October 28, 2009, 5:30 PM — After weeks of ads teasing us with glimpses of a handset that could do what iPhones don't Verizon Wireless finally unveiled the Droid by Motorola. This is an impressive phone that flexes its raw data and graphics processing muscle as much as its does its smart features such as Google's new turn-by-turn 3D Maps Navigation service. The Droid is the first mobile phone to sport the Android 2.0 (previously code-named Éclair). The Droid will cost $300 (with a two-year contract), but a $100 mail-in rebate drops the price to $200. Monthly voice plans start at $39.99 and the monthly charge for e-mail and data services such as Web browsing start at $29.99.
Google GPS Surprise
Also announced here, during a joint Verizon and Motorola press event, is Google's 3D Maps Navigation application which will be available first on the Android 2.0 OS. The mobile application is a hybrid GPS and Internet-based system. When using the GPS system it has the ability to do some slick tricks. When you get closer to your destination it can switch to Google's Street View (an interactive street-level photo). It also supports voice navigation, allowing you to say the name of your destination ("Yankee Stadium, New York," for example) and get quick turn-by-turn directions.
(See Related: Is New Google Nav Service Really Android-Only?)
At a busy press event in New York's Times Square, representatives from Verizon Wireless, Google and Motorola showed off the new handset, which includes a 550MHz processor, hardware graphics acceleration and a 3.7-inch, 480-by-854-pixel display, which is significantly larger and sharper than the one on the iPhone 3G S. Also included is a 5-megapixel camera which can capture DVD-quality video and a 16GB memory card (upgradeable to 32GB).
Connectivity is King
"It's built for best-in-class connectivity," said Giancarlo Fasolo, director of product management at Motorola, one of the demonstrators at the Droid launch event. He noted that the Droid's browser was "very fluid because of the hardware acceleration."
During a test of the Droid I noticed the Web surfing was indeed very snappy, with images coming up as quickly as Web pages loaded. A high-definition YouTube video took a few moments to load, but played smoothly without a stall and with excellent audio. Call quality was also quite good; the earpiece was comfortably loud and the people at the other end could hear me without any static or other problems.