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Verizon Wireless unveils Droid smartphone

Verizon Wireless may finally have a phone that can win some respect from iPhone fans. This morning, it unveiled the Droid, a Motorola smartphone running the new, 2.0 release of Google's Android software.

droid_google_search.jpg

This device -- shipping Nov. 6 at $199 for new and renewing customers who sign up for at least a $70 voice/data bundle -- represents two big changes for Verizon.

First, the company seems to have recognized that relying on Research In Motion's increasingly uncompetitive BlackBerry devices for its flagship phones wasn't working. Second, in touting Android's "open development" and 12,000-plus third-party applications, Verizon had to abandon its usual control-freak restrictions on phones' functions.

(Analyst Michael Gartenberg, marveling at the absence of Verizon's usual "Vcast" services, Twittered that "If VZW would have done this type of deal they'd have had iPhone I suspect.")

As Verizon's promotional site (warning: Flash intro and soundtrack) and Motorola's spec sheet outline, the Droid features some interesting hardware, some absent from many other Verizon devices: WiFi wireless networking, a slide-out physical keyboard, a 5-megapixel camera with flash, a 480-by-854-pixel display (the iPhone's measures 480 by 320), and a 16 GB flash-memory card.

google_maps_turnbyturn.jpg

The Droid's software, in turn, brings a few intriguing departures from the usual Android toolkit. For example, the Droid will include a Verizon-supplied tool to synchronize data from a Facebook friends list with its own address book, matching a key (but somewhat problematic) feature of the webOS software on Palm's Pre. And a visual voice-mail utility will let users play back and delete messages in the order of their choice.

Most intriguing of all, the Droid and other Android 2.0 phones will include free turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation -- something only possible on Apple's device with expensive add-on applications. Unlike those programs, Google's application will also provide live traffic data and satellite and Street View photographs. If standalone GPS units didn't look doomed before, they do now.

BusinessWeek's Steve Wildstrom has already posted a first-look report on the device. I hope to do the same myself soon. When I do, what would you like to know about it?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 28, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Comments

I'd be interested to know how it feels in your hand. As far as I can tell, it's the size of the iPhone, but it looks much more blocky and less ergonomic. I'm also concerned about the weight - is it really 6 whole ounces? Might make carrying it around in your pocket a chore.

Posted by: agrapple | October 28, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

The ability to NOT use Verizons SLOW network by hooking into WiFi hotspots is a HUGE plus for the security concious...

Sign me up for one... As soon as the phone I have comes up for replacement,,,

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | October 28, 2009 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I will be extremely interested in its compatibility with Palm features. As a decades plus Palm user, I want to be able to synch my address book, calendar and other files with this new phone. Possible?

Posted by: sanders4 | October 28, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Does it do multitouch?

Posted by: hesaid | October 28, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

When will something like this or the iPhone come to Sprint.
I've got 2 more years with them.

Posted by: edlharris | October 28, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

How about a feature- by -feature comparison to the I-phone,

I"m also annoyed that handsets are exclusive to a specific carriers. Why couldn't T-mobile or ATT&T carry this phone as well? is the droid only designed with a CDMA radio instead of GSM? Why can't phones have both?

Posted by: Wassans | October 28, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I two main things I would be interested in:

1) As a current Palm user, how can I migrate my Contacts and Calendar from Palm Desktop to the Droid.

2) Can I tether the Droid to my laptop to get data connection to laptop?

Posted by: dgray | October 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I am a business user not currently using any sort of iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, so I hope this isn't a stupid question but it's most important to me. Will I be able to run Windows apps? For example, if someone e-mails me a MS Word or Excel document will I be able to open that file on the Droid? Would there be a way to synchronize my e-mail/contacts with my laptop running Windows?

Posted by: KeithW2 | October 28, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

KeithW2, most of the better smart phones have applications that allow one to read, and, sometimes, edit, MS Word and Excel documents. The most typical is Documents to Go, which hit pay dirt with Palm in the '90s, but is now ported to other platforms, including the iPhone and Android phones.

http://www.dataviz.com/

There are competitors, including cloud programs.

