Superphone Face-Off: iPhone 4 vs. Motorola Droid X

The iPhone 4 and Droid X really couldn’t be more different. The former resembles a super high-end pocket camera—sliced in half—while the latter is a beast of a device. One touts its ability for face-to-face video calls and a display so sharp it blows all other phones away. The other has a monster-size screen and features like HDMI and a mobile hotspot app. Both devices are blazing fast, can record HD video, and have access to tons of high-quality apps. So which superphone is better? We put both handsets through 17 grueling rounds to crown a champ. (Don’t worry, the Evo 4G will also get its shot at the title). So read on to find out which smart phone reigns supreme.

Round 1: Design

Apple’s smart phone is the more pocket friendly and elegant of the two, decked out in chemically strengthened glass and a striking silver band that doubles as an antenna. With a profile of 0.37 inches, the iPhone 4 is the thinnest smart phone yet and weighs 4.8 ounces.

By contrast, the Droid X is all screen, 4.3 inches to the iPhone 4’s 3.5 inches. As a result of this increased real estate, the Droid X has a much larger footprint, measuring 5 x 2.6 inches (vs. 4.5 x 2.3 for the iPhone). Yes, the Droid X is technically 0.4 inches thin, but that doesn’t include the bulge on the top of the device that houses the camera lens. Some may find Motorola’s smart phone too large for one-handed use but it slipped into our pocket and weighs a manageable 5.5 ounces. We appreciate the dedicated camera launch/shutter key.

WINNER: iPhone 4
The Droid X is imposing (mostly in a good way) but we’d much rather carry—and be seen carrying—the sexier and more compact iPhone 4.

Round 2: Display

More real estate or more pixels? That’s the decision facing smart phone shoppers. The iPhone 4 sports a breathtaking Retina display with 960 x 640 pixels (326 dpi) and crazy-wide viewing angles. And everything from text and Web pages to photos and videos look incredibly sharp. Plus, Apple strengthened the screen to be 20 times stiffer than plastic, and it’s scratch resistant.

The 4.3-inch LCD of the Droid X has a lower resolution of 854 x 480 pixels (240 dpi) but its larger size makes watching movies and surfing the Web more comfortable—the whole NY Times homepage fits on the screen in landscape mode without zooming in. We also like that the LCD doubles as a larger viewfinder when capturing photos and videos. Movies downloaded from the Blockbuster app looked close to flawless.

WINNER: Winner
While some may prefer the bigger screen on the Droid X, we give the edge to the iPhone 4 because of its breakthrough pixel depth and superior viewing angles.

Round 3: Keyboard

Apple hasn’t messed with a good thing. The latest iPhone remains one of the easiest phones to type on, though we do appreciate that the letters look sharper (thanks to the Retina display).

On the other hand, the Droid X sports the best multi-touch keyboard we’ve used on any Android-powered device, providing great accuracy and speed. Typing with one hand could prove a challenge for some because of this phone’s size, but we could really fly in landscape mode with two thumbs pecking away.


Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. ArtInvent Says:

    Um, on your final tally you have the iPhone listed as winning the maps/gps category, but in the article the Droid X was the clear winner of that. That would put the final tally at dead even, unless I’m missing something else.

    But yeah, it really boils down to which features are most important to you. For me, the big screen is a big draw; Verizon has a much stronger network where I live; I’m a Gmail and Google Maps junkie; I may actually need the mobile hotspot thing, and HDMI out is going to be dang useful (I love it on my camcorder.) So the Droid X certainly wins for me. But the camera thing has me down a bit, and the onboard video editing of the iPhone has me salivating, so cool. Maybe there’ll be an (Android) app for that. As for the front facing camera, I just can’t see that actually being usable to me until a lot of other people I know can take advantage of it, and since it doesn’t work with Skype, that probably ain’t happening until I maybe need a new phone . . .

    Good and fair comparison. Thanks.

