At the CTIA Conference yesterday, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam stood on stage next to Google CEO Eric Schmidt to announce a partnership between Verizon and Google that will hopefully see the first Verizon smartphones and netbooks pre-loaded with Google Android rolling onto what’s clearly the best mobile data network in the United States within “a few weeks,” according to the announcement yesterday.
This is huge news and could really change the mobile game in favor of Android, and hopefully stave off some of the bleeding as gadget-friendly and tech-savvy smartphone consumers flee Verizon Wireless in favor of other carriers with weaker networks but more feature-rich devices on them.
The new Verizon Android devices will come with Google’s standard app market preloaded, unlike some Verizon Wireless BlackBerrys which do not come with BlackBerry App World. They will also support Google Voice, McAdam said.
“Either you have an open device or not. This will be open,” McAdam said.
Now, that doesn’t mean Verizon won’t have their fingers in the device. McAdam and other Verizon Wireless executives spoke several times of “services” and “applications” they intend to preload on devices, and their official press release said the phones “will be pre-loaded with innovative applications from both” Verizon and Google.
The phones will come from multiple, unnamed handset manufacturers. Motorola has been rumored for months to be releasing an Android phone for Verizon.
Verizon has been widely criticized for having what analysts see as a lackluster smartphone lineup, but the company seem to be making some moves forward. Today Verizon announced one of the first Windows Mobile 6.5 phones, the HTC Imagio. McAdam has also previously said that the carrier will sell a BlackBerry Storm 2 and the Palm Pre as well as the upcoming Android phones.
With that combination of devices, it looks like Verizon may be well on the way to trading in their reputation for being closed, short on smartphones, and infamous for neutering and locking down their devices for a better reputation for having a great data network complete with feature-rich, open handsets and smartphones. I’m hoping, but we’ll see when the first devices are launched how they play against their competition.