The Motorola Droid 2 smartphone Droid 2, an Android smartphone, which Verizon Wireless put on sale on Thursday, is a prime example of how major U.S. wireless carriers are trying to broaden the appeal of smartphones to business users and consumers alike by offering devices that have both touchscreens and physical keyboards.
For its part, AT&T last week put on sale the new BlackBerry Torch 9800, which has a more traditional keyboard that slides out beneath a touchscreen. And on Aug. 31, Sprint will debut the Samsung Epic 4G, which features a horizontal slideout keyboard beneath a touchscreen. The Epic 4G will sell for $250, which is $50 more than the price of the Torch and Droid 2 after rebates.
[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Find out how the Droid 2 stacks up and see how the BlackBerry Torch and iPhone 4 compare feature by feature in InfoWorld's slideshow: "Mobile deathmatch: RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 vs. Apple iPhone 4, side by side." | Keep up on the latest in mobile developments with InfoWorld's Mobile Patrol blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]
"It is incumbent on carriers to offer alternatives to soft-keyboard-only devices like iPhone," said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates. "I think that is what you are seeing with Droid 2, Torch, Epic, etc. I am not at all surprised that carriers want to make sure they offer the maximum choice to provide optimum devices for their customers, particularly since they want to keep all customers happy and avoid churn."
To promote Droid 2's usefulness to business users, Verizon Wireless, Google, and phone maker Motorola have launched a slick TV ad called "Digits." The ad depicts a young worker in a board room flipping open a Droid 2's keyboard and then typing with robotic fingers at lightning speed on a "more intuitive keyboard" that transforms him "into an instrument of efficiency."
The Samsung Epic 4G smartphone
All of the major carriers have tried for years to develop a large portfolio of phones to appeal to different user groups. But with these three phones, they seem to be trying to fill a single device with enough features to address the widest range of user needs.
Among other things, they're acknowledging that the young people who have been such avid users of texting for the past several years are now out of college and in the work force.