The Motorola Droid smartphone that will ship in November from Verizon Wireless could well be the game-changer that supports analyst forecasts that the Android operating system will dominate the iPhone's and the BlackBerry's by 2012.
A new Droid TV ad basically rubs the iPhone's nose in a series of iPhone feature shortcomings, showing that Droid backers are willing to "go negative" as much as U.S. presidential candidates do when the stakes are high.
The Verizon-Motorola marketing underscores that the Droid uses Android 2.0, the mobile platform that is mainly Google Inc.'s creation, and that the new device will have all the resources Google represents in marketing as well as technology prowess.
Droid, or a close version of it, was shown to a number of analysts and others at CTIA two weeks ago, but the device was then called the Tao or the Sholes.
Verizon and Motorola didn't give many details at the time, although the new DroidDoes.com Web site from Verizon gives some of the basics and urges visitors to register to find out more.
What was apparent to those who held the device at CTIA was that it felt comfortable in the hand. The device measures about a half-inch thick, with a 3.7 inch touch-screen display and 16GB of internal storage, based on statistics from MobileCrunch and analyst reports. It is reportedly the thinnest slider smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard.
While those details are unconfirmed by Verizon or Motorola, the DroidDoes.com Web site and the TV ad for the campaign highlight that the Droid offers several important features, including multitasking, a replaceable battery and open development -- features that the iPhone has been criticized for lacking. The TV ad attacks the iPhone in various ways, saying the following:
- iDon't have a real keyboard.
- iDon't run simultaneous apps.
- iDon't take 5-megapixel pictures.
- iDon't customize.
- iDon't run widgets.
- iDon't allow open development.
- iDon't take pictures in the dark.
- iDon't have interchangeable batteries.
The sarcasm of the TV ad follows by two weeks a similar ad from Verizon declaring, "There's a map for that," referring to Verizon's fast and extensive wireless coverage compared with that of AT&T, which provides wireless service for the iPhone.
Some analysts today called Verizon's TV ads "aggressive" and even "snarky" and "smarmy," but more than anything, they agreed that the ads show how eager Verizon, Google and Motorola are to grab market share from the iPhone and others.
Ken Dulaney, a Gartner Inc. analyst, noted that the Android can catapult to the No. 2 position among smartphone operating systems by 2012, ahead of the iPhone, the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile, but behind Symbian, which runs in Nokia devices. Gartner's rationale for the huge growth in Android is based on the multitude of carriers and manufacturers that will offer Android phones, but it also accounts for the open development environment and the rich array of cloud computing applications Google is building.
The hardware and the software built atop Android in the new Droid device will determine how fast the Android OS in general moves against competitors, Dulaney said.
"Verizon is clearly drawing a line in the sand by pointing out the things iPhone can't do. It's a real tete a tete," added Ramon Llamas, an analyst at market research firm IDC. "But what happens if Verizon actually gets the iPhone? Speculation is still running rampant that Verizon will get the iPhone."
As soon as the Droid ships, consumers can expect to see Apple come back, perhaps pointing to any Droid deficiencies, Llamas said.
One fact that highlights how aggressive Droid is being marketed is that Android 2.0 on Droid is appearing sooner than many analysts expected, with some previously having suggested it might not ship until next spring.
Still, Verizon, Google and Motorola are going to need plenty to back up their marketing chutzpah. Those who register for the Verizon e-mails at the DroidDoes.com site, receive in response this little missive of saber-rattling:
"You signed up for this email because you think you need a new smartphone. But you don't need a smartphone, you need a supergenius in your pocket. A phone that listens better than the person on the other end of the call. Apps of every shape and size. Emails that let you know what they are before you read them. The greatest Web experience on a phone. All working together to get things done.
"You know there's no phone like that. And it ticks you off. But there will be. Droid is coming."