Verizon officially unveiled its latest Droid smartphone this afternoon, the Droid X from Motorola, running Google's Android 2.1 mobile OS (with an upgrade to Android 2.2 planned for later this summer). I've been following coverage this afternoon, and aside from all of the other cool new features, what resounds most for me is how video-focused the device is, and how strongly Verizon will be promoting this.
I've previously said that video would move to the forefront of the ferocious smartphone battle underway between Google (with Android) and Apple (with the iPhone). With the Droid X launch, and the recent HTC Evo from Sprint (which I've been testing and will report on next week), plus numerous others to follow, I'm convinced that we are now getting into the thick of things.
From what I've read about the Droid X, there are 3 dimensions of the video proposition, each of which stacks up differently with the iPhone 4: (1) shooting video, in 720p HD, (2) watching video on the device's 4.3 inch 854 x 480 resolution screen, and (3) connecting the device via DLNA over a home network or via an HDMI-out port to your widescreen TV.
The first two propositions seem about on par with the iPhone 4, which also allows you to shoot in 720p, (and with the new iMovie app allows on-board video editing, for those so inclined). Regarding screen quality, Steve Jobs made a big deal about the iPhone's new "Retina display" which Apple believes is the highest resolution smartphone available. Without having seen a side-by-side it's hard to assess how the Droid X compares, but no doubt they are both impressive.
That leaves the ability to output to TVs, plus ready access to video services themselves (e.g. VCAST, Blockbuster, etc.) as one of the key video differentiators for the Droid X. I recently wrote about the concept of a smartphone as a "mobile set-top box" and I think this is an intriguing though still nascent concept, which could provide a meaningful opening for the Droid X and the Evo vs. the iPhone 4. Both of these Android devices provide the flexibility, particularly when traveling or on-the-go to watch premium video on the big screen, without the dock that the iPhone requires. Plus, with Android 2.2 supporting Flash 10.1, the sheer range of video immediately available to Droid X or Evo users swamps the iPhone 4's (at least for now, pending HTML5's proliferation).
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that both Verizon and Sprint are maintaining their unlimited data plans (the latter for an incremental charge) that separate them from AT&T's recently imposed cap. Aside from all of the above, of course there's quality. If video won't playback well, the device may be super-cool, but crappy network delivery will tank the experience.
It's still very early days for mobile video consumption, but these new Android devices appear certain to both fuel higher usage and also add another new wrinkle to the iPhone battle.
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Categories: Mobile Video