Tale of the tape, part II: Apple iPhone 4 versus Motorola Droid X

Space limitations kept me from fitting the complete list of side-by-side comparisons of the Apple iPhone 4 and Motorola Droid X into my Sunday column: Feature for feature, Droid X and iPhone 4 prove worthy rivals. So here are more observations.

— Camera and image quality
The Droid X includes an 8-megapixel camera that shoots stills and video. I think resolution this high in a phone camera is overkill because the imaging sensor quality doesn’t benefit much from the extra pixels. The Apple iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera, which is a big improvement over the 3G model’s 1.3-megapixel camera.

I tested both cameras under the same conditions and posted links to full-resolution images from each. The images aren’t edited, although the files are renamed. You’ll see the iPhone images are brighter and have more color saturation. I don’t like the uncommon 3264 x 1840 pixel image-aspect ratio of the Droid photos. Compressed images from each camera were just less than 2 megabytes large.

I did not thoroughly test the video-recording quality, but did capture videos with each easily on the first try. The Droid X includes 720 pixel high-definition recording mode and also features an high-definition multimedia interface-out port, which will let users connect the phone to an HD television for viewing videos in big-screen splendor. This is a nice feature, and one the iPhone 4 lacks.

iPhone 4 photos

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Droid X photos

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Still images:
IPhone – 2
Droid – 1

IPhone – 1
Droid – 2

— Audio and music functions
Both phones offer music player applications. The Apple includes a total iPod experience, including easy links to and easy purchases at the Apple iTunes store. There is none better.

Getting your tunes on the Droid takes a few more steps, including a visit to the Verizon Marketplace. It works, but not as elegantly as the Apple experience. Rumors are flying about Google opening an online music store to rival iTunes. I’ll let you know when it happens.

Audio quality of both units was as good as the earbuds or speakers I was plugged into. I spent a lot of time using Pandora, a free online music site, on both units, and found the Droid performance zippy overall.

IPhone – 2
Droid – 1

— Applications

Apple’s App Store offers more than 200,000 programs in practically any category you might imagine. The Android Applications Store includes about 10 percent as many apps as Apple offers. I found the selection at the Android store to be more complete than a year ago; I was able to find a suitable free application to match nearly each of the free apps I have on my iPhone 4.

Downloading apps to each phone was superfast and updates are flagged by both operating systems. Updating apps was also very fast.


IPhone – 2
Droid – 1

— E-mail, contacts and calendar integration
Each phone relies on its parent company to integrate these daily touch points. As an Apple Mobile Me subscriber ($99 per year), I can update and view my contacts, calendar and e-mail on any computer or my iPhone anytime. The sync is automatic and fast. I can also remotely wipe data and find a misplaced phone using Mobile Me.

I also have a Gmail account, and instantly had all my Gmail waiting for me when I signed onto the Droid the first time. I was able to export contacts and calendar info from my Mobile Me account and import the data into Gmail easily. If forced to switch from Apple to Android, I could do so with little hassle.

The best part about the Gmail integration is the cost: Free.

IPhone – 1
Droid – 2
Final Scores

From blog post:
IPhone – 8
Droid – 7

Carryover from column:
iPhone – 9
Droid – 9
iPhone – 17
Droid – 16

Each phone has gotten substantial press coverage and promotion since their launches.

The iPhone 4 was the first Apple iPhone to suffer significant negative press when Consumer Reports failed to recommend it. The “no” vote came because of an antenna/connectivity problem some users reported having when holding the phone a certain way. To counter the issue, Steve Jobs and Apple are giving free bumper cases to all iPhone 4 owners and refunds to iPhone 4 buyers buyers who already bought cases.

Motorola, hasn’t had any "death grip" issues, so hasn’t had as much coverage or media buzz.

Battery life for each phone was about the same. I was able to function through a normal day without recharging either phone, but heavy video use or running multiple apps does drain the battery faster than if you keep it lean.

Both phones have benefited their parent partners.
Apple reported record profits last quarter, and AT&T’s user base has grown because of the iPhone. Verizon has benefited from the growing adoption of smart phones.

I’m not sure whether either telecom giant will be able to keep ahead of the demands put on their networks by users of data-sucking smart phones. All smartphones consume far more data than regular mobile phones. The Droid X may be the heaviest data-sucker of all, according to a report on PCWorld.com, saying the device may use up to five times more bandwidth than other similar devices.

Read the story: Droid X: Bandwidth Hog?

The wild card remains the network exclusivity of Apple to AT&T. Once the iPhone is available on other networks, including Verizon, look for unhappy AT&T customers to head for the nearest exit. I hope Verizon is ready for them. I also hope to be writing about it sometime in the next six months.

We’ll see.


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