Motorola Droid 2: Your guide to Verizon's next Android phone

Motorola Droid 2

It may be one of the worst-kept secrets in smartphone history. Verizon's Motorola Droid 2 Android phone is widely expected to launch this week, and while the companies are keeping pretty quiet about the device, there's no shortage of unofficial information available.

Buzz has actually been building about the Droid 2 for months. The phone was initially believed to be in-line to launch alongside the Droid X in early summer. When that didn't happen, it didn't take long for new theories to emerge. The latest leaks (and there are plenty of them) point to this Thursday, August 12, as the day for the Droid 2's debut.

UPDATE [8/10/10]: It's official: Verizon's Motorola Droid 2 lands this week. The information on this page is still correct.

So what's the Droid 2 all about, and how's it different from the rest of Verizon's Android pack? Here's the lowdown on everything we know -- unofficially -- so far.

[This story is from the new Android Power blog at Computerworld. Follow @AndroidPower on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

Motorola Droid 2: The Phone's Form 

The Droid 2 may be a new phone, but its form will feel quite familiar to anyone who's used a Droid before. The Droid 2 is really the closest thing we've seen to a direct sequel of the original Motorola Droid; according to numerous leaks, the phone has essentially the same size, shape, and physical qualities as its older brother. Well, with one major exception.

The Droid 2 boasts a completely redesigned keyboard -- something likely to be one of Verizon's main selling points for the device. The keys are now enlarged and raised. The directional pad present on the original Droid is also gone; in its place, the Droid 2 has a series of arrow keys at the bottom-right corner of the keyboard.

An ad published by Verizon over the weekend acknowledged the device for the first time and confirmed many of these physical attributes. The ad, in typical Droid marketing style, proudly proclaims: "Rule your empire with iron thumbs. Introducing Droid 2 -- with a new advanced keyboard." It showed the phone with its keyboard extended and the words "Coming Soon" printed below.

Motorola Droid 2 Verizon Ad

Keyboard aside, the Droid 2 does appear to have some subtle physical differences from its predecessor. The bezel around the display, for example, looks like it'll be silver instead of black, and the back side of the phone seems to have a blueish tint. The sliding top portion of the phone also extends all the way down to the bottom of the device, eliminating the small ridge present on the original Motorola Droid.

UPDATE [8/9/10]: You can see the changes clearly in a new Droid 2 demo page discovered on Verizon's Web site.

Verizon Droid 2

Motorola Droid 2: Under the Hood

Beneath its exterior, the new Droid 2 sports some serious improvements. Apparent training materials leaked from Verizon Wireless indicate the phone will have a 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM, compared to the original Droid's 550MHz processor and 256MB of RAM. With that beefed-up hardware in place, the materials suggest the new Droid will load Web pages 40 percent faster than the first-generation device.

As for storage, the Droid 2 looks like it'll ship with 8GB of internal memory. It'll also come with an 8GB microSD card, expandable up to 32GB.

Like the Droid X, Motorola's Droid 2 will support 3G mobile hotspot functionality. The phone does not, however, appear to have an HDMI-out port.

Motorola Droid 2: Software Changes 

As Verizon works to wrap up its Android 2.2 upgrade for the original Motorola Droid, all signs point to the Droid 2 shipping with Froyo already preloaded. While the first Droid featured an unmodified version of the Android OS, though, the Droid 2 will likely be running a custom user interface similar to what's found on the Droid X. It isn't exactly full-blown Motoblur, but it isn't quite stock Android, either.

Case in point: The Droid 2, according to the aforementioned training materials, will offer "integrated social networking" capabilities -- aka those Motoblur-like widgets. Per the documents:

Enjoy Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all in real-time without logging into and updating multiple applications. Updates synced and streamed to one screen waiting for you to view it when you want.

The Droid 2 will apparently also ship with several preloaded applications, including Swype, V CAST Media Manager, NFL Mobile, and Blockbuster's new streaming software.

[Related: When's your phone getting Froyo? Check our Android 2.2 upgrade list for all the latest info.]

Droid 2 Pricing and Availability

There's no official word yet on pricing for the Droid 2, but Best Buy may have accidentally let the cat out of the bag. A sharp-eyed Android fan noticed a Droid 2 display at his local store. He snapped a photo and fired it off to the gang at Engadget.

According to the display, the Droid 2 will sell for $199 with a new two-year contract, or for $599 unsubsidized.

UPDATE [8/10/10]: As mentioned above, official launch and pricing info has now been released. Presales for the Droid 2 begin on August 11; the phone will be available as of the 12th.

The Future of Droid 

So with the Droid 2 almost out of the gate, is Verizon's Android line set to stay still for a while? Don't count on it. Rumors published by tech blog Boy Genius Report just this morning predict yet another new Droid before the end of 2010. Citing a leaked company roadmap, the boys at BGR claim Verizon will introduce a phone called the "Motorola Droid Pro" sometime around November. The phone, the site says, will feature a 1.3GHz processor, a 4-inch screen, and global roaming capabilities.

BGR's documents also suggest the possibility of global Android devices from Samsung and HTC -- along with launches of a Motorola "slab form-factor" device and Android tablets from both Samsung and Motorola -- all within the remaining months of 2010.

If there's one thing we've learned with Android's unstoppable growth, it's that there's rarely a dull moment. So keep your seatbelts fastened, amigos: This train isn't slowing down anytime soon.

JR Raphael writes about smartphones and other tasty technology. He's on both Twitter and Facebook; come say hello.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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