5 Surprises on Droid Launch Day

The aspiring "iPhone Killer" hits stores across America, charming, vexing and impressing observers

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The wait for the Droid is finally over. The latest challenger to the iPhone hit stores on November 6 riding a wave of positive press and buoyed by an imaginative national advertising campaign. Tech-bloggers have already pored over the phone, analyzing its every feature and offering speculation on the business implications for manufacturer Motorola and exclusive carrier Verizon. Still, on launch day some bloggers were taken aback by events and features they had not anticipated. The Wire rounds up the top five:

  • Heavy Excitement But Light Lines  Various tech columnists are following the debut of the Droid in Verizon stores across America, and nearly all are repeating the same observation: Droid is generating lines of eager buyers, but the lines aren't very long, noticeably shorter than the ones that congregated outside Apple stores for the iPhone launch. Electronista theorizes that could be explained by the multitude of pricing options and retail locations for Droid: "Verizon is selling the phone through its online store and applies an immediate $100 discount there while requiring that in-store buyers wait for a $100 mail-in rebate. Third-party chain stores are also undercutting Verizon's own price. Best Buy sells the Droid for $200 without requiring a rebate, while Walmart has been selling the phone for $188…Apple is helped by asking for a similar price in-store as online and through a process that potentially streamlines retail purchases."
  • Sears Sells Droid? And Cheaper Too? Engadget's Chris Ziegler is astonished and delighted to learn that the historic department store carries the Droid online, and for $50 cheaper than anywhere else. He can't vouch for the customer experience, but says that in the end, Sears is the place to go: "We don't know how good these guys are with customer service (Simplexity is running the store on Sears' behalf, it seems), but truth be told, we can deal with a little incompetency for $50."
  • Motorola's Missing Out GigaOm's Colin Gibbs observes, noting that Droid's manufacturer isn't basking in the spotlight of its newest product. Instead, people have heard about Verizon, the exclusive wireless carrier, which doesn't bode well for Motorola's plan to revitalize its limp brand name. As he explains: "Indeed, Motorola wisely joined the Android bandwagon ahead of some of its competitors, and it appears to have produced a compelling handset at a competitive price. Just as importantly, it is benefiting from a big-budget marketing campaign backed by the nation’s largest carrier. But that campaign is focused entirely on Verizon Wireless and its Droid initiative — not on Motorola or any other manufacturer. For Motorola to fully leverage the momentum it’s gaining from the launch of the Droid, it should produce its own marketing campaign to push its suddenly hot brand — just as HTC is doing with its compelling 'You' campaign."
  • Dual Droids  As Andrew LaVallee points out in the Wall Street Journal, prospective Droid buyers will actually have two options to choose from: the Motorola Droid, which has been covered and hyped by tech blogs for months, and the HTC Droid Eris, which has enjoyed significantly less publicity, only recently coming to the attention of tech bloggers. LaVallee wonders if launching the smaller, keyboard free Droid Eris at the same time as its larger sibling is really the best idea: "Until today, the question was whether the Droid (back then you didn’t have to specify the manufacturer) could challenge the iPhone. But now gadget reviewers are already comparing Droid phones to each other, and some have noted that the similar names could get confusing."
  • Tethering Too Pricey  At PCWorld, Tony Bradley welcomes the fact that unlike the iPhone, the Droid offers tethering, the ability to turn the phone into an Internet connection for laptops and other mobile devices. However, he is dismayed at the price of the service ($30 a month for 5GB worth of data transmission), arguing that it will kill some business:  "Verizon seems to be doing everything it can to make the Droid as unappealing as possible by nickel and diming customers so that actually using it is not cost-effective."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.