Droid Pro suits up for business at $180

Motorola takes on BlackBerry with new QWERTY keypad-sporting device on Verizon

Droid Pro, the Android 2.2 smartphone designed largely for business use, will go on sale Nov. 18 for $179.99 after rebate and a two-year agreement with Verizon Wireless.

Verizon will take presale orders starting Tuesday, online and in its stores, it said.

Droid Pro
The Droid Pro smartphone is intended for business professionals.

Motorola unveiled the device Oct. 5 at the CTIA show, describing the Droid Pro as an alternative to the entrenched BlackBerry devices used by workers in all types of businesses.

The Droid Pro looks similar to some BlackBerry devices, with a vertical design that includes a 3.1-in. touch screen and a QWERTY physical keypad beneath. It comes with a 5-megapixel camera.

It is the only Android phone on the market with a vertical "candy bar" design with a QWERTY physical keyboard beneath a touch screen, which analysts said will please consumers as well as business users.

Many of the Droid Pro's features are intended to satisfy IT pros at companies where they must manage sensitive data carried on employees' phones. Many IT shops rely on BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which is maintained within their operations. Potentially, the Droid Pro could reduce the need for BES, since the Droid Pro allows IT pros to remotely wipe data from the phone and from its removable microSD card. Motorola has promised encryption of data on the phone and on the card in the first quarter of 2011. Complex password support, which is preferred by IT shops, is also available.

The Droid Pro is preloaded with Quickoffice Mobile Suite and 3G mobile hot-spot capabilities. Users can read and edit Microsoft Office documents with the device but won't be able to track updates to documents. It also supports both Exchange and Gmail for business.

Verizon calls the Droid Pro a global-ready smartphone that is supported by voice service in 220 countries and data coverage in 200 countries, with more than half at 3G speeds. It runs on both CDMA and GSM networks.

Analysts said the $180 price tag after rebate is appropriate, given that other smartphones on the market are in the $150-to-$200 range.

They also agreed that the Droid Pro will give BlackBerry devices some competition.

"The Droid Pro is being positioned as a productivity-oriented device and has additional software tailored for IT needs and gives corporate users an Android option aimed more at their needs than standard Android phones," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates, said the Droid Pro's features will appeal to enterprises and give IT shops the option to "establish an Android foothold without deploying totally insecure Android devices. In that sense, the Pro represents an important step for Android and particularly for Motorola, which is trying to regain market leadership supplying business devices as well as consumer devices."

Even with the Droid Pro's business orientation, Greengart said, plenty of consumers will buy it just because of the Froyo (Android 2.2) operating system and its vertical QWERTY keyboard, sometimes called a "candy bar" shape. "It is the only QWERTY-bar Android phone, and many find that form factor appealing," he said.

The Droid Pro includes some features that are becoming standards with smartphones, such as a 1-GHz processor and support for the Flash 10.1 media player. It has 8.2GB of internal memory and support for a 32GB microSD card. It weighs 4.73 oz., a little above the smartphone average of 4.1 oz., and is 4.69 x 2.36 x .46 in. in size.

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.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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