Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid

This is likely to be a controversial post, given the headline, but it’s the truth, so let’s go.

A few days ago Gruber pointed to a piece here that explained the problem with the battery cover that won’t stay on the Droid. A lot of users report this problem, I hadn’t had it, but then on a flight from NY to SF the cover came off my Droid and fell into a crack between the window and arm rest. I was lucky, my arm was long enough to reach it and I happened to be able to find it fumbling around. This had nothing to do with me, or the lack of memory on my Droid or whatever. It was a design problem or a manufacturing problem. It’s a ridiculous problem for a commercial shipping phone to have.

I’ve been using phones all my life. I’m 54 years old. The first phone I used had a rotary dial and rang with a bell, you know a clapper hitting a piece of metal, controlled by an electro-magnet. The funny thing about those phones — they worked.

Today’s phones are marvels of technology. I love them. But they all suck. iPhones suck. Blackberries suck. The disposable phone you buy at the convenience store sucks and yes my dear friends, the Droid sucks too.

Stewart Alsop, who used to be a great editor and columnist at InfoWorld, who is now a venture capitalist (and grandfather!), wrote a wonderful piece about how totally the Droid sucks. I’ve had exactly the same experiences. I pointed to his piece on Twitter and heard back from a bunch of idiots who think it’s Stewart’s fault the Droid sucks. These people must think phones are baseball teams. You can love the Yankees or Phillies or Dodgers or Mets, and it really doesn’t matter. Whatever makes you feel good. But phones are not baseball teams. You don’t have to feel threatened or attack someone just because they see the world differently than you do. It’s super rude and if you work for Motorola, Verizon or Google, you’re a loser if you don’t listen.

When I wrote about the battery cover, a bunch of iPhone zealots showed up to say I must never have used an iPhone. Actually, I bought my first iPhone on June 29, 2007, the day it came out, and I’ve been paying AT&T every month since. And now that I have a Droid people can actually undersatnd what I say when I call. So if you think the iPhone is an adequate phone, well, that ain’t my experience. It’s a lovely piece of art, run by a platform vendor with a shitty idea of users and developers and serviced by a phone company that can’t run a cellular phone network.

So if you want a great phone you’re out of luck. Your choice is between shitty and shittier.

Bottom-line: The phone system is broken.

Second bottom-line: I thought about returning my Droid and decided to keep it. Because while it is a piece of shit phone, at least it’s good for developers, and Verizon knows what it’s doing with its phone network. It sucks less than the iPhone. But it still sucks.

And if anyone from Motorola is tuned in, read Alsop’s column. He’s right.

PS: Bijan returned his Droid.

103 Responses to “Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid”

  1. Tweets that mention Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid « DROIDIE -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Abhilash, susiewee. susiewee said: Plenty of room for improvement across the board! RT @davewiner Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid. http://r2.ly/nydu […]

  2. Craig Lachman Says:

    Great title! One of your best, I think.

    BTW, I do love my Droid but, alas, it’s sucky (suckie?). The nice thing is that, over time, it may become less so. We’ll see.

  3. uberVU - social comments Says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Winer: Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid. http://r2.ly/nydu

  4. rbonini Says:

    What about the emergance of services like Google Voice and Ribbet??

    They promise a re-imagining of the phone system.

  5. Scott Says:

    Just curious if you, or any other readers, have tried any other Android based phones? I like the idea of being able to developer for a phone using any OS I choose. Anyone tried any of the HTC devices (Eries) or the T-Mobile ones?

    Maybe some day in the U.S. we won’t have to pick our wireless provider based on the phone we want eh?

  6. David Megginson Says:

    Hi, Dave.

    You’re right that people do make shitty phones now. The thing is, when we were very young children (50s for you, 60s for me), people kept phones for a long time — a family owned exactly one phone, proudly displayed in a prominent public location such as the kitchen or front hall, and replaced it (if at all) every 20 years or so. Not only that, but at least in Canada, the phone company owned the phone and also built it, so it was their problem if something went wrong.

    Can you imagine using even a 5-year-old cell phone now? We own them ourselves, toss them in our pockets with keys and spare change, and throw them out every 2 years (every year for geeks on the cutting edge), so there’s really no incentive for manufacturers to build them well, or for consumers to pay extra for higher quality. I guess we get what we ask for.

    I am glad to hear that the Droid is slightly less shitty than the iPhone. I’ll probably wait a while yet to buy a smart phone, but when I do, I’d rather buy one that’s slightly less shitty *and* that’s manufactured by someone who thinks I’m grown-up enough to choose any app I want on it.

    • ScottG Says:

      With the Bell System in the US it was the same. You rented your phone from the phone company. When I was a child in the `70’s I remember my father acquiring a rotary phone and connecting it to the extension outlet in the basement. I took note of the concern of the Indiana Bell finding out that there was a phone, not of their property, connected to the network. They actually could tell if they measured the current draw on the line. My how things have changed. 🙂

      • Miguelitosd Says:

        @ScottG

        Hah.. my dad worked for Ma Bell back in the day and they used to go out and confiscate said phones. Or at the least, would disconnect them and warn the owner not to re-attach it. The measured current apparently could even tell them the number of phones connected too.

        He has tales like a mother answering the door, then asking him to wait when she was he worked for AT&T. He could hear her run around and gather up the 3 non-leased phones. She then let him in, he noticed her toddler, asked the kid where she hid the phones. The kid immediately replied, “In the closet.”

    • Mister Steve Says:

      Yes, in the ’50s and ’60s the phone worked great.

