By October 2009 the Android operating system had been around for just over a year, and devices were beginning to get more common. However, version one of Android had quite a few rough edges both in terms of the user interface and the hardware it could support.
But Google and Motorola were working on a significant improvement, and the Motorola DROID was the world’s first Android 2.0 handset to market exclusively on the Verizon CDMA network, followed rapidly by a worldwide GSM version called the Motorola Milestone. A huge improvement over every rival Android smartphone, the DROID / Milestone showed the Motorola was a force to be reckoned with.
Compared with the rival iPhone 3GS, the Motorola had a much better screen and camera, turn-by-turn navigation, expandable memory, support for Adobe Flash and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard which was certainly useful but did add to the bulk.
The DROID / Milestone was almost definitely the most capable smartphone of any type on the market at the time. But in terms of sales, the device only made a modest impact. In the US the DROID was exclusive to the Verizon network, and went head-to-head with the iPhone on AT&T… in other words, to use the DROID you either had to be an existing Verizon customer or you had to switch networks.
Elsewhere in the world, Motorola had a more serious problem. Years of decline and unappealing handsets meant that many carriers no longer had a relationship with Motorola to speak of – this meant that Moto had an uphill struggle to get any carriers at all to pick it up. As a result most of the worldwide sales were for SIM-free units – a niche market at best, given a price tag of about €500.
Today the Motorola Milestone (A853) is a very rare thing to find, the Motorola DROID (A855) is much more common and is very cheap. As far as Motorola smartphones go, this is probably one of the most collectable and technologically it is certainly one of the most significant early Android devices.
Image credits: Motorola and Retromobe