In the strictest sense, a droid phone is any mobile phone that uses the Android mobile operating system. To the public, there may be some confusion because Verizon Wireless™ owns a phone called the Droid. The open source platform unique to the Android system makes droid phones different from other smartphones, in that users have greater ability to customize their handsets using a variety of internal and Web-based technologies.
The development of the Android platform was spurred on in large part by Google. Google purchased Android Inc. in 2005. Two years later, Google helped form the Open Handset Alliance, a collection of more than sixty leading companies in the mobile phone industry that helped develop and launch the Android platform for public use. Companies among the alliance included Google, Motorola, T-Mobile and HTC. The first phone to use the Android software, the HTC Dream, debuted in late 2008. The first phone to legally use the droid brand name, the Motorola Droid, launched in late 2009.
Android technology developed out of the Linux kernel open software. Since the early 1990s, Linux specialized in open source operating systems that any developer could add on to, develop and mutate. This open-ended approach has allowed Linux products to be easily modified to new technologies as well as to a user's personal preferences. Android was launched by the Open Handset Alliance as a means to bring such technology to the mobile phone. This makes the droid phone a unique alternative to other smartphones, such as the iPhone.
Whereas many smartphone interfaces have limited capacity for customization, the interface on an Android phone is left up to the user's imagination and technological savvy. On many smartphones, for example, only one application can be run at a time. On a droid phone, however, a user can not only launch multiple applications, but instruct them to interact with one another. As a working example, someone could have all of their e-mail and social network accounts stream into one convenient box on his or her Android phone, making it possible to read messages from all accounts at the same time.
To many consumers who enjoy their smartphone as it comes packaged, a mobile operating system with open standards might not be a top priority. For others who want a highly-customizable phone, the droid phone offers a superior alternative and fills a unique niche. Android-based phones may well continue to make a strong argument in the market for more mobile phones equipped with open source technology.