      There were a few reasons for this: First, the phones were owned by the phone company, which means they had an incentive to design them so they wouldn’t break and need to be replaced at the phone company’s cost. Second, they weren’t asked to perform functions other than that of dialing, ringing, talking and listening.

      I’m thinking about getting a smartphone for myself in the next six months or so, but with reports like this I’ll make sure I have release 2 of whatever that is, thanks.

    • Erik Neu Says:

      Actually, if all I wanted was pure voice, my cell phone from 7 years ago was the best I ever had. As small as they need to be, durable, well-designed and easy to use.

      In general, it seems like everything breaks too easily, and is too expensive to repair. I am not referring merely to consumer electronics, though that is probably the worst category. I have had garage door openers, dishwashers, refrigerators, exercise bikes, microwave oven doors, rolling chairs, all give me problems. Though come to think of it, probably in half those instances, it was the embedded electronics that was the culprit. Those, and plastic, which is so hard to repair.

  7. Geoff Hankerson Says:

    So true. I wish there were a good alternative to the cell companies but there just isn’t. Skype comes closet but isn’t close enough

    • Brian Says:

      I found an alternative which is working out great. No cell phone. They’re just walkie-talkies for adults.

      • Jim Says:

        How nice for you.

        As a husband and dad I can’t imagine not being able to be reached when the wife’s car has a flat, oldest kid falls off the monkey bars, dentist is sick and needs to reschedule appointments, etc.

        I’m old enough to remember what a hassle it was when there seemed to be pay phones everywhere. I can imagine what it’d be like if I shucked the “digital leash” and it’s not fun.

      • gabb Says:

        Jim:
        LOL Well, when your sitting down and not a danger to yourself or others….”imagine” this:
        The world survived before Cell phones just fine.
        I mean really…listen to yourself!
        How many times a year does your “sick dentist” call you to reschedule?

  8. mikecane Says:

    Thank you for this! I did a post just like this about eBooks months ago. The good is rare — and it seems the competent is even rarer!

    Yeah, those old Bell System phones could take a beating a still work.

  9. KT Says:

    Sorry to hear it, my iPhone works pretty well!

    Justin

    • ScottG Says:

      I’m understanding better now why some are having so much trouble with the iPhone in certain markets. Where I’m at in South Florida, I have few problems; but when I call my iPhone owning brother in the metro Atlanta area, we have a terrible time keeping a conversation going for more than a few minutes, and even then there is a massive amount of distortion.

      Perhaps it’s just the location where he lives, but he’s frustrated enough that he’s seriously thinking of getting a Droid on the Verizon network.

  10. jz Says:

    just because i love my iphone, does not make me a zealot! Your opinion is just that, an opinion. iphone rocks, all other phones suck, IMHO.

  11. Rob Says:

    Your argument is absurd. Have you really become that spoiled? Geez, quit crying and go back to your old Bell System phone if you loved it so much. The reason they “worked” is because they only had one thing to do and it was trivial. They didn’t do email, web, music, photography, twitter, sms, and telephony in a 5″ slab that fits in your pocket.

    It’s like comparing a rake to a tractor. Yes, the rake might “just work”. And the tractor might break down once in a while or move slower than you’d like. But you’re still 1000x more productive with the tractor than you would be with a rake. So stop whining about how the tractor “sucks” and gushing over how great the rake is. It’s ridiculous.

    • pkw Says:

      no you miss the point! the analogy would be a rake that the handle sometimes came off & not all the rake teeth would penetrate the ground or grab leaves. Tech has advanced, but they still can build something that does what they say it is supposed to. Rakes did what they were supposed to.

  12. David K. Says:

    “It’s a lovely piece of art, run by a platform vendor with a shitty idea of users and developers and serviced by a phone company that can’t run a cellular phone network. ”

    Sorry, you lost any credibility you might have right there. The iPhone is not perfect, but its not simply a piece of art, and users are treated better on the iPhone than they have ever been treated by smart phone before. Aside from the app store approval problems the developers are treated pretty damn good as well given the quality of FREE TOOLS and solid SDK available to them.

    From an end user perspective the device itself is simply amazing. Easy to use, powerful, and yes flexible unless you are an uber power user. Just because you can’t run multiple apps at once or run an SSH client without jailbreaking doesn’t make it a bad device, anymore than not being able to run Linux on an xbox 360 out of the box makes it a bad gaming machine.

    You are of course free to not like the phone for your own personal use, but to declare the experience shitty for users and developers, most of whom LOVE the device and teh opportunity it has created is, to me, pretty damn arrogant.

    Its a great device and a great phone, that has a few problems that can be fixed, like the app store approval process, and other software things which apple has allready demonstrated they will and ARE working on, mired down by a mediocre network, which frankly I find little to blame Apple for. Verizon had their shot and passed, Apple went with theonly other available and reasonable option in the U.S.

    By all means rag on the U.S. telecom system, it has problems, but then unlike Japan/Europe in the U.S. you have to cover a hell of a lot wider area and spend a hell of a lot more money to cover the same amount of people. Its not easy or cheap problem to fix.

    I’ll happily stick with my iPhone which has served me better than any mobile device i’ve had before it, even though it has some flaws (name a technology that gives you so much that doesn’t have a few flaws). There is a difference between not-perfect and shitty. I’m sorry you can’t see that.

    • Matt Simerson Says:

      Minor point: you do not have to jailbreak to run SSH clients (although I’ve done that too). I use iSSH and there are several others in the app store. I haven’t bothered jailbreaking since upgrading to the 3GS. I may again though, should I need to enable tethering, and AT&T hasn’t yet made it available.