Posted by: query0 | October 28, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

For everyone wondering "Will it do this, or Will it do that..."

Keep in mind that its called Open Source for a reason. If you dream it or need it, there will be a solution for you. If not right away, in the very near future as coding geeks take pride in bringing applications to market faster than you are probably used to in a Windows world... ;)

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | October 28, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

I'll echo KeithW2's question and add one about Exchange support. If it doesn't do that, it's not much use to me or many other people.

Posted by: pjgeraghty | October 29, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I use a Palm 700P, but without email (data) service, which does not interest me. Will I be able to get one of these phones without signing up and paying for the data service?

Posted by: wd3q | October 29, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

As a Realtor, I'd like to know if it will be a lot more accommodating to USEFUL Web access than the Storm, that has a browser that won't even copy portions of the MLS, let alone the foreclosure additions thereto.

In short, a blessing or a disaster ???

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | October 29, 2009 4:10 AM | Report abuse

Can I roam internationally INCLUDING JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA as I can now with the iPhone? Verizon phones, except for a few specialized devices, have traditionally not been able to roam in Japan and South Korea.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | October 29, 2009 5:36 AM | Report abuse

Will this Droid be compatible with Verizon's forthcoming LTE wireless network? If not, how long will it be supported?

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | October 29, 2009 6:21 AM | Report abuse

I am openingly wondering if the deal was made to not include the VZW moniker on the new phone, if it is not in fact Verizon CEO pride and ego that is keeping the iPhone off of Verizon's wireless networks. I am sure that I am not alone in wanting the company to come forth with the real reason, and work with Apple to bring the iPhone to Verizon, as AT&T has proven its inability to provide the same level of quality wireless service. Verizon would surely gain a large percentage of AT&T customers very quickly.

Posted by: altruisticone | October 29, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

"work with Apple to bring the iPhone to Verizon"

Oh please don't make me laugh so hard this early in the morning.

Apple had to SELL THEIR SOUL to AT&T to get them to go along with the iPhone. AT&T has Apple by the nads and there is no way that they are going to let Apple go to Verizon.

All of these goofy phones will be $50 in a year or so and you won't be able to tell one from another. They are all going to copy each other's features.

Except of course for Microsoft who is going to get left in the dust, as it is VERY clear that they cannot even come close to keeping up with the competition.

As usual in a cutthroat market, the players with the lowest cost and the best connections will win.

The real deluge will happen when one of these companies gets up the guts to release a smartphone without a stupid two-year contract.

These contracts are really terrible. They obscure the real price of the phone. Who cares how much the phone is, it's lost in the sauce when you look at the total cost of the contract.

Posted by: frantaylor | October 29, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

Slapping new technology on a phone that looks like it belongs to George Jetson's 30 yr old gadgets isn't going to help Motorola.

The more Google gets Droid 2.0 out to other phone with less of a hassle to buy, this will be a has been.

I give it a couple of weeks.

Posted by: cbmuzik | October 29, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

As an entertainment-mostly user of an iPod touch, because I hate ATT, my concerns are these:
1. I load songs from my work computer, home computer and laptop. iTunes allows up to 5 computers per account. I create playlists on the iPod but it won't allow me to back up the playlists on any computers. I can only off-load iTunes' purchases from the iPod to the computer. My iPod has crashed twice. It backs-up all the apps and contacts, etc., but not the music. Manually rebuilding playlists from various computers is annoying at best. Will the Droid allow reverse music transferring of all music or full data back-up?
2. If I am playing a game, can I still listen to music? What happens when a call comes in? What happens when I hang up? Will the music restart automagically?

Posted by: dabraat | October 29, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

edlharris

When will something like this or the iPhone come to Sprint.
I've got 2 more years with them.

--------------------------------------------

I use Verizon but my company uses Sprint. Look at the HTC Touch Pro2. Pretty much the same specs but in a WM6 GSM device.

Posted by: kka123 | October 29, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Will it support Java apps and encryption? These are key features I need.

Posted by: wfhunter | October 29, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Will the camera geo-tag photos using the built in GPS?