  2. Jon Rubins Says:

    You added up the scorecard wrong. The iPhone 4 did not win on Maps & GPS as the scorecard claims it did. The DroidX won that category.

  3. Nvol Says:

    Why in your verdict did you give the Iphone 4 a ‘winner’ in the maps and GPS? Also no mention of swype keyboard for the Droid X? Both are great devices though, but let’s just hammer out some details…

  4. Epell Says:

    it would have been nice if you included Swype into account.

  5. Nvol Says:

    Also, there is no Motoblur on the Droid X…

  6. Mark Spoonauer Says:

    Hi Guys, the scorecard is now fixed and thanks for your feedback. keep the comments coming…

  7. Joe Says:

    How would design be a winner for the iphone? That is more a personal opinion and that is pretty much the final factor. I would think a bigger screen would be a factor, The X has a crisp 4.3 inch screen and is almost as thin as the iphone.

    Both great phones, I just think it is odd to give a win in a review based on that.

  8. Brent Says:

    In the article it says Round 2 was a draw. In the final tally you gave it to the iphone.

    Swype puts the Droid one up over the iphone’s keyboard.

  9. Joe Says:

    Also it looks as though you have the display as a draw in your review, but you gave the win to the iphone in the scorecard.

  10. Steven58 Says:

    Nice comparison, Mark. I have a suggestion. Perhaps since we are comparing devices, whose main function is being a telephone, had you considered weighing that aspect of the comparison with more points? What I mean to say is that even if the iPhone 4 won by more than one point, if the call quality was lacking in any way, wouldn’t that effect the overall satisfaction with the iPhone experience? If it was me, I’d increase the point value of call quality and connection to 5 or more. Think about it. “Can you hear me now” is very important if you’re on a business phone call with a perspective client. That’s all I do!

  11. jroc Says:


    The X comes with a video editor. Its called Arc Video Editor Lite and something else called Photo Workshop.

  12. rhfield Says:

    would have been tied if you took Swype into account.. it definitely makes the droid x have the better keyboard

  13. Gswag Says:

    A very fair and well balanced review. Although personally I’m a huge android phone fanatic and own the Evo 4G I agree that the advantages each phone has over the other are negligible.

  14. adf Says:

    you put iphone won the display on final tally but u put it was a draw and it like epell said you should of included swype into the keyboard part

  15. Gswag Says:

    Also if there was one new feature apple nailed it’s gotta be the screen. It’sa thing of beauty to behold. Unfortunately it seems so small compared to my real estate. I personally prefer the larger screen but if there was ever a 1024 x 800 4.3 inch screen that would be optional :)

    The most over blown feature though has to be face time. Video chat over broad band? Is it just me or has this feature been around longer than the iPhone itself Lol. At least on the Evo I can make a video call from work and see my daughter.

  16. Agung Says:

    the scorecard for display category showing the wrong result, it should be draw but currently show the iphone as the winner.

  17. Flippindewd Says:

    If you guys noticed, the Droid X’s video had much better sound quality. You forgot to mention it has 3. One, that you mentioned is for noise-cancelling. But there is a mic on the front for the filmer’s speaking, and one on the back for the subject’s speaking.

  18. Mark Spoonauer Says:

    thanks agung, there was an error in the copy. we gave the display category to the iPhone for its higher resolution and better viewing angles. but the droid x has a great screen too

  19. SB Says:

    Agree with you assessment of 15 categories, but not with the two below…

    Email and Messaging = Draw. Huh? iOS is clearly the loser here – have you seen it’s notification handling compared to Android?

    Apps = Can you name one “must have” app that iOS has that Android doesn’t? Yes, 225,000 is > 70,000, but somewhere after 25,000 apps, the numbers become pretty much irrelevant. Should be a draw.

    So, Droid X wins over iPhone4 by 13 to 12

    Oh, and this is before your add Android 2.2 to the mix. It was officially released for Nexus One today. Droid X will get it in August.

