Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone

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.

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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 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.

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165 comments
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  • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

    Folks, the mobile field has narrowed. So said Jason.
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • so his logic basically comes down to:

      @Return_of_the_jedi <br>he wants a 4g device that burns through its battery so fast that he needs a standby battery to swap. something he wouldn't need on an iphone 4 , let alone an iphone 5 that probably has an even better battery. oh, the logic of the apple haters...
      bannedfromzdnetagainandagain
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain He explictly states his reasoning: "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." BOTH have the potential to run out of battery power before the end of the work day, but one gives you the option to swap in a fresh battery. It doesn't sound to me that the author "hates" Apple for not providing that option.
        mizerock
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain I had the thunderbolt, 4G only drains battery if you're in and out of a 4G area... If you stay in a 4G area it really isn't much worse than 3G.

        Oh and Translation, he wanted the better, more up to date phone!
        slickjim
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain And where exactly, did I say I hated Apple anything? I own an iPad 2, an Apple TV, A Mac, and an iPod Classic 5th generation. Quantify me as an "Apple Hater". Seriously. I dare you.
        jperlow
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain
        The "4" in iPhone 4 has nothing to do with data speeds dumb dumb. He wants a 4G (data) device. Apple has yet to provide an LTE/HSPA+/WiMax version. And when ever they decide to build one, guaranteed the iPhone battery wont last much longer then whats currently available. Silly groupie.
        pablo.station
      • Cmon the iPhone battery lasts much less than a day

        Jason is right about the battery for users away from a power source. Typically not an issue for me, but if been caught out a few times.

        We'll know in a month the capabilities of the iPhone 5. Would be a brave decision to jump into annew contract less than a month before it's release even with icloud reservations.
        Richard Flude
      • Battery life

        My iPhone 4 lasts me all day and then some. I use it a lot, but sometimes I do use it way more in a day than the battery can handle, for example if I'm using GPS for hours. In those cases, I just bring along an extra battery to plug into the phone to charge it back up. But there is a group of people that wants to swap out the battery completely. Not sure why they're so adamant. Is it to avoid having anything extra attached to the phone for even a few minutes?
        spstanley
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain <br><br>One can buy spare smart phone batteries/w a separate charger for relatively cheap, online. Ideally,<br>Also they're pretty small and it's easy to carry around a few of them in a briefcase or messenger bag, or in a small gadget bag. 6 hours at heavy use at 4g speed is alot better than 10 hours of light use with 3g slowness and laggyness. With light use, a good 4g phone should last over 10 hrs too.
        voltrarian
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @pablo.station
        Apple won't release a 4g version until they have battery technology that can handle the drain. I've yet to come across a non-BlackBerry smart phone that has a better stock battery than the iPhone 4 (I'm now using a WP7 device).

        That said carrying around a spare battery, while handy, seems rather impractical since you obviously have to power down the device to change anyway, but to each their own.
        rdawson3
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain You're clueless and sputtering drivel that you don't even know about. <br><br>I charge my DroidX every one to two days at best, sometimes as much as four days apart depending on use. It NEVER dies in less than a day. NEVER

        And if it did, at least I have the option available to me to keep a charged battery I can stick in. I don't have that option with an iPhone of any type.
        blueskip
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain
        Going from 3G to 4G is like going from dial-up to broadband. If you can't understand that, then keep using the iCrap. I had an iPad and got rid of it because I could not stand having to use iTunes. I refuse to even consider an iPhone until they have 4G.
        freeky1
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain I love this. A whole screen full of speculators. The Droid X has the same battery life as the iPhone4 (VZW) in my side by side comparisons. The X has the best battery I've seen for an Android phone. I could unplug it at 9am use it all day and use it most of the next day too before plugging back in. My list of Androids: Eris, Incredible, X, Fascinate, Incredible2, and now Bionic. Then you can add a bucket full of other smartphones. The Bionic has excellent battery life. I have no complaints. I still have half a battery at the end of the day. It depends how you adjust the settings. So you know I sync three Exchange accounts, google and FB. Five calendars and all the regular junk. The Pentile screen I'm not sold on. The original X had a crisper screen.
        LarsDennert
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain A 4G phone, currently, may burn through the battery a little more than a 3G phone, per hour. But on LTE anyway, particularly with the latest chipsets, you won't burn faster PER BYTE. Plus, the 4G phones aren't shipping with 1200mA/hr batteries.. the Droid Bionic, anyway, ships with a default 1735mA/hr cell. And as Jason points out, there's already an enhanced battery option.

