Tag Archives | Verizon Wireless

Is it Too Early to Start Designing the Verizon Droid II?

Droid IIVerizon Wireless starts selling its first Android phone, the Droid (“by Motorola”) today. I’ve been using a unit loaned to me by Verizon for a week, and remain mostly impressed: The Droid couples impressive hardware with the much-improved Android 2.0 OS, and the result is the first Android phone that’s fully worthy of being compared to the iPhone 3GS and Palm’s Pre. (It’s most definitely an example of the class of device that Walt Mossberg calls “super-smart phones.”)

I don’t expect every Verizon customer who’s currently lusting after the iPhone to buy a Droid instead, but I think a meaningful percentage will–and that overall, they’ll be pleased.

But the Droid is hardly above criticism. As I’ve been using one and mostly enjoying the experience, my mind has been racing ahead to…next year’s model. (I’m assuming there will be one: Already, Verizon is releasing another phone in the Droid lineup, the Droid Eris.)

So here’s my quick wishlist for the phone I’m calling the Droid II–the next major collaboration between Verizon, Motorola,and Google.

A better keyboard. I want to like the Droid’s wide QWERTY keyboard, but so far I can’t muster much enthusiasm for its feel–the overall thinness of the phone has resulted in keys without enough travel for truly satisfying typing. (I do like the fact that it frees up all of the handsome screen’s 854-by-480 pixels for content, not virtual keys.)

It’s gotta be possible to squeeze a better keyboard into the space the Droid has–for one thing, the little five-way controller to the right of the keys seems superfluous on a touchscreen device. Dump it, and you could widen the keys and make them more comfy. I’d also be tickled if the Droid II took a cue from the AT&T Tilt I used to carry and angled the screen up when you slid out the keyboard.

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AT&T Sues Verizon Over “There’s a Map for That”

Rock 'Em Rock 'Em RobotsVerizon Wireless has been bashing AT&T and its products lately, in both its “There’s a map for that” ads snarking about AT&Ts 3G coverage and the “Droid does” campaign that says the iPhone is a bag of limitations. Now AT&T is bashing back–in court.

As Engadget is reporting, the company is saying that “There’s a map for that” misleads consumers with coverage maps that show what seems to be great swaths of the U.S. with no AT&T coverage, when in fact most of those areas have 2G coverage, but no 3G.

It’s not an irrational point, although I’m not sure if Verizon’s spot is any more deceptive than all those AT&T ads that say the company has the nation’s fastest 3G network. It does, but that 3G network is nowhere near as widely deployed as Verizon’s, so slow connectivity is far more of an issue for AT&T customers than for Verizon ones. (I wonder if Verizon’s ever flirted with suing over those spots?)

As Engadget notes, there’s an easy fix here: If Verizon tweaks its maps to show AT&T’s zones of 2G-only coverage, its ad will be just as compelling as the current version–and it’ll be tough for AT&T to claim that there’s anything inaccurate or confusing about the claim. Here’s hoping that this happens quickly, and that everyone involved goes back to spending money on improving their networks rather than legal wrangling.


