Verizon's Desktop-Software Disaster
As for the bloatware called V Cast Media Manager (a 111MB download), where do I start in describing my loathing for it?
V Cast Media Manager is free, and it's designed to help you download and transfer photos, videos, and music from your PC to your phone via USB cable. It requires a companion app that goes by the same name to be installed on the phone. The desktop program installed itself on my PC when I downloaded updated USB drivers from Verizon for linking my phone to my computer.
Here's what happened when I tried to use it.
I was able to transfer both full-length movies and video clips I shot with my Flip Mino camcorder; both were in the MPEG-4 format, which Motorola says the Droid X supports. But when I transferred each of my video clips, I received a prompt to install V Cast Media Manager onto my phone--even though that software was already installed.
Worse, a cryptic message popped up on my phone's screen, stating: 'Data transport charges are applicable (depending on your data feature, if any) when using the V Cast Media Manager application on your phone.' But I was connected via USB--what did that message mean? The app prompted me to create an account, and warned: 'With the creation process you can add a data feature or simply pay as you go at $1.99/MB.'
I had no clue what Verizon was talking about then--and I've seen the same messages multiple times since. Each time, I take a deep breath and click the Accept button. Next, Verizon hits me with a sales pitch, offering 25GB of online storage for $3 a month. I'm warned that if I choose Continue, I'm agreeing to the charge; if I choose Decline, I'm told that I 'will be exited from the process.'
I press Decline each time, and without fail the app shows me a screen that says: 'Thank you for your interest in V Cast Media Manager. If you decide to sign-up for V Cast Media Manager in the future, please visit Get It Now or Get Apps from your handset to download the application and setup your subscription.'
As lame as iTunes is, at least it doesn't make me put up with this nonsense.
Verizon/Android Upsell Hell
The upsells from Verizon don't stop with online storage. If I want the cool feature of Visual Voicemail (standard with AT&T), it will cost me $3 with Verizon. (By the way, a Verizon sales representative told me that Visual Voicemail will cost $3 for Verizon iPhone users--ouch.)
In the Android Market, Verizon has carved out its own boutique called V Cast Apps. In it you'll find such apps as V Cast Video and V Cast Visual Voicemail, which are labeled as "free." Technically the apps are "free" to download, but they serve no purpose unless you subscribe to the services (V Cast Video is $10 monthly).
I don't buy the argument that the Android Market has lower-quality apps--I've had just as many apps lock up on my old iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad as I have on my Droid X. But I am concerned about security.
In the iPhone universe, Apple reviews all apps before it allows them to be sold through its App Store. A similar kind of quality review doesn't exist in the Android world yet. That means we need to trust developers more, read user reviews more carefully, and--for the paranoid--buy mobile security software.
Although iPhones and Android-based handsets are both vulnerable to malware and phishing scams masquerading as legit apps, at least for now the iPhone seems to have taller castle walls.
Android Is Sloppy; iPhone Strives for Perfection
Apple is the ultimate control freak, dictating every aspect of the iPhone from the size and shape of the buttons to the selection of available apps. Some people see this as Apple's weakness, overzealous behavior that will forever marginalize the iPhone as a bit player.
I'd agree, but the flip side is dealing with nonstandard hardware, temperamental software (read above), and the chaotic Android Market. I'm okay with a porn-free App Store if that means I don't have to wade through 200,000 poorly organized and hard-to-navigate apps, as I currently do on the Android Market. As our colleague Jared Newman points out in his Android Market-App Store comparison: "Searching for "Angry Birds" returns 20 junky results (mostly ringtones, cheats, and knockoffs) before the actual game."
Robert will say that few significant apps are missing from the Android Market, but I have an eight-letter-word response: Scrabble. Not only is my favorite iOS game not available on my Android, but other iPhone apps have yet to become available on Android, too. And as Jared previously pointed out in his comparison, some apps "that exist on both platforms lack certain features in the Android version. PayPal, for example, can cash checks on the iPhone but not on Android."
When Verizon announced that it would offer the Droid X, which at the time blew the doors off the iPhone in terms of specs, I jumped at the chance to upgrade. But now I'm seriously reconsidering my choice.
Verizon's Droid X has no one fatal flaw, such as a faulty antenna. Rather, my gripe with my Verizon, Motorola, and the Droid X is that the phone's problems are more akin to water torture--with each bug, glitch, and hiccup being another agonizing drop.
Next page: Robert Strohmeyer defends Android.