24 Hours With Android and Chrome

As 2009 heads into the home stretch, I’m feeling techno-restless.  I’ve got two big end of year projects that I’m working on that will keep me in front of my computer a lot, along with a pile of new toys that have shown up in the past few weeks that I’m playing with.  So – yesterday I decided to start trying to use new stuff and see if I would switch.

I thought I’d start with some Googly stuff so I grabbed Amy’s new Droid to play with Android and downloaded the Beta Chrome browser.  24 hours I’m back to my iPhone, but I’m sticking with Chrome.  Here’s my reaction to both so far.

In theory, the Droid is a great idea.  AT&T service in Boulder has been terrible all year and it doesn’t really seem to be getting better.  I’ve really settled into using the iPhone comfortably for a data device, especially in reach of Wifi, but the dropped calls (and call quality) are maddening.  I know Verizon is happier here and I figured the number of folks saying positive things about the Droid meant the software would be “close enough” to what I’m used to on the iPhone.  After one day of fighting through the email client, the marginal keyboard, the terrible on screen keyboard, and generally feeling a massive loss of “speed” as I tried to jam through email, I gave up on it.  The screen is beautiful, but the hardware isn’t anywhere as nice as Apple’s.  I guess I’m just going to suffer through AT&T’s service for a while until they eventually either improve it or I give up or Apple opens up the iPhone.  At least for now.

Chrome is a whole different story.  I’ve been a Firefox user for at least four years and – while I generally really like it – I’ve noticed it getting slower and slower with each major release.  I’ve tried Chrome a few times in the past and always found it snappy, but the lack of plugins – most notably bookmark sync – but others that I use all the time like Glue – caused me to sick with Firefox.  Well – the Chrome beta now has bookmark sync and extensions – and it just kicks ass.  It is so much faster than Firefox, both with Google specific stuff as well as general web pages.  I’m now firmly in Chrome.

So – Google got one out of two switches from me today.  Not bad – we’ll see what new toys next week brings.

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  • Sateesh

    I had the same reaction to Chrome in the first few days, but it started slowing down after a week or two of usage. Chrome consumes too much memory and brings the system to a crawl, very similar to what FF 3.5 does. Would be interested to see if you see similar behavior after couple of weeks of usage.

    I am not seriously thinking of switching to either Opera or IE6 ( I know its sad).

    Great business opportunity for an entrepreneur to build a no frills browser that gets the job done and doesn't consume as much memory as Chrome or FF does.

    • nigel

      My experience has been the opposite – but perhaps it's just that I use a powerful system. I must say though, I rarely read criticisms of Chrome's speed.

      @brad I enjoyed reading this article. It reminded me of my experience when I first tried out chrome. The opening up of extensions will be a clincher for many people and I can see firefox taking a battering over the next 18months.

    • We’ll see.  I left Firefox on my computers so if Chrome bonks it’ll be easy to go back and I’ll make sure I write a post with the experience.

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  • Isn't it funny that the browser on Droid was so bad? Droid was bad all around but you'd think that at least the browser would be great. Chrome, on the other hand, kicks butt.

    • Chuck

      Droid's not "bad all around." The Dolphin browser from the market is a nice alternative and it is free.

      Brad, many of your qualms are fixable and tweakable through alternative software from the market. Also, 24h is a pretty short time to get adjusted to a new UI. Ultimately, pick what works for you, of course, but if you are disappointed with service on your iPhone, maybe give the Droid a closer look.

      • I was just hoping my out of the box experience would blow me away.

        • The Droid ads are so cool and seductive, expectations are created. But if 'no surprise and delight' happens with the initial experience, well this is the result.

          The iPhone 3g ATT service totally sucks, no argument. But the rest of the experience is good enough that it's (more) easily overlooked, at least until Droid optimizes some more. I'm sticking with iphone for now (if only for apps and integration), but who's to say that i can't fall in love with an android in the future.

  • Yeah- that was a real head scratcher for me also.

  • I'm a long-time fan of Chrome but, strangely, they left off the simple-seeming feature that FF calls "Active bookmarks." This uses RSS feeds drive what look like folders of links in the bookmark bar but are actually all the items in the feed. This really makes FF my go-to tool for consuming my favorite content; the IE8 team added the feature (recognizing its value, I guess) but the total package is too slow to bear. I find myself running both FF and Chrome all the time — my Gmail in Chrome, my browsing and SalesForce-ing and similar in FF.

  • Wait, Brad — don’t give up on your Android yet!!

