It was just a month ago that Motorola's Droid emerged as the best-equipped competitor to Apple's popular iPhone, but another HTC phone is reportedly waiting in the wings to best them both.
The HTC Dragon, also known as the Passion, is rumored to be in the palms and pockets of "senior Android guys at Google," reports Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, undergoing testing and poised to make a run at the smartphone throne, or so us reporters would like to think.
The phone reportedly has only a virtual keyboard, will be solely branded as a "Google phone," carries a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processor, sports a 4.3-inch (480x800) capacitive display and a lithe silhouette.
I'll let Arrington crank the hype machine by himself, but there are a few points to make about such a device.
The first is that it's no surprise that the phone is coming from HTC. The Taiwanese company was the first to put a Google Android-based smartphone on the market with the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream), and now that Motorola's successful Droid has emerged as a household name (due, in part, to Verizon's massive marketing campaign), HTC's probably feeling a bit burnt that it's paved the way for Android success (G1, myTouch3G, Hero, Droid Eris, etc.) but hasn't really seen a ton of handsets move off the shelves.
Second, it's no surprise that the phone doesn't have a physical keyboard. When Motorola launched the Droid, I thought the keyboard was unnecessary for the general market. Folks have generally liked the HTC Hero on Sprint (and Droid Eris on Verizon), which does not have a physical keyboard, but that phone uses an older, slower processor. If the rumored features are true, the HTC Dragon phone competes more directly with the iPhone than the Droid ever did.
Third, it's unclear which carrier the phone might land on. That's a business decision not to be taken lightly, as part of the reason the Droid and iPhone are so successful is because they're on the nation's two largest carriers.
Fourth, this phone denotes continued increased involvement from Google. The first crop of Google phones were deployed without much apparent involvement from Google; the folks at Verizon were very keen on noting that the Droid was very much a three-way collaboration between them, Motorola and Google.
Fifth, I don't see the sense in branding the phone with the Google moniker. To most people, Google is still primarily a search and online services company, and it's a bit jarring to have such outward branding for the company.
Similarly, I don't understand the business decision. I can see the sense in aiming to more tightly associate Google Android phones as a family, but that's not really happening across the board: some phones are branded by company (HTC), some by carrier (T-Mobile) and some now by platform (Google). I don't really understand the companies' strategy here, and it only serves to confuse the consumer further as manufacturers such as HTC, Motorola and Sony Ericsson skin Android to suit their needs.
Finally, it saddens me a bit that the Dragon is already being seen as the third of the "Big 3," when the Palm Pre was supposed to fill that void. I'm still looking toward Palm because I believe in the company's innovation, but I do think the company needs to get its corporate act together before another Android phone usurps its potential audience.
Arrington reports that Google is "planning a big advertising push around the device early next year," with January 2010 as the target. I'm confident that will help get the phone into people's hands, but hurdles still remain on the carriers' part to get consumers ready to spend more on their mobile phone.