An iOS Tale pt 2: Fellowship of the Keyboard

A few weeks ago I posted a preliminary piece about my upcoming switch from my aging Droid 2 to a new shin iPhone 5. Well, two days ago, the new device arrived and I wanted to share my impressions. Some of my fears have been proven well-founded and played out in usage, others not so much.

Hardware:

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This is almost not a fair comparison, since the Droid 2 design is nearly 3 years old, while the iPhone 5 is brand spankin' new.That said, these phones are not that different in size. The Droid 2 is 4.5"X2.38 and the iPhone 5 is 4.81"X2.31". Surprisingly close for 3 years in between. Personally, I really like this size. For all the ridiculous emphasis Apple's commercial has put on the thumb vs screen size comparison, it's spot on: it's a perfect size for one-handed operation.

The big difference, of course, is the thickness. Where the Droid 2 is .54", the iPhone is a svelte .3". This too is an odd comparison considering the Droid 2 has a physical keyboard (more on keyboards later).

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Finally, the screens, and possibly the biggest difference. While in terms of size, 3.7" and 4", the screens are not that different, their DPIs are: 265 on the Droid 2 v. 326 on the iPhone5. First and foremost, 265 DPI on the Droid 2 is not that bad and its relatively high density even by modern standards helped it last as long as it did. It's not a retina display, but at arms length, your eyes aren't straining due to aliased font edges. Brightness is no contest, though. The Droid 2 is approximately 75% as bright as the iPhone's screen using a very scientific test where I just adjusted the sliders until the screens looked the same.

Keyboard:

This needs its own section, as it represents the one way that the Droid STOMPS all over the iPhone. First, there's the hardware keyboard. It's a very nice thing to have, as it makes longer emails much more manageable.

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The hardware keyboard was one of the big reasons I chose the Droid 2 at the time and it was a nearly perfect experience during the entire time I owned it. Buttons were responsive and backlit, plus the whole keyboard is one solid membrane, making it easy to clean.

The software keyboard is a different issue. Here's the thing, on the iPhone 5, the VAST majority of apps force you to use the keyboard in a landscape fashion.This sucks, pure an simple. It's cramped, and exacerbated by the .3" thickness of the device. It feels like you are trying to type on a credit card. When you CAN get it to go landscape, it's great. The buttons are well spaced and the screen is WAY more responsive than the Droid2's.

Finally, I have to agree with those that say it is too thin. It's a beautiful device, but the thinness makes me feel like i never have a very good hold on it. It made typing harder and less comfortable than the rounded plastic of the Droid2.

Software:

So, first and foremost, we are talking about two phones bearing the newest available OS versions available. The iPhone has the newest iOS 6, with the newest updates from Verizon. Similarly, the Droid 2 has Android 2.3.4, the unrooted OTA update from Verizon and Motorola; motoblur and all. Overt the years, this thing has had everything from stock 2.2, several rooted roms thereof (LibertyRom was a favorite) and stock 2.3.1, and roms thereof. I eventually landed on the final 2.3.4 OTA ad stayed there as it had no real issues beyond periodic reboots.

That said, each does thing better and worse than the other:

Droid 2 w/ Gingerbread OTA-

Pros- Widgets are awesome and I miss them. Being able to simply look at one screen and get all kinds of information including time, calendar, to-do, weather, data usage and power switches is super convenient. The google apps are fantastic. Maps, Gmail, drive, Calendar, Currents etc are all tightly integrated and easy to use and set up. The Multicolor LED. being able to look at the phone and not touch it, yet still being able to know what's going on with it is a no brainer, and crazy useful.

Cons- Stability. Android was NEVER stable on the D2. Wifi-wake issues, random reboots, a locked bootloader that made any ROM iffy at best etc and constant battery life issues were constant nagging issues with an otherwise great experience. Performance was never very good either, with plenty of stuttering once you had run a few apps, and decent wait times to load newer applications.

Apple iPhone5 w/ iOS 6-

Pros- Speed. there are 0 stutters, pauses or long load times. 3D graphics are amazing and responsive. Access to Google Chrome browser.

Cons- calendar and gmail apps are terrible compared to Android. Why does the calendar not have a week view? WTF? Maps. Lack of widgets is an issue that gets on my nerves on a DAILY basis. The Notification center is a poor copy of the Android version. Lack of wifi/screen brightness/GPS/Bluetooth etc switches is also a pain. Task apps are useless. If I have to go into a task app to see my to-do list, it defeats the purpose: I need the list because I forget to look at it, and without widgets to put that list front and center, I might as well use the calendar. And my biggest Gripe?

Google apps and sign ins. As someone moving from Android to iOS, a process that you would think that Apple would want to be as easy as possible, is AWFUL. For EVERY SINGLE google app that I installed, I have to log in separately. And since I use real passwords (>8 characters, upper/lower case letters, &numbers), that's a pain. Seriously, Apple, you have facebook and twitter integration. If you want to stem the flow of customers to Android, you need to make this easier.

iTunes:

It still sucks. Syncing sucks, syncing music sucks(it's unreliable and finicky), the software installs all kinds of related apps that do nothing, and the updater runs all the time. It is ridiculously painful to create ringtones from mp3s. It's ugly and slow, and has no mini player.

Thank goodness Zune/Xbox music is coming to iOS eventually.

Wrap up:

In short, the hardware makes this a really nice phone. It's thin and light and very tightly made. But on the software side, I'm not sure that the balance sheet favors iOS compared to Android Gingerbread on a 3 year old device.