Posted by: cseftor1 | October 29, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

"Slapping new technology on a phone that looks like it belongs to George Jetson's 30 yr old gadgets isn't going to help Motorola."

Hey cbmuzik, I hate to burst your bubble but all these new phones look the same.

The pink-polka dot model that you are lusting for will be out in a month or two.

Posted by: frantaylor | October 29, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

wfhunter: "Will it support Java apps and encryption? These are key features I need."

If you had bothered to google for it you would have seen that Android has pretty extensive support for java.

It also has support for: C, C++, Python, and Lua. I'm sure Ruby and Scheme are not far behind.

Heck, these phones are far more powerful and capable than the desktop computers of just a few years ago. The iPhone has better 3-D hardware than an old SGI workstation.

See the comment by "ProveMeWrong" above.

Posted by: frantaylor | October 29, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Instead of wondering whether or not Android has some feature or another, you can run the "Android Emulator" on your own computer. It does everything that a real phone does, except for the "hardware" stuff like making calls and taking pictures. We developers use these emulators for writing and testing our programs.

All cell phones have these software emulators. Good lord can you imagine trying to write and debug your program on a real phone?

Posted by: frantaylor | October 29, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I was planning to switch from VZW to AT&T just so I can get the iPhone. I would like a side-by-side feature comparison between the Droid and the iPhone so that I can decide which one to go with. My commitment to VZW is up at the end of November.

Posted by: paklein84 | October 29, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I think comparing it to the iPhone exclusively would be a great disservice. Yes, there are many consumers who will be looking at the iPhone vs. Droid, but there are many of us who absolutely don’t care about the iPhone because it’s not on the Verizon network and we don’t want to switch to AT&T. I have been using Palms for the last 4-5 years and I desperately need a new phone. I had planned on holding out for the Palm Pre which Verizon is supposed to et in 1Q 2010, but this might actually be a better option.

So in summary I would appreciate a comparison that focuses on current smart phones on the market that are on Verizon’s network or will be coming in the short future. Also, having all of those features sound great, but is it user friendly? More so than the Palm Pre? Theoretically android should provide lots of great apps in the next year or two, but where do I buy them from? Where is the iTunes like store for android apps?

Posted by: stock_wiz456 | October 29, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Take the GPS out and drive it somewhere outside the 3G metro footprint - then tell us whether it really is a replacement for a stand-alone GPS. I have an iPhone and it is no replacement for a stand-alone GPS, not because of the turn-by-turn directions, but because it is utterly dependent on the 3G network to feed it map data constantly. Once you get out of the city, into the dark and forbidding land of inconsistent EDGE, using any phone as a GPS system is pretty much a joke. Any device that doesn't store the map data locally is worthless for anything beyond local travel because the national cell network is not robust enough to provide seamless coverage on a long trip. I don't expect my little Garmin unit will become obsolete anytime soon. If this phone does store local map data, at least regionally, that would be one thing, but if it doesn't - you are misleading people who think they can buy this and then not need a standalone GPS.

Posted by: teamw23 | October 29, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

How easy will it be to synchronize with Outlook via a desktop connection? I keep my contacts / calendar in Outlook, but my company allows direct access to its Exchange server only on an exception basis. My Palm Centro does this very nicely right now.

Posted by: dannews | October 29, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

The people clamoring for a side-by-side iPhone v. Droid comparison clearly haven't been reading this newspaper. Earlier in the week a column was published explaining how it is essentially pointless to try to compete head-on with iPhone. (Or iApp as I like to call it. Whatever happened to the phone feature in all of this?)

The key, as has been pointed out, is overall application development so the device can support files in the various formats that people need, can perform whatever tasks people need other than placing a phone call.

As for me, while I am deeply tempted by the iPhone, Verizon I think offers the best nationwide coverage and I see little reason in switching to a carrier with bad coverage and a way, way, way, way, way over-taxed 3G network.

Posted by: njacobs | October 29, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Easily consumed side-by-side comparison of iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre, and Droid. http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3521/4054195940_4b5e4b3a7f_o.png

Posted by: washpost18 | October 29, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

[thank you cut/paste buffer for the random insert]. http://androinica.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/motodroidvs510.png is the $0.05 tour of each.

