Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Motorola just announced two new Android smartphones exclusive to Big Red's network. The Droid Turbo 2 and Droid Maxx 2 could steal sales from other smartphone vendors, particularly Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF).
Customized and shatterproof
Of the two devices, the Droid Turbo 2 is more intriguing. Like its predecessor, last year's Droid Turbo, it's a modified version of Motorola's current flagship, the Moto X. Compared to that phone, it has a faster processor and much larger battery.
Its display is slightly smaller -- around 5.4 inches compared to the Moto X's 5.7 inches, but it could be the device's biggest selling point. Smartphone displays have come a long way in recent years, but they remain vulnerable. Accident protection plans, cases, and insurance policies can provide peace of mind, but they cost extra and aren't perfect solutions. The Droid Turbo 2, however, comes remarkably close. Billed as "shatterproof," the display is extremely resilient. In a hands-on test, CNN Money found that the phone could withstand repeated drops on the pavement, horse hooves, and even being run over by a bicycle. Consumers who've had to suffer with a cracked display could find the feature invaluable.
Verizon has also increased the appeal of the phone by giving buyers the ability to customize its look through Motorola's Moto Maker program. Last year's Droid Turbo was available in a handful of different colors, but its aggressive nylon backing garnered widespread criticism. The Verge described it as "ugly." The Moto X is available in a wide variety of colors and textures (including real wood and leather), and giving the Droid Turbo 2 similar treatment could win over those who don't care for its styling. Those who spring for the more expensive, 64GB model can -- if they regret their decision -- redesign their phone once after the initial purchase.
Verizon also announced a successor to its Droid Maxx, the 2013 smartphone that offered unparalleled battery life. The Droid Maxx 2 is the Moto X Play rebranded for Verizon's network. The Moto X Play is a cheaper version of the Moto X with a particularly large battery and lower resolution display. It's available in some international markets, but to date, it hasn't been released stateside. It's a mid-range phone, but an attractive one.
No. 4 with 5%
Unfortunately, Verizon doesn't disclose exact sales figures for its Droid handsets, and Motorola (now owned by Lenovo) doesn't disclose the popularity of its individual models. But Motorola's share of the U.S. smartphone market has hovered around 5% in recent months, according to research company comScore. In July, 4.9% of U.S. smartphone owners were using a Motorola-made handset, putting it in fourth place. In comparison, Samsung -- at No. 2 -- captured 27.3% of the market.
Demand for Droid handsets is obviously limited by their Verizon exclusivity. Verizon remains a top carrier in the U.S., but there are tens of millions of subscribers on other carriers that can't use a Droid phone even if they wanted to. Still, these new Droids could provide tough competition for other handset vendors. Samsung in particular could be most exposed. Like Samsung's Galaxy flagships, Droid smartphones use the Android operating system.
Samsung's earnings and smartphone sales have dipped in recent quarters as increasingly brutal competition has taken a toll on the demand for Samsung's Galaxy handsets. The Korean tech giant is an enormous company, and it sells handsets in many countries -- a single phone exclusive to Verizon isn't going to devastate Samsung's sales.
But it does highlight the continued challenges that face its mobile business. Given that they rely on the same mobile ecosystem, it's easy to switch from a Samsung Galaxy to a Droid -- purchased apps and media carry over easily. Last year's Droid Turbo was a smaller phone than Samsung's competing Galaxy Note 4, but this year's model, with a larger display, could be -- for Verizon subscribers -- the most appealing alternative to Samsung's Galaxy Note 5.
Verizon's Droids will enter a downright crowded smartphone market, but they could win over buyers this holiday shopping season.
Sam Mattera has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Verizon Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.