Droid X is now hard to get, just like Droid Incredible and Evo before it

Shortage of components could hurt Motorola and Verizon, but could help Android and Google

Shortages of Android-based HTC Evo and HTC Droid Incredible smartphones were expected to spur sales of the Motorola Droid X, which first went on sale July 15.

But now the Android-based Droid X is hard to get, prompting questions about whether a shortage of some component -- such as its display -- could be affecting Motorola. Such a shortage would hurt carrier Verizon and Open Handset Alliance's Android operating system during an ever-mounting smartphone battle with Apple's iPhone.

Earlier this week, HTC said it was turning to Sony Corp. for displays due to a shortage of Samsung's AMOLED displays.

The shortage appears to have mostly affected HTC phones with 3.7 inch screens, which include the Droid Incredible. Analysts say the shortage also likely affected sales of the larger Evo device with a 4.3-inch display that's sold by Sprint Nextel.

Motorola, Google (Android's developer and a backer) and Verizon will not say why the Droid X is hard to get, or whether a shortage of components could be a factor. Motorola and Google referred inquiries to Verizon, which did not respond to requests for an interview.

Current online orders for the Droid X via the Verizon Wireless Web site are expected to ship by Aug. 4. Other sites that sell the device are also indicating delays.

Amazon.com, which sells the Droid for $180 -- $20 less than Verizon after a rebate -- today disclosed the shipments will take five to seven weeks.

Online retailer Wirefly, also is also selling the Droid for $180, cited limited quantities in selling only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Finally, Best Buy lists the Droid X as sold out online.

Analysts agreed that Motorola's Droid X and Motorola probably has fallen victim to component shortages, but that any criticism for unfilled orders is nonetheless deserved.

"Congratulations to Verizon for having a hero Android platform [with HTC Incredible and Motorola Droid X] that's in high demand, but you don't want to be in a position where you sell out anywhere or anytime," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC. "Facing shortages people will consider alternatives."

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, agreed.

"I do not think it can help them to have these shortages," he said. "They need to push out every device they can. Both Motorola and Verizon can only benefit by getting devices into the hands of users. If they delay delivery, I suspect there will be a fair number of users who opt for something else ... and maybe even go to another carrier to get it."

On the other hand, Gold said that Android and Google might actually benefit from a perception that even customers left with unfilled orders are "going for a winner. Pitched right, this means that so much interest in Android is emerging that they can't build enough phones to accommodate the demand. Not a bad message."

A Verizon forum listed thousands of customer comments about the delays of the Droid X. "lizzytish2002," for example, noted that she ordered a Droid on July 18 and was told that it would arrive by tomorrow (July 27), which may indicate the Aug. 4 date may be exaggerated. Another commenter, "mdram4x4," suggested that Verizon is ordering a minimal amount of Droid X's so they don't have extra stock of the devices when they release the next new phone.

The Droid Incredible delays appear to be worse, with one commenter named "picord" noting that an online order made on on July 4 was delivered on July 26.

A Sprint spokeswoman didn't detail the length of HTC Evo delays, although she said a global parts shortage has compounded earlier temporary shortages.

"We expect all Sprint channels to have significant outages over the next few weeks," she said. "HTC is current challenged to deliver the device to Sprint, but we are working together around the clock to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

Sprint's Web site is referring online customers go to their local stores. A Framingham, Mass., sales rep said there were no Evo's on sale on Tuesday and that the store was selling them to customers as they come in without keeping a waiting list.

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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