Verizon Wireless is launching a new slate of Droid devices to beef up its 4G, long-term evolution device lineup, hoping to renew interest in smartphones that are not made by Samsung Electronics or Apple.
All three devices are made by Motorola Mobility, a subsidiary of Google, though in the past some Droid devices were also made by HTC and Samsung. Droid devices, first launched in late 2009, are made exclusively for Verizon Wireless and should not be confused with other devices powered by Google's Android operating system that carry the brand licensed from Star Wars creator George Lucas.
The newcomers are the Droid Mini, Droid Ultra and Droid Maxx, all available now for pre-order online. The Ultra and Maxx hit stores Aug. 20, and the Mini nine days later. All three contain the new home screen widget Droid Command Center, for easy access to notifications for texts, missed calls, level or weather. Also new, Wireless Display projects whatever's on your screen to a compatible high-definition TV.
Another cool added feature is Quick Capture, which activates the 10-megapixel rear camera with two shakes, with easy sharing through Droid Zap. New voice activation features allow you to turn on the phone by saying "OK Google Now."
Since Verizon no longer offers new non-LTE smartphones, that's a given on all devices. They ship with Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) and the size of the OLED screens varies. The Mini ($99.99 with a two-year voice and data plan) has a 4.3-inch HD display, while the Ultra ($199.99) has a 5-incher and comes in black and red. The Maxx ($299.99) features wireless charging and promises nearly two days of battery life on a single charge of its 3500mAh battery. All three are made with DuPont Kevlar fiber unibody, pack 1.7Ghz dual-core processors and 2 GB of RAM, and have 10-megapixel rear-facing and 2-megapixel front-facing cameras.
Android is the leading smartphone operating system in the world today, but that is largely because of Samsung, whose flagship devices like the Galaxy S 4 and Galaxy Note have propelled the South Korean giant to the top of the handset market, giving Apple's iPhone a run for its money.
Will the Droids Shine On?
Wireless carriers like to have the maximum number of options available for customers. The question is, can the Droid lineup get and keep consumers' interest?
"I would say that the Droid brand might have lost some of its shine compared to its first introduction," said wireless industry analyst Carolina Milanesi of Gartner Research.
"The high-end smartphone market today, especially in the U.S., is about two brands: Samsung and Apple. All the rest are fighting for the No. 3 spot, and Droid as a brand is no different," Milanesi told us. "Where Droid can help Verizon today is in filling the void left by brands such as HTC and LG."