My Not-So-Epic Quest To Find The Elusive Verizon Droid Line

Today is Droid day — an event that I, like many tech bloggers, have been looking forward to for quite some time. Unlike some people, I wasn’t graced with a test Droid last week, so I was forced to go out and get one the old fashioned way: by getting to the store as early as possible, before the precious devices sold out. And while I was concerned about falling prey to a supply shortage, a part of me still hoped there would be many others like me, helping justify my early morning rise. These are my notes as I searched for the unexpectedly elusive Verizon Droid line.

5:30 AM