The Verizon Droid is a Loaf of Day-Old Bread

By  |  Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Wasn’t there a time when Verizon’s Droid was the hottest Android phone in the nation? Sure–but it ended on January 5th, when Google launched the Nexus One. The Droid runs Android 2.0.1; the Nexus One packs Android 2.1 and some custom Google tweaks. And the difference is more than a minor technical matter.

Yesterday, Google announced Google Earth for Android. It looks neat–and it requires Android 2.1, so it won’t run on the less-than-four-months-old Droid. That’ll get fixed when Verizon rolls out an update for the Droid, which may happen soon. But it points out frustrating, potentially crippling issues with Android: The platform is splintering, and it’s changing so rapidly that the majority of Android handsets feel stale. Even the Droid–I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that Amazon is selling it for fifty bucks, or one-quarter of Verizon’s original after-rebate price.

Over at InfoWorld, Galen Gruman has a good post with more evidence of Android’s fractured nature. There are multiple, incompatible versions of the OS out there, and I don’t know of any good reason to think the situation’s going to get better rather than worse. Google surely isn’t setting a good example by releasing an Android version of Google Earth which won’t run on most Android phones.

Do I need to recap the situation with Apple’s iPhone OS? It gets only one major upgrade a year, instantly available to all owners of existing devices, and all software works on any iPhone OS gizmo that has the proper hardware.

Android will never be like that, of course: It’s an open-source product that runs on an array of gadgets with varying hardware specs and capabilities. But how big a bummer is it going to be if it takes a nerdish interest in version numbers to determine if a given app works on your phone? Isn’t it a problem if the hot Android phone of the 2009 holiday season feels stale by February, even if the situation is somewhat temporary?

In short, wouldn’t it be healthy for Android if it evolved a little more slowly, and everyone responsible for its fate agreed that compatibility is a key goal?

 
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33 Comments For This Post

  1. Zatz Says:

    Nerdish! Great word choice.:) Google should learn from Microsoft’s mistakes and how they gave up huge Windows Mobile marketshare, partially due to this same issue.

  2. Rob Says:

    Your point is well made, but don’t we already have that with Blackberry, Windows Mobile and iPhone? Stale bread seems highly overstated, how about “Yet another thing we have to maintain and upgrade?” Sending a stale message about a great piece of hardware from a great American manufacturer on a good rebound seems very harsh.

  3. David Griffin Says:

    Yet another example of what being TOO open gets you. 3-months later, the Droid that so many were calling the iPhone killer has, for now, become a ‘stale loaf of bread’ that won’t even run Google’s latest software. And you can get one on Amazon for $49 (w/contract)???

    I had a big discussion today with someone about the way Apple operates – with so much control. This is a perfect example of why they SHOULD. Although lots of techies love to complain about it, sometimes having some control over your products is a good thing. This is one reason to explain Apple’s success with the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, and soon the iPad. Otherwise things get OUT OF CONTROL (classic example, the PC). Sometimes being too open just creates a confusing mess.

    Apple has patience that is unparalleled – yes we had to wait for copy & paste and MMS for 2 years, but Apple just wanted to get it right – and not rush some half-ass solution to the market. And they did. Seems like the Android platform is going to become out-of-control, with branches all over the place.

  4. AJ Says:

    Hey, one can get a Droid for fifty bucks now. This is a bad thing?

  5. Mike Says:

    Why do I get the feeling that the author owns an iphone?

  6. Harry McCracken Says:

    Actually, I should have disclosed what phones I own–I sometimes forget what I’ve mentioned here, and what I’ve mentioned on Twitter. I own both an AT&T iPhone and a Verizon Droid. (I promise I’ll write more about the latter–it may be a loaf of day-old bread, but it’s also a nifty phone.)

    –Harry

  7. Kyle Says:

    Dear everyone. It is a freaking mobile phone operating system. Get over it and stop making such a big deal out of something that is insignificant in your life.

  8. Marc Says:

    Im running Google Earth on my droid… sooo yeah

  9. immsdroid Says:

    I’m running a rooted Droid on DroidMod custom 2.01 ROM overclocked at 1.2 Ghz cpu speed with live wallpapers working 100%. It has all the 2.1 features that the Nexus One has and some. I can run google earth just fine. The Droid is not stale bread as you called it, your brain is. I’m running faster than the N1 and I have all of the same features plus more. People don’t think before they act.

  10. Andi Says:

    I think it woul be enough to publish a new version every year or something like that. But the problem is that others also evolve new software for their mobile phones, and you have to be really up to date tho get customers. But it would be helpful if the Android actualized itsself automatically. Who doesn´t want thet should also be able to deactivate it. I think that would be a good solution for most people.

  11. Andi Says:

    I think it would be enough to publish a new version every year or something like that. But the problem is that others also evolve new software for their mobile phones, and you have to be really up to date tho get customers. But it would be helpful if the Android actualized itsself automatically. Who doesn´t want that should also be able to deactivate it. I think that would be a good solution for most people.

  12. Stilgar Says:

    I think it’s a good thing that Google is pushing Android updates so quickly. I’d say the problem is not with Google, but that carriers are so slow at issuing updates to their customers (or they don’t issue updates at all). People who read Technologizer likely have the ability to visit xda-developers.com and can flash their own phones with the newest version. Joe Average consumer either a) doesn’t care or b) does care and calls their provider’s support line to complain that his phone isn’t up today. The latter scenario will hopefully result in faster upgrades from carriers.

