When people ask me for advice on a smartphone I tell them that their first choice is actually an ecosystem. If you’re into Apple stuff (Mac, IPad, etc.) get an IPhone. If you use Google stuff (Gmail, Chrome) go Android. If you use Microsoft online services (Bing, Outlook, Hotmail) consider Windows Phone. While a lot of things work cross platform (Google is most cross-platform friendly) the services are most refined for their own products.
I first started using Android with the original Verizon Droid. My family was on Verizon and the IPhone was only on AT&T so I got the Droid. When I got my original Droid I switched over to Gmail and haven’t regretted using that platform ever since. (Prior to that I had a Blackberry and used Outlook.)
The Android platform played catch-up with IPhone for a while but I think has surpassed it in a number of ways. If you go with Android you’ll have a greater variety of phones and tablets within that ecosystem to chose from and your services will work together well.
With Android phones you’ll get larger screens and longer battery life. IPhones will tend to maintain their performance level over time (Android seems to have a degrading problem when a device gets old) and you’ll have great resale value for your Apple device.
Windows Phone is still a distant third behind the other two platforms and suffers from getting apps late or not at all.
The Wild World of Android
When Google wanted to figure out how to catch up to Apple it needed to use a different philosophy. It gave away the Android operating system for free in hopes that manufacturers would build phones with it and continue to develop it. Their wish was granted.
While Motorola and Verizon really made the first mass market successful Android phone (the Original Droid) the South Korean manufacturing giant Samsung really began to drive the market.
In the early days of Android most manufacturers developed their own unique software on top of Android to separate themselves from the other manufacturers and to fill in the gaps of what Google wasn’t providing. HTC developed their “Sense” user interface and Samsung developed “Touch Wiz” on top of Android.
Over the last 4 years Samsung has grown to dominate the Android market by releasing multiple versions of phones, especially their most successful lines the Galaxy S line and their Note Line. Together with their tablets Samsung for many has overshadowed Google and Android. When I talk to people who are not tech enthusiasts they will usually tell you to get a “galaxy” or an “IPhone”.
The Nexus Program
In an attempt to keep some control over the system they created Google regularly releases “nexus” devices. These devices focus on Google services (not Samsung) and offer a more simple, stripped down version of the operating system. These devices can be purchased from the Google Play Store.
After the success of the original Droid Motorola lost ground to Samsung and was going under as a company. They would regularly put out “Droid” phones for Verizon but beyond Verizon their phones didn’t sell well. Motorola Mobility (the smartphone part of the company) was then bought by Google a couple of years ago and since the buy-out Motorola has been trying to make it back into the market.
Motorola’s big attempt to regain profitability was their phone “the Moto X” released a couple of months ago. The Moto X would be released on all the major US wireless carriers and would have a special website where individuals could design their own custom phone, made in the USA with their own color choices.
The phone was smaller than the Galaxy phones but larger than an IPhone. It didn’t have the kind of software overlay (skins) that the HTC and Samsung phones had but just included a couple of new features.
1. Voiceless control: you could wake your phone up without touching it by saying “OK Google Now” and then ask it a question, give it a command like sending a text to someone, or tell it to play a song from Google Music.
2. Active Notifications: The screen will turn itself on and off with notifications of texts, emails and other things. If you touch the notification on screen (again without turning on the phone) it will give you a look at the email or text or message that has come to your phone.
3. Moto-Assist: If you are driving the phone will read you a text that you receive and send a reply that you are driving and can’t respond at the moment. It will also silence your phone if you are in a meeting on your Google calendar and silence it at night while you sleep.
There are some comparable features on other phones, these features were designed to be simple to use and not drain the battery.
Verizon contracted from Motorola a phone similar to the Moto-X but with more storage (32GB) and a very large battery. This follows the rather successful “Droid Razr Maxx” that Verizon sold in 2012.
One of the major annoyances that people have with smartphones is the battery not lasting the day. IPhones tended to do better on battery life than Android phones so Motorola decided it would make battery life a priority.
The Droid Maxx is essentially a slightly larger Moto X, with identical features but with a very large battery so that even heavy users can easily make it through the day without recharging or worrying about it.
What I Like
I’ve had the phone a couple of months and my experience with it has been very positive.
1. After using the Verizon Galaxy Nexus the battery life on this phone is a breath of fresh air. I use my phone a lot for texting and listening to podcasts and I’ve never come close to running out of battery any day. Many times I have 60%+ left at the end of the day. I don’t plug it into a car charger if I’m navigating. I just run it always off battery.
This phone unlike the other Droids and the Moto X does have wireless charging but since the battery life is so amazing I never use it.
2. Moto-assist driving mode is very useful. I get texts from kids needing rides, or delaying rides, etc. and this lets them know I’m driving and lets me know what they’re saying without having to ever touch my phone. Texting while driving is not only illegal but very dangerous and this feature alone is enormously valuable. Trying to send a text by voice alone while driving does not work as well but is OK in a pinch.
3. Voice activation is handy but not flawless.
4. Active notifications is wonderful. The video I linked to is for the Moto X but it works exactly the same on the Droid Maxx.
5. The phone is plenty fast, not laggy like some Android phones can get. We’ll see in time if it slows down as it ages, a common problem with some Android phones.
6. The phone speaker is loud and clear. I listen to a lot of sermons, podcasts, etc. and having a decent speaker is important to me. I can listen to a podcast with the phone in my pocket while I’m working around the house, church or yard and hear it all clearly.
So So Items
1. The screen is OK, not as nice as my wife’s Samsung Note 2.
2. The camera is adequate but not as good as cameras in Samsung Galaxy and Note lines nor as good as IPhone cameras.
If you’re on Verizon I’d definitely recommend this phone if you want an Android phone. I think the Moto X is also a terrific phone and you can find that on any carrier.