Friday, June 24, 2011

Verizon Droid 3 Rumor Roundup: A Look Beneath the Speculation


COMMENTARY | It's on its way! The Droid 3 has just been unveiled in China, and it's already gotten cleared by the FCC here in the States. And while the Chinese will have to wait till this fall to buy it, word on the street has it that we'll get the Droid 3 July 7. (UK Android fans, unfortunately, may not see it at all.)

So what is this little smartphone that's got so many people excited?

The next generation of Droid

The Droid series is Verizon's flagship line of Android smartphones. And while Verizon has introduced a whole slew of alternate Droid models, like the Droid Pro and HTC's Droid Incredible, the premiere Droid itself has seen only one direct sequel: the Droid 2.

The Droid 3 is apparently returning to the phone's roots. It's made by Motorola, the same company that made the original Droid and Droid 2, and it looks like a sleek, stylish version of the original Droid. It'll even have the first Droid's slide-out hardware keyboard (although it hopefully won't have the first Droid's battery cover problem).

Added on are a front-facing camera for video chat and an HDMI port for outputting video to an HDTV. Perhaps, unfortunately, missing is the small touchpad that used to let you position the cursor for editing text.

Does it live up to the original?

The bad news about the Droid 3 is its "puny amount of RAM" and its Pentile qHD display. As the Android Police blog explains, the new display looks extremely fuzzy, displaying yellow and green colors improperly. And while it's got more RAM than my HTC Aria, that's not saying much; the Droid 3's 512 MB is distinctly "2010-esque," and may slow down your phone when you switch between apps or web pages.

On the bright side

The new dual-core processor is the same kind used in the BlackBerry PlayBook, and absolutely destroys the records set by the last generation of smartphones. Benchmarks show it performing significantly better than last year's Nexus One, Droid X, and the HTC Evo. It will also supposedly be able to take 8 megapixel still photos and record 1080p video.

No pricing data have yet been released, but given that it's a top-tier Android smartphone from Verizon, the Droid 3 will probably cost $199.

And on the down side

If the Droid 3 will release July 7, that will coincide with the introduction of new tiered data plans from Verizon, which will replace the company's old unlimited data plans with limited, much more expensive ones. The $30 that used to get you unlimited data, for instance, will only buy you 2 GB per month afterward. Furthermore, the Droid 3 isn't expected to have 4G LTE capability.

The Upshot

With the iPhone 5 rumored to be on its way, it may be best to wait and see what Apple's new smartphone is like before committing to a Droid 3. And with other Android phones out now with more RAM and better displays, this might be one Droid to pass by.

We don't know for sure what it will be like yet, though. That's the nature of rumors.

Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.

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