Droid takes on iPhone 4

The next round in the smartphone battle between Apple and Google is under way, with the iPhone 4 on sale Thursday and a next generation of Android-based phones being unveiled.

The iPhone 4 is available in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan from Thursday and is due to roll out to 88 countries by the end of September, in the widest availability to date for the product.

Apple’s rivals responded on Wednesday with Google, Motorola and Verizon Wireless unveiling the next generation of the Droid-branded phone.

The original Droid established itself as a competitor to the iPhone through the backing of a big marketing campaign by Verizon. Its successor has the same styling but an improved keyboard and faster processor.

Motorola is not only trying to win smartphone sales from Apple but also from HTC of Taiwan – another champion of the Android operating system.

The US handset maker is also planning the Droid X, which has similar features to the HTC Evo – the current standard bearer for Android.

Motorola has slipped over the past three years from being second only to Nokia in handset shipments to eighth place in the first quarter, according to the iSuppli research firm.

Shipments were down 42 per cent on a year earlier at 8.5m. But smartphone shipments of 2.3m beat analysts’ estimates and Motorola expects to ship about 13m this year as it focuses on Android-based handsets.

Verizon has also been concentrating on a range of Droid phones from Motorola and HTC to compete with AT&T’s exclusive arrangement with Apple for the iPhone.

AT&T said it received 10 times as many pre-orders for the iPhone 4 as it did for the iPhone 3GS, launched a year ago.

Apple issued an apology when pre-ordering opened last week and its systems crashed. It said it took pre-orders for more than 600,000 iPhone 4s – the most in a single day.

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