T-Mobile has the Samsung Vibrant smartphone (granted, soon all carriers will). Sprint has the HTC EVO 4G. Now Verizon is keeping up with the Jones and unleashing another high end Android 2.2 smartphone to the masses. The new phone is the Droid 2 from Motorola. It's pretty much been the worst kept secret in the world, as smartphones often are. To recap what was previously known and now confirmed, the phone packs a 3.7-inch color touchscreen, slide-out keyboard, 3G hotspot/tethering capability, 8 GB of build in flash memory, an SD expansion capable of holding up to a 32 GB card, a 5 MP camera capable of "DVD-quality" video, and Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) connectivity to share pics and movies. The phone runs on Android 2.2, which features a Davlik JIT compiler and Flash 10.1, among other improvements. A handful of details remain unconfirmed -- processor speed (rumored to be 1 GHz) and the amount of memory (rumored to be 512 MB). The phone goes on pre-order tomorrow, August 11 for $199.99 for customers with new contracts or full upgrade privileges. It will hit stores August 12 -- this Thursday. Customers can opt to purchase Verizon's 3G Mobile HotSpot service for $20/month. The service allows up to 5 devices to connect via Wi-Fi to the phone's hotspot. Just beware -- Verizon has a 5 GB monthly data cap and tethering will rapidly drain your battery. Talk/text plans for the phone start at $39.99 and the email/web data plans start at $29.99, so you will pay a base rate of at least $69.98 monthly with the Droid 2, before taxes and fees are tacked on. Some may not know it but Verizon licenses the "Droid" trademark from George Lucas's production company Lucasfilm. Verizon officially embraced that tie for the first time, announcing a limited edition R2-D2 phone. Verizon writes in the press release:
In honor of the iconic Astromech Droid from the Star Wars™ Saga, Verizon Wireless will offer a limited-edition R2-D2 version of the DROID 2, available only online in September. The special version of the phone will feature exclusive Star Wars content and external hardware designed to look like the trusty Droid from the film saga. Visitors to the upcoming Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, Fla., can see a preview of the limited edition phone and sign up to receive alerts when the phone is ready for sale.
Features-wise the phone seems to fall a bit short of the $199.99 (with contract) Droid X, also by Motorola, which packs a 8 MP camera, 4.3-inch screen, and otherwise similar stats. The only downsides are that the Droid X is keyboard-less and won't get Android 2.2 until September. The HTC Incredible also seemingly packs a superior camera to the Droid 2, weighing in at 8 MP (it has a similar 3.7-inch screen size). Of course, as the iPhone 4 shows, the megapixel count isn't always telling of image quality, a lot of it is the image processing hardware and physical size of the sensor. And the HTC phone's 1 GHz Snapdragon processor is generally slower than the 1 GHz OMAP processor the Droid 2 is rumored to have. Regardless of the outstanding details -- the camera, the processor, and the memory -- the Droid 2 seems destined to be among Verizon's high end Android handsets. It cements the company's firm commitment to Android as the smartphone leader of the future.
quote: George Lucas has acknowledged the influence of The Hidden Fortress on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, particularly in the technique of telling the story from the points of view of the film's lowliest characters, C-3PO and R2-D2. Kurosawa's use of frame wipes (sometimes cleverly hidden by motion within the frame) as a transition device also influenced Star Wars.