Droid v. iPhone - New mobile devices give BlackBerry a run for lawyers’ money

Posted Apr 1, 2010 4:20 AM CDT
By Ryan McKeen and Finis Price

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There’s no denying the competition in smartphones is hot. With new phones, operating systems and a slew of task-specific apps, it’s hard not to be tempted—and confused.

So the ABA Journal asked two tech-savvy lawyers, Finis R. Price III and Ryan C. McKeen, to state the case for two of the hottest brands: Price extols the virtues of Apple’s iPhone and McKeen talks up the Droid, one of the phones using Google’s Android OS. Neither is forgetting about the legal practice leader, RIM’s ubiquitous BlackBerry. But their goal is to convince a jury of their peers that their choice of smartphone is the best of the bunch.

OPENING STATEMENTS

McKeen: The Droid is a you phone. The Android platform is a you platform. If you don’t like your phone’s background, that’s easy to change. If you don’t like the browser it comes with, you can find one you do like.

I focus on the Motorola Droid, but the Android platform is where it’s at for attorneys. If a Sprint plan works for you or your firm, there’s the HTC Hero. Don’t like a physical keyboard and want to stay with T-Mobile? There’s Goo gle’s Nexus One. Like the iPhone but want a physical keyboard and Verizon works for you? There’s the Droid. Android is about you. It’s about your practice. It’s about running multiple apps at the same time. It’s about freedom from limitation.

For some reason, my “CrackBerry” friends love their keyboards. I don’t get it. I’m total? ly cool with typing on a screen. If you’re a BlackBerry user and like some of the features of the iPhone, then the Droid is right up your alley. It’s sort of like an iPhone because it has a touch screen, in addition to its slide-out keyboard.

The Droid does everything the iPhone can do and more.


Price: Here’s the iPhone: You can use all of its features while you’re on the phone. Here’s the Droid: You can use the phone, but you must end your call if you would like to use one of those cool browsers it has. Does the Droid do everything the iPhone can do and more? There are more than 70,000 apps the iPhone has that the Droid doesn’t. That amounts to 70,000 more ways you can use your iPhone.

And there is a reason every new smartphone on the market looks and feels like the iPhone, including Nexus One and the Droid—they all aspire to be the best.

Allow me to introduce the iPhone, Time magazine’s 2007 invention and gadget of the year, and the best smartphone on the market for lawyers.


COST AND SERVICE

Price: To most lawyers, cost plays a big factor when purchasing new technology, and the cost of both the iPhone and the Droid is $199 with a two-year service contract, or $599 without. But initial cost is not the only thing a law firm has to take into account when purchasing a cellular phone. The total cost of the service is an important long-term factor when deciding whether to purchase an iPhone or Droid.

When comparing the two devices, we’ll assume most lawyers will have to go with the unlimited minute and data plan for their phones, especially if their case management software is Web-based or they are a solo practitioner.

Though variations exist depending on your choice of options, there’s not much difference between the service costs for the iPhone and Droid.


Ryan McKeen
Photo by Scott Indermaur

McKeen: As mentioned above, both phones cost $199 with a new, two-year service contract. According to a comparison chart by social media blog Mashable, a plan with unlim it ed voice, messaging and 5 gigabytes of data on each 16 GB phone costs $149.99 a month, while average-usage plans both clock in at $109 per month. There’s virtually no difference in cost of ownership between a Droid and an iPhone. Of course, with the Droid you get what you pay for: namely, a reliable service provider.

The advantage of Android-based phones is that you’re not tied to either Verizon or AT&T because you can choose your own service provider. You can’t beat my $70-a-month Simply Everything plan with Sprint (but bring your own smartphone). It comes with unlimited text, unlimited data, unlimited GPS and 450 minutes all for just $70 a month. BlackBerry plans can be quite a bit lower and vary through the many phone services that offer them.


McKeen: I saw comedian Lewis Black at the Mohegan Sun Casino complex in Connecticut this past summer. He said since owning an iPhone he’s lost weight because he’s constantly walking around trying to find a signal. The stories of AT&T’s horrible coverage are everywhere. AT&T is probably the reason that I’m not an iPhone owner, and I’m not alone.

Apple is an evil company that tells you what’s best for you—right down to what background is on your phone. It makes decisions on what’s in your app store, what provider you must use and what apps you can and can’t delete.

There’s no question the Droid has it all over the iPhone in terms of coverage. Every customer satisfaction survey consistently rates Verizon as having the best network in the country. Its 3G network is amazing; it provides for very fast download times no matter where you are.

