Why Verizon's Droid Falls Short

Enough with the "iPhone Killer" alerts. It's not happening. Not any time soon. And if there is an iPK out there, it's a case of latent fratricide, because the iPod Touch combined with a portable wifi device like the Verizon MiFi can essentially perform all the phone functions of the more expensive iPhone over a wireless network rather than through AT&T.

If we don't yet have a true iPhone Killer, at least we have a serious iPhone competitor in the new Motorola Droid. NYT's David Pogue gushes:


Its Verizon service delivers better cell signal. It offers both glass-typing and keyboard typing. The software is free and customizable. And there's this:

the Droid's multitasking pays off in two situations: when you want to listen to Internet radio while you work in other apps, and when you're switching between programs a lot. Since they're already open, you don't have to wait for them to start up again with each switch.

That sounds pretty computer-ish for a phone. This is where the Droid -- and other "app phones," to borrow Pogue's term for super-smart phones -- moves beyond the phone-o-sphere into territory normally reserved for netbooks. The ability to work on simultaneous programs is a key step toward phones functioning as small computers, as opposed to smart phones dabbling in computer functions.

In his final tally of the Droid-iPhone showdown, Pogue reports:

the Droid wins on phone network, customizability, GPS navigation, speaker, physical keyboard, removable battery and openness (free operating system, mostly uncensored app store). The iPhone wins on simplicity, refinement, thinness, design, Web browsing, music/video synching with your computer, accessory ecosystem and quality/quantity of the app store.

Look at Droid's wins: GPS. Speaker. Keyboard. Look at the iPhone wins. Simplicity. Refinement. Design. Apple's wins aren't really features. They're more like feelings. Maybe Pogue's just expressing a latent bias. Or maybe Apple's advantage in the smart phone race really is somewhat ineffable.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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