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Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) is kicking off its Android efforts in big style. The first Verizon phone running the software that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) built will reportedly be a Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) design that's raising eyebrows around the industry.
The Motorola Droid seems to be set for release at the end of October or early November, and Verizon is spending freely to promote the launch with prime-time ad spots in baseball playoff games. The first ad is nothing less than a direct assault on the Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone, pointing out the iPhone's perceived and proven shortcomings while illustrating how the Droid can do it better.
Them's fightin' words, but early hands-on reports on the Droid (a.k.a. the Motorola Sholes or Tao) position the new device as a realistic challenger to the iPhone. The Droid seems like it can walk the talk. Motorola, Google, and Verizon reportedly worked hand-in-hand-in-hand to spit-shine this phone, and the product matches the iPhone feature by feature.
The Droid is rumored to use a powerful Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN ) chip that's just as fast as the iPhone's processor, and is significantly faster than the Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM ) chip inside older Android models. The slide-out physical keyboard complements Android's standard touchscreen keys, but the Droid still comes in a svelte, sleek design that puts the bulky T-Mobile G1 and others to shame. And the 5-megapixel camera comes with a flash that the iPhones sorely lack. All told, I can't wait to see one of these beasts in person.
Verizon hurls verbal barbs like "iDon't allow open development" and "iDon't take night shots" at the iPhone. That's not something you'd do to a future partner, right? I guess the iPhone isn't coming to Verizon Wireless anytime soon, then (though lesser lights like T-Mobile still might show up in an Apple store near you).
What's abundantly clear is that the Android is coming of age right now. Recently announced models like the Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Cliq, and HTC Hero all look like serious products with distinctive advantages over both older Androids and the iPhone. But none have drawn the pre-release praise that the Droid is getting. "Just about anyone who has come in contact with the phone can't stop talking about it," says industry observer TechCrunch, and "they have good reason." And it will connect to the Verizon network, removing what many feel is the weakest link in Apple's chain: slow and/or unreliable data connections on the AT&T (NYSE: T ) network.
The battle lines have been drawn. Would you buy a Motorola iPhone-clone if it came with Verizon's network and Google's software? Share your thoughts below. You'll be able to vote with your wallet in just a couple of weeks.