What Makes a Droid a Droid? Verizon

Adam Dickter, newsfactor.com

What's the difference between a Droid and an Android phone? Is the former just an abbreviation for the latter?

Not exactly. Though all Droid phones are Android, not all Androids are Droids.

Confused? You're probably not the only one. As Verizon Wireless adds more of its exclusive, branded Droid phones to its smartphone lineup, there are bound to be some questions from buyers who don't follow the latest wireless industry news.

Droid Mania

The first Droid device, from Motorola, debuted in November 2009, widely seen as an answer to Apple's iPhone with a large touchscreen interface and fast processor. Then came HTC's Droid Incredible in April 2010, Motorola's Droid X in July 2010, and the Droid Pro in November.

The original Droid now has had two refreshes, and the Droid X and Droid Incredible each have had one. HTC's latest Incredible is no longer a Droid, now called the Incredible S.

The newest Droids on the block are Samsung's Droid Charge, released last May, and this week's Motorola Droid Bionic, both for Verizon's high-speed, long-term evolution network. That makes a total of ten Droid devices from three manufacturers. For each use of the name Droid, Verizon pays a license fee to Lucasfilm Ltd., for using a trademarked term for robot characters from the six "Star Wars" films.

All the devices run Google's Android operating system.

"The Droid brand is owned by Verizon Wireless and is reserved for premium devices that offer customers a superior experience, " said Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Raney.

So what makes a phone superior enough to be called a Droid?

"While we don't disclose the standards, all of the Droid-branded devices offer customers an experience unique to Verizon Wireless," Raney said.

Verizon offers several other Android phones that are not called Droid, including the flagship of the carrier's LTE fleet, HTC's Thunderbolt.

Comparing the new Bionic to the Thunderbolt may give some indication of superior specs that make a smartphone a Droid in Verizon's book.

Both gadgets have 4.3-inch displays, 8-megapixel cameras and a 1-GHz processor, but the Bionic has a dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM, compared with 768 MB of RAM for the Thunderbolt, which at $199 at Verizon is $100 cheaper than the Bionic.

Give and Take

Stacking up the $199 Droid 3, released in July against the Android-powered, non-Droid Samsung Continuum, released in November, the Droid has a dual-core, 1-GHz processor, 4-inch display, and an 8-megapixel rear camera with 0.3-megapixel front camera, while the Continuum has a single-core, 1-GHz processor, a 3.4-inch screen, and a 5-megapixel rear camera and no front-facing camera.

The Droid 3 has 512 MB of RAM, compared with the Continuum's 336. The Continuum, (currently only pre-owned models are for sale) does, however, boast a one-of-a-kind "ticker" screen for important updates such as weather, scores or Facebook statuses.

"They can't have everything to be a flagship device," said Ramon Llamas of IDC Research, who says the veneer eventually wears off trendy phones.

"A few years ago the Razor was the premium device that everyone lined up for. I don't know what strategy Verizon uses to decide what does and doesn't fall into the Droid category, but there are some very good devices out there that are not Droids," Llamas said. "You have to stack them all head to head and see what the big differences are."