Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone

Summary:While the yet-to-be released next-generation iPhone will almost certainly be an industry-leading device, I decided that what I really needed was 4G speed, Google's proven cloud integration and extended battery life when it was time to upgrade.

Nearly two years ago, back in November of 2009, I jumped aboard the Android 2.x train and left my BlackBerry past behind by picking up the first Motorola Droid.

The Motorola Droid was a groundbreaking smartphone -- it demonstrated that Android could finally compete with Apple's iPhone as well as exceed its functionality in a number of areas, particularly as it relates to integration with Google's services.

In doing so, it also established Verizon as the leader in not only reliable wireless 3G data services but also as the premier vendor of Android-based smartphones.

Other carriers have since jumped onto the Google bandwagon and Android is now the leading smartphone platform by overall OS market share.

Nearly two years later, much has changed in the mobile landscape. The original Motorola Droid slider design has been refreshed three times, and there have been other products such as the Droid X and the Droid Pro which have been introduced and refreshed as well.

At the same time, other manufacturers have not stood still. HTC has introduced an impressive line of Android smartphones, as has Samsung, all of which have launched on Verizon and on other providers and have further complicated the landscape.

As if this didn't make the consumer's job understanding the smartphone space any more difficult than it was, Apple launched the iPhone on Verizon in February of 2011. So now there are more smartphones to choose from than ever before.

My own wireless contract has been up for renewal for the last two or three months, and Verizon has been bombarding me with offers to get rid of my old Droid clunker, which I've kept on life support by rooting it with Open Source Android software such as CyanogenMOD.

Why have I waited so long to upgrade? Well, a lot of it has to do with the network.

Anything I would have bought up until this point would have given me zero improvement in actual mobile data performance, no matter how fast a processor the smartphone had. Up until very recently, there haven't been many 4G Verizon phones available.

That being said, I also didn't want to own the first or even the second Verizon LTE smartphone on the market.

The HTC Thunderbolt is a nice phone, but I didn't want a single-core phone that almost certainly was going to have issues running the next-generation of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich.

Samsung is notoriously horrible for being bad with their timeliness on Android software updates, as is LG, so the Droid Charge (which is backrevved to Froyo 2.2) and the Revolution, both single core LTE phones, were also out of the running for my consideration.

I don't mind being something of an early adopter, but I don't want to be too much of a pioneer either, particularly if I am spending my own money.

My Droid finally dropped dead two weeks ago. I've been roughing it with my company issued basic feature phone, which is just fine for calls, but I can't do much else with it.

So I was either going to get the Bionic, which had 4G LTE, dual cores, the most current Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread build installed on it, and was made by a company that Google just purchased, pretty much ensuring ongoing software support, or I was going to get an iPhone 5 when it comes out, presumably sometime next month.

To complicate matters, I very recently -- as in late last week -- was informed by an extremely reliable source that HTC will be introducing a dual-core successor to the Thunderbolt on Verizon in the October timeframe.

While I like HTC's hardware a great deal, the reality is that anything but a Motorola-produced device is going to have second or third nation status when it comes to software upgrades from Google, no matter what kind of reassurances we may be getting from Larry Page and company.

The next iPhone without question will be a fantastic device. But iCloud is essentially an unproven platform, no matter how much datacenter infrastructure Apple has invested in it.

I'll be more than happy to play with iCloud on my iPad 2 using Wi-Fi, but over 3G? I don't want to be a guinea pig on both LTE and/or a cloud that's never had any serious load put onto it.

There's also the issue that I really, really don't like the fact that you can't swap a battery out of an iPhone. I'm a very heavy user of my smartphone, and I expect a standard 1300Mah battery that ships in one of these thirsty 4G phones to drain very quickly.

That is, of course, If the next iPhone does actually manage to ship with LTE -- which is not in any way a certainty.

My last Droid had a 2800Mah Seidio monster Li-ion pack which gave me approximately 20 hours of battery life. I expect Motorola's 2760Mah BW8X to give me a around full day of charge on LTE on the Bionic and a bit more when locked into 3G CDMA mode, which is how I intend to use the phone when I am not tethering for mobile broadband at a hotel or at the airport.

Certainly, there isn't anything precluding from making a strap-on mondo huge Li-Ion battery that connects to the iPhone's 30-pin connector port. But that's just too clunky for me to want to deal with.

It should be also noted that if you are an existing Verizon customer and you commit to a 2-year contract, you get unlimited LTE on your data plan for the same price as your 3G unlimited data plan. This despite the fact that $299 is a heavy price to pay for a smartphone, as ZDNet's Rachel King points out.

I think this grandfathered data plan alone makes it worth it to jump onto the Bionic. So I did.

As to the next iPhone? Well, my wife's Droid upgrade is due in November. If it's as dreamy as it is rumored to be, she'll probably get one.

Are you going to make the Bionic jump on Verizon? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones, Verizon, Wi-Fi

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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