  13. Steven Fisher Says:

    I was going to ask how you could think call quality sucked on the iPhone, but I imagine it’s related to AT&T.

    I’m not saying that the iPhone is perfect, but bad call quality certainly hasn’t been one of the things I’ve hit.

  14. abugida Says:

    iPhones run great in Europe. Go ask your government why you don’t have decent networks in the US.

  15. Joshua Ochs Says:

    Possibly the least useful post I’ve seen. No background, no information, no delving into any of the issues – just “it sucks”.

    The phones themselves are both good – in fact the iPhone ranks as one of the best in call quality. HOWEVER – if cell service sucks in your area, then it doesn’t matter how well the phone is designed. Using an iPhone in Chicago is GREAT. Using it in New York is IMPOSSIBLE. Same phone.

    And before people jump on AT&T, who else is going to carry it in the US? The only other GSM provider is T-Mobile, and they’re not doing so great a job either. Verizon is widely hailed as the best provider by many (see recent Consumer Reports if you’d like an independent source), but they use CDMA – so your phone is a paperweight outside the US. So you can have crappy service, but use your phone overseas, or great service, but only in the US. And no matter what Apple or Motorola do, you cannot have both in one phone.

    And this is a reality that has nothing to do with “it sucks”.

  16. PaulN Says:

    All this post-zealotry reckoning makes me wonder if Nokia’s N900 could be the real contender. I’m certain many will disagree with me but every Nokia I’ve had has been a brilliant _phone_. Perhaps their seemingly accidental entrant to the jesus-phone competition is The One?

  17. Matt Says:

    I wonder if location has something to do with call quality. I own an iPhone and have never had any issues with people not being able to understand me or with me not being able to understand them. I primarily used it in the D.C. area and now the research triangle in NC.

  18. Orlando SEO Says:

    I don’t get it. I haven’t had anything near the level of problems that you and Stewart have experienced. I love my Droid.

    I spent plenty of time researching the phone, and so far it does all the stuff that I thought it would. Battery life is really good, and with all the apps I have installed, it’s more like a mini PC. I’ve got VNC working so I can control my home computer. I’ve got a program that lets me search out strong Wi-Fi signals so I don’t have to use my laptop. I’m checking a few different email addresses and it’s working well with that. The camera is a little slow to respond, but otherwise works like any other cell phone camera. The results are noisy in the dark, not surprised at all. The video is pretty good :). Overall, it’s really changed the way I look at phones in a good way. It was also a huge upgrade from my old LG Decoy. I’m mobile, faster to respond to people, and using Google’s Calendar Sync, my calendar in Outlook is nice and organized.

    Long story short, I dont know why your hating on the Droid. It’s on a dependable network, and it’s the best alternative to the iPhone that currently exists.

    Also, if Stewart wants to make a big deal out of the keyboard, and then say in the same sentence that the “keyboard is horrible and I’ve never used it”, then what’s the point of reading further. They keyboard is fine, and a great alternative to the touchscreen. It’s faster, more accurate, etc. I love it, and i’ve got big fingers.

    I appriciate that you like it better than the iPhone, but it sounds like you may have a dud.

  19. Alex Bell Says:

    That old clapper phone (choice of colors!) was tough and reliable because the phone company owned it, not the customer. It was in their economic interest to not have to repair/improve it.

  20. Valentin Says:

    There are out there phones that are just phones and not mini computers (and are really good at what they do). For example take a look at Nokia E52. The battery can hold up to a week.

    But if you want more… Choices are few and they all have issues.

  21. Bob Muir Says:

    A new insult…

    “My phone sucks less than your phone, nya nya.” 🙂

  22. Simon Says:

    You guys have got to start thinking outside of your borders! Verizon SUCK ASS next to European and Japanese networks, just like all the US networks. I know you guys like to think you are far more advanced than us Europeans, but the truth is you are about 8 hours behind us! On a serious note, in terms of mobile telephony the US is behind all the major European networks. The problem AFAIKT with Droid (other than it’s being pig ugly) is that it’s made by Motorola. I’ve had a couple of their devices. ALL of them shit. Droid has had glowing reviews because of its use of Android 2, this is in spite of the shockingly poor design and build quality of the Motorola device. As a platform Android IMHO still has a way to go in terms of performance, but I’ve no doubt that it is getting there fast.

  23. Matt Says:

    I wouldn’t put much stock in Alsop’s post; it sounded like he had a defective product and attributed his bad sample to Droids in general.

  24. oomu Says:

    hu, I never got drop call in France (paris and Corse)

    and, the iphone allows me to have mobile applications as NEVER before and to use the net on “the go” as NEVER before.

    Never before, Orange allowed us to use its network like that, _never_.

    What do you want more ? the chaos of software like on pc and mac ? complications to install ?

    you talk about developpers ? but developpers got a totally controlled kind of market on console and java mobile before.

    Apple opened it for casual and little companies, but yes, you have to deal with a proprietary store.

    I don’t care about google voice in France, google voice is NOT available in Europe.

    But I care about all I gained since the iphone.

  25. Eric Says:

    I’ve always said the best thing you can say about a wireless cell carrier is that “it doesn’t totally suck”. I see I wasn’t the only one.

  26. Telephones in the modern era « hieronymouse Says:

    […] today I was reading Dave Winer’s piece about how the new Motorola Droid sucks, and I have to agree with him. I’ve never seen a Droid […]

  27. Steve Says:

    Is this the same Alsop that said Apple was stupid for buying NeXT and was mainly whining because they didn’t buy Be?