        Yeah, the iPhone has a decent sized battery, and very aggressive battery management software -- iOS devices last a little bit longer on the same sized battery. And when the battery's smaller... my sister's iPhone 4 ran over 1.5x as long on a charge as my original Droid. Then again, I have five batteries for it, so I'm good for a weekend without a charge. And it's come in handy plenty of times... I wouldn't even consider a phone without a replaceable battery.

        The thing about LTE, though... once the chips are mature and not power hungry, you'll find LTE will actually use less power than HSPA or EvDO. In fact, the crossover could be pretty soon. The new digital processor -- yeah, that's power hungry, for a little while, for any new non-trivial thing. But the one thing you can't change -- the radio protocol. LTE has a new upstream modulation that's inherently lower powered than any other cellular protocol out there (and WiMax, in its next generation, is moving to this as well).

        As an original Droid owner, I'm looking at an upgrade soon, too. My Droid is working just dandy, but the stupidity of most early Android phone makers, shipping with so little internal storage (which is the only place some program resources can live), means my Droid is long past "full".

        The "Bionic" is the one phone I've seen so far that meets my needs. But I'll hold out for a month or two.. I definitely want to see the Nexus (Droid?) Prime and maybe what other devices Samsung or HTC put up against the Bionic.
        Hazydave
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @spstanley

        I think the point is that you CAN swap out the battery.. I'm sure there is an option to bring along an extra battery to plug into the phone to charge it back up if you wish to do that too. Should the battery fail on his phone he just puts in a new one.. Should a batter fail on an iPhone it's a much more expensive prospect in either time or money.
        Xennex1170
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain Buy the extended battery.
        I've had the bionic 3 days now. I purchased the 2800 mah battery and I can use the phone all day with 4G. The first night I had 30% remaining on the battery. Last night I had 60% remaining.
        I have to admit I was heavily playing with the 4G on the first day (surfing, netflix, running speakeasy's bandwidth test) so the battery was stressed more on that day, but it also could be the burn-in was needed on the battery.
        BTW, I own an iphone as well. I definitely like the bionic more and not just because of the 4G (but it's a BIG plus).
        north of wva
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @bannedfromzdnetagainandagain Did I miss read it or does he want a 4G device but intends to use it locked in 3G CDMA mode? What is the point of getting a LTE device is you aren't even going to use it let alone make that one of your main criteria for selecting a device?
        non-biased
      • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

        @Xennex So replacing the battery in the iPhone is very expensive huh? Have you actually ever priced it or just making assumptions? How does it compare dollar to dollar against buying an equally good backup battery for any other phone? I think the whole replaceable battery argument is kind of pathetic myself. Sure, you can easily swap batteries on other phones while you can't on an iPhone but that doesn't mean you don't have options. There are plenty of backup options for the iPhone regardless of what the detractors want to think. Are some of them cumbersome, sure but none are any less convenient than carrying around and extra battery for any other device. I would suspect that a vast majority of those that harp on the swappable battery talking point are individuals that would never consider an iPhone anyway and it's an easy talking point. I have used iPhones for about 4 years now and never had an issue with not being able to swap the battery and normally get 2-3 days out of charge on my iPhone 4.
        non-biased
    • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

      @Return_of_the_jedi
      Well, I am on the fence at the moment. I am still in the dark ages it seems with my iPhone 3gs, but it's time to upgrade. I will probably wait for the 5 hopefully next month, but there is a whole slate of new phones that are due out around the same time like the HTC Ruby, Samsung Sensation 2s etc. I must say I like the iPhone, but the latest phones have come a long way. I am excited to see what is on the horizon!
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      Rick I.
    • RE: Why I jumped on Droid Bionic and not on iPhone 5

      @Return_of_the_jedi
      Well I have the same phone as Jason on the same provider and loved it until the first Android update and the love started to fade. Then I received the second Android update and my love affair had turned to pure hate. The phone was 6 months old and working like garbage previously useful Google apps were now so slow and buggy that the phone was a pain to use all after 6 months. At that point I knew I was switching to the iPhone. At least 6 months into ownership I know it will still be working great. Good bye Android.
      KBabcock75