Motorola, Verizon make quick fix on Droid X display problems

Small number affected; new smartphones offered

Verizon Wireless and Motorola today said fewer than one-tenth of 1% of the new Droid X smartphones that have been sold have experienced a "flickering" or "banding" on the display, and they added that Motorola has solved the problem.

With the fix added, the Droid X, which first went on sale last Thursday, will continue to ship, the companies said in a short e-mailed statement. The statement refers to "a very small number" of units with the problem, a figure that a Verizon spokeswoman said amounts to "less than one-tenth of 1%, but I can't share the number."

Verizon and Motorola acted quickly to address the screen display glitch on the Android-based Droid X. Reports about the problem surfaced the day after the device went on sale last Thursday, and the companies released a statement and a fix the following Tuesday.

In contrast, 22 days had passed since the June 24 launch of the iPhone 4 when Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs last week offered to provide owners of the device with free cases to help solve an antenna problem. Reports about the reception problem had saddled Apple with immediate negative publicity.

"This is the right way to handle a problem," said Jack Gold principal analyst at J.Gold Associates LLC. "Nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. People can deal with a problem if you admit you have one and go ahead and tell them you will fix it. That is called customer service."

Gold said that it's much less expensive for a company to handle a problem in the early stages than it is to wait until "lots of units get out there with the same problem" and "remedial action" is necessary.

The companies' statement reads: "Verizon Wireless and Motorola are aware of a very small number of Droid X units that have experienced a flickering or banding display. Motorola has resolved the issue and is continuing to ship the phones. Any consumer who experiences a flickering or banding display should contact Motorola customer support center or Verizon Wireless."

Verizon is replacing defective units with new phones, the spokeswoman said. An over-the-air patch is being sent to other Droid X customers to prevent the problem from occurring, according to various blogs.

The flickering and banding were not the only display problems, according to some users on blogs, including HowardForums, a well-known discussion board for mobile phone users. With some units, the display went dead, users said.

HowardForums, which requires a registration to post or read comments, had more than 50 postings about Droid X screen failures as early as July 16, led by this one from someone called "vernonator": "While many of you are waiting for your Droid X's to be delivered I already returned mine. I did the pre-order from Best Buy and picked it up 5 min after they opened on Thursday. That afternoon I noticed a line of dead pixels across the screen about 1/3 of the way down -- they flickered in and out, but finally stayed on the rest of the evening. This afternoon the bottom 1/2 of the screen went dead... flickered a bit and just died, even when pulling the battery it only showed the bottom 1/2 of the Motorola M on the boot screen.

Took it back to Best Buy and they stated that I was the 3rd one returned today with the dead screen... OUT OF 6 THEY SOLD ON LAUNCH DAY!!!!!!"

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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