Why I dumped my Droid

Why I dumped my Droid

Summary: I wanted to love the Droid X. I really did. The specs are awesome, and it got rave reviews from friends and colleagues, who overwhelmingly recommended it as the best of the Android phones. But after two weeks, I sent it back. Here's why.


I wanted to love the Droid X. I really did. The specs are awesome, and it got rave reviews from friends and colleagues, who overwhelmingly recommended it as the best of the Android phones. Even Paul Thurrott enthused about his Droid X, calling it “hands-down superior to anything designed in Cupertino.” So I picked one up from Verizon, secure in the knowledge that I had 30 days to decide whether to keep it or send it back.

Initially, I found a lot to like about this device. But two full weeks of carrying it around the Western U.S. on an assortment of business and pleasure trips was enough for me to decide, with no hesitation, that for me, Droid doesn’t cut it.

What went wrong?

Initially, at least, I was seduced by the device—or, more accurately, by Verizon’s network, which actually works in my office. That’s a pleasant and striking contrast to AT&T, whose signal doesn’t penetrate to my home office at all and only reaches about half a bar on the other side of the house. My wife, who loves her iPhone 3GS, has learned that the best way to make it through an entire conversation on the iPhone is to sit in one spot on the couch and try not to move around too much. If I could use it in my office, the iPhone might be an option, but I can't, so it isn't.

Update: A commenter asks why I don't just get an AT&T MicroCell, which connects to the local WiFi network to send and receive phone calls. I tried it earlier this year, but unfortunately, the layout of our home doesn't allow the signal to reach both the office and the living areas at the same time. In addition, it adds $20 a month to the already high phone bill. So it's a nonstarter.

Eventually, though, the novelty of being able to use a mobile phone to actually make phone calls wore off, and I had a chance to evaluate this device and the rest of the Android platform on its merits. And that’s where things began to fall apart.

For starters, I realized the device was just too big for my taste. That big, bright, high-resolution screen is part of its appeal, but it also makes it awkward to stash in a side pocket and a little too big to fit comfortably in a shirt pocket.

And although the Droid X is impressively fast at most tasks, it pays a familiar price for that performance, generating a level of heat that I found literally uncomfortable. It wasn’t hot enough to fry an egg, but on more than one occasion I flinched when I touched the back of the device.

Whatever it was doing with the CPU was having an impact on battery life as well, because I had a hard time getting through a working day (much less from sunup to sundown on a long midsummer day) before the battery died. Generally, I found that it would quit before the nine-hour mark, which simply isn’t acceptable for business travel. Using the turn-by-turn GPS seemed to be a particularly big power gobbler. This was particularly inconvenient on one extended driving trip, where the Droid battery conked out about a half-hour before we reached our destination, and we had to use a backup phone to call for directions.

I’m sure I could have figured out how to squeeze more battery life out of the Droid by tweaking its settings, but just finding those settings was what finally sent me over the edge. The Android OS, at least as customized by Verizon on this device, had dozens of icons spread out over seven screens. Some were part of the OS, some were third-party apps, and the whole thing looked like it had been designed by a committee of mad scientists.

The first app I downloaded was a Task Killer, which I used to shut down all of the running apps (more than 20) that were starting by default on this phone, including Skype, which I don't use. But within a minute or two, all of those apps restarted themselves. Gee, thanks, Verizon.

Ultimately, what unsold me on the Droid X in particular and on the Android platform in general was its complexity. I understand why geeks love this OS. Like Linux, it’s a tweaker’s playground. I’m sure I could have solved all my problems by rooting the device, downloading a new kernel, and starting from scratch.

But the last thing I want is a device that requires constant babysitting.

So, after spending a few hours trying to figure out how to make everything make sense, I surrendered, packed the whole thing up, and shipped it back.

And the search continues.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Telcos, Verizon

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  • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

    So what are you using in the meantime, Ed? And will you try Windows Phone 7 when the devices are available?
    • Its to be expected of you Ed

      ROFL, the only reason I read your blog is to see what foolish reasons you could pull?

      And believe me, if you find Android complex, be careful with your pen, its may give you a headache to make it work.