    I love my iPhone. I don’t think it sucks. It is not perfect. AT&T is not perfect.

    But I bet if they fixed what people bitched about now (Battery life, network, dropped calls) people would find something else to bitch out.

    Or we could just press a few buttons and dial someone. Then go play laser tag with the cat and enjoy life.

    Bittered bitched sucks, too 🙂

    • ScottG Says:

      Back in 1997, I was disappointed when Apple didn’t buy Be and was throughly frightened when Steve Jobs worked he way back into Apple. With the information available at the time, and with the buzz surrounding Be, it seemed like the obvious choice. Time has shown that we users didn’t have all the information, and we misjudged Jobs acumen for business. It wasn’t obvious then.

  28. Robert Says:

    Thanks for this post and you are always so open with comments, so …

    I agree the phone system is broken. This is America and almost everything is broken thanks to rampant hubris based on capitalist puritanism. Well, you get my drift right? Education sucks, public transport mostly sucks, banks suck, meritocracy?, ideology?, etc, etc, etc…

    I do not agree that Apple has a “shitty idea of users”. Not most Users, for most Apple has made things suck 99.9% less than before. Most Users do not care about 99.99% of the inside baseball bitching going on about the App Store.

    I’m not being an “Apple zealot” here no matter what you or anyone else thinks. I could not stand to use cell phones before. I tried enough to know they truly sucked as devices. The device part has largely been fixed, by Apple. Seriously. Now others are following this path too with degrees of success. That I can hold in my hand something that does so much so well as compared to an old RAZR, run of the mill Nokia, Windows Mobile, Treo, you name it … it’s light years ahead. The hate is misplaced.

    I agree the App Store has severe growing pains and that Apple has bungled the relationship — to some developers! I have even written to various constituents at Apple as a user, and investor relations as a shareholder, about this problem. It worries me too and does have a degree of suck.

    You are spot on w/re to the network. In my part of the country it’s actually OK but traveling around NE it comes and goes. It is amazing to the point of ridiculous that calls drop. Making a phone call is a gamble, it’s unreliable. The pragmatist in me thinks of the size of our nation vs. the size of other nations where this problem exists less. Or, the history of telecom in those nations who did not grow up with POTS but instead started with a cell network only! They definitely have better coverage. Finally are the few mobile networks being forced by ridicule to improve their networks? I don’t trust this is the case. I’m keeping my POTS line open for now.

  29. Steve Wozniak Says:

    ‘Smart’ phones sucked a lot more before the iPhone. I’d love to compare notes with you, Dave. I carry a Droid and iPhones too. Coffee?

  30. Robert Sharl Says:

    A friend of mine in advertising won awards for an Australian TV campaign for a phone network. The campaign was entirely based on a piece of research that revealed them as the least-hated network in Australia. How much fun can it be to work for a company where the best thing you can say is “Our customers hate us less that our competitors’ customers hate them”?

  31. jws Says:

    Just a comment: iPhone works great for me here in Canada. No connection problems, dropped calls, tethering works wonderfully, MMS is fast & reliable, etc.

    However, if a manufacturer cuts an exclusive deal with a carrier and the carrier sucks, it’s fair to lay the performance issues at the feet of both parties.

    • missty Says:

      lucky bastard, you get tethering in Canada!

      • Steven Fisher Says:

        Having is not so pleasing as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often so.

        I’ve used tethering twice since I bought the phone. Once to try it out, and once to finish a chunk of work when the power went out. Sure, it was useful, but I can’t imagine paying monthly for it.

  32. Darwin Says:

    I have no issues with call quality on my iPhone 3GS.

  33. schmod Says:

    Is Andriod really great for developers?

    From what I’ve seen, the APIs are a nightmare to program for, and are pretty much unlike anything else in the software development world. As a result, most Android apps are ugly and very basic.

    For once, Apple made a few decisions that overwhelmingly favored developers by making the iPhone APIs simple, powerful, and very similar to Cocoa on Mac OS X. Palm’s WebOS is allegedly rather nice to program for too.

    Of course, Apple ruined any sort of favor it might have won over in the developer community with its arcane app approval process. (However, there are indeed some top notch apps in the store, in spite of it all. Android can’t exactly say the same thing.)

  34. Jerame Says:

    I think it’s rather myopic to say, “’s a lovely piece of art, run by a platform vendor with a shitty idea of users and developers and serviced by a phone company that can’t run a cellular phone network.”

    I’d like to hear your elaboration about how Apple has a shitty idea of users. I’ve been in IT for 15 years and using computers much longer than that and Apple, by far, has a better sense of what the average user needs and uses. Are their devices perfect? No. But are they superior to most of the rest of the crap out there? I think so.

    The thing you said that tells me the most about your experience with the iPhone in particular is that you bought yours in 2007. Have you used a 3G or 3GS? Not as in once or twice, but daily – like I have for over a year now?

    I’ve had an original iPhone (in a drawer, where it belongs now) a 3G (handed down to another user who’s just tickled with it) and now a 3GS. I really don’t recall the last time I talked to someone and they couldn’t understand me on the other end. It happened a lot with my original iPhone, sure, but that’s why I got rid of the stupid thing.

    About the only thing I can give you as true about your take on the iPhone is that developers are treated like shit. Total shit. Apple needs to pull its head out of its ass with regard to how the app store process works or they will definitely get eaten by the competition in the end.

    Point is, you lament zealots for their lack of objective analysis of the “other” phone system (be it Droid, Palm, iPhone, whatever) yet you use the language and tactics of a zealot yoruself.

