SCHAUMBURG, Ill. TheStreet) -- Motorola ( MOT) says it will lift the curtain on its Google ( GOOG) Android phones Sept. 10 at a media event in San Francisco, but don't expect to see telco partner Verizon on the stage. A Verizon representative says the company is not part of the Motorola event and added that he did not know what Motorola was announcing. Adding to the mystery, a Motorola rep said the company will announce its phone company partners at the event. The Verizon no-show will come as a slight shock to those Motorola watchers who expected to hear details about the Android phone headed to the No. 1 wireless carrier. As TheStreet reported last month, Motorola will introduce two Android phones, one for Deutsche Telekom's ( DT) T-Mobile and one, according to a source close to the company, for Verizon ( VZ) in October. The confusion going into the event adds extra drama to what is already billed as a defining moment in Motorola's long awaited comeback.
The September Android unveiling puts Motorola on track to reach its goal of having phones available for the holiday season. More important, perhaps, is that it gives investors slightly more confidence that the tech titan is closer to regaining some footing after stumbling for five years since the fall of the Razr phone. The phone headed to Verizon, dubbed Sholes, is expected to have a big touchscreen, a slide-out Qwerty keypad, a 5-megapixel camera and possibly WiFi -- which would be a big departure for Verizon.
Thanks to co-CEO Sanjay Jha's bold bet, the success of Motorola's mobile device business hangs on the Android effort. If the company can deliver all the features expected, on time, to a telco at a price below $200, it should give consumers a strong alternative to the popular Apple ( AAPL) iPhone and Research In Motion's ( RIMM) BlackBerry. "Motorola's new handsets and strategy will be an important first step in gauging whether the company is headed in the right direction and how it may change the competitive landscape," UBS analyst Maynard Um wrote in a research note Wednesday. Motorola shares are up 70% this year in anticipation of the troubled phone unit regaining some of its lost luster. However, as Palm's ( PALM) story has shown, it takes more than one phone to turn fortunes around. Palm sprang back to life on the introduction of the Pre phone and its WebOS software. But staying alive in a fiercely competitive market, facing formidable financial challenges, is the real battle. Not having a big partner like Verizon on board early is a somewhat troubling start to this adventure. Written by Scott Moritz in New York.