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Buzz exploded this weekend over Verizon’s entry into the smartphone wars, the Droid. Expected to go on the market in November, the phone boasts some impressive features, including a five-megapixel camera, and version 2.0 of Google’s Android operating system (more images here).

Most attention so far has focused on Verizon’s potshots against Apple’s iPhone. Ads for the Droid criticize the iPhone’s batteries (which the user can’t easily change), the lack of open development, and the inability to run simultaneous apps. Some have noted that average users probably aren’t going to understand or care about many of these points, and I agree.

But if Verizon doesn’t botch the launch of this new phone with its incomprehensible ad campaign, I think it could lead to the first real test of what a smartphone can do. The iPhone has already changed users’ behavior and vastly increased expectations. AT&T’s network, however, has been creaking under the strain. T-Mobile has made a real effort to get out ahead with Android support, but it also lacks the network to really draw users.

For a while, it’s seemed strange to me that Verizon could spend billions of dollars building up its network, even though it hadn’t yet launched a really exciting smartphone. By all accounts, the Droid looks like a strong entry, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens when a great device is backed by such a network.

If the Droid launch goes well for Verizon, it’ll give a big boost to Android. There are currently about 10,000 apps in the Android Market, compared with some 85,000 in the iPhone App Store. I think the Android Market is behind partly because there’s been no single device to serve as a flagship attracting developers (I don’t think T-Mobile’s G1 had enough cachet to serve in this role). With strong backing from Verizon, the Droid could give Android the recognizable and attractive face it needs to really take off.

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Tagged: Communications, iPhone, Android, cell phones, networks, Verizon, Droid

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