    All phones suck so yours sucks too isn’t really objective analysis. I’m very happy with my iPhone. I’m not as happy with my AT&T service and would switch in an instant if that were possible, but there is little about my iPhone that really holds me back from loving it.

    If they ever build an Android phone that works as well and looks as good as an iPhone, I’d consider switching. The only zealotry I regularly practice is anti-Microsoft – and we all know their phone OS is nothing more than a joke that makes people sad.

  35. Michael Says:

    I had a Motorola Razr before buying a Droid this weekend. The Razr also had the battery cover issue. It would come off several times a month. I very nearly lost mine completely on a VA flight to Seattle last year. A stewardess just happened to find it before I made my way out of the gate area. I didn’t even notice it was gone. So: I think this is a Motorola issue generally. And because I’ve learned to live with it the last two years, it’s not going to be something that ticks me off about the Droid in particular.

    Just buy a $5 hard cover (or shell + belt clip), and it’s a non-issue anyway.

    Does it suck? Yeah. But not “OMG I gotta return my Droid!” suckage.

    The iPhone isn’t an option for me until they get on the Verizon network. I’ve tried all the major networks, and Verizon is simply the best (least sucky?) in my experience, for call quality and coverage. Not that it matters if the person I’m talking to is on an iPhone. Especially if they’re using the speaker phone. I can always tell iPhone users by their voice quality. “Hey, you’re using an iPhone, aren’t you?” “Yeah, how’d you know?”

    And speaking of call quality. I chose the Razr in part because of its signal strength and call quality. And the Droid beats it on both counts hands down. I’m not sure there’s another phone that comes close.

    I’m a little worried buying into the Droid so soon, especially with the $35 restocking fee. (ETF isn’t an issue. I’m keeping Verizon regardless, and can always switch to a Blackberry on the same plan.) I know that software issues will be resolved over time, I just hope there aren’t any lurking hardware issues.

  36. John.B Says:

    Do you guys really believe that Verizon will let the Droid (or Google phone) run *any* app?!?

    If you think Verizon is going to let you run a free NetShare app on the Droid, you are sadly mistaken. Verizon doesn’t play that way. There seems to be am underlying assumption that the Droid is going to be some utopia because it’s “not Apple”; and I think there are going to be some huge reality checks cashed when Droid nation realizes the Verizon’s app sandbox is just as confining as AT&T’s

  37. Koen van Hees Says:

    I’m on my third cell-phone. My first Nokia brick still works, it’s my spare. My current phone is very cool. It calls. I pick up and if all goes well, I have a conversation.
    About what I expect from my phone. It’s also very ugly and about the opposite of a bird-magnet…
    Now tablets that can hold my library, offer all that geo-localized info with information rich stuff and let me do video-phones, watch movies etc etc etc, that’s something I’ll most likely buy into. But things that are as big as phones or camera’s, I think I prefer to have with that functionality. Either a good, simple, cheap phone or a good, simple, cheap camera. If and when monthly prices of communication go down, then maybe, I’ll compromise (grin).

  38. Barry Brown Says:

    It’s sad that i’ve yet to read any sort of review that’s done testing of the voice quality of different mobile phones. Shouldn’t be too hard a thing to do with some audio analysis. My own feeling is that all mobile phones mumble the sound much more than analogue lines. European cell networks don’t seem to have as much of a problem since they use particular codecs and EFR on the 3g nets.

  39. SD Says:

    I was a Motorola, Nokia, and Palm user for years before the iPhone came out. Within a day of buying my first iPhone I told a friend that after using the iPhone I felt I had been using a cave-man club to communicate with for all those years. The iPhone is so well-designed, so well-balanced, so functional, that it jumped over the entire industry at that point, created a new standard for smartphones, and has led to the Pre and now the Droid as attempts to compete. Call quality is occasionally a gripe (and I note with interest the Canadian above who never has problems with calls – once I was in Canada and called home, and the answerer said the sound was so clear, it sounded like I was next to them) – but the iPhone nor Apple seem to be at blame for AT&T’s poor network. Developers complain about the Apple App stores policies? Give me a break. How many apps would they be selling if Apple hadn’t come out with the iPhone and set up a market place for them to sell their wares? 1 BILLION less.

    But I am not an Apple-only zealot, I will look into and use good technology no matter who makes it. I saw the initial good reviews the Droid was getting, and went down to check it out. I could not believe how cheap it felt in the hand, how hard the too-small keys were to press on the keyboard. This was the iPhone killer? Fugittaboutit. Never even considered buying it, call quality, Verizon network, or 5 megapixel camera regardless. Will wait to see if Android 3.0 can go up against iPhone 1.0 in the future.

  40. Maxx Says:

    Digital mobile phone quality is probably never going to reach the quality and dependability of a vintage analog copper landline. Once you accept that simple fact it’s not a big deal. Dropping a call here and there (which happens to me on both Sprint and AT&T) isn’t something worth freaking out about. Redial. No signal (which happens to me with both AT&T and Sprint) put down your phone and deal with it. If you absolutely need to be available 24×7 and cannot have any interruptions you need to be at the office, you need redundant Internet connections, a landline, a cell phone, maybe a VOIP solution if you really want to be covered 100%. I guess my point is you get what you pay for. You’re paying mostly for mobility.

  41. airmanchairman Says:

    My hat’s off to all the calm and reasoned iPhone defenders in this comment stream, and I am indeed one of you (3G and 3G S on O2 in the UK and loving them both).

    However, it must be said that Mr Alsop’s comments about his Droid possibly point to a defective unit that he should have returned or had looked at ages ago.

