Eight ways Google's Droid fails to impress

TechRepublic member dcolbert, who was at first blown away by the Verizon Droid, has discovered several areas where the smartphone is lacking. He lists eight of his frustrations and encourages his TR peers to share their feedback about the Droid.

It's been several months since Verizon released an Android smartphone, and I was an early adopter of the device. At first, I was blown away by the Droid, but as time has passed, I've become somewhat disillusioned. Sure, it still does a lot of great things, such as offer Skype, Pandora, and an open market for deliverables. However, there are quite a few areas where the Droid fails to impress.

1. Browsing:

I've found browsing on the Droid to be far less practical than I thought it would be. Now, to be fair, the Droid is miles ahead of IE for WinMo. I use mobile browsing far more often than I ever did in the past, but it's still a limited, frustrating experience. Quite often, I "bookmark" pages so that I can view them later from a full desktop OS browser.

2. Touch screen

I've read evidence that the Droid's capacitive touch screen – the pinch-to-zoom feature on the Dolphin browser – is not as precise, fluid, responsive, or sensitive as the iPhone LCD. In fact, it appears that the touch screen is more accurate on the iPhone than the Nexus-1, so I think it's unlikely that this is a processing speed issue. Right now, I'm hoping that the forthcoming 2.1 OS pinch-to-zoom in native apps will work better, but the odds are that Apple has a higher quality touch-screen LCD.

3. Facebook app

The Facebook app for the Droid really disappoints me. In fact, I found the Facebook app for WinMo 6.5 more useful – in particular, the ability to quickly and easily upload photos ad videos. I can do this on the Droid, but it's a hassle. My friends who have iPhones and are heavy Facebook users, like myself, assure me that the iPhone app is superior.

The big issue with the Android OS is related to how notifications interact with the Facebook app. In reality, they don't. When you get a notification, instead of opening up Facebook, it links to the stock browser, which defaults to either or Responding to comments is so difficult that it's basically not even worth it. This isn't the dream of being empowered to stay connected while mobile that the Droid promised me.

4. Other apps

The Droid is similar to the Nintendo Wii. The bundled apps blow your hair back, but it's mostly downhill from there. Maybe I'm just getting too old to understand how to leverage this newfangled, location aware, geo-networking paradigm of mobile computing, although I think I actually get that part of it. The problem could be that I'm generally the old guy at that particular party – not out of the loop, but generationally, I have nothing in common with the people who are in the loop.

It isn't just that, though. While apps like Foursquare get a lot of buzz and seem to have the most revolutionary potential, the problem seems to be a lack of compelling, more traditional apps. This is where the App Count Gap between the Droid and the iPhone is apparent. If the iPhone had ten bajillion-million apps and Droid only had 10,000 – but the right 10,000 apps – it wouldn't matter. But instead, Android mostly has the wrong apps.

5. e-readers

There are e-readers available for the Droid, but Kindle isn't one of them. Coincidentally, Kindle is the e-reader to have. Google should be courting, prodding, and nurturing this kind of relationship, but they're not. It's possible that the hardware and architecture design of the Android platform and hardware is simply limited in what it can deliver. I'm not sure Google's product was fully realized when it came to market, and this may ultimately hurt them in the mobile platform battle with Microsoft and Apple.

6. Hardware

From a hardware perspective, the Droid is prone to locking up and having apps crash. It seems that whatever feature I want to use at that particular moment is on the blink. The ironic thing is that it's often the only part that isn't working right. For example, sometimes I can't open a folder on the desktop that contains an app I want to load, but if I go to the full list of apps, that works fine. GPS also goes on the blink frequently, and for some reason, it wants to relocate me in Tennessee.

The Droid feels, and I've said this before, "Linux-like" – in the sense that behind a pretty, polished exterior, the nuts and bolts seem a little shaky, unpolished, and unrefined. The Android desktop GUI reminds me a lot of Ubuntu with the Compiz Cube. And the apps remind me of the apps you can download from Ubuntu Repo. They've got a DIY, "did this in my basement during the evenings and weekends, not during my day-job" vibe to them.

7. Keyboard

I've become adept at the Droid's virtual keyboard, and I'm confident it works very similar to the iPhone's, including an annoying tendency to autocorrect and totally blow my tweets. For example, I recently tweeted, "Hated Kate and Jack both for at least two seasons, Hope Sawyer has learned his lesson." Autocorrect thought "Hated Late and Jackson for at least two seasons" was really what I was trying to get across.

8. Battery

The battery life on the Droid is also poor. In the morning, if I run an app and forget to exit or set it to sleep, the phone is literally baking in my belt holster and down to 20% battery life before 11:00 AM. Even with very little use — maybe making three calls and running a couple apps for 15 minutes or so at a time, two or three times during the day – I'm crawling into my dock by 9:00 PM with hardly any juice to spare. While this isn't a deal breaker, it's certainly something that could use significant improvement.

Mostly, I find that now that the magic has worn off, I don't use the Droid nearly as often, or in as revolutionary a manner as I had hoped I would. The whole concept of a "Droid" – I wish it delivered better. I want an RD2D or C3P0. Need to store the blueprints of a space station? Droid does that. Need to interface with the Millennium Falcom's ODB-II Computer? Droid does that, too. The fact is, despite the marketing hype, there are some things that Droid doesn't, and they're pretty big things.

If you've got a Droid, I'd be interested in hearing your feedback. Do you agree with me or think I'm totally off base on these observations?


Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

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