Samsung has been handing out Droid Charges to a bunch of bloggers recently, so I was grateful that they came knocking on my door to give me one to try out as well. Some of my favorite gadget sites already do a pretty good job of giving an in-depth rundown of this thing (see Engadget’s review here and PC World’s review here), so I’ll spare you the technical details and instead just offer a few of my personal thoughts on it. In particular, I’ll be comparing this device to the smartphone that I currently use: the iPhone 4, which I love. First, some positives and negatives on the Droid Charge. Then, general impressions. Let’s begin:
- Gorgeous and huge AMOLED screen
- Supports 4G LTE, which can be screamingly fast when it’s working correctly
- Excellent Gmail/Google Apps integration
- Supports Mobile Hotspots right out of the box
- Excellent maps/navigation
- Phone is so big that it is difficult to operate with one hand
- Severe lack of apps and a generally crappier app store (Android Market) than iOS
- Seemingly worse or inconsistent battery life than the iPhone 4 and other smartphones
- Phone’s build feels light, plasticky, and cheap
- Comes loaded with a bunch of horrible apps that I neither want nor need
- Apps crash often or need to be reset in some way
Let me get this out of the way immediately: If the Droid Charge were the only smartphone I’d ever used, I’d be as pleased as punch. It sports a gorgeous screen and it adeptly does all the things that most people could possibly ever need (i.e. e-mail, internet browsing, etc.) But when compared with the latest consumer smartphones like the iPhone 4, its flaws immediately become apparent.
A few months ago, I gave my mother my old iPhone 3Gs. I only showed her how to use the FourTrack app (she likes to record music and notes for herself, as she’s a choir director), but on a recent visit home i noticed that she was using the email and internet browser with ease. She had grown to love the phone with no guidance whatsoever, a remarkable feat when you consider that English is her second language and she is not anywhere close to being a digital native.
I can’t imagine her having the same experience with this phone. Unlike the iPhone, the Droid Charge comes loaded with endless pages of apps, none of which I asked for nor needed. It’s not a user friendly experience and I don’t understand why Verizon continues to do this (I guess the money makes it worth it?). Several of the apps appeared to duplicate the functions of other apps, while some of them served no obvious function at all.
That being said, the Google-designed apps are excellent. Gmail syncs up beautifully and the Google Voice integration is phenomenal. Google’s voice search and navigation features also just feel easier to use on the Droid Charge than on the iPhone 4. I don’t think that will ever change.
I didn’t feel like I expected too much of the Droid Charge’s system resources during my time with it. I only installed a few apps from the Android Market, including Twitter, Stitcher, and Reddit. But running several apps at once seemed to really tax this thing. The official Twitter app crashed many times, forcing a reboot through the Task Manager. Speaking of which: unlike iOS, Android “lets” you manage the phone’s CPU usage yourself. Some may appreciate this level of control, but I couldn’t care less about how to optimize my phone’s CPU usage and I imagine it’s the same way with many users. Quite the opposite in fact; I was constantly worried that I had accidentally failed to close an app, thus draining my phone’s battery life unnecessarily. This is not a problem on iOS, which automatically shuts down background apps after a certain limit on resources has been reached (Update: apparently Android does this as well, although it’s questionable whether it does so as efficiently).
The Android Market ecosystem is lacking compared with the iOS App Store. Many of my favorite apps were unavailable. That being said, because it’s so customizable, there are some pretty neat apps for Android that will never appear on iOS (e.g. Swype). But none of these apps could be described as “killer apps.”
So, in general, I found this phone (and by extension probably many Android phones) to be more difficult to use than my iPhone. If I had no choice but to use a Droid Charge, I’d definitely be able to make it work, and would even enjoy it from time to time.
But why settle for a Droid Charge when you can just pick up an iPhone, especially now that both are available for Verizon? It’s possible that if the Gmail integration and GPS navigation in the Charge are that important to you, you’ll prefer them over their analogues on the iPhone. But the iPhone offers so many other benefits (i.e. solid design, great app ecosystem, general ease-of-use, automatic task management) that I can’t imagine that being the case.
The Droid Charge is currently available on Verizon. It retails for $569.99, or $299.99 with a 2-year contract.