Droid Eris vs. iPhone

HTC-DroidEris-VZ-300x419I bought an HTC Droid Eris (on Verizon) this week-end… just to play with it and to decide whether Android was a threat to the iPhone.  This phone still runs Android 1.5 so there will probably be quite a few changes once 2.0/2.1 gets released for this phone.  The cool thing about the Eris HTC’s Sense UI.  They built Exchange integration for Android and they also created a whole slew of applications making the handset really useable (much more so than a raw Android handset).  Read on to see my favorite features and my main gripes.  Sneak Peak… I returned this phone within the 1 month trial period.

 

Exchange integration

  • It works!  I have my contacts, calendars (exchange and google… not that I use it yet) and email (including subfolders) syncing.
  • The mail rendering is definitely slower than on the iPhone, but the html renders fine.
  • It is a bit more laborious to clear out a large number of emails from the inbox.  You have to press and hold each item, bringing up a menu with a delete option.  I end up using the inbox preview widget on the home screen to clear out my mail before going to my inbox, since it has a delete icon with a short preview of the message.
  • You can view contacts on the exchange server.
  • Strangely enough, you cannot schedule an appointment from the calendar application, but you can do this from the mail application (menu has a ‘create appointment’ option)
  • A huge improvement over the iPhone handling of meeting requests is that, when you decline a meeting request, you get the option to add a comment in the decline email, so you can explain to the inviter why you cannot attend the meeting. 

Multi-tasking

  • Wow, I didn’t know how much I missed this from the Nokia days and the Microsoft days until now.  The iPhone cannot multi-task (except for a few standard applications like the audio player) so you cannot for example run Skype in the background while doing anything else on the phone.  Not so on the Android. (Of course, you can jailbreak your iPhone to enable this…)
  • I can now happily download a series of podcasts, stream Pandora and browse the web at the same time.  Or run a Satellite navigation app while listening to my podcasts.
  • Notifications are handled very well.  when a new email comes in, or a contact has a new facebook update, a small notification appears at the top of the screen, and you pull a ‘blind’ down over the screen allowing you to see the details of the notification.  You can then decide to dig deeper and navigate to the application.  But the best thing is that you don’t lose the context of what you were doing.  So after acting on the notification, you can just return to what you were doing.

Calling

  • Works pretty much like the iPhone.  The on-screen keyboard for type-ahead contact searches is a bit nicer than the iPhone’s.  More like what I was used to on Windows Mobile.  You get a phone keypad with letters under the numbers, so if you type a 2, it filters on all the contacts with a 2, an ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’, and if you continue to type, it quickly filters to the desired contact. 
  • There is a default number for a contact, so you don’t have to first open up a contact and then press on the phone number.  You can dial directly from the contact list.
  • There is also a ‘favorites’ widget for the home screen with a grid of mug shots of your favorite 9 people for face dialing.

Contacts

  • OK, this is pretty amazing.  You can connect your contacts with their social media profiles (it did a pretty good job finding people…) and you can then choose to have their facebook picture (for example) as the profile picture on their contact card.  Also, when you open a contact, it has a ‘tab’ with the contact’s last few facebook updates, their last few flickr, facebook, picasa pictures, etc.
  • When your contacts update their facebook statuses, you get a notification in the bar at the top of the screen so you can quickly see what they did.

Network

  • I did not have much trouble with AT&T, but Verizon’s network is pretty good. 
  • Reception at work is pretty close to 0.  Voice and Data.  Well, I am on the 44th floor, so it probably makes sense.  On AT&T, I have no problems, since the clients convinced AT&T to put a cell tower in their building.  This is a showstopper for me. 
  • I forgot that on Verizon, you cannot use the data connection while on a call.  Ouch.  I was so used to having that on AT&T’s 3G network.

Browsing

  • Flash works!
  • The Eris has pinch zooming in the browser, but since pinch is not working throughout the other applications (e.g. google maps) it is a bit confusing when to pinch vs. when you double tap.
  • Column rendering is great.  You can double tap on a column with text, and it would zoom in and reformat the text to be very readable.
  • Great home screen widget with live previews of your bookmarks for quick navigation

Applications

  • Missing audible player.  This is just a matter of time, and I hope it is soon.  Apparently audible decided it was more important to have a Palm Pre player than an Android player.  That seems like a really bad decision.
  • The Google Android Market application is where you browse for applications.  Not 100,000 like the Apple App Store, but still a decent amount, and growing rapidly, it seems.  After browsing for a bit, I found the following free apps that I liked and installed:
    • Google’s Finance application – Great for real-time stock quotes as well as a very pretty home screen widget for a particular stock ticker you want to watch.
    • Pandora Music Streaming – Pretty well known
    • Amazon app – like the iPhone’s
    • BofA app – just like the iPhone’s
    • Barcode Scanner – like iPhone’s redline app, you can scan a barcode and it will tell you the details and online (as well as local) prices for the product
    • Scan2PDF – take a picture of a page (or receipt) and it will create a PDF of it and email it
    • Facebook – a bit less rich than the iPhone’s version (no messaging, for instance), but very useable
    • TED – similar to the iPhone’s – and the videos play very well
    • NewsRob – RSS reader.  I like this one better than the iPhone’s
    • OpenTable – same as iPhone’s
    • Palringo – cross-system IM client (MSN, YIM, AIM, Google, Facebook)
    • Pixelpipe – publishing pictures directly to multiple destinations (mine goes to flickr, facebook, and a few email addresses) – this is a must-have app
    • Shazam – same as iPhone’s.  I don’t really ever use this, but useful nontheless
    • iTunes remote – OK, this is definitely not as good as the iPhone’s version, and it is still a bit buggy, but I suspect this will be fixed in the future
    • Sudoku – of course

Hardware

  • but it is nice to be able to see flash in the browser
  • I miss the iPhone’s scre
    en size.  Not the iPhone’s size.  The Eris’s screen is brilliant, and a bit smaller than the iPhone’s, making the form factor really, really nice.  It feels small and light compared to the iPhone.
  • The Eris has a little scoll ball (a-la Blackberry) which I am not really using much.  Will see if it grows on me.
  • The camera is a whopping 5MP with auto-focus, and it takes beautiful pictures.  I think it does better in low light than the iPhone.  Still no Nokia, though.
  • Overall feel is good.  A rubbery feel and very light. 
  • Wish the home, Menu, back and search buttons were actual buttons, instead of part of the screen.
  • Speaker sound is loud, and surpasses the sound on the iPhone

Returning it why?

  • No coverage at work
  • Battery life unacceptable.  Cannot get through a day, even with every trick known to the internet forums, I still cannot get through a day under normal use.

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