  20. Dabil Says:

    Apps = you can’t say the iPhone wins no volume of apps. There is no significant app that isn’t on Android and MANY significant apps you can’t get on iPhone. No swype, no Google Voice, no home screen mod apps on iPhone. Droid is clearly the winner here.

    And you failed to test the swype on the keyboard which droid comes with? That is a blunder also! Swype significantly increases the value of the keyboard. You should note that the world text speed record was set using Swype, NOT an iPhone. Droid clearly wins here also!

  21. ChrisInBradley Says:

    Let me get this straight. Droid is a better phone, browser and GPS, but Iphone wins. Keep playing your 200,000 versions of dig-dug, I’ll call you on July 15th, when I get my Droid.

  22. shel Says:

    Call quality on the iphone sucks. How is the iphone a winner?

  23. Jay Rob Says:

    Iphone has made some incredible benchmarks on what should be striven for as far as media in the mobile market, but as a phone, how could it beat another device which is better at being just that??? If it doesn’t beat it then it loses major points in that category. There have been many phones that I have passed on because it just wasn’t good at being a phone, although it was flashy. Everybody has their opinion. Thanks for sharing yours with us.

  24. Supa Says:

    By your verdict, any phone that you can make pretty will win… Am I wrong?

  25. Jason Barone Says:

    I’m an Incredible owner and I’ll be the first one to say that while App numbers are irrelevant, you can’t overlook the quality of Apple Apps vs Android Apps. The App Store is FULL of high quality apps in terms of design, functionality, and ease of use. Android doesn’t even compare here. Sure you can possibly find a substitute app, or an Android version of a heavy hitter app like Pandora,, Dropbox, Evernote, etc, but overall the apps on the Android platform pale in comparison to Apple’s. Most of the Apps on Android look like they were developed over a weekend and many apps are junkware, or stuff that infringes on copyrights and probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    I would easily give the App category to iPhone in this one.

  26. Leo Sanchez Says:

    I dont know about this survey Droid X won in Web browsing, Maps and GPS, Special Features, and CALL QUALITY are not those the main features you want in a phone its a phone for calls not more for music which iPhone won not a MP3 survey a smartphone survey plus add swype Droid should win Keyboard also

  27. Bob Johnson Says:

    Looks to me you were a joke. Design and display, get real apple is not better. At best a draw. Every one can make own choice but you seem to be an Apple fan Boy..I got rid of my 3gs after i realized it was junk and apple wouldn’t fix.

  28. Darwin Says:

    Very even handed comparison. I do find the Android UI to be hit and miss, mostly miss. It is amusing to see the Android phone boys get so upset. Most don’t know anything about the iPhone which is obvious from their comments. Well, they know it makes them feel insecure but that’s all. If the iPhone were on Verizon then Android growth would be much less just as it is in Europe.

  29. Supa Says:

    @Darwin Being a fanboy has nothing to do with this verdict. Just read what he says Android is better in. Then notice how the Iphone is better out of the two. In other words, with his verdict, he is really saying if an Ipod 4 is released, then it is a better “phone” than the Droid X. Accessories do not make a phone.

  30. Dean Says:

    I’m sorry, but there is NO WAY that the iphone beats the droid x keyboard. Finally, a true multitouch kb, as well as swype, not to mention 4.3 inches of typing room. You HAVE to give that one to the droid. Plus, if you really love the iphone KB so much, you can download a KB app, like smart keyboard pro, and already have an iphone keyboard skin. No brainer, Droid x.

  31. Alon Says:

    One thing not mentioned is that the Iphone is better siuted for world roaming, than the CDMA Droid. Verizon’s network might be better in the U.S, but it’s GSM\HSUPA for most of the world. And I don’t know of any Iphone owner here in Israel who had a dropped call even once.

