Verizon's Droid Launch: It's No iPhone

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The Motorola Droid won't be "killing" the iPhone in Boston anytime soon.

The around-the-block lines we're used to seeing during major smartphone launches were absent from the Boylston Street Verizon Wireless store in Boston Friday morning, as only around 20 people were standing outside waiting to get a first glimpse of Verizon's first-ever Android-based smartphone.

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Store manager Jake Russell said that while there had been solid customer interest about the Droid so far Friday, it hadn't approached the initial interest generated over the past couple of years for smartphones such as the BlackBerry Storm.

"Our marketing campaign has generated a lot of buzz on the Internet for the Droid, but it's only really started going the last two weeks," he said. "With the Storm launch, there was more marketing and hype spread out over a longer period, whereas the Droid just came up over the last month."

Even so, Russell said he expects the Droid to have a bigger impact in the long run as more people use the device and spread the word about its features.

"Google's operating system is open, so it gives customers a lot of flexibility as far as how they set up their phones," he said. "The initial launch today seems softer, but it will have more of a long-term impact."

The device received generally positive reviews from customers who tried it out in the Verizon store Friday morning. Mark MacIntosh, a Boston resident who is a mobile user experience designer and who works with several different smartphones, praised the Android operating system and said that he was interested in the Droid because he was looking for a device that delivers a comparable experience to the iPhone over Verizon's network.

"I'm a Verizon customer and I like their service but they haven't had a premiere device yet," MacIntosh said, adding that he bought a BlackBerry Storm last year and returned it due to "poor user experience." "Android devices in general are pretty slick. The iPhone is still the best experience overall, but AT&T's service is horrible," he said.

In the end, MacIntosh was impressed enough with the Droid to buy the device. However, not all customers in the Boston store were instant converts. Greg, a Cambridge resident and iPhone user who did not wish to be identified by his full name, said that while the Droid had much to recommend it wouldn't make him switch from the iPhone.

"I didn't like the keyboard [on the Droid] and the touchscreen is a little slower than with the iPhone," he said. "Android 2.0 is a nice operating system, but the iPhone is still more intuitive."

He also said that the Droid did a better job of letting him multitask than the iPhone, which automatically closes down applications when users switch on new ones. He also said that Verizon's service was better than AT&T's but that that alone was not enough reason for him to change phones.

"I would not switch to the Droid," he said. "While I always like to see what other smartphones are available, I always like the iPhone better."

This story, "Verizon's Droid Launch: It's No iPhone" was originally published by Network World.

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