Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Quick Review of Samsung Charge and Moto Bionic

Since we write mobile software and need to test on a variety of hardware we buy a lot of phones. And I often carry two phones around, an Android device and my iPhone. Sometimes I forward my main number, which is associated with my Verizon iPhone, to my Android device. Alas, I can’t forward the texts.

I am a Verizon customer and typically only carry Verizon phones. I used ATT for three or so years when that was the only way to get an iPhone in the US, but returned to Verizon when I could. Verizon is not perfect and it’s expensive, but they offer by far the best service in the US. Being on Verizon limits me to their Android handsets.

Friends and family who are verizon customers often ask me what phone they should get to replace their aging handset. Short answer today: none. Wait. There are better options coming.

I carried the Samsung Droid Charge for about six weeks before passing it on to someone else at the company. The LTE network was fast, but the phone itself was dog slow. It was slow enough that I had to train myself to pause after taking actions or I would take the same action twice.

Speed was the number one problem on the Charge. People look at me funny when I say that because it’s an LTE phone and we all know that LTE is fast. Yes, LTE is fast, and if you enjoy running on the phone all day to confirm the speed of your local 4G network, then this phone is for you. But if you are hoping to do more than that, say, maybe, read email or browse the web, then you will be disappointed.

Battery life is the second issue on the Charge. It won’t last a day on medium usage. It’s a 3pm phone. That’s a non-starter when I am traveling.

People also rave about the contrast, saturation and viewing angle of the OLED display on the Charge. Yes, those things are all there, but what they forget to mention is the terrible color accuracy and overblown reds that detract from looking at photos on the device.

The weight of the Charge is manageable. Officially it’s 5.0 oz. By contrast, the iPhone 4.8 oz. The size of the phone is significantly larger than the iPhone and not completely comfortable in the hand. It’s hard to reach for some of the bottom buttons. But overall, the Charge has pretty good ergonomics.

Other nice features: you can take a screenshot with the Charge (samsung addition); there is a pretty nice dock that turns the phone into a bedside alarm clock and charges a second battery (which you will need). Samsung puts controls for wifi and bluetooth in the notification bar.

I downloaded and paid for a clean copy of the Android 2.3 keyboard because the 2.2 keyboard that Samsung ships is not great and the phone has not yet been updated to 2.3.

The Droid Bionic I have only had for a few days. It’s heavier than the Charge, coming in at 5.6 oz. The screen has better color rendition, although you can see some pixelation. Viewing angle is inferior.

But the big news with the Bionic is that the phone itself is fast, more than fast enough that I don’t think about the speed.

Moto’s customization of the Android UI is not attractive to me and the phones ships with lot’s of crapware. You can’t remove the crapware unless you root the phone, which I have not done. I downloaded Go Launcher to change the home screen. That made me marginally happier. Battery life is still under review by me but my guess is that it will be a 5pm phone.

The phone feels less plasticy in the hand than the Charge, but the ergonomics are no better and possibly worse with a power button that is on the top left.

Neither of these phones are anywhere near as polished as the iPhone 4 in terms of the physical hardware. We also are running iOS 5 on our iPhones (we are developers) and although we can’t review or talk about any specific features until Apple releases that, Apple is working through the list of shortcomings of the iPhone versus Android that I outlined about one year go.

So as a Verizon customer right now, my recommendation would be to wait. If you love iOS and the iPhone, then the rumors say the iPhone 5 is imminent. If you are a lover of the Robot then wait for the rumored Nexus Prime. I don’t think LTE is worth the sacrifice in battery life, weight and size that it requires today. The rumor is that Apple is not putting LTE into the iPhone 5 and given the battery life, size and weight of the first generation of LTE phones, I think that was a smart decision on their part.

Finally, some will be asking Android vs iOS? What’s better? My feeling is that Apple has the better product. The main deficiency today is the lack of turn by turn navigation, which you can solve by buying a third party GPS app for the iPhone (I bought the TomTom app, which works adequately if not brilliantly;traffic is an added yearly subscription; TomTom customer support, if you have the misfortune to contact them, is HORRIBLE).

Android is also very strong if you are a Google Apps user. The integration with Google Apps makes it an attractive option for those users. If you are a Google apps user on the iPhone, make sure you configure your account as an Exchange account against versus setting your account up as a Gmail account. You will get contact synchronization that way.

  • Rob Lieving

    Re: Forwarding texts.  Why not use Google Voice?  It works great on Apple devices (iPhone/iPad) and in the browser.  You can assign one number to all your devices and never lose any texts or voicemails.

    The only thing I am not sure about is how well GV works on Android.  Ironically, the Apple options seem to be a bit better, mainly due to a better push architecture on Apple devices. 

    Any reason not to use Google Voice?  Seems like you have the perfect need…

  • erlichson

    Two problems with google voice. First, I spend a fortune on my cell phone service and the idea of having all the connectivity be intermediated by a free service with no customer support and ownership over my data (who calls me, where I call) does not excite me. Second, when I call on my cell phone, I need the caller ID to be right. I don't believe it is under iOS – probably is under Android. 

    Truth is, I am mostly an iOS user. An Android phone has not yet been created that makes me prefer to use Android most of the time. But I do carry an Android phone 30% of the time to keep up on what is going on there. Nothing like first hand experience.

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