I was on the phone with a colleague who works in downtown Chicago and has an iPhone. He said he couldn’t get coverage in his office. This is downtown Chicago. My brother who lives in Colchester, Conn., can’t get service at his house. What good is an iPhone if you have horrible coverage in places like San Francisco, New York and Chicago? Point, Droid.


Price: To be honest, the iPhone loses when talking about service coverage, and depending on where you are located, it loses badly. But again, there is one thing the iPhone does have as a result of its AT&T network that the Droid does not—access to the Internet during a call. This is perhaps the most deciding factor for a number of lawyers due to the recent move toward Web-based case- and contact-management services like Rocket Matter.

I can’t tell you how invaluable it is to be able to place a client on speakerphone and open the Safari Web browser to access the client’s file, or to be able to punch the address they are giving me into the map and verify where I am headed. Clearly this is one feature Verizon will have to address if the Droid is to even try to compete with the iPhone in the technologically advanced lawyer’s practice.


iPhone
Courtesy of Apple Inc.

BATTERY LIFE

Price: This is one issue I hear about a lot from non-iPhone users, and one I honestly don’t feel is a deciding factor for lawyers looking to buy the iPhone or Droid. Sure, there are some power users who simply must have a spare battery they can pop into their phones when they’ve worn down their current battery, but for probably 90 percent of attorneys, a charge in their cars, connection to their computers or a charge at night keeps the iPhone ready for regular use.

Looking at the reported battery life of the iPhone and Droid, the Droid gets approximately 1.4 more hours of talk time at 6.4 hours, but the iPhone beats the Droid in standby time by a full 30 hours (with up to 300 hours of standby time). BlackBerry models promise up to four hours of talk time, and from 168 to 408 hours of standby time.

I can’t tell you how many phones I have had (the BlackBerry Pearl immediately comes to mind) with a battery door that comes loose after only a few months. In fact, there was recently a spate of Droid users reporting this very complaint to Verizon. Verizon offered special stickers to hold the battery door closed.

Obviously an attorney does not expect to need tape to hold a $600 device together, and it far from screams professionalism when you whip out your phone with tape on it.


Droid
Courtesy of Motorola Inc.

McKeen: The Droid clobbers the iPhone in terms of battery life. It provides 6.4 hours of talk time vs. the iPhone’s five hours. I have abused the Droid in terms of data usage—I’m talking downloads, running multiple apps, checking e-mail every minute and surfing the Net—and never had a problem with the battery lasting a full day. The same can’t be said for the iPhone.

The battery life on the Droid is superb, perfect for a busy attorney. While you’re using GPS late in the afternoon, your friend with an iPhone will be reaching for a power outlet.

And have you ever tried replacing a battery in an iPhone? You better have an appointment at the “Genius Bar.” Apple is so controlling that it won’t let you change the battery on your own phone.

It’s simple to change a battery on a Droid. Pop off the back and pop in a battery. This may sound like a subtle difference, but it’s not. If you’re a busy lawyer, you can carry another fully charged battery in your briefcase. If you need to, you can simply change your battery.


IN-PHONE FEATURES

McKeen: The Droid comes with a 5-megapixel camera. The iPhone is a 3-megapixel camera. Want to take a picture in the dark? The Droid has built-in flash. The iPhone doesn’t. BlackBerrys also have a built-in flash, but a 2-megapixel camera.

I do find the iPhone’s multi-touch capabilities slightly more useful than the Droid’s. The Droid’s not bad, but the iPhone is amazing. Still, at the end of the day, I’d rather have a better camera. (Continued on next page)

For example, I have an app that creates PDFs from images on my Droid. I no longer need to copy documents when I’m out of the office. I just take a picture and convert it to a PDF. As an attorney on the go, the superb capabilities of the Droid’s camera both in terms of flash and megapixels win the day for me.

Also, the screen on the Droid is bigger and better than that of the iPhone. You’ll be amazed at the crystal-clear resolution of the Droid’s screen. It’s the first feature that will jump out at you. I thought the iPhone 3GS was great until I saw a Droid.

For some, an actual keyboard makes the difference. Again, the Droid offers you that option, while the iPhone makes you submit to the cult of Jobs.


Price: The iPhone wins this category hands down because of its user interface. Why? Because my 4-year-old nephew knows how to use my iPhone to pull up Thomas the Tank Engine movies on YouTube just by watching me search for them. When deciding on a phone—or anything a lawyer is going to be using throughout the day—the most important factor is how hard it is to use the device. The iPhone is the epitome of intuitiveness.

