Verizon Droid Smartphone Could Give iPhone a 'Jab in the Ribs'

Is the Droid another iPhone killer? Verizon is set to release this Motorola-made and Android-running smartphone that, while unlikely to unseat frontrunner Apple, may come closer than most, say analysts.

Verizon seems to believe it has a possible iPhone killer in the Droid-a smartphone running Google's Android mobile operating system that it's rumored the carrier will release on Oct. 30. The 32-second television ad that Verizon has begun running makes rather clear all that the Apple iPhone can't do, which, it goes on to imply, is what the Droid can.
The iPhone is, by all measures, the smartphone leader and the brand to beat, and so it makes sense that new contenders should shoot for the top-though this can make the search for an "iPhone killer" a tiresome one. To date, a wounding or even a good nudge would be remarkable, and, surprisingly, with the Droid, some analysts are saying that might just be on the way.
"Motorola's Droid is likely to be a serious challenger to the iPhone and may be the first mobile phone that is capable of going head-to-head with AT&T's flagship device and holding its own," Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told eWEEK.
"Google has worked very closely with Motorola on the Droid to develop its own standard-bearer for its Android OS and the companies have come up with an especially attractive device," Hyers added. "The Droid is a thin device with an exceptionally large screen [and] an especially fast processor and it comes with Android 2.0, the latest version of the OS."
Like the iPhone and the Palm Pre, the Droid will also come with multitouch, Hyers said. "The iPhone set the bar quite high, but it looks as though Motorola will actually meet that standard."
Analyst Avi Greengart, with Current Analysis, agreed.
"No question about it-Apple is finally getting some competition from Android and [Palm's] WebOS," Greengart told eWEEK. "However, both alternative operating systems have been constrained by a limited number of devices at a single carrier. Palm's Sprint exclusivity won't end until after the holidays, but Android phones will be at three of the four national carriers in the United States, including Verizon Wireless."
Greengart added that the relationship between Verizon and Google is also important.
"Verizon Wireless is a particularly important win for Google because of its sheer size and low churn-many of that carrier's subscribers will not switch to rivals no matter how good a device is offered by the competition," Greengart said. "Verizon Wireless sold over a million BlackBerry Storms [in 2008], and that device was a buggy mess. I can't comment on the Droid yet-yes, I've used one-but I expect the carrier will sell at least that many."
Neil Mawston, an analyst for Strategy Analytics, also pointed out the advantages of the alignment of three major brands.
"The Motorola Droid is certainly a strong competitor to the iPhone in the branding stakes. Motorola, Google Android and Verizon Wireless are three famous brands with high awareness among mobile consumers," Mawston told eWEEK. "The Motorola Droid does not quite match the iPhone in terms of hardware design or Internet services, but it does compete well technically with good processing power and a usable QWERTY keyboard for messaging and browsing."
The Droid's likely success could also bode well for Motorola, which among the trio is the most in need of a boost.
"I believe that the Droid will guarantee Motorola strong sales in [the fourth quarter]," TBR's Hyers said, "and that the degree of cooperation between Google and Motorola in developing Android handsets means that Motorola will roll out a number of impressive new smartphones in 2010, which will be a welcome change from the last several years of underwhelming handsets from the company."
Strategy Analytics' Mawston settled the iPhone-killing business most succinctly, adding, "The Motorola Droid is not an iPhone killer or a Pre killer, but it can give both companies a sharp jab in the ribs if Verizon subsidizes the Droid down to competitive price levels around the [$100 to $200] range."