  32. Shaun Says:

    The Droid X has a camera feature I saw on youtube that does PANORAMIC PICTURE taking…. Can the iPhone 4 do that..?

  33. Cody Says:

    I recently saw a quote… “why isn’t their more droid devices on AT&T?”

    I simply thought, why would anyone put a good phone on a worthless carrier…

    You simply put your credibility as a unbiased tech reviewer when you call it a draw in the rounds that the Droid X proves to be superior, you look like a corporate tool…

    the iPhone is for trendy yuppies and apple fan-girls, I don’t think your review could be more wrong if Steve Jobs wrote it himself, I especially liked the part about how great the silver band was around the “chemically strengthened glass”. You should have put, a band than makes the reception poor, and glass that cracks when you sneeze.

  34. Caleb Says:

    Thank you for the detailed review. I would love to see video tests that had mic distance testing of a subject talking and moving, and one with window light behind the camera as one would shoot, close on a face to see natural light color tones. And more on video editing capabilities.

  35. Gavin marty Says:

    Why didnt they have call quality, droid x would tie then

  36. Gavin marty Says:

    never mind i didnt see that comment fail, also id take the droid for typing way more room

  37. Dorito Says:

    I am pretty sure the Droid will be able to make phone calls without many drop calls. iPhone4 can’t…it is a phone. Shouldn’t you be able to hold your phone and talk to people on it? So I am confused why the iPHONE won? Weird?

  38. Dorito Says:

    I am pretty sure the Droid will be able to make phone calls without many drop calls. iPhone4 can’t…it is a phone. Shouldn’t you be able to hold your phone and talk to people on it? So I am confused why the iPHONE won?

  39. Ky Says:

    You’re comparison is a joke. Apple must be paying you good money. There are some obvious flaws in your objective comparison.
    Both phone’s battery last a day usage and the Droid’s battery is removable, yet you gave it a draw.
    The most important feature of a phone is it’s call quality – that’s what it is designed for. The iphone call quality is pathetic, yet wins overall because of some gimmicky and subjective features such as accessories, number of apps and design?!

  40. srouthless Says:

    The bottom line is which one is a phone and the better one the Droid being the better of the two puts it as the winner point blank.

  41. IVo Says:

    Well not only from the finally wrong tally seems that the author prefers iPhone, but from his lack of knowledge of the way android works. You do not neet a task killer, aslo no mention of the numerous modifications of android, also the that you can tether internet for free using apps or mods.
    Also apparently the widgets and desktop and multiple carriers don’t count for nothing.
    Obviously the author wanted the iPhone to win, but a big oopsie by not keeping a tally of the categories when you are writing them.

  42. Low- Says:

    What a joke the only thing the iPhone is better at is pics and video.
    Oh well just another foolish review site, going to have to unsubscribe and remember never to visit again.

  43. Low- Says:

    I think this is what he really meant guys. Seems like someone stood in line for the iPhone 4 Launch. Flawed phone with a horrid operating system.

    Design: Droid X
    Display: Droid X
    Keyboard: Droid X
    Interface & Software: Droid X
    Multitasking: Droid X
    Specs & Performance: Droid X (Swims laps around the iPhone 4 Literally)
    E-Mail & Messaging: Droid X
    Web Browsing: Droid X
    Apps: Droid X
    Camera & Camcorder: iPhone 4
    Maps & GPS: Droid X
    Music & Video: Droid X
    Special Features: Droid X
    Accessories: Draw
    Call Quality: Droid X
    Battery Life: Droid X
    Pricing and Value: Droid X
    Overall Score Droid X destroys 15 – 1

