At long last, the wait is finally over for Motorola Droid owners. Starting today, Verizon said it has begun rolling out the Android 2.1 update. Earlier this month, Droid owners were left in the dark as to when the update would ship, with Verizon only saying "TBD."
Android 2.1 introduces a bevy of enhancements, some of which include:
Support for Yahoo Mail
Pinch to Zoom support in the Browser, Maps, and Gallery
Speech-to-Text in text entry boxes
Google Googles comes preloaded
New Gallery with 3D layout
Verizon has broken the rollout into different segments, sending it to 1,000 Droid owners at noon and then 9,000 at 11:59PM. After that, there will be a 24-hour period when no additional upgrades will be delivered. On April 1, 200,000 users will receive the update, Verizon said, and the schedule will continue each day thereafter until all Droid users have received it.
With the acquisition of Nextel, Sprint knows a thing or two about push-to-talk phones, and in a joint press release with Motorola, the two companies have announced the Motorola i1, the world's first push-to-talk Android-powered smartphone.
"Motorola remains focused on delivering differentiated Android experiences within our product portfolio," said Mark Shockley, senior vice president, Motorola Mobile Devices. "With the Motorola i1, we're excited to offer iDEN users the opportunity to enjoy a feature-rich smartphone with push-to-talk, whether its for work or play."
The Motorola i1 shows who is calling no matter what application you're in, whether you're checking email or viewing media. It's also pretty rugged, and according to Motorola, meets military specifications for dust, shock, vibration, and blowing rain.
Other features include a 3.1-inch touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Opera Mini 5 browser, and a 5MP camera with flash, geo-tagging, and panoramic capabilities.
There's no crying in baseball, but there's plenty of boo-hooing in Silicon Valley. The latest sobs come from Jon Rubinstein, CEO of Palm, who's having a tough time accepting that Motorola's Droid won the foot race into Verizon.
"If we could have launched at Verizon prior to the Droid, I think we would have gotten the attention the Droid got. And since I believe we have a better product, I think we could have even done better," Rubinstein laments.
Maybe, maybe not. By the time Droid came to market, the Palm Pre had already been available for four months, and it's probably not fair to cast the blame on Sprint, the Pre's exclusive launch partner and th reason why Palm wasn't available in Verizon stores.
Rubinstein might also be underestimating a little freight train called Android, currently the fastest growing OS on the market. Whether the Pre could have made it into Verizon first or not, it's hard to imagine that the Droid wouldn't have been popular either way.
Good news for those of you who are fans of Motorola's Backflip and its somewhat funky form factor. AT&T now offers the backward flipping smartphone for $99 through its website.
There are a couple of caveats, of course. To get below the $100 price point, you'll have to play the mail-in-rebate game, which comes in the form of an AT&T Promotion Card "valid wherever VIsa is accepted, and for 120 days after issue date." You'll also need to commit to a 2-year service agreement and $30 per month data service.
What you get in return is an Android 1.5-based smartphone capable of being upgraded to Android 2.1. The Backflip also sports a 5MP camera with 4X zoom, 3.1-inch touchscreen with a 480 x 320 resolution, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, GPS, a 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card expansion up to 32GB, and a 1380 mAh battery Motorola claims amounts to up to 6 hours of talk time and 13.5 days of standby.
Motorola’s Droid is full of firsts: It’s the first smartphone on Verizon powered by Google’s Android OS, it’s also the first Motorola smartphone to use Android, and it’s the first phone in the United States that ships with version 2.0 of the Android OS. Unfortunately for Motorola, all of the good news about the phone is centered on the OS, while any ill tidings regard the hardware.
There’s a lot to like about the latest version of the Android OS. The ability to leave frequently used applications running in the background is a welcome change for long-time iPhone users. Whether it’s a Twitter client, instant-messaging app, or simply your email, this is the Android OS’s main competitive advantage over Apple’s product. Of course, you shouldn’t discount the value of a powerful API that allows app developers to tightly integrate their offerings with the phone. For example, Android’s default Facebook app automatically adds information from your Facebook friends’ profiles to your Contacts list—including phone number, current email address, and even their profile picture. This type of integration makes services like Google Voice even more useful than they are on their own—if you install Google Voice on an Android phone, you can choose whether to use VoIP or cellular minutes on every call, pick which phone number your caller sees, and even manage calling groups on the phone. In that regard, Android really is a revolution.
