Motorola Droid 2 Coming Aug. 12 for $199

Verizon Wireless will take pre-orders online for the Motorola Droid 2 Aug. 11. The Android 2.2-based device will be available in Verizon stores Aug. 12 for $199 after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Verizon Wireless will begin accepting preorders online for the ballyhooed Motorola Droid 2 Aug. 11, with availability in Verizon stores the following day for $199 after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Droid 2, one of the worst kept smartphone secrets for a company marketing smartphones based on Google's Android operating system, is the successor to the popular Motorola Droid from last November.

Equipped with both a full QWERTY keyboard and virtual keyboard, that heavy device was the first to feature Android 2.0 and Google Maps Navigation. The Droid sold millions of units, backed by a $100 million marketing campaign that included ubiquitous TV commercials.

The Droid 2 sports most of the same physical attributes of its predecessor, including the 3.7-inch screen and QWERTY keyboard.

Droid 2 has a 5-megapixel camera and a 1GHz OMAP processor, which will significantly boost the speed over the original Droid.

However, Droid 2 features a new "symmetrical keyboard with raised keys for more responsive typing to push out notes and status updates," Verizon said in a statement.

Bigger differences between the Droid and Droid 2 lie in the software. Droid 2 is based on Android 2.2, which features faster Web browsing; Microsoft Exchange connectivity for secure, corporate e-mail; and support for Adobe Flash 10.1.

Other perks include the gesture-typing application Swype and 3G Mobile HotSpot capabilities, allowing users to connect up to five computers and other WiFi-enabled devices in the home.

Consumers may store applications they download from the Android Market with 8GB of preloaded on-board memory and an 8GB microSD card. This card can be upgraded to a 32GB SD card for 40GB of total storage.

Much of this has been reported by gadget blogs, but Verizon saved a surprise that no one scooped. Verizon is offering a special version of the Droid 2 that features R2-D2, based on the Astromech Droid from the Star Wars trilogy.

This handset, which Verizon will sell at exclusively in September, will include exclusive Star Wars content and external hardware designed to look like the Droid from Star Wars.

Those interested may sign up on the Droid Does R2D2 Web page for pricing and availability.

Those who want the regular Droid 2 may preorder it Aug. 11 here, or go to a Verizon Wireless store Aug. 12 to buy the phone for $199.99, with a $100 mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement.

The 3G Mobile HotSpot option costs $20 per month for up to 2GB of data.

The Droid 2 launch is surprisingly soft compared with the last major collaboration from Verizon and Motorola: the Motorola Droid X.

The companies unveiled that device along with Google Android head Andy Rubin and Adobe CEO Shantaru Narayen in New York City June 23.

The device, which features a 4.3-inch screen and a multimedia bent, has proven very tough for consumers to procure, with Verizon continually pushing up delivery dates for the Android 2.1-based smartphone.