  42. sunflowerfly Says:

    As a software developer and total geek I seriously want a smart phone. I agree 100% that they all suck. If someone built one that did not suck I would buy it. Forced to stick with an old Razor, and hack it to disable as much of the suckieness that Verizon added as I can.

    The US seriously needs to look at collusion and lack of competition among cell providers.

  43. Bruce Klutchko Says:

    Another problem with the old rotary phone: it was only possible as a part of a monopolistic system that severely overcharged for calls while inhibiting innovation. I couldn’t afford to call home from college. Call Asia? That would probably have bankrupted my parents. Even a long distance call from New York to Chicago was a big event with a big price tag. Right now, even with AT&T, we can exchange data and talk with people throughout the US and Canada, and with a little ingenuity, throughout the world. And I do remember the call quality – hiss, noise, snap, crackle, and pop all said that a call was very important – probably from over 500 miles away. Geez. Nothing’s perfect – when was the last time you had zero problems with your Windows PC?

  44. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    > [Apple is a] platform vendor with a shitty idea of
    > users and developers

    I was with you up to this point.

    My experience with Apple as a user has been excellent. I appreciate that they prioritize my needs as a non-techie user (90% of us) over your needs as a developer or technology enthusiast (10% of us). I’m an artist, not a computer scientist, so I appreciate that I could 1-click install a $10 multitrack recorder into my iPhone without any fear of malware or viruses (and I have a deep and abiding love for the developers of that app.) I appreciate that my iPhone is always responsive without showing me a task list and forcing me to manage processes. I appreciate that I don’t have to hire I-T help to maintain my own Mac because otherwise I would not be using a computer, I’d be using dedicated recording gear and dedicated art tools. There are no other computer platforms I can use to do my work. I’m not looking for Apple’s systems to become more like everyone else’s systems, I’m specifically using Apple’s stuff because from my view it’s the only one that’s useful. A PC without CoreAudio is a doorstop to me. A PC that gets viruses or can’t maintain the privacy of my data has no place in my studio.

    And my experience with Apple as a Web app developer has also been excellent. Since 2003 Apple has had the fastest and most W3C-compatible browser, and the 3D acceleration in Safari is awesome, the advanced CSS is awesome. Apple’s Web app developer documentation reads like “Web Development: The Missing Manual.” Apple has been as instrumental as anyone in getting us out of the IE-dominated proprietary Web of HTML4 and onto something truly open. I use the Apache2 and PHP5 that came with my Mac as a development server. I make iTunes LP and that is absolutely excellent: self-contained HTML5 apps that run in iTunes and which have access to the media library. We are in heaven as Web developers and creative pros.

    As for App Store developers, I sympathize with those who have experienced the worst of the growing pains, but you are writing to the very most advanced mobile API, with a successful store and very little non-development work to do, and still Apple is rejecting fewer than 1% of apps. Google rejects more Web apps from its index than that, Linus Torvalds rejects more Linux kernel code than that. You may be hard pressed to find an industry or endeavor where quality control lets through more than 99%. And the fact that App Store apps are as trustworthy as they are has been instrumental in their success with regular users, who — again — make up most of the users, and who — again — do not have as many alternatives as computer science people who can build their own PC and install Linux and work 3/4 of the day in a terminal.

    So while Apple’s approach may chafe with computer scientists and technology nerds, it really, really works with music nerds and movie nerds and doctor nerds and writer nerds and so on. In short, we need the rubber bumpers that people who can program in C think are useless. I think that approach is more user-focused than other platforms, not less.

    So I agree zealotry sucks, but I definitely include developer zealotry and computer scientist zealotry, the “real keyboard and unsigned code” crowd.

  45. D Says:

    “John.B Says: November 30, 2009 at 2:51 pm Do you guys really believe that Verizon will let the Droid (or Google phone) run *any* app?!?”

    Verizon is opening up. When the Windows Mobile Omnia i910 first came out in ’08, the GPS was locked to Verizon Navigator. The GPS was unlocked mid this year. Then, there’s WMWifiRouter, which enables Windows Mobile devices to become WiFi access points. I’m sure Verizon isn’t happy w/ this because you have to pay for tethering, but WMWifiRouter can run on non-jailbroken Verizon WinMo devices w/ out paying for tethering.

  46. iPhone Opinions and Tips Says:

    […] experience with the iPhone as a user and developer – Hamranhansenhansen says: My experience with Apple as a user has been excellent. I appreciate that they prioritize my needs […]

  47. Photar Says:

    Developing for Doid sucks soo bad. First of all it’s friggin java. Second, Eclipse is a joke.

    I really wanted to believe that Android would finally be what would get Linux into the mainstream. But still, everything that sucks about Linux on the desktop still sucks on Android.

    I’m honestly not a fan boy of apple or the iPhone, if something better comes around I’ll be the first to admit it, but the iPhone is like futuristic space technology handed down from an advanced alien civilization compared to the Droid and the Pre.

  48. Jason Short Says:

    I talked to someone with Skype iPhone the other day over Wifi and I can honestly say the quality from the iphone was terrific and clear. I think ATT has set the talk bandwidth too low to save money.

  49. Fassy Says:

    I have no idea who originally said this, but ad campaigns, then and now…

    20 years ago: “So quiet you can hear a pin drop”

    Today: “Can you hear me now?”

  50. Eric Says:

    You are right about one thing: Voice quality sucks.

    I keep hoping… maybe dreaming, that one day, a mobile phone company will realize they can double the number of subscribers they have if they actually start to devote bandwidth to voice calls.

