Droid vs. iPhone: Which revolution should you join?

Advice for the first time smartphone buyer: iPhone is the safer choice, Droid the better one for some users.

If you are buying your first smartphone, which should it be: Droid or the iPhone? Both are revolutionary devices, but which revolution is for you? It is not (yet) a coin toss.

That is the challenge I was asked to solve, the choice of the perfect smartphone for a woman who had never owned a smartphone before. Until recently, the choice was easy, after tomorrow it becomes much more difficult.

Once the Motorola Droid hits Verizon's shelves, the equation changes and my old "Gotta get an iPhone" answer becomes obsolete. I knew it would someday, but Motorola's Droid has arrived almost like a bolt from the blue.

You can mostly thank Google for that, but Motorola contributes a hardware platform at least as good as the iPhone, and Verizon clearly has the better network.

The worst thing I can say about either the iPhone or the Droid is that one isn't the other, though I still believe the Droid has some catching up to do.

For comparison, see the Verizon "iDon't" TV commercial for some anti-iPhone examples. Then visit an Apple store and see how well the iPhone meshes into the whole Apple Macintosh ecosystem to understand what the Droid is missing.

However, what if you have never owned a smartphone and wouldn't know what you are missing? That probably includes few Tech Inciter readers, but Droid vs. iPhone is a question many of us will face from friends and relatives.

What I told the woman, a listener to my radio program, was this:

"The iPhone is the safer choice and probably easier to use, but try both phones. If the Droid offers the applications you want and you like it the most, go for it."

I went on to explain that Google is supporting the Droid (and other Android handsets) with some cool applications, not (yet or ever?) available for the iPhone.

I told her that a hardcore business user--the sort of person who would otherwise have a BlackBerry--is a better match for a Droid, with its "real" keyboard and Microsoft Exchange support.

Likewise, someone who lives with an iPod or iTunes always playing is a better match for the iPhone.

Photography may be a tie, with the Droid's larger pixel count (5 megapixels vs. the iPhone 3GS' 3.2 megapixels) offset by iPhoto's ease of use on a Mac.

Network? Well, there's a map for that and, no matter what AT&T says in its lawsuit, Verizon has better 3G coverage and that matters to smartphone users. In addition, if it matters to you, the Droid should have tethering support before the iPhone, albeit for an extra monthly charge.

In the "what if I make a mistake?" category--and this really concerned the woman--AT&T gets the nod, but that may change. Verizon will, on Nov. 15, double its early termination fee, to $350.

That will make it much more expensive to bailout on your Verizon contract than an AT&T agreement, but something makes me think AT&T may soon match Verizon's ETF increase with one of its own.

The Nov. 15 Verizon deadline may be a good reason for people with Droid concerns to buy right away, as it will be less expensive to undo the damage if they make a mistake.

Cost of ownership? Our Ian Paul looked into this and the Droid and iPhone cost about the same over the course of two years: About $2,400. (Gulp!) The Palm Pre is significantly less expensive, at less than $1,900 over two-years. And, no, people are not asking me if they should buy a Pre.

As much as I love my iPhone, it has surprised me that the Droid has arrived as such a contender. While the iPhone is still "the safe choice," there are many good reasons why someone might choose a Droid instead.

Either way, the first-time buyer can select a very talented companion and not have to worry too much about what they are missing. Provided they avoid the inevitable iPhone-to-Droid comparison stories--such as this one.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MotorolaApplesmartphonesiPhoneGoogle AndroidMotorola DroidiPhone 3GS

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Coursey

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?