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Verizon’s Adds 2nd Droid, More PTT, Prepaid Broadband

New additions to the Verizon Wireless fourth-quarter lineup include a $99 Android-based touchscreen-only smartphone, the carrier’s first prepaid broadband-data plans, an expanded selection of push-to-talk (PTT) phones, Verizon’s first BlackBerry Curve with Wi-Fi, and the first touchscreen phone in the carrier’s LG Chocolate lineup.

“We’re providing more options than before,” a spokesperson said of the carrier’s fourth-quarter product strategy. The options include a significant expansion in the carrier’s smartphone selection compared to the year-ago period, more PTT phones, and the carrier’s first two Android-based smartphones.

The carrier’s $99 Android-based smartphone is the $99 HTC-made Droid Eris, which goes on sale Nov. 6 along with the previously announced $199 Motorola-made Droid, which also went on sale Nov. 6. The Droid is said to be the first phone to incorporate the Android 2.0 OS, and it features touchscreen with slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Prices are after $100 mail-in rebate and two-year service agreement with data plan.

The touchscreen-only Droid Eris is smaller than its Motorola-made counterpart, lacks the Droid’s slide-out keyboard, features a smaller screen, uses an earlier version of the Android OS, and uses a processor that’s slower then the Droid’s 600MHz processor. Eris also lacks Google Maps Navigation, which is a hybrid turn-by-turn navigation application that downloads a route’s maps and driving directions on demand from the cloud for local storage.

The Eris features 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen, trackball navigation and HTC’s Sense user interface, which lets users customize multiple home screens, each populated by different types of widgets and shortcuts. Home screens can be dedicated to work, entertainment, travel or other uses. Eris also features 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, preinstalled 8GB MicroSD card, full HTML browser with Flash Lite capabilities, digital compass to know what direction it’s facing, and Google apps such as Google Maps, Gmail and Google Search. Location-based services are enabled by embedded GPS and access to Google’s assisted-GPS service, which used cell-tower triangulation and Wi-Fi hot spot identification to accelerate GPS-satellite acquisition time.

As for the carrier’s first three prepaid broadband-data plans, they are available with the purchase of a $129 USB760 EV-DO Rev. A modem available in a grab-and-go package. The modem becomes available Nov. 15 in Verizon’s stores and Nov. 20 in select national retailers. The plans consist of a daily $15 75MB plan, a weekly $30 250MB plan and a monthly $50 500MB plan.

The carrier’s BlackBerry Curve 8530 with fixed QWERTY keyboard adds Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, BlackBerry 5.0 OS, optical track pad, more memory at 256MB and more processing power at 528MHz. It uses Verizon’s 3G CDMA 1x EV-DO data network. It’s available Nov. 20 at $99.99 after $100 mail-in rebate with two-year contract including data plan starting at $29.99/month.

In multimedia phones, the first LG Chocolate-series phone with touchscreen is the Chocolate Touch, due in stores Nov. 5 at $79.99 after $50 mail-in rebate and two-year service plan that need not include a monthly data plan. It features FM tuner, 1GB embedded memory, MicroSD slot supporting 16GB cards, stereo Bluetooth, 3.2-megapixel camera, 3.5mm headphone jack and Dolby Mobile technology. This technology adds spaciousness to music played through headphones, restores lost high frequencies, extends bass, and maintains a consistent playback level when switching audio sources or moving from song to song.

The Chocolate Touch also accesses social-networking sites, downloads music over the air from Verizon’s music-download site, and streams video and TV shows via the VCast Video service. A “join-the-band” feature lets users play a virtual drum set or virtual piano on the touchscreen as stored music is playing.

Three new PTT phones all feature EV-DO Rev. A data technology and meet military specs for ruggedness. One, the Casio GZ-1, is Verizon’s first PTT phone with QWERTY keyboard. It will be available sometime in the fourth quarter at an unannounced price.