Motorola is about to become two-faced, but not in a bad way. Targeting the first quarter of 2011, Motorola says it will split into two independent, publicly traded companies. One will continue to focus on mobile gadgets and home devices, while the other will take aim at the enterprise mobile market and network business.
"The combination of Mobile Devices and our Home business brings together two highly complementary and innovative organizations," said Dr. Sanjay Jha, co-chief executive officer of Motorola. "Together we will be best positioned to lead in the convergence of mobility, media, and the Internet. Our expanding portfolio of smartphones and end-to-end video content delivery capabilities will enable us to provide advanced mobile media solutions and multi-screen experiences for our customers."
The move has the full support of Motorola's board of directors, who sees this as beneficial to long-term shareholder value. Both ventures will use the Motorola brand, with the Mobile Devices and Home business unit owning the rights and licensing the brand royalty free to the Enterprise Mobility Solutions and Networks business.
Dumb phones may not yet be dead, but they are in the process of dying. Manufacturers who haven’t hitched themselves to smartphones are paying the price--it’s time to put-up or shut-up for them. Motorola, which has been struggling with sales of late, has decided to put-up, announcing plans to introduce 20 smartphones in 2010, including one “consumer device” it will produce with Google that will be sold directly to consumers.
The hot phones for the final quarter of 2009 were produced by Nokia and Apple--both saw a rise in market share--while Motorola’s share and revenue dropped. (No word yet on what happened for RIMM or Palm.) Motorola only managed $5.7 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter, a 20% decline from the fourth quarter of the previous year. The smartphone handwriting is clearly on the wall, as Motorola’s only bright spot was the sales of Android-powered smartphones, such as the Droid and the Cliq.
There are no other details, other than this admission by Motorola. What this new Google phone will look like, what it will do, what it will cost, or when it will be available are all unknowns.
Droid's impressive showing has revived Motorola's hopes of its halcyon days coming back. To say that Android rescued Motorola from the brink would be an understatement of Android's contribution and Motorola's woes. In fact, Motorola was already past the brink and was helplessly waiting for the earth below to put it out of its misery when the Droid plucked it out of thin air.
However, the company's faith in Android may not yield as much as it expects. Google's decision to confront the Chinese government could not have come at a worse time for Motorola. The mobile phone maker hopes to make serious inroads into the lucrative Chinese smartphone market with Android-based offerings. But Google's latest decision to postpone the China launch of two Android phones, including one from Motorola, has cast a gray cloud over its plans.
AT&T finally seems ready to admit that this whole Android thing isn’t just a flash in the pan. The carrier that brought you the iPhone will be launching five Android phones in the first half of 2010. The announcement was a bit short on details, but there were some clues as to which handsets to expect.
AT&T plans to offer a Motorola handset with a “unique form factor”. This can only be the Moto Backflip we told you about recently. This phone is “blessed” with an awkward looking reverse clamshell design and a lack of Google apps (in the prerelease version at least). The announcement also said Dell’s first smartphone would be coming to the network. That clearly means a version of the Mini 3i with US 3G bands.
The remaining phones are to be HTC devices. No details on what these might be. Knowing HTC’s penchant for repackaging the same hardware, these phones could end up being variations of the Hero. We may see some of the phones spied in the leaked roadmap from a few weeks back. Any AT&T customers planning to buy into the Android craze?
It looks like AT&T could finally be getting its first Android powered handset. While this may be good news for those on the network that have been hankering for some Android, there are some odd things going on here. The Motorola Backflip/Enzo (name still in question) eschews the hinge mechanism we’re all familiar with. It's basically backwards so that when closed, the back of the phone has the keyboard exposed.
The phone runs on Motorola’s MotoBlur implementation of Android 1.5 similar to the T-Mobile CLIQ. The phone will have a 3.1 inch capacitive display, Wi-Fi, 5MP camera, and that same old Qualcomm 528Mhz CPU. The camera is at one end of the keyboard and faces the user when the phone is open. There’s also apparently a touchpad on the back of the phone (opposite the keyboard) that can be used for no-look scrolling.
The Backflip/Enzo takes the inadvisable step of ditching most of the Google apps. That’s right; this Android phone looks like it will ship with no Gmail, Gtalk, or even Google Search. There is a Yahoo search widget in place of the standard Google one. In an almost complete disconnect from reality, a Google login is still required to use the phone. It’s also loaded down with the usual AT&T software. No word on pricing or release date yet.
So, can an Android phone succeed without all those Google apps? Check out more pics here.