Motorola Droid Met With Sleepy Reception

(Update includes analyst comment)

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Verizon ( VZ) and Motorola's ( MOT) Droid phone sales are off to a less than auspicious start.

The Google ( GOOG) Android-powered phone went on sale early Friday and if Manhattan stores were any gauge, the opening hours didn't exactly show a stampede of demand.

At the Verizon store in Lower Manhattan, there were no lines and about 30 people in the store at 7:30 a.m. A store employee said there were plenty of Droids available. Asked if that meant there were 100 available, the employee said, "about that many."

Calls to Verizon stores in Midtown and Upper East Side stores showed similar supplies. An employee at the 6th Avenue store said there were no lines when the store opened and that more than 20, but less than 100 Droid phones were available. At a 3rd Avenue Verizon store an employee said there were "a hundred at least" Droid phones available and that there were no lines when the store opened.

A Lot on the Line

The sleek, $200 touchscreen device is expected to be a strong contender against AT&T's ( T) Apple ( AAPL) iPhone during the all-important holiday season. Motorola needs its flagship phone to be a major success if it has any hope of a turnaround for its fallen phone business.

In its biggest marketing effort ever, Verizon is positioning the Droid as its top offering of the season and a much needed alternative for customers who envy the iPhone. Motorola needs to sell a half million phones this weekend to match the iPhone's most recent splash.
Lower Manhattan 7:30am Friday Nov.6 taken by Droid phone.

The dim dawn of the Droid in New York would be consistent with the reception of other Android devices recently in Europe, says MKM Partners analyst Tero Kuittinen. "It's hard out there for a new operating system, even if it's good," Kuittinen says."The consumers don't seem as enthusiastic as tech bloggers."

The sleepy Manhattan reception Friday morning may be due to a special midnight Droid sale at Verizon's Herald Square store where 500 phones were available for two hours.

Early reviews of the Driod phone have been largely favorable. The design seems to be pleasing to men more than women, and its Web browser and free navigation application are a big plus.

Other aspects of the phone, however, have to be counted as demerits. See the blurry photo taken with Droid's disappointing 5-megapixel camera outside the Verizon store at the intersection of Water and Wall Street in Manhattan.

And while Gmail works seamlessly, not one but two Droid phones failed to work with TheStreet's Microsoft Exchange email system -- even with the help of a Motorola product manager.

The phone packs a lot of speed and processing power, but average users will likely find all the not-so-intuitive menus a little complicated to use.

It is still early, but it is looking like the Droid may suffer the same fate Research In Motion's ( RIMM) BlackBerry Storm encountered a year ago. The touchscreen Storm was praised in early reviews, but users found it buggy and difficult to use.

The Storm2 coming to Verizon this month, is expected to have improved on the original's shortcomings.

Motorola can't afford to wait a year for a new improved Droid.

-- Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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