Verizon Droid: First Impressions

DroidVerizon Wireless’s Droid won’t show up in stores until a week from Friday, but the company has shared loaner devices with technology journalists and bloggers, including me–PC World has a good roundup of the first reviews. After having spent a bit time with it, I’m not surprised that Verizon is trying to encourage hands-on coverage of the device in the days leading up to its release. A few random thoughts:
Yes, it’s impressive. I keep saying that we’ve been waiting for the first great Android phone, and here it is–Android 2.0 is a much nicer OS than its predecessors, and the Droid shows it off to excellent advantage. No, it’s not an iPhone killer, but I think a meaningful percentage of Verizon loyalists who have been sitting around waiting for a V-iPhone will get this instead, and be pleased. And there are certain things about the Droid–the screen, the openness, Google Maps with navigation for free–that’ll provoke a feeling iPhone users aren’t used to: envy.
High-resolution screens are going to change smartphones. The Droid’s 854-by-480 screen is a delight–it allows for a dozen thumbnail previews of Web pages that are crisp enough to be recognizable, and Google Maps satellite imagery dazzles. If I were the maker of any other touchscreen smartphone, I’d be scrambling to match it right now.
The Droid flies, mostly. The phone’s relatively robust tech specs compared to previous Android phones pay off: The interface generally matches the fluidity of the iPhone (with a few exceptions–when you pull down the list of status updates, it’s herky-jerky) and the browser, like that of the iPhone 3GS, is a joy to use. I need to use the phone in more places before I form conclusions about data speed, but I have noticed that sites designed for use on mobile devices seem to pop into place–no waiting required.
The keyboard is a plus, but not for the reason you might think. I’ve come to the conclusion that vertically-oriented phone keyboards like the ones on BlackBerries and the Palm Pre are more usable than horizontal ones like the Droid’s, because they let you thumb-type without having to stretch your hands too much. And while the Droid keyboard is decent, the phone’s thin case doesn’t leave much room for travel. But here’s why I’m glad the Droid has a keyboard: It leaves all of the phone’s pixels available for stuff that would otherwise be eaten up by the on-screen keyboard. That’s a boon for apps which require a keyboard all or most of the time, such as instant messengers and word processors.
The iPhone still rules for entertainment. This is an area where Android 2.0 doesn’t seem to have changed much–it’s still got a music player and a video player and an integrated version of Amazon’s MP3 store, but the apps are pretty basic and there’s no way to buy or rent movies or TV shows.  Eventually, Android’s openness could make it a more appealing media platform than the iPhone, since purveyors of content will be able to develop cool apps without worrying about whether Apple will approve them, and audio-related ones can run in the background. But for the moment, Android 2.0 feels like Google has ceded the media race to Apple. And Verizon and Motorola didn’t do anything to compensate.
The iPhone OS is still more elegant and intuitive. You can pick up an iPhone and figure out nearly every feature (keyboard excepted) with virtually no learning curve, and once you know what to do, you can do it with remarkable swiftness. Android, on the other hand, is solid overall, but it feels a little more like a desktop OS that’s been shrunken to phone size. There are things that are hard to remember–every time I pick up an Android phone, I need to retrain myself on some tasks, such as how to install widgets. on the desktop
The Droid isn’t Verizonized. When word began to leak out about the Droid, lots of skeptics said that Verizon Wireless would hobble Android. On the review unit loaned to me by the company, however, there’s little evidence of Verizon’s involvement except for its logo on the case. It feels like an Android phone, not a Verizon one, and seems as open as any other Android device.
Google Maps with Navigation rocks. I said that iPhone owners might be envious of certain Droid features, and this would be one of them. So is Google Voice (which isn’t preinstalled on the phone, but is available on the Android Market rather than being stuck in App Store approval limbo).
More thoughts to come–anything in particular you’d like to know about the phone?


The T-Grid: Verizon Droid vs. iPhone 3GS

So Verizon’s Droid is official, and officially arriving a week from Friday.  I’m smart enough to know it’s pointless to call any phone an iPhone killer, or even a potential iPhone killer–and that competing with the iPhone is much more about software and overall integration than it is about hardware specs. (If you could kill the iPhone through trumping its specs, it would already be a goner.) But the Droid does pack better specs than the iPhone 3GS does in many areas–including its screen, which has well over twice as many pixels. It runs the promising Android 2.0 OS. And it’s on a network that doesn’t provoke much in the way of squawking from customers. In short, it’s the most formidable Google rival since the Palm Pre.

I have a Droid in hand (lent to me by Verizon) and will report in with a hands-on report soon. But as is my wont, I’m going to begin with a features comparison. Note that the information that follows mostly doesn’t take third-party applications and products into account.

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Verizon and Google Team Up for Android Phones

Verizon and AndroidGoogle’s Android phone OS may have gotten off to a slower start than I’d have expected, but it’s quickly making up for lost time. Today’s news: Google and Verizon Wireless are working together directly to design new Android phones, the first of which will be unveiled in “the next few weeks.” They’ll come with Google Voice.