Case in point: I have a colleague who is, to be polite, less than technologically inclined. He has been a Verizon user for almost 10 years and didn’t want to switch, so he bought a Droid. At lunch a few weeks later, some number-crunching came up and I asked him to use his Droid’s calculator. After a few seconds he sheepishly told me he didn’t know where the calculator was. Turns out he didn’t know where the majority of his apps were; they were simply too difficult to find. I handed him my iPhone and within a few seconds he had my calculator open and was done. He was also able to immediately find and open any application I asked him to—something he was unable to do on his 2-month-old Droid.


APPS

Price: The iPhone is the clear winner here, period. With more than 140,000 apps available from Apple’s App Store, the Droid can’t hope to compete with the iPhone in this category. There are literally hundreds of apps specific to the legal market or other professions that are simply unavailable for the Droid.

The main issue with the iPhone is that it allegedly does not multitask. It does, just not in the same way the Droid or other smartphones do. All default Apple apps multitask, which is why I can talk on the phone and take notes in my notepad application. The iPhone simply doesn’t allow apps purchased from the App Store to be run simultaneously.

To be honest, I’m glad it doesn’t because constantly running apps is the main cause of drain age on cellphone batteries and crashes of the OS. Perhaps this is why Windows Phone 7 has chosen the same kind of multitasking.

(Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Series likely won’t ship until December.)


McKeen: At the time I’m writing this, the iPhone has about 70,000 more apps than the Droid, and way more than the BlackBerry. More, however, isn’t better.

With the Droid, there’s an app for that too: The Droid has every app an attorney can possibly need. The iPhone App Store is packed with games for teenagers. Unless you’re Doo gie Howser JD, most of them are useless to you. If you use Google apps in your practice, such as Gmail or Google Calendar, the Droid is the phone for you. The Google Maps app provides turn-by-turn navigation with live traffic updates for free. Try finding that on the iPhone.

Google’s apps really shine on this phone. From Google Places to Google Maps to Google Voice to Google Goggles, they’re all great.

Google is constantly developing world-class apps for the Android platform, and there’s no cop at the app store telling you which of them you can and can’t run.


VALUE TO WORK

McKeen: This category has to go to the Droid simply because of Verizon. It’s hard to work on an iPhone if you can’t get reception. What good is a 3G network if you can only get the Edge data network? Most of the value for attorneys is in the phone’s ability to make calls, send e-mails, access the Internet and use GPS. Having a great network enhances your ability to do all of those things.

Access to the Internet is one of the main draws to either of these phones. The Droid beautifully renders webpages, even more so than the iPhone. The iPhone limits you to the Safari browser; multiple browsers are available for the Android platform.

Lawyers spend lots of time finding things like documents, places and case law, and nobody finds things better than Google. The Android platform is powered by Google Search, which allows you to easily and quickly find what you’re looking for either on the Net or on your phone.


Finis Price
Photo by John Bragg



Price: My iPhone is perhaps the most used device in my legal practice—possibly second only to my desktop computer. I would say almost 70 percent of my usage is work-related, and I am constantly amazed at how much time and money my iPhone saves me. The Droid simply cannot compete with the iPhone in this arena because it is not able to access the Internet while on a call.

Furthermore, because of the extensive apps available for the iPhone, I am able to dictate notes that are transcribed and e-mailed to my assistant, record client interviews and share screens with my laptop or desktop computer.

Until the Droid Marketplace can catch up to the number and, more important, quality of the apps available to the iPhone, any lawyer would be remiss in purchasing a Droid.

As for BlackBerry users, they don’t know what they’re missing.


ENTERTAINMENT

Price: This is perhaps where the iPhone shines the most, because this is what it was truly designed to do. Before a business trip I can purchase or rent movies in iTunes, download them to my iPhone in a matter of minutes, and spend the next four hours on a plane watching. If I don’t want to watch a movie, I can listen to the millions of songs available on iTunes or play any of the amazing games that have been ported to the iPhone—and I can download these directly from my iPhone. The iPhone clearly wins in this category.


Droid
Courtesy of Motorola Inc.

McKeen: The iPhone is a great toy. Keep in mind that the Droid plays music and videos, and does everything the iPhone does, but the iPhone does it better. For whatever reason, the Droid has not convinced me to put my iPod Touch on eBay.

I’ll concede this point because I’m writing this article for lawyers, not high school students. And for the mostly all-business BlackBerry, why bother?

One of the benefits of owning a Droid is that you don’t need to download the memory-sucking iTunes software. The Droid flawlessly syncs with the Amazon Music Store. I’m a former worshipper at the altar of iTunes. Then I wanted to transfer the music to a cheaper MP3 player that I use for running. Hours later, I had most of my songs transferred.