    Right now most cell phone codecs use 8-12kbps. What should we be using? Try 48-64kbps. Seriously. I would gladly move to VOIP and enjoy high quality sound, but the other person also has to be on VOIP for me to be able to hear whether my mother has a ‘canker sore’ or a ‘cancer story’.

    Someone, please make a phone network that doesn’t suck. I will gladly give up my iPhone, buy an ipod touch and a phone with good call quality, and move on.

    • DGentry Says:

      Uncompressed telephony voice is a 64 Kbps DS0 channel. They attenuate everything below 300Hz and above 3000 Hz, and then digitize the rest with 8 bit samples at 8 KHz. Cellphones then additionally compress the samples.

      If you wanted a cell phone to handle a wider range of frequencies at a higher sampling rate with more bits captured you certainly could, and then compress it back to 48-64 Kbps. It would sound good so long as it stayed in native form. If your call ever had to traverse a circuit in the older telephony network (somewhere along the backhaul between your cell tower and whoever you’re talking to) it would be converted to a DS0 and back again. So the call quality could vary.

  51. David Geller Says:

    Call quality is impacted by networking capacity and design. But, it can be localized. While iPhone users in the Bay area suffer (I’m told) terrible voice and data service, the same isn’t so (or always so) in other cities. Seattle has largely decent service with AT&T and my experiences with voice quality have been superb. I tried the Droid for a week. Couldn’t tell a difference in voice quality in Seattle and the phone, as has been more eloquently described by others, sucked terribly. All mobile networks strive to achieve the right balance of audio encoding and packet delivery efficiency and providing good fidelity. Maybe I have a tin ear, but the differences among the top tier expensive phones are minor, for me. Where the biggest sound problems occur isn’t with the networks so much as the phones themselves – and their speakers and cases.

  52. David Wogan Says:

    My iPhone is great. Not for everyone (thankfully).

  53. Dave Therio Says:

    The iPhone may have cured cancer in a firmware update, but it’d be a miracle if anyone can hear you out of the darn thing.

  54. spielbrot Says:

    I seems there is problems with the quality of phone calls in US. I have read about it from several sources.
    I just want to report that the phone call quality is very good in Sweden. I am on my third iPhone now and haven’t heard of that problem here. I suppose it has to do with AT&T and not the phone. Here in Sweden we have multiple choices of carriers, and I am with Telia who has very good coverage, wherever I go.

  55. Aleksandar Says:

    I often hear about this problem with iPhone call quality and such. I used my iPhone on 2 different carriers in Serbia and 3 different in Croatia and 2 different in Greece (while on vacation and picking them up in roaming) and did not have any issues with call quality at all. None, either with 3G or 2G iPhone.

    I think this greatly depends on the carrier signal quality than the iPhone hardware.

  56. Jean-Denis Says:

    My iPhone is a great phone, however it is when considered as something else.

    I can hear clearly, the people at the other end too.

    Availability is 100%. Not 99%, but 100% wherever I go (and of course I don’t go *everywhere* in the country, but I go places as much as the next guy).

    My country: France
    My operator: Orange

    So direct your complaints to AT&T (and possibly ask Apple to sell the iPhone on other networks).

  57. mistermix Says:

    My Droid is better than my last phone. That’s all I expected and it’s what I got. We are at the end of the first decade of widespread adoption of digital cellular service. The Bell phone “just worked” after 50 years of development. I’m not expecting that level of simplicity and usability from a type of device that’s just starting out.

  58. Brian Says:

    To Jim, from above… I’m a husband and a dad too. You may not be able to imagine being out of touch in the event of a flat, etc… but countless dads and moms over the generations managed just fine. I carried a phone for 10 years, never once did I NEED it – including many of the scenarios you site. At best, AT BEST, it’s a convenience – it’s not air, or food. My parents and grandparents would die laughing over things we consider indispensable. Nothing justifies the business practices of the odious creeps at AT&T, Verizon, et. al.

  59. Phong Le Says:

    I remember using those rotary phones. They sucked. I had to remember numbers just to call someone. I could not do a conference call, put someone on hold, check email, browse the internet, etc. It’s one thing to say that today’s phones are not what all they could be, but let’s not get carried away and compare them to the old rotary phones. It’s a false analogy made with emotion and not intellect.

    • Corwin Says:

      Thank you. How that analogy even crossed anyone’s mind is unfathomable. Here’s the complete analogy if you must…

      Back in the 80’s I used to have…
      A phone, a phone book, a day planner, an encyclopedia set, a dictionary, stationary and stamps, a camera, a photo album, a camcorder, a radio, a television, a note book, an atlas, at compass, an Atari with 30 games, a flashlight, and an accelerometer (maybe not THAT one).

      However, now I carry all of that in my pocket. ONE G** D***** POCKET! Incomprehensible when I was a child.

      Loose battery cover and killing tasks (I deal with both) does not begin to detract from the enjoyment of my Moto Droid.

      Let’s all have a scotch and calm the hell down.

      • Dave Winer Says:

        I agree it’s fantastic. But you also used to be able to have a phone conversation and understand what the other guy was saying. That’s all I was saying. I think you’re the one that needs to calm down. So there! 🙂

      • Corwin Says:

        To Dave (there was no Reply link next to his reply):

        That’s why I said “let’s all have a scotch.” I could use one.

        Just to needle… I suppose most people tested the Droid’s call quality by calling a friend with an iPhone. “Chain’s only as strong as its weakest link,” and all.

      • Dave Winer Says:

        Glad we can have a laugh about it.