    I also love my iPhone 3GS, but because of “the AT&T problem” (it’s exactly the same situation in Silicon Valley), I bought the Motorola Droid and opened a Verizon account, the day it came out. After a couple of days, i could have written the same blog post. But at about a week, everything changed – the keyboard was no longer a problem, I started LIKING the on-screen keyboard, and then i started really LIKING the Droid.

    However, I haven’t given up my iPhone – i just turned down the voice plan to their smallest plan, and went with unlimited calling on Verizon. It has a MUCH better phone network, and 3G network behind it. I’ve now tested it all over the Western USA and it’s vastly superior as a telephone, and data device.

    I have tested and compared these two phones (and the data performance over the past six weeks California–as south as Orange County, out to Las Vegas, mid-state CA in San Luis Obispo, all over the Bay Area and in the city of San Francisco, in Marin County, all the way up the 101 and the I-5 to the forests of Mount Shasta and Weed; all through Oregon (Medford, Grants Pass, Eugune, Portland, Salem, etc) on the way to Washington; and Washington state from Vancouver up North to Seattle; across Washington state to Boise, ID; around Salt Lake City, out to Boulder; and since then different places in between. The Motorola Android on Verizon has proved rock-solid reliable in ALL those locations, with FAST data; the iPhone a complete disaster!

    AT&T should be sued for suing Verizon, claiming that isn’t the case! I could make a solid expert witness for THAT trial, lol:)

    Android plays YouTube good with a superior YouTube App… and videos come up quicker.

    The screen quality + resolution is awesome, I’m very impressed. I keep thinking… essentially I have a LAPTOP computer here!

    The Twitroid application for Android rocks… the alarms really wake you up… much better than iPhones!

    Android has a cool drag down menu of your notifications, (voicemails, missed calls, texts, tweets etc.)

    3 options of keyboards. You can choose to use either the physical keyboard or either touch keyboard horizontal or vertical displays. I have come to like all three of them, after a short initial struggle to “get it”.

    Not so cool stuff (3 things I can think of):

    – The zooming in and out is not as cool as the iPhone.

    – It seems to have a robo-ego, periodically remind you who it is. Out of nowhere, even if you’re sleeping (I was) it says in a robotic monster voice: “D R R R O I D – – ” Since then I’ve realized it’s announcing an email has come in – and this is configurable. Pretty funny at first, but gets old after a short time.

    – Settings on the camera must be learned for good pictures. But it’s a better, 5Mpx amera with Flash, and there are more standard options.

    For using Gmail, i like running it under Chrome instead of using the built-in Gmail client. No problems here on speed or stability using Chrome. But there is an alternative Browser, Dolphin, which show promise – nice tabbing implementation. But it’s a little unstable in the current rev.

    The turn-by-turn GPS in Droid blows away my $700 Garmin 5000 — it’s about 10 seconds ahead of the Garmin on calling out coming turns; and it’s more accurate. I use the 3GS to display a map that cover a large area, the little blue dot is nice for perspective; but the Droid mapping and GPS is light years ahead of iPhone’s.

    Almost all of my favorite iPhone apps are available on the Droid, and work just as well – e.g. Shazam, Dictionary.com, Google Analytics (DroidAnalytics), WordPress client, OnTheRoad.to client, Twitter client (Twitroid), etc.

    There *are* a few TERRIFIC iPhone apps that are not yet on the Android, e.g. “Red Laser” from our friend Vikas at Occipital (the amazing UPS code reader+database). But there are also some amazing things available on the Android that are not yet on the iPhone – e.g. the sensational “Google Goggles” application which Google just launched last week.

    Using the Droid reminds me of using the HP 200LX (which ran a DOS-like, command-line OS). It’s “gen 1.0”. I don’t think Grandma will be using one soon; but wow, is it a huge leap from the T-Mobile G1 version of Android.

    My suggestion: hang in there with it, keep the iPhone as a security blanket for a few apps — and wait out the war — my guess is that I’ll be able to let go of my iPhone within 6 months.

    -steve bell | startup trek tv | los gatos ca

  • katiepea

    i've been a die hard apple fan for decades, i had an iphone for 2 years and the phone is so unusable to me that it's made me hate apple. i have sold every piece of apple technology (ipod, 2 macbooks, imac, airport extreme, appletv, iphone) and decided apple has very quickly turned into microsoft, but worse. it's blackberry and linux for me from now on, the iphone is seriously a joke in the mobile world, maybe not financially, obviously it is doing good, but it's not as good as a myriad of other options, you can't even have a custom SMS tone ffs. let alone no push email, no background processing, an outdated screen, slow dumb nauseatingly boring animated OS not to mention it's almost 2010 and it JUST got copy and paste and MMS. cmon apple. what happened to you? i don't care about 100k apps, or misleading commercials. you used to care about innovation, yet your phone hasn't changed in 3 years. blackberry may have it's downfalls but it beats the hell out of your experience. grow up apple. you're nintendo at this point. pure novelty.