      Geez, how dopey will Ed ever get?
      • Well, it was pretty funny. Android IS mainstream, it is NOT geeks at all

        that account for the numbers. So, Ed not even as smart as Joe Sixpack is pretty funny. Ed buys an Android phone with the only goal of dumping it and writing a headline grabbing article!!!!
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas - i hope the other android phones aren't like this, i suspect they are not, but to Ed's defense, i think battery life is "sorta" important, duh
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        Not sure about Verizon, but I have a Nexus One while my son has the Captivate.
        The NO is much simpler to change and access settings than the Captivate. Suspect it is a carrier issue that adds to the complexity.
      • Wow... Just WOW.

        "Ed Bott is an award-winning technology writer with more than two decades' experience writing for mainstream media outlets and online publications."
        Dude, if you find an Android based phone complicated, it's time you retire. My 80 year old grandma can use it fine.
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas You might want to read that again, Apps running the background (battery, memory etc.), heat when running (my iPhone 3Gs does the same thing when running the GPS turn by turn, and will suck the batter dry in a couple of hours if I don't plug it in.), restarting of tasks that are not needed, size, and above all battery life. Yeah all of those are "foolish" reasons for someone with who doesn't get it, but I think Ed gets it. Be careful that pen you are so proud of might jab ya...
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas I tried a few Android phones on 2.2 Froyo software, it sure looks cool, but as soon as you staring touching the screen the software looks like it's running on a underpowered CPU. I was so disappointed. I've tried an iPhone, Andriod's interface experience is just amateur in comparison.
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas Exactly how I feel about Ed :P
      • It's to be expected of a phone with a Task Manager

        @Uralbas Android needs a Task Manager? really?

        Windows Mobile, Windows CE, they all needed one of those, too.

        Seriously, WTF.

        I mean, it's fine to be a fandroid apologist, just, y'know, OWN it.
        God of Biscuits
      • I'm dumping my Ally Droid

        @Uralbas : I'm dumping my Ally Droid. I can't keep the thing charged up. I put it on the charger when I go to bed and it won't hold a charge 24 hours. I am having to charge it up at work too. When we went to the National Book festival, I charged the phone up the night before, and at one point, we went to the free book download booth for smartphones, and ereaders, and when I went to connect it, it was deader than a doornail. It goes back.
        library assistant
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas I shouldn't even comment on this post, but I don't understand how people like Ed get paid to write such trash.

        As a possible customer at least see Anand's, GsmArena and Youtube "hands on" before making a decision (and, of course, get to the nearest store and test it yourself).
        For a real review on X try: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3826/motorola-droid-x-thoroughly-reviewed

        A friend of mine has had an iPhone 3GS for over a year, I have an HTC Desire for 3 months. We've been "battling" it out since I bought it.
        The conclusion is it all comes down to personal preferences and habits: I was a Nokia user so I'm used to having quick access to things and I like the increased functionality of HTC's UI; my friend likes the more refined software and hardware of Apple's phone and the App Store.

        For Ed - settings are under "Settings". Icons can be customized, arranged and deleted on any smartphone.
        Search for your cojones and write a real article for once.

      • Amazed that you don't get it.

        @DonnieBoy<br>So often I hear (more accurately 'read') around here that the reason there are so many satisfied Windows users is simply because they don't know any better, as in; its easy to like crap if you don't know its crap.<br><br>I always seem to be reading from some Linux or Apple user that if more Windows users were just made aware of what a good product should operate like then there would be so many more people leaving Windows behind. While I think thats a simplistic answer that I am not so sure has any merit, its one often used to explain why the vast majority still runs off of Windows with remarkably little complaint even though practically every Apple and Linux user on the planet would fill your ears with reasons why they believe Windows of any flavor is utter crap.<br><br>Now here we have a situation where people are claiming that "Joe Sixpack" likes his Android phone just fine and if Joe Sixpack likes it and dosnt find it complicated it must be because its good. <br><br>You have to love the way double standards fly around this place as if nobody would notice.<br><br>So if in fact Android is "mainstream" which I expect it is, lets not be in too big a rush to proclaim that Joe Sixpack knows fully well what quality is and is not. Far too many people have already made the claim that Joe Sixpack dosnt know quality from a hole in the ground and thats why he uses Windows, its too late to swap out that argument in favor of Joe Sixpack suddenly having a full understanding about just what quality is.
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas And who are you? Not eating enough fibre or just born stupid and never overcame it?
      • Geez, how dopey will Ed ever get?