        When I got my Droid I called Scoble on his iPhone and begged him to get a Droid.

  60. inconsequence › Love the phone, hate the network Says:

    […] proponents like to claim that call quality on the Droid is better than on the iPhone (Dave Winer responding to this post by Stuart Alsop) and then generally say something like […]

  61. renaissance chambara | Ged Carroll - Links of the day Says:

    […] Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid « DROIDIE – shocked at the basic product design fail on the battery hatch […]

  62. Bob Says:

    It always starts with love…

    “So I thought I’d inaugurate this blog with a clear statement: I not only like it, I love it. It excites me in ways that computer products used to, years ago, but rarely do, these days. I see the Droid as the next step in bringing the web to life. The iPhone was pretty awesome when it shipped, but this goes so much further. Partially because it comes from Google, and I’ve built a fairly complex system around Google’s web tools. It’s exactly those tools that show up on the desktop of the Droid. And partly because, like the web itself, it’s open for anyone to play with, in any way they want.”

    “It’s a coral reef.”

    IPhone sucks because it’s locked in.

    etc.

    Then, less than a month later…

    “Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid”

    Can’t say that we never saw that coming…

  63. Using Super Smartphones for Productivity Says:

    […] then, I’ve watched with interest the reviews of the Droid, including posts such as “Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid” and “Droid Doesn’t: It’s Not Ready For Prime Time”. If you are in the market for a […]

  64. Photar Says:

    Apple’s support is great. I walked I to an apple store with my iphone’s speaker nonfunctional. I walked out exactly 5 minutes later with a new iPhone.

    I timed it.

  65. Dave Says:

    I have to agree with many of the other commenters. It sounds like Alsop’s phone was just malfunctioning. What product line does not have a few lemons? What brand new product does not have some kinks that either get worked out in the next version or (thankfully) with electronics connected to the interwebs, updates? I’m glad that he got a junky phone to write a provocative post about, but I hope he knows deep down that common sense is to just take it back and try again. Stop whining guys.

    And this whole iPhone vs. Droid competition is ridiculous. Appreciate/hate/love/comment on both machines for what they are. They are both so multipurpose and complex that it is pretty impossible to say that one is “better”.

  66. New Droid ad confirms: Motorola’s phone is ugly and unpleasant : Fifth & Main Says:

    […] If you want something that is ugly and hard, which may be used in some fashion to eviscerate a ripe banana, then you’re the perfect candidate for a Motorola Droid. I think they were going for edgy on this one, but what this ad does is continue the string of puzzling positioning ads for what may have been a promising phone. Until parts started falling off of it. […]

  67. pkw Says:

    Yeah it sucks, Returned Droid to Verizon after 2 weeks.

    so happy to be using my Treo again

  68. Jeff Says:

    “I pointed to his piece on Twitter and heard back from a bunch of idiots who think it’s Stewart’s fault the Droid sucks. ”

    Except it IS his fault. It isn’t perfect, but it is a very good phone. And you say you’ve had the same problems?

    Really?

    “I have missed calls, lost calls, misdialed calls, pocket dialed people, and had many other experiences in the last month that have lead me to conclude that the Droid is not suited to its intended purpose as a smart phone.”

    That’s from his unintelligent blog.

    You CAN’T pocket dial people if your phone is locked. There is a button on the top that locks it. If he pocket dials someone, it is ONLY his fault.

    Misdialed calls? Uh, so he hit a wrong number on the touch pad and that’s somehow the Droid’s fault?

    The phone, like the iPhone, has its issues. But to say this phone is a “piece of shit” is simply wrong.

    • Dave Winer Says:

      I believe I said that it was a bunch of idiots who said it was Stewart’s fault. And you proceeded to say it was his fault. Don’t blame me if people conclude you’re an idiot! 🙂

  69. Is Droid the perfect podcatcher? « DROIDIE Says:

    […] Zealotry sucks, and so does the Droid […]

  70. Sam P Says:

    So.. question.. does the Droid suck? (Educated factual answer requested.)
    The word shitty is great, but it would be nice to have a less primitive review.

  71. Marty O. Says:

    Oh please let this message get posted. I don’t wish to write for 5 minutes only to have to buy a condo in Mexico for it to get to the next step.

    I read only the first man’s message. My heart is there, my ears are there, even my wallet is there. I thought of adding this new feature on a cell called a phone! Wow, how novel. I want to find my first analog Nokia and take up the entire 800MHz band! Yes, would be like a party line — remember those? “Ok Jethro, no you can talk.”

    Well, I remember writing code that worked. It transferred millions of dollars without any color screen of death. Ever use your ATM card to buy gas and it didn’t work? No. — You’re welcome.

    I now wish I had gone into plumbing. The results — 🙂 Actually, you can’t outsource that, can ya?

    Oh ya, I got a Droid. It goes back to VZW after Christmas. Because it sucks big time.

    mo

  72. Marty O. Says:

    So one last time, I spent 2 hours at the Verizon store with some very knowledgeable people. Yes, they went WAY out of their way to help me. 1) the Droids they had in the store did not work with a wired headset — 3 of them. Bad call quality. 2) You should never try and buffalo a techie population, especially after they turn into sales reps. They are coin-operated, have little time for nerd stuff, and it should just work out of the box. Unless, I sell it then calling 1 800 dial a dope is ok.

    They only thing I have sell is my time. Ya wanna make $200K? Don’t buy this phone. You’all go back to enjoying A+ or whatever that uSoft class was.

    Good night from frigid Chicago. A real shame, I love the toy. It’s just not a phone.

    mo


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