Droid vs. iPhone 3GS: An Update

As I wrote a few weeks ago, frustration with AT&T coverage in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood led me to put my iPhone 3GS aside and switch to a Verizon Wireless Droid. I found that I liked the reliability of Verizon's service, and loved certain things about Android -- but that the overall experience was way less polished and predictable than the iPhone.

Here's an update: Over the last week or so, I've been using the iPhone most of the time. It still has severe issues in SOMA (or at least a bunch of places in SOMA where I hang out -- it claims perfect signal strength, but the most reliable thing it does is to drop my calls). Otherwise, though, I've spent far less time futzing than I do when I'm in Androidland. I'm coming to the uneasy realization that I may want to use both phones, depending on what sort of limitations I can deal with at any given time.

A few other notes:

  • When I charged the Droid back up yesterday, it finally offered to install Android 2.1. The process was quick and painless. But the single thing I want most from an Android update is a more reliable phone, and if Android 2.1 is more robust than 2.0, you couldn't prove it from my experience so far. Within hours of installing the update, I encountered two instances of the Droid freezing up for extended periods for no apparent reason. And when I shot a brief video of Volkswagen's autonomous Passat, I had to chop off the first fifteen seconds -- which included extreme pixilation and a period during which no motion was captured.
  • When I bought an iPad, I quickly decided to spring for a MiFi pocketable wireless router so I could get online anywhere and everywhere. Bonus benefit: I can connect my iPhone to the MiFi's Verizon EVDO, effectively giving me a Verizon iPhone. Works great for data in areas where AT&T is spotty, but doesn't help with phone calls.
  • Will iPhone OS 4 eliminate some of Android's edge in certain areas when Apple ships it this Summer? Yup-especially if the managed multitasking is as good as it looks. But there are a number of things I like about Android which OS 4 doesn't appear to match, including the on-phone support for Google Voice and the neat integration of Facebook contacts.
  • Speaking of multitasking, Daring Fireball's John Gruber recently published a long and thoughtful piece comparing the approaches on the iPhone and Android (and concluding that they're more similar than different). He says in it that Android doesn't really require task-killing utilities. But (as I told him in an e-mail) I found that my Droid on Android 2.0 really needed Advanced Task Killer. Whenever it became bogged down and unresponsive -- which was frequently -- blowing away all running tasks fixed things instantly.

For all of Apple's secrecy, it made its plans for iPhone OS 4 -- at least those aspects of it that don't involve new hardware -- clear at last week

's press event. I'd love to see Google be just as open about Android's future -- maybe at its I|O developer conference, which I'll be attending next month. And here's what I'd love to hear: "The primary focus for the next version of Android is improving the user interface and ensuring that it's as rock-solid as possible -- and doing everything in our power to enable developers to build outstanding apps." I'd love to have a hard time choosing between the iPhone and the Droid because they were both so cool, and so free of serious gotchas . . .

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