        Not enough to match the rudeness of Uralbas.
      • What A Bunch Of A_wipes...

        Let the man have an opinion, and share his experiences. I happened to find the blog insightful. As many 'Droid commercials as I've seen, I hadn't seen any real critique of the phones.
        Thanks Ed. Don't stop sharing, even if clowns want to ruin the party...
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas <br><br>I totally agree with Uralbas, if this guy is the best apologist MS can get they're doomed.
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas <br><br>I'm just as much of a geek as the next guy. I use Mac OS X, windows, and ubuntu. There is a Android TV show by Android fans and even THEY say that it's not ready for the average user. Also, I believe that a phone like a PC is a personal device and I would never criticize someone for making a personal choice. I do defend some of his criticism. Ease of use is relative. For a phone, it needs to be easier than a desktop. A big problem with Android is that like windows, you have a lot of apps that want to stay up all the time, and you have no way to stop them. The problem that he is having is exactly why I don't like windows desktop. There are apps on windows which are somehow in the registry that start up and do not let you tell it to not come up or if they do, they ignore it. Even the MS apps ignore settings to not start up. I'm talking about the apps that are not in the startup folder or services. At least with Ubuntu, you can turn on/off startup apps. You have no such luck with Android. The app to kill other apps should be a part of the operating system so that no tellco, etc can get rid of it. At least with Ubuntu, most apps are GUIs so that you can use your window manager and close the window and get rid of the app. Not so with Android, you need a special program which they allow the tellcos to not include in their distributions. Even Symbian S60 and some Sonyericcson high end feature phones allow you to easily kill apps. Some android devices come with the kill app (e.g. Droid) others like his Droid X and Archos internet tablets have left the kill out of the distribution. Another point is how "intuitive" is it. This generally means that it's similar to other phones. For IPhone, many Nokia, many Sonyericcson, settings is an icon either at the top level or under tools or something similar. People are used to it being there. Why not make it like 90% of the other phones? Are you really gaining anything by having settings be a menu of the home screen? It's easy to learn the difference, but sometimes phone usage is so automatic that you'd rather not have to think about it for some users. It doesn't bother me, but I can understand those who don't like it. I wish that they did have one requirement of the apps which would be to always have an exit. There are a lot of apps that don't have exit or they ignore it if you use it. They minimize, but stay in the background. One of the valid big criticisms of Windows Mobile was the start button like on a desktop, but the phone is not a desktop. So, why is it there? It would be nice if someone came up with some GUI standards for Android as so many apps are different. MS has some which they do not consistently follow on their own apps. Some Android apps exit by back key, others have exit. Many apps ignore what they have to exit. And, can I get a help menu item? I have them on my S60 phones. I like Android, I just wish that they could make some changes for usability. I'm sure that it will get better with time. Also, I only have the 4 Android devices two Archos, a Droid, and a G1. At least Android is open source unlike MS. My Nokia N86 can drain the battery with GPS and A-GPS on as well. Consequently, I can't really complain about a device for GPS drain. I wish that more phones had both GPS and A-GPS like many Nokia phones. I tried to carry around my Android Archos 5 Internet Tablet, but with a 5" screen, it was too big for a pocket. I had a case for it, but still too big for the belt. As a result, I can understand not wanting a device that's too big. It can come down to if you carry a purse or suitcase where it's easy to carry a big device around. The Android Archos 7 Home Tablet has the battery drain so bad it can happen in hours.
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        Your comment is what made reading this blog worthwhile. Thank you for the enjoyable chuckle!
      • RE: Why I dumped my Droid

        @Uralbas Sorry buddy but our large hospital where we support over 150 cell phones will NOT!!! support ANY Android phones.<br><br>They are so inconsistent from model to model, let alone carrier to carrier. Also battery life is pretty bad and requires the ueser to jump through hoops to extend.<br><br>We support Blackberry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile (soon Windows Phone 7).<br><br>Ed is a bright guy and I agree with him 1000% after trying the Samsung Galazy S (Captivate on AT&T). It was sloppy UI design and didnt even support Exchange sync like it should.<br><br>I dont have all month to tweak a phone.<br>Android requires constant tweaking.<br>I want to use the device not be setting it up forever.<br><br>Good review Ed and I think Paul will soon agree.