The proof will be in the pudding phones, but it’s good news for consumers that the nation’s largest wireless carrier will be getting Android phones. It’s good news for Verizon, too–the company’s signature smartphone, the BlackBerry Storm, didn’t turn out to be a particularly formidable iPhone rival, and the Google partnership gives Verizon multiple additional shots at getting phones that are cool enough to grab mindshare and marketshare away from AT&T and Apple. (We still have no idea whether Verizon will get the iPhone anytime soon.)

For all the Android phones released and announced to date, I think we still haven’t seen the platform’s defining handset–the one that’s slick enough to join the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre among the most sophisticated next-generation smartphones. (We haven’t seen a BlackBerry that fits that description, either–and definitely not a Windows Mobile phone.) Sounds like it won’t be too long until we’ll be able to form opinions about whether one of the first Verizon/Google offerings might be that phone.

Heck, maybe I’m just in an upbeat mood, but this is potentially good news for iPhone owners, too. The more smartphones from other carriers that have Google Voice, the greater the chances that Apple might decide it’s in its competitive interests to stop pondering the Google application and get it for the App Store. Wouldn’t be cool if AT&T ended up putting pressure on Apple to…approve innovative telephony apps like Google Voice?


Verizon First to Cave With Exclusivity Agreements

verizonmainlogoResponding to pressure on government regulators, Verizon Wireless has announced it would limit the length of its exclusivity agreements with wireless manufacturers to six months. However, for carriers to pick up a Verizon-exclusive phone after that period, it would need to have less than 500,000 customers.

Verizon’s move seems aimed at quelling complaints by small regional carriers, while at the same time keeping its edge over its more similarly-sized rivals. It’s concession came as part of a July 17 letter sent to lawmakers. Washington is looking into exclusivity arrangements, and these agreements have become a focus of their inquiries.

“Exclusivity arrangements promote competition and innovation in device development and design. When we procure exclusive handsets from our vendors, we typically buy hundreds of thousands or even millions of each device,” the company argued. “Otherwise manufacturers may be reluctant to make the investments of time, money and production capacity to support a particular device.”

I think its all but a given that Verizon’s pander will do little to change lawmaker’s minds. While I do see the need for some type of competitive advantage, the iPhone showed us how an exclusivity agreement can go wrong.

Consumers that want an iPhone aren’t the only ones affected. Think about AT&T’s network. People who don’t even want the phone are affected by the strain that the device has put on the carrier. That is certainly a concern.

Add to this that this concession in the end would benefit such a small portion of the industry — analysts say that less than five percent of wireless customers are with carriers smaller than the 500,000 threshold, and it may be more of an half-hearted attempt to protect themselves than an honest effort to put the interest of the consumer in mind.

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Apple Gadgets From Verizon? This Summer?

verizonmainlogoOver at Business Week, Spencer Ante and Arik Hesseldahl have a story (warning: auto-playing video on page) saying that Apple is in talks with Verizon Wireless to have the wireless giant sell a couple of new devices: a smaller iPhone Light” phone and a “media pad” that does photos, movies, music, and–via Wi-Fi–phone calls. One of the devices could be out this summer, the story says.

The details here sound a tad odd–which doesn’t, of course, mean they’re not true. If Apple doesn’t have a deal nailed down with Verizon for a phone, could it really have a model that works on Verizon’s network out in just a few months? (Seems unlikely, but who knows?) Would Apple make a smaller, cheaper phone that couldn’t run iPhone apps (it sounds improbable, although Apple often does things that seem improbable until it does them?) Would Verizon Wireless really want to sell a device that made phone calls over Wi-Fi? (Actually, that sounds entirely plausible, if the company’s in the mood to do something different.)

One part of this does sound logical: If Apple were to work with Verizon on some new devices, it could expand its carrier relationships while still signing a deal to extend AT&T’s iPhone  exclusivity