Verizon Bionic Off to a Dampened Start

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The launch of Verizon's ( VZ) super-hot Motorola ( MMI) Droid Bionic phone got off to a cool and somewhat soggy start in lower Manhattan Thursday.

Maybe it was the drizzly weather, the soft economy -- or maybe a telling sign of a pre-iPhone 5 market -- but judging by one store at the corner of Wall Street, there wasn't a crowd lined up to greet the Bionic.

As the most recent in a line of muscular Google ( GOOG)Android phones hitting the market this year, the Motorola Bionic packs a powerful set of specs.

The phone has a 4.3-inch screen, considerably larger than Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone 4, but similar in size to other Androids in the current crop like the HTC Thunderbolt and the Samsung Galaxy S II. The Bionic has a 1-megahertz dual-core processor, also standard in many recent Androids.

The Bionic does stand out from many phones in its class by offering Verizon's super-speedy 4G LTE mobile connection. It's also got the premium price of $300 -- with a 2-year-contract.

In an extremely small morning sample at one lower Manhattan store, there were seven customers inside. Only one was buying a Bionic. A store manager said he could not disclose how many Bionic were in stock, but said there was ample supply.

The Bionic, introduced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, is targeted for the holiday sales season, gadgets' biggest revenue period.

Bionc is being sold with the current Android Gingerbread 2.3 operating system, and presumably it is upgradeable to the upcoming Android Ice Cream Sandwich 3.0 software expected to be released this fall.

The Bionic follows a fairly beefy lineup of new phone introductions including Research In Motion's ( RIMM) new touchscreen BlackBerries and the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy S II's.

The Bionic debut also comes as Apple gears up production of its next iPhone. The upcoming Apple phone is expected to have a slightly larger screen, higher camera resolution and a dual-core processor. But the iPhone 5 will not be a 4G LTE device, which was delayed until next year, as first reported at TheStreet.

Still, the new Androids are a crowded class. Given the slow start of the Bionic, there may not be one outstanding blockbuster that gives iPhone sales a serious challenge.

Bionic's arrival didn't inspire investors. Motorola shares were largely unchanged Thursday.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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