Verizon’s Droid Ads Take Aim at iPhone

Verizon Wireless isn’t pulling any punches in its effort to promote Droid, its upcoming Android handset — aiming directly at the heavyweight of the space, the Apple iPhone.

The No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier this weekend began a series of “teaser” television ads designed to tweak the popular smartphone, which operates on rival carrier AT&T, and to whet users’ appetites ahead of Droid’s November debut.

The “iDon’t/Droid Does” ads run down a list of features lacking in the iPhone, such as the ability to run apps simultaneously for multitasking, open development and lack of a physical keyboard. A promotional Web site continues the effort, asking visitors, “Don’t you wish you had a robot sidekick that moved at light speed, could get you out of any problem and lived in your pocket?”

So far, Verizon Wireless — a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) — is remaining mum on what else it plans ahead of the launch of Droid, which has previously been codenamed Sholes or Tao.

“I can confirm that the ads are indicative of very cool things to come,” a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman told She declined to comment further on the campaign or the device’s launch.

The campaign marks one of the first visible results of a partnership Verizon recently struck with Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) to co-develop, market and sell smartphones and applications based on the open source mobile operating platform Android, of which the Internet giant is the chief backer.

Still, few concrete details have been released surrounding Droid, which is expected to be manufactured by Motorola and which would become Verizon’s first Android-based phone. Speculation over the summer described a Motorola Android phone for Verizon that would sport a 3.7-inch capacitive display, 5-megapixel camera with flash, video recorder, GPS and Wi-Fi.

More recent reports say it will run on Android 2.0, a release dubbed Éclair — a claim seemingly reinforced by Verizon’s promotional site.

Meanwhile, the campaign comes as Android, released just over a year ago, starts to make a splash in the smartphone sector with a flurry of releases coming in time for the holidays. The OS will be offered on three of the top four carriers in the United States, and on smartphones made by HTC, Motorola, Acer and Samsung.

Dell recently confirmed plans to issue an Android phone, and if rumors are accurate that it will come to AT&T, the development would mean that Android will be included on all the major U.S. networks.

Android amps up

Google’s open source platform had initially been criticized by some industry observers for being rushed to market before it was ready, prompting manufacturers to delay launches and resulting in tepid reviews of the first handsets, including the G1.

All that’s changing as the latest Android smartphones begin to impress. The Motorola Cliq goes on pre-sale today on T-Mobile, the nation’s fourth-largest carrier, with retail sales following on Nov. 2.

T-Mobile, which already sells the HTC myTouch 3G, the follow-up to the first Android phone, the G1, is also going to start selling the Samsung Behold II later this year.

Sprint, the nation’s third-largest provider and the exclusive carrier for Palm webOS handsets, began selling the HTC Hero last week, and will start offering the Samsung Moment on Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, Android’s rivals are working hard to broaden their own offerings.

Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down, last week releasing version 3.1.2 of its iPhone OS, though complaints over battery life still continue to dog the popular device.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) is expected by November to issue its answer to the iPhone 3GS in the form of the Storm 2, a new edition of its first touchscreen smartphone. On the OS front, RIM recently acquired Torch Mobile, and is slated to release an updated mobile browser by early 2010.

Palm recently unveiled the Pixi, the smaller sibling to the Pre, the slumping company’s bid to reassert itself in the smartphone market. Palm also is gearing up to take its Palm App Catalog store out of beta by December, and also just made a significant OS update available to developers — webOS 1.2.

Meanwhile, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is prepping version 7 of its Windows Mobile OS, and just rolled out a family of smartphones from several manufacturers running the fledgling Windows 6.5.

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