What You Need to Know About the Droid

droid-by-motorola-front-open-vzw-eye1Verizon Wireless launches the Motorola Droid this Friday (as if you hadn’t heard), and the carrier is opening “many” of its 2,000 retail outlets early (7 a.m. or 8 a.m. local time) to accommodate what it hopes is a rush of new customers. Call your local store for hours if you’re interested in being among the first to get your hands on the gadget. Meanwhile, here are a few other things you should keep in mind if you’re considering going Droid:

  • The phone will sell for $199 with a two-year agreement and a $100 mail-in rebate. Users who don’t want to wait until Friday or deal with the hassle of mailing in for a rebate can pre-order the device at Best Buy, where the rebate will be applied instantly.
  • As our friends at BillShrink have illustrated, expect to pay $110 a month for a mid-range plan with 450 900 minutes of talk time for the Droid, or $150 for an unlimited plan. Both rates match AT&T’s offerings for iPhone service.
  • The Droid comes with a 16GB SD card to help offset its meager 256 MB of on-board memory. For more memory you’ll need to pick up a 32GB SD card.
  • Android Market’s inventory of 10,000+ apps pales compared to Apple’s (a aapl) 100,000-title-plus App Store, but it’s a solid start for the year-old storefront.
  • Google apps such as Maps, Latitude, Voice Search, Gmail and Calendar are included, and Droid is the first phone to feature the impressive new Google Maps Navigation.
  • The Droid is the first handset to run Android 2.0 (dubbed “Eclair”), which includes new features such as a combined inbox for multiple email accounts, a virtual keyboard with improved layout and word completion, and “Quick Contact,” which enables a user to call, email or send an SMS simply by clicking on a contact or photo.

Whether the Cupertino gang has anything to fear in the Droid is a matter of some debate. But Motorola’s handset clearly has the firepower to move the needle in the fast-moving smartphone world, and I expect the gadget to sell very well this holiday season in the wake of Verizon’s marketing blitz.

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