  13. Charles Says:

    As far as Apple and the iPhone are concerned, and for all their much heralded ingenuity and efficiency, they made one of the most foolhardy business decisions ever: they hitched the iPhone to the worst carrier in the country, AT&T. I had an iPhone for about 6 months. Loved it. Did not love AT&T, so I switched to the Droid and Verizon. I miss the iPhone, but a nice piece of technology does me no good if I cannot use it for what it was intended. The Droid is no iPhone, but it is an excellent smartphone nonetheless and Verizon is far superior to ATT. If there’s ever an iPhone for Verizon, I’ll be among the first to get one. (BTW McCarken, how the heck can you afford contracts with BOTH AT&T and Verizon??!!)

  14. wiwzer Says:

    @immsdroid – You had to overclock your damn phone? Do you know how ridiculous that is?

  15. James Says:

    Verizon wireless sucks so bad in my city that their own CEO’s secretary told me to explore other carriers. I am so happy she did because I’d never have given the iPhone a chance. I really do hope that I never get into a position where I need to purchase a lot of wireless service because Verizon Wireless will NEVER be on the list of consideration. To say they suck is to say the Universe is big.

  16. JGurtz Says:

    Eh, how about we blame the carrier for not yet releasing an updated “firmware”

    The big V is notoriously slow in releasing updates for BB too, so this is no news. Pretty sad when you have to scour warez blogs to get the latest BB OS and it’s no different having to “root” your phone to install an unblessed Android image.

  17. Dmitriy Zasyatkin Says:

    Splintering is the nature of open source OSes, just look at how many Linux distros there are. The variety can actually be a good thing for competition between branches. Plus, the Android phones are supposed to be for geeky people, who like to tinker with their systems, and would be able to upgrade their phone OS by themselves. As a techy person, it is really sad to see completely non-technical people with Droids who have now idea of its power and versatility.

  18. Jeff Says:

    @wiwzer – Once you’ve rooted the phone, overclocking is a choice not a requirement. Like another poster said, open source OS and the Droid phones lend themselves to people who like to tinker. If you like predictability and hate to venture out on your own with technology, stay with an iPhone…stay between the lines…

  19. Dan Fillat Says:

    Just wait till the iPad and the 4th gen iPhone comes out. We will then see some fragmentation of the software. The fact is there are only 3 products running iPhone software. Soon Apple is going to leave the original iPhone behind. I am not sure how many Android devices are in the market, but I do know it is more then 3. It is easy for a closed company to keep everyone running the same OS for a few years. That time is coming to an end and I can’t wait for all you writers to cry about multiple versions of apps in the app store. Good luck to the iPhone. I for one love my droid and love doing what ever I want to it.

  20. Zatz Says:

    @Kyle “something that is insignificant in your life.”

    Well, it’s not like marriage or cancer. But my phone(s) is pretty significant and something I use more than just about any other tech and is definitely with me more hours a day than any other tech.

  21. Gerry Says:

    The Droid was my first ‘just not a phone, phone”. Its a great phone. Its terrific, if there is an App, and if the App works. Very problematic. Even for compny Apps, and very few provide provide one. GEICO and CNBC says they has no plans to port there Apple App. They’ve made a segment of their CUSTOMERS second class CUSTOMERS to Steve Jobs. Paybacks or short sighted?

    The Droid internet browser and Verizons 3G are second rate. I have Apple App envy and can’t believe Verizons 3G is better than AT&T. Wi-fi is better if you can find it, and I live in a major city which is suppose to be ‘wired’.

  22. immsdroid Says:

    @wiwzer

    Yes I overclocked my “phone” a lot of people do. Go to alldroid.org. A phone is not just a phone anymore, technology is advancing. A “phone” has now become a multitasking, multimedia beast that makes calls.

  23. Harry McCracken Says:

    @gerry: Google’s Eric Schmidt says there are 60,000 Android phones shipping a day. I think that over time, most major iPhone apps from big companies will come over, and Web-based services will work. My main concern is quality (so far, there are lots of examples of apps that are better on the iPhone than on Android).

    –Harry

  24. Jason Christian Says:

    No, I don’t think that would be great. Why make everyone wait for something just because some people have to wait. Push out the new tech, and those who can run it get the benefits, even if some other people have to wait. What you are proposing is making everyone wait, so some people don’t feel left behind. That’s just silly.

  25. CodeMonk Says:

    Wow. I can’t believe you actually think it’s great to make technology slow down.

    iPhone user much?

    And, Android is splintered? Since when?

  26. Keoz Says:

    Simple, Android is the new Linux for the phones, for the “too geekys” than can live catched up only, not for the real business users, I smell history repeating coming from the PC tales :)

  27. tom b Says:

    @Harry
    “there are lots of examples of apps that are better on the iPhone than on Android”

    Probably inevitable. Standardized hardware and, developers tell me, a better dev environment on the iPhone.

  28. Timothy Lee Russell Says:

    Rapid development cycles and Google’s decision to open-source the code are intentional decisions to speed innovation of the platform.

    It would be impossible to deny that the Android platform has come a long way in just a couple of years. It’s not perfect and never will be. That is due to its open nature which implies that it has a diverse base of users whose feedback strongly influences the system in different directions.

    It is a more democratic system then the iPhone which is essentially a dictatorship and democracy is often messy.

    I would say it parallels to some degree the PC market in the early 90′s. It’s a little bit like a frontier town in the wild west.

    Over time, Android will mature and will likely become a major, if not the largest player in the cell phone / tablet market.

    Although I don’t own one, I’ve played with the iPhone and it’s pretty neat. The Droid, which I do own, is also neat.

    Why is it that in this day and age that people can’t just accept that there are lots of cool things to play with?

  29. EW Says:

    Check your facts dude. The Droid running Android 2.0.1 was/is running Google Earth hours after its release. The apk can be downloaded at Droid Life and it runs flawlessly. Your ignorance about the android community is blatantly obvious.

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