Posted by: washpost18 | October 29, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

I early terminated with Verizon after five years in July when I saw the new iPhone 3GS debut. At that time, all Verizon had to compare phone wise was the Blackberry, which I associate with being tethered work environments, aka, the "butch" phone. (word substituted). Unexciting phones.

There are quirks with the AT&T network, but I love the general operations of the iPhone. It is just very comfortable in my hand, while this new Android looks blocky. The technology in the Android is very interesting, but Verizon does not have the apps store feature that Apple does.

Also, I am amazed that Verizon FINALLY got the idea to loosen up on phone restrictions as well drop the V-CAST network and the absurd data charges as a requirement for a smart phone. V-CAST seemed to be just full of junk.

The GPS in Android will be better, particularly if it uses a true GPS receiver. AT&T's phone is dependent on cell tower signals -- which isn't going to help when you are somewhere rural in Arizona and not near any AT&T coverage.

I'll keep the iPhone and my standalone Magellan navigator GPS unit, which always works, regardless of cell location.

Posted by: vuac | October 29, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

App Store. I read that the Palm Pre was having a hard time getting on Verizon because Verizon had their own App store and didn't want the competition. Not sure how true that is. Will this be an issue for Android?

Posted by: tokrueger | October 30, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Another mistake similar to the original HP Mini. The screen has about 270 color pixels per inch, when the human eye can perceive only 70-100. This is "empty resolution" -- useless except as an advertising spin. The result will be displays unreadable without a magnifier.

Posted by: AppDev | October 30, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

query0:

Thanks for the info and the DataViz link - VERY helpful.

Posted by: KeithW2 | October 30, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Besides the inappropriate language, you're way off base with this.

"Apple had to SELL THEIR SOUL to AT&T to get them to go along with the iPhone. AT&T has Apple by the nads and there is no way that they are going to let Apple go to Verizon."

Almost every analyst has written the exact OPPOSITE! Apple got wanted it with AT&T. It was AT&T that gave into Apple because they wanted the iPhone and recognized what a breakthrough phone it would be-- Apple's original talks with Verizon fell through because V wanted too much control. And that, apparently, is still part of the problem.

Posted by: Astrogal | October 31, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Folks: Unless some bit of breaking news intervenes, I should have a review of the Droid at the end of the week. In the meantime, have a look at my past reviews of Android phones--for instance, last month's write-up of Sprint's HTC Hero, the closest thing that carrier has to the iPhone--for answers to your questions about the general workings of Google's phone software.

I can answer some other queries now, though:

* sanders4, you'll need to get your data out of Palm Desktop and into Google Calendar/Contacts. Google doesn't have a Web equivalent of Palm's notes, but you could substitute a third-party app/service like Evernote. (Anybody have a recommendation to make for that?)

* dgray, the easiest way to migrate your data from Palm to Google would probably be to sync your Palm to Outlook; Google has some software to synchronize Outlook with its Web apps. Otherwise, you're looking at manually uploading exported files.

* hesaid, some Android phones support multi-touch (like the Hero) and others don't. The Droid's browser and maps programs don't seem to allow multi-touch gestures; not sure about other apps.

* w4sq: data service is required.

* Bitter_Bill: This isn't a 4G phone, so no LTE support (which is a couple of years from widespread deployment anyway).

* brucerealtor: Android phones have an excellent browser--built on the same open-source code framework as the iPhone's Safari.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | November 2, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

For people wanting side by side comparisons for the Droid vs the iPhone...

Apps are great and all, but can the droid play mp3's? A smart phone is great and having access to internet, email, and apps is also cool, but will the droid also function as an mp3 player? Will it support itunes - no way. iTunes is also a huge feature in and of itself.

Open development is also cool, but talk about playing catch-up. How many apps are in the app store? 80,000 and growing by the day? I am afraid anyone jumping into this game right now is severely behind the 8-ball. iPhone is here to stay.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | November 4, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

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