  • Mike Schmidt

    Brad – If you like FF but don't like the build-up in memory, try Kmelon. K-Meleon is a fast and customizable lightweight web browser for Windows, based on the rendering engine of Mozilla. K-Meleon is free (open source) software … My son turned me on to it several months ago, and I often use it when I have a lot of other desktop apps open and running. It has a small memory footprint and is fast with tabbed-browsing, etc. Pull it off the net at: http://kmeleon.sourceforge.net/

  • Mihail

    Yeah. Google tries to pull PC user out of shitty Windows

  • quick question, how do you manage your contacts list for your phone(s)? I find that I have a ton of incomplete contacts (like just a name and a phone number, or maybe a name and email). Rarely do I have a complete contact card for someone in my phone. Does anyone else have this problem? Reason I ask is because I was thinking about writing android app (and eventually an iphone/bb app as well) that would allow you to send an SMS or email to a person requesting them to fill out the missing contact info.

    So for example, lets say that I only have your email address. I would use the app to send you an email requesting that you fill out the missing information that you would like to give up =P. The website then stores that information in a database and at some interval the phone would sync with that information giving me an update to date contact.

    what do you guys think?

    • It's a pervasive problem. Gist has this capabilty (via email, not SMS) and there have been several attempts to do business card replacement services, including via SMS.

      There's plenty of different ways to approach this although I think it falls squarely in the \”feature\” bucket (eg it's neither a company, nor is it even enough for a product.).

      But – if you come up with something, tell me. Id love to be a user.

  • Whoa boy – here we go! Breaking news / just Tweeted this:

    WSJ: “Google to sell it’s own phone online, directly to consumers next year”: http://bit.ly/69i8Ai

    For you technology conspiracy types (strategists) here’s some pieces of the puzzle:

    > The cable companies, Intel, and Google invest in ClearWire (Sprint’s 4G spinoff, chaired by Craig McGaw). Beleagured Sprint, run by AT&T wireless veteran, cellular pioneer, and deal-making Wizard Dan Hesse, transfers ownership of Spectrum worth Billions into “the new Clearwire”.

    > Google installs Metro Wi-Fi in Mountain View, putting 802.11 access points all over MV; and backhauls them to the GooglePlex using WiMax beams (probably pre-standard Wimax — formerly known as Broadband collimated Microwave beams; they run on licensed spectrum).

    > May 2008: Three major Cable TV companies (battling the big cellular players), Intel (pushing WiMax), and Google (who’s strategic interests favor nationwide, mobile, ubiquitous broadband) pump $3.2B into Clearwire, which Sprint spins off while holding a 51% controlling interest.

    > mid-2008: Google disappoints everyone by failing to push their hand in the multi-Billion dollar wireless spectrum auctions, disappointing most everyone rooting for them. But perhaps there was a method to their madness…

    > 2009: Sprint+Clearwire roll out 4G (WiMax) in 19 US Cities including Las Vegas, Baltimore, Portland, Boise (etc).

    Let me pose this question: do you see where this is headed? My opinion is, this is the reason that Ma Bell was broken up, and it’s GREAT news for everyone in tech, imho. But I’m more interested in your opinion; i don’t claim to have it all figured out.

    -steve bell | StartupTrek.net

  • My Verizon phone has been good enough to me, but I am ready to upgrade to a smartphone. My iPod Touch has been dreamy in many ways, but I'm glad to have it free of the AT&T network I hear so many bad things about.

    So lately I've been contemplating the Droid. Your post gives me pause, but I would love to see a more thorough assessment .

    This might sound a little like I'm expecting you to make my decision for me, but it is. 😉

  • Hah!  I think the Droid (and Android) will continue to evolve quickly and it now puts good pressure on the iPhone.  I just don’t think it’s there yet.

  • Brad, I lived with a Droid for a month and came to a similar conclusion, here's my post: http://arinewman.com/2009/11/droid_almost_does/

  • Mike, great point. This is one of our goals at IntenseDebate – we want to simplify your commenting experience. With this in mind, we enable commenters who have created IntenseDebate accounts to track comments made on a post via RSS readers, including NewsGator.

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