Android Buzz Grows as Droid Launch Nears

gigaom_icon_google-android1The Android buzz ramped up another notch this week with Google’s release of the SDK for Android 2.0, dubbed Eclair. Among other things, the new OS offers a combined inbox for multiple email accounts, a virtual keyboard with an improved layout and word completion, email and contact sync from multiple accounts including Exchange, and “Quick Contact,” which enables a user to call, email or send an SMS simply by clicking on a contact photo. Android 2.0 also includes a host of camera improvements and browser upgrades including a tappable address bar and double-tap zooming.

There’s every reason to believe that Android’s tie-up with Verizon will be a real game-changer in the white-hot smartphone space. Verizon has proven that it can effectively market even lackluster smartphones, and Android will benefit in a big way from both the carrier’s ad budget and its reputation as an operator of a top-notch network.

The SDK move comes in advance of tomorrow’s expected official unveiling of the Motorola Droid from Verizon Wireless, which looks to be the first handset running Eclair — although it’s unclear whether Droid will be the name of the actual gadget, or of Verizon’s Android lineup. The nation’s largest carrier is pulling out all the marketing stops in advance of the Droid launch, including a clever commercial playing on the shortcomings of Apple’s iPhone. Motorola threw gasoline on the fire last week when it accidentally — or not — touted the handset on its web site before hastily pulling the post down.

Just when the Droid will hit the shelves is still uncertain, though. Boy Genius Report claims the device will make its debut Nov. 6 alongside another Verizon phone, HTC’s Droid Eris. Inqiusiter.com expects the release this Friday, while Gearlog’s Sascha Segan is looking for a Nov. 9 launch (Gearlog also has early photos of the phone, which were leaked by Motorola).

There’s no question that Apple currently dominates the smartphone space among high-end, data-hungry users, and the Cupertino gang is showing no sign of slowing down. But I think there’s ample room for growth in the superphone era, and I think Verizon will help Google close that gap in a hurry.

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