Commentary

Beauty Versus Beast: Droid X Is A Nice Alternative To iPhone 4

Droid X i

The Droid X goes on sale July 15. Verizon hide caption

itoggle caption Verizon
Droid X

The Droid X goes on sale July 15.

Verizon

If you are the kind of buyer who is seduced by a pretty face, there is no doubt you will buy an iPhone 4 over the Droid X, which will be on shelves July 15th.

The Droid X is a  clunky looking device and it doesn't glide easily into a small pocket like the iPhone 4.  But it definitely has a few features that make it a really nice alternative to the iPhone 4.

The reason the Droid X is so clunky is because of the size of the screen — a 4.3 inch widescreen display compared with the iPhone's 3.5 inches. It has lower resolution than the iPhone 4 (960X640 pixers vs. 854X480).  But, when actually watching videos on each device, I really prefered the Droid. I didn't care how much better the resolution was on the iPhone 4, they were close enough that having the bigger display was just easier on my eyes.

The Droid's big screen definitely makes it a nicer device for gaming — at least in the opinion of a three children under the age of 10 who gave both a try.  The size of the Droid's screen makes it more like playing on a Ninetendo DS than a phone.

New Apple iPhones are shown at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, June 7 in San Francisco. i

Apple's iPhone 4 is much prettier than the Droid X. Paul Sakuma/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Paul Sakuma/AP
New Apple iPhones are shown at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, June 7 in San Francisco.

Apple's iPhone 4 is much prettier than the Droid X.

Paul Sakuma/AP

The Droid X has the new Android 2.1 operating system and I found it pretty easy to navigate and very fast.  Rumor has it that by late summer, the Droid X will be able to upgrade to the Android 2.2 system. The Android app store, while not nearly as vast as the Apple store, has a growing choice of great apps.  But, as I put more and more apps on it, the screen became cluttered and it was a lot harder to find the app I wanted.  The iPhone 4 has a new feature that lets users create folders for different catagories of apps — games, news, productivity etc.

Both phones have 720p HD video cameras.  But, I definitely found the camera on the iPhone much easier to use. You will no doubt find more technical detailed reviews online, but for those of you who just want something that's easy to use and takes good videos without much fuss, the iPhone 4 wins.

This is also true when it comes to still photos. The iPhone 4 has a five-megapixel camera and the Droid X has eight-megapixels.  But, Apple says don't judge a camera by megapixels alone.  Apple has a backlit illuminated camera sensor technology that really seems to make a difference. It also just feels easier to operate than the Droid. If you are really into photography chances are you will buy a nice camera.

two pictures taken with different phones

The picture on the left was taken with a Droid X out of the box. The picture on the right was taken using the iPhone. I had to play around with ISO setting to fix the Droid X's over exposure. Laura Sydell/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Laura Sydell/NPR

The average person probably wants a simple easy to use camera on their phone and that is not the Droid X. It’s complicated and has a lot of options. The pictures out of the box were terrible. I had to figure out how to change the resolution, the exposure, etc. and there weren’t any instructions that came along with it to help me out.

Unlike the iPhone 4, Droid does not have a front facing camera so video chatting is difficult. But, at the moment the iPhone's video conferencing app — "Facetime" as they call it —  is only available over wi-fi.

Ahhh... but then there is the much publicized reception issue.

Although I have occassionally experienced the so-called death-grip problem with the iPhone, it went away with a nice pink plastic case around the rim.

Unfortunately, the iPhone just drops calls.

I'm not certain if the problem is AT&T or the phone, but, I lost calls on a regular basis in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I also found that doing any kind of online task from search to finding directions was faster on the Droid X. When it came to any kind of web search I was so much happier with the Droid X.

If the rumors are true and there really is a Verizon iPhone coming out this winter, it might make a world of difference.  But, until that time, the service issue is a problem.

I found the battery life on previous incarnations of the iPhone to be a huge down side for me.  But, Apple has made great strides with the iPhone 4.  On paper the iPhone 4 has seven hours of talk time and the Droid has eight.  The iPhone has 300 standby hours and the Droid has 220.  In actual daily experience I didn't really notice the difference.

When it comes to storage the Droid can be expanded up the 40GB and that's for $199.  The 32 GB iPhone is $299.  I think storage is going to matter more all the time especially now that both phones have HD cameras.  So, the Droid has the edge here in price and size.

I found that the Droid X grew on me despite its clunky look and somewhat lesser camera performance. And as a device for playing games, reading, and watching videos the Droid wins. If you have children it definitely doubles as game machine for distraction.

Still, after hanging out with the two of them for more than a week, I ultimately found myself gravitating to the iPhone 4.

Maybe I'm superficial and I just like its pretty face.

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