easily than hardware components and less than stellar networks.

    What's everyone think about AT&T's cease and desist order against Verizon showing coverage maps in its commercials?

  26. Oh gee, you got me there. I guess that's why all those dozen companies were really innovating before the iPhone came out.

    I'd rather have one company creating a unified whole than a dozen branching off in their own directions.

  27. Robert,
    Plesae could you do me a favour and ask Steve Gillmor to publish the podcast feed in a format that can be understood by Zune. I'd love to listen to the podcast (I used to last summer before it started getting shifted about) but until it starts getting published ina format that my podcasting software understands then I'm unable to do it.

    I suspect Steve will take a bit more notice of you than most.

    thanks
    Jamie

  28. Scoble, you are making a comparison between applications from an immature development environment (Android) and an established one (App Store).

    The Facebook and Twitter Apps being inferior for the Droid has nothing to do with the device itself, nor the Android operating system. I love my Iphone, but after playing with my brother's new Droid, I have to say I am very impressed with some of the finer touches in the device. What I'm most glad about it is that it will force Apple to improve the Iphone. For instance, my brother inputs my contact info and email, and the phone automatically imports my picture and info from his Facebook account. Why doesn't the Iphone do that?
    The Maps navigation map is FANTASTIC! We're in the car, and he's got Pandora playing, and then the volume goes down periodically as turn by turn directions are broadcast.
    The Android's apps suck right now, but that will change very quickly. I guarantee that with Verizon selling this thing, Facebook already has a team of developers working on a killer Android 2.0 App.
    Essentially, you're last paragraph is correct, but you need to replace “Android device” with “Android applications.”

  29. One thing the Android will have that the iPhone will never, ever have: the freedom of open-source development in an open-source language. The software can and will be improved over time by anyone who cares to help out. The iPhone, however, requires everyone wait on Apple to get to it.

    I think this scenario is a lot like Linux: Linux started out clunky, difficult to use, and buggy. But people saw the potential, and continued to work on it. At first only the geeks who could work around the bugs and enjoyed solving problems in the software would use it. Then, Ubuntu Linux made it really easy to use.

    I think Google's first efforts in the mobile OS industry are only the beginning. It's how quickly the software improves and how easily it can be improved that we ought to pay attention to.

  30. One thing the Android will have that the iPhone will never, ever have: the freedom of open-source development in an open-source language. The software can and will be improved over time by anyone who cares to help out. The iPhone, however, requires everyone wait on Apple to get to it.

    I think this scenario is a lot like Linux: Linux started out clunky, difficult to use, and buggy. But people saw the potential, and continued to work on it. At first only the geeks who could work around the bugs and enjoyed solving problems in the software would use it. Then, Ubuntu Linux made it really easy to use.

    I think Google's first efforts in the mobile OS industry are only the beginning. It's how quickly the software improves and how easily it can be improved that we ought to pay attention to.