Droid Mobile OS Upgrade Slated for This Week

After some delay and one false start, Motorola's popular Droid smartphone looks likely to get a much-awaited upgrade to the latest version of the Android operating system, version 2.1. The upgrade rolls out both new Android OS features as well as a few of Motorola's own additions and fixes for the phone as well.

Motorola has not confirmed the timing of the release, however the handset maker did post a message on its Facebook page suggesting an update was just around the corner.

"The Android 2.1 upgrade for DROID by Motorola is being deployed to a small number of Verizon Wireless test users tomorrow afternoon," the company wrote on its Facebook page. "It is expected that the broader phased rollout to all DROID users will begin shortly thereafter -- we will keep you posted."

Additionally, the enthusiast site Android Central obtained a copy of the release notes for the upgrade.

Also, Verizon Wireless, the carrier selling the Droid, spilled the beans itself thanks to release notes on its home page (available here (PDF format) highlighting a software upgrade for the Droid. While the Verizon site does not specifically say "version 2.1," just a "software upgrade," the new features it lists are in keeping with enhancements found on the Nexus One, another Android model running version 2.1 of the mobile OS.

New Mobile Applications for Weather, News On Tap

Among the new features in the release: pinch-to-zoom is now available when using the browser, Gallery, and Google Maps applications; there are new Weather and News applications and widgets; there is support for voice-to-text entry; there is a Gallery application with 3D layout to view and share photos via Picasa; animated wallpapers; free Yahoo Mail support; an update to Google Maps and several other minor tweaks as well as fixes, such as fixing a bug where e-mail sent through Microsoft Exchange was getting stuck in the outbox.

Spokespeople from Motorola did not return requests for comment by press time.

If the update does ship, it'll mark the end of months of uncertainty about when the Droid would be getting bumped to Android 2.1. Last month, a Facebook posting on Motorola's Facebook page led users erroneously to expect an update shortly thereafter.

The Droid shipped with Android OS 2.0 -- shortly thereafter updated to 2.0.1 -- and with its sleek looks, not to mention $100 million marketing campaign and a brand name licensed from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, it quickly became the best-selling Android phone on the market. According to mobile market research firm Flurry, it's actually selling faster than the initial Apple iPhone did at the same point in its launch cycle.

Droid was quickly overshadowed a few months later by Google's Nexus One , however, since it ran OS 2.1 with previously unavailable features like the animated background. However, Google's go-to-market approach has not been as aggressive as Verizon Wireless' and Motorola's, and it has not sold anywhere near the Droid's numbers.

With more than one million Droid owners at present, pushing out the Android 2.1 upgrade will have to be staggered. It will start Thursday, March 18 at noon Eastern time and be pushed out over the Verizon Wireless network to 250,000 users at a time, according to Android Central. How much time there will be between the groups of 250,000 is not clear.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Google, Android, Droid, Verizon, Motorola