OPINION: 2010 could be year of Droid

Motorola Inc. is set to sell its millionth Google Inc.-powered Droid device by the end of this year, exceeding analyst expectations, and quickly developing a large fan base. But can Motorola replicate the success of the late RAZR and create an iconic Google Android phone to threaten Apple’s iPhone?

Ailing Motorola may just be on the road to recovery. The Droid, sold in conduction with Verizon Wireless Inc. in a $100 million marketing push, is on track to sell one million units in the U.S. by the end of this year, according to an analyst quoted by GigaOm. The European outlook, where the Droid is known as the Milestone, is not as cheery — as Dext (U.S. Cliq) and Milestone haven’t benefited from such a strong marketing push.
But one can say the Motorola Droid is doing particularly well though. Admittedly, the Droid hasn’t sold one million devices in its first weekend, like the Apple iPhone 3GS did, but to reach this number in just over a month is clearly a good sign. In comparison, Palm’s much-hyped Pre is reported to have sold around 300,000 devices in its first month.

Early Reviews vs. Late Reviews

Reviewers received the Droid positively when it first launched. The large high-resolution screen impressed my fellow PC World colleague Robert S. Anthony, while New York Times‘ David Pogue and Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg were happy to recommend the phone among others.

But several reviewers also noted a few weak points of the Droid. It was noted that the keyboard was too shallow and not very well thought and the phone can get slow at times. Problems with a flimsy battery cover cropped up later, which kept on falling off the device. Until Motorola comes up with a solution, users say they resorted to taping the battery cover on the Droid — not the most cosmetically of affairs.
“Zealotry Sucks, and so Does the Droid”

The controversial sub-head above comes from Dave Winer, who started the Droidie blog a day after he bought the Motorola Droid. Roughly a month after, his thoughts on the Droid are clear: “Because while it is a piece of s**t phone, at least it’s good for developers, and Verizon knows what it’s doing with its phone network. It sucks less than the iPhone. But it still sucks.”
So is the initial excitement on the Droid wearing off? One wouldn’t start a blog looking into the day-by-day use of a new phone only to slag it off a month later if the phone was indeed performing. To balance his view, David K. comments on the same post: “There is a difference between not-perfect and shitty,” when referring to the iPhone and the Motorola Droid.
Is Google’s Own Phone a Threat?

While the Motorola Droid is the top of crop of Android devices at the moment, rumors of a flagship Google-branded Android device are looming. Gizmodo is quoting trusted sources saying that the Google phone “is a certainty”, despite previous denials from the search giant.

One can’t assert the truthfulness of Google’s statements, but in hindsight, Apple publicly denied making the iPhone, despite working on it in secrecy for almost two years before launch. This could be the same case for Google as well.

But Google isn’t a hardware company like Apple. If Google was to develop its own phone, it would be manufactured by someone else (like HTC, which already has several Android devices — G1, Hero) but under the Google brand. If Google indeed presents an own-brand flagship Android phone, it will be interesting to see how the other manufacturers using the platform will react.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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