Verizon tried a Times Square promotion for its Droid smartphone on Nov. 6, the same day as the device's release. Despite the small number of people who turned out for the event, Verizon and Google are hoping that the Android-powered smartphone will attract massive amounts of customers, and justify prerelease advertising that positioned the Droid as a robust competitor to Apple's iPhone. Some early reviews seemed to put the iPhone and Droid on relatively even ground in the capabilities category.
Verizon must have booked its Times Square promotion of the Droid smartphone
well before the Yankees won the World Series, or it might have chosen a
different venue: The majority of people crowding into arguably the world's most
famous intersection were dressed in baseball uniforms, and there to watch the
victors' parade on the big outdoor displays.
Despite the baseball-related hoopla, though, a few of the Square's
pedestrians managed to focus their attention on the giant screen above the
entrance to the NASDAQ MarketSite, which broadcast: "Search Times Square
with Your Voice. 888-376-4336."
When you dialed that number, an electronic voice told you that
"Droid" would call you back in a few minutes. The caller could then
speak a word ("pizza," "Friday," "poems") and
see, on that giant screen, a Google map flash to life with "Droid's"
best guess as to a location that matched that search term.
That was 12:30 on Nov. 6. Out of
the dozens of people who had packed Times Square,
Yankees caps and tunics proudly displayed, it seemed that only a handful had
clustered there for Droid-related activities.
Verizon is hoping for a larger turnout, obviously, for the actual Droid
smartphone, which began shipping on Nov. 6 for $199 with a two-year contract
after $100 rebate. In anticipation of hoped-for demand, some
Verizon Wireless stores opened on that Friday as early as 7 a.m
Verizon and Google can perhaps take heart in the positive reviews of the device
that ran in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
The Droid offers a variety of features, including Google Maps Navigation GPS
and a 5-megapixel camera, which could appeal to both consumers and the
enterprise. Starting next year, the Droid will double as a laptop modem via
Verizon's 3G wireless EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) service, according to
iPhone, as eWEEK's Clint Boulton breaks down in his coverage of Droid, does not
tether to Macs.
Boulton also breaks down Droid's data-service pricing structure; the device
requires a minimum $70 monthly service plan for two years, but that figure
excludes text messaging.
Verizon has positioned the Droid firmly on a collision course with the
iPhone, starting with a series of
designed to draw unflattering attention
to the iPhone's lack of a physical keyboard and inability to run applications
But a number of reviews from the mainstream press, not to mention the
blogosphere, place Apple's and Verizon-Google's devices as somewhat evenly
matched. In The New York Times, David Pogue suggested that the Droid boasts
superior phone network, customizability, GPS
navigation and other attributes, while the iPhone is a simpler, sleeker device
with better Web browsing and music/video syncing, and a deeper
App Store now includes 100,000 apps for download
, and a Sept. 28 press
release from the company suggested that more than 2 billion apps had been
downloaded since the service launched in July 2008. While the Google Android
platform could entice developers in mass numbers to develop Droid-friendly
applications, it will be quite some time-if ever-before Google catches up to
Apple in the mobile-apps department.
That fact, among others, has
suggested to some that the Droid will not, in fact, prove to be an iPhone
Times Square may not have filled with Droid-heads on
Nov. 6, but Verizon and Google are likely hoping that, over the coming weeks,
they'll line up in the stores to purchase the actual device. If that happens,
then the Droid may succeed where other smartphones, such as the Palm Pre,
mostly failed: making a dent in the iPhone's public mind share. But until
figures on Droid sales start trickling out (probably at the end of next
quarter), it will be too soon to tell how well Google and Verizon have fared
against their opponent.