I’ll never buy from iTunes again. The value and convenience of the Amazon store pounce all over iTunes.


SECURITY

McKeen: Security is a significant issue for all smartphone users. The first line of defense is being a smart user: Don’t leave it in your car, change your passwords every so often and don’t leave the phone out in public.

It’s easy to make both too much and too little out of security concerns for lawyers using smartphones. The bottom line is, you need to treat your phone as if it’s your briefcase.

There’s a lot of technical information about smartphones and security that’s over my head. The Droid does have remote wipe, as does the iPhone. However, if security is your No. 1 concern, then the Blackberry is probably the phone for you.

If you opt for a Droid, just remember to update your firmware when updates become available. Google has a lot riding on the security of this platform. A lot of smart people work for Google. I have faith that they’ll constantly upgrade the Android platform to meet the ever-changing security threats.


Price: A lot has been said about the iPhone’s level of security for business users. Apple has heeded these criticisms by allowing virtual private network connections and more elaborate tools such as data encryption, as well as the ability to remotely wipe the iPhone’s data, to lock the phone and to track remotely the location of your iPhone.

Recently, however, a new threat has surfaced. Forensics experts have divulged their ability to access data on an encrypted iPhone. Droid users believe they have smelled the blood in the water and are prepared to declare the Droid the obvious winner in the smartphone war by claiming the iPhone’s crackability as a potential ethical issue for attorneys when client data is stored on the phone. What they fail to mention is that the majority of attorneys’ notebook computers are susceptible to the same potential problems. How many lawyers actually encrypt the data on their notebook? I will posit there are more attorneys who don’t even have a log-in password set on their notebook than those who encrypt their hard drives.

The issue here isn’t whether the iPhone’s data can be retrieved by a trained computer forensics examiner, but instead whether the iPhone’s encryption will pass the test of whether your bar association will agree you have taken reasonable steps to make sure your client’s data is secure. If we are to believe there’s an ethics violation because iPhone security can potentially be cracked, then any law firm that doesn’t store all client data in an impenetrable safe is committing the same ethics violation.

Just because more security is possible does not necessarily mean it is required. A deadbolt and security alarm seem adequate for most law offices, and encryption and a password lock on your iPhone should suffice as well.


CLOSING ARGUMENTS

iPhone
Courtesy of Apple Inc.

Price: It seems the battery, camera flash and cell coverage are the only things in which the Droid truly outperforms the iPhone. As we discussed, the iPhone’s battery is more than adequate for daily usage; and as for the camera flash, well, I don’t remember the last time in my practice of law I needed to take a photo in the dark. Per my remarks, the cell coverage on the iPhone is an issue, however it is not as if your iPhone is inaccessible in non-3G areas. You are just relegated to the speeds of the original iPhone. What isn’t mentioned, however, is that even though the speed is slower than 3G, I can still access the Internet while on the phone, something the Droid is currently unable to do on Verizon.

Apple’s iPhone has made its mark on the smartphone world and revolutionized the market. This is apparent to anyone who has looked at current smartphone offerings. Every single one takes its cues from the iPhone, from the look of the home screen to the touch-screen functions. Users of the former king of the smartphone hill, the BlackBerry, have seen the writing on the wall for some time; and if they haven’t, they need to go down to their local AT&T or Apple Store to see why they need to ditch their antique and move into the new millennium. The days of the side click-wheel on the BlackBerry, the ever-breaking scroll ball of the Pearl and the difficult-to-use BlackBerry Storm are gone. I may even go so far as to say any user of the BlackBerry would be better off getting a Droid ... well, maybe.


McKeen: Have you ever tried to change the location of apps on an iPhone? I hope you don’t have hours to bill or work to do. The Droid lets you easily move apps or do whatever it is that you want to do. It’s the you phone.

I’m not a stock guy, but I am a tech nerd, and I say never bet against Google becoming the best at whatever it decides to do. Google has decided to go all in with the Android platform.

When Time did its top-10 gadgets for 2009, the Droid came in first. The iPhone 3GS didn’t even medal, coming in a distant fourth. No Blackberry product was even mentioned.

The Droid is a serious powerhouse of a phone for lawyers and the iPhone is, well, ... a nice toy.

Ryan C. McKeen is an associate with the firm of Leone, Throwe, Teller & Nagle in East Hartford, Conn. He is author of A Connecticut Law Blog.

Finis R. Price III is a solo practitioner in Louisville, Ky. He is co-founder of TechnoEsq Presentations, which specializes in presentations for attorneys, and authors the TechnoEsq blog.

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