  44. Hyde Says:

    For the most part everyones’ comments on the AT&T network not being as good (call quality, reliability and size of 3G network) as Verizon’s are true. I know; I’ve had both carriers, each for more than two years. That alone gives a quality piece of hardware on Verizon a huge advantage. Afterall, these are smartPHONES. However, the tight and simple integration that the iPhone has with other Apple products and the all dominant iTunes is a big factor for us Apple fan boys and girls. Why else would ~ 14 million people tolerate AT&T’s weaknesses to have the iPhone? And I’m speaking the facts, not currently drinking the Koolaid. As has been mentioned, what really matters is how much weight you personally give to a feature or service. For some, call quality will be most important, others it might be multimedia consumption or navigation. So however you would stack the deck, I’d highly recommend playing with a test phone instead of pre-ordering one blindly unless you’re already very familiar with iOS4 or one of the more recent releases of Android OS, or both. My 2 cents have now been deposited. Anyone agree or have a different take on it?

  45. holycow001 Says:

    no matter how sharp the screen is on the iphone, users will still be zooming to view pages. The bigger scren is clearly better. Also isn’t the apple os looking a but dated? also with froyo around the corner for the droid x witch will deliver additional performance boost, you have to give the edge to the droid

  46. Hyde Says:

    The iPhone was an industry changer, as Apple is as well. People were scrolling on their Blackberries and tapping the screens of Windows OS phones and Treos with a stylus before the iPhone debuted. Now a finger-touch capacitive screen is where every phone, smart or not, is right now. Oh, sorry RIM; I forgot about you and the Storm, but so has almost everyone else, so I won’t worry about it. I still prefer the iPhone, but I don’t short change Android on its integration of social networking (sorry Mr. Jobs, but apps aren’t a worthy substitute), better multitasking or the fact that it is so good even though it’s really still in its fetal stage. All that being said, I still say it comes down to what I posted above. I do agree with holycow001, the iPhone interface is due for a facelift soon. If not, Apple will certainly fall behind. I don’t think they’ll miss that with fifth-generation iPhone, and as far as where the fourth-generation lies, I believe it wasn’t “broke”, so they didn’t fix it. The Android assault is ubiquitous, and unprecedented in smartphone evolution; I’m enjoying watching this battle. But, don’t ever underestimate Apple & what they can bring to the party!

  47. Jeff H Says:

    You left off one major point, the networks they are dedicated to. Verizon kicks ass there. I have an iPhone 3Gs and love the device, but Apple did some troubleshooting and demonstrated that 4 of 9 calls dropped. AT&T’s network sucks. You have to take the network into account. I am paying to drop AT&T and have pre-ordered my Droid X so I can move to Verizon.

  48. what Says:

    No offense but this comparison seems a little biased. The keyboard on the Droid is way better than the iphone. Messaging on the droid is much better. The specs on the Droid are superior and it has the ability to hold significantly more data than the iphone can. An 8gb difference is pretty huge. The audio playback on the droid during the recording of both videos sounded much better than the iphone unless I’m imagining things. This is all also before the froyo release where the droid should have a performance increase and flash support. The only really cool thing that the iphone has is the front facing camera that most (I said most) people wont take advantage of anyway.

  49. krzysztof Says:

    He also seems to neglect in the email / messaging draw, on android you can download one of many SMS or Email apps, if you don’t like one, get a different one.
    As for design, the iPhone has excessive flaws, like hold it the wrong way and the call drops? A phone made of glass?
    Interface / Software…that’s a toughie, go with the communists and do as they say, or go with Android and make it how you want it…real hard call there, clearly a tie. Oh I know, now that they added wallpapers iPhone is good again.
    The fact that accessories holds as much weight in this comparison as things such as call quality…
    And they seemed to have purposely left out “carrier quality” because they knew that was a gimme for the droid, but it is the most important.

  50. boybawang Says:

    This is Good and detailed review but your scoring system is FLAWED. For example DroidX browser scored a point meaning iphone is zero in that category. What does it imply? It means DroidX browser is good and iPhone4 browser is bad even though DroidX just edges a little bit.
    Another FLAW is that you put the same weight to all category. You know some features are more valuable than the other.

  51. BrantheTechman Says:

    This was a very detailed and accurate comparison however I believe the Droid X should have won the keyboard round. That should have been changed to text entry because the Droid X (and any android phone with 2.1) enables you to enter text simply through speaking giving it an edge over the Iphone 4.

  52. James Simpson Says:

    Fandroids are all the same! If they don’t agree with the review then the slurs and “smart***” remarks start. You “clowns” need to get a freaking life. It’s a phone review and if you don’t agree then go buy your precious Droid and “chill out”. This is one persons opinion. Your little rants, tirades and name calling are not going to change anyones opinion one way or the other. Apple will continue to sell millions of IPhones and Motorola and HTC will sell millions of their phones. Your little “piss ant” opinions won’t change anything!

  53. tim Says:

    The design aspect of the phones are, in my opinion, not comparable being that each is so unique in its approach. As many have said, the design of each phone is relative to what each person really wants / needs! I have an old school black berry and have been debating and researching for some time now as to which phone is best ( best being a relative term of course). Being that the IPhone has been top dog for so long I am excited at what the competitors have been spurred on to create to keep pace or out-pace the IPhone, and for this reason, I will choose the Droid X. I have to believe that Motorola and other companies have been and are hard at work to get back in the game, so to speak. I have a Mac and love Apple products, but for so many reasons I am more excited about the Droid X and will see this Thursday first hand.

  54. Shawn Says:

    How about a score for being able to hold the phone and make a call!

  55. Ryan Says:

    It’s amazing how badly iPhone 4 sucks. Apple Fanboys will defend it until the end of time however. I will freely note first off that I have the 3GS, and I bought the 4. I returned it and went back to my current 3GS. It was that bad. It’s hilarious to me what Apple fanboys are saying in forums and blogs all across the web, defending this thing like it’s some sacred gem, pretending all its issues don’t even exist. Ridiculous. Check out the video I made on YouTube about “An Apple Fanboy’s take on Life…”. It’s at

  56. Gavin marty Says:

    The droid wins the keyboard round because of its awesome 4.3 in display, also they should take into account att&t is absolute shit compared to verizon and the droid x should win the messaging round because text is bigger and so is the keyboard

  57. GinoLee Says:

    The bottom line for most people provided that the2 phones are comparable will be the wireless network it is on. In my experience in many different geographic locales and cities Verizon is by far the most clear, reliable, and expansive network. It’s 3G simply works and in most areas the signal is strong giving good speed. Love the iphone 4 design, but AT&T’s network is at the end of the day not nearly as good. What good is a smartphone without a proper network that links you to the world? Just based on this observation the Droid X wins for me.

  58. JRhodes Says:

    Ok Ok Ok Ok…… This is probably the WORST score card ever kept. I have had both, IPHONE and currently have the DROID X. Droid X hands down beats IPHONE very very very badly. IPHONE is just a dinosaur that is made by apple and is still surviving from the hype. IPHONE is a good phone but Apple is very stupid for putting it on the ATT network… That network sucks big time. As far as apps, droid has better apps in my opinion, yes Apple has more but it doesnt matter… Who is going to put 100,000 apps on their phone? NO ONE!

    To go even further, droid x has insurance…. So if you bust it you get another one… IPHONE busts your screwed unless you want to buy parts or pay apple for a new phone or repair. Tons of my friends have suffered from this.

    DROID X wins hands down. If you are trying to decide between IPHONE and Droid X… Go for Droid X and you will thank me.

  59. cpatel Says:

    Ya right this reviews fair. This smells like Apple fanboy/paid by Apple all over it. How can you not put more weight on call quality? And iphone4 wins because it has more apps? Gimme a break. Designs pure personal preference. Why in the world is accessories even a category? I’m not buying a phone based on what useless junk I can attach to it.

  60. rocky Says:

    Long story short droid x is god and iphone 4 sucks had both got rid of my crappy iphone 4 for a droid x and nerved will go back

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