Thanks to Google’s and Motorola’s Droid, Verizon opens up


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Verizon Wireless opened up to us.

Verizon Communications Inc. and Motorola Inc. proudly and excitedly showed off their new Droid smart phone in a meeting Wednesday afternoon.

First impression: The device is fast, powerful, fully featured and well-designed -- a combination of adjectives we’ve never used for a Verizon cellphone.


When was the last time a Verizon phone got this much hype? The BlackBerry Storm? Ouch.

Yet, one is coming on Nov. 6, and it has a good chance of living up to the hype. A phone with Google’s fast-improving Android operating system, a 5-megapixel camera with a flash and digital zoom, a well-implemented touch screen and a slide-out keyboard.

Despite the Verizon check-mark logo branded on the device, the $200 Droid is all Google inside -- and a little Motorola. The handset manufacturer added some features on top of the Android 2.0 open-source system.

‘That’s really what open source is all about,’ said Paul Nicholson, Motorola’s global marketing director. ‘You can layer on top of it.’

For years, Verizon had this habit of stripping out good features and software from phones it carried in exchange for a clunky proprietary system. Motorola knows what we’re talking about.

We won’t miss the hideous red menus, the crippled Bluetooth functionality, or the Get It Now download service or Verizon App Store or whatever they’re calling it now. This was a company that just months ago head-butted its way onto Verizon’s BlackBerry devices with a separate app store to compete with the one that the phones already had.

Verizon spokesman Ken Muche said the company has no plans to make its own app store for Android -- another platform that already has one, called Market. Good idea.

The Droid’s App Store does have a Verizon tab, which contains a Visual Voicemail app.

But all of those little Verizon injections added up to potential revenue in the past.

A lack of Bluetooth transfers on some phones meant you might have to pay a fee to move contacts between devices. Controlling apps meant Verizon could potentially profit from selling software as an intermediary. Keeping GPS software off phones meant a monthly fee could be charged for navigation service.

So much for that.

‘If you want total customization, you can go this route,’ Muche said. Of course, if you’d rather have big red buttons, there’s a phone for that.

Granted, Verizon had been loosening up recently with its lineup of dull (but no red menus) smart phones. With this phone, Verizon seems to be sincerely facing facts and stepping back from the software game. And there’s another Verizon Droid phone on the way? Has Verizon been taken over by robots?

Wait a minute. Is Google taking over the world?

Muche and Nicholson laughed uncomfortably at the question. After a brief awkward silence, Nicholson chimed in, ‘You either join or you don’t.’

We’ll have a full review in the coming weeks and a verdict on whether we’re joining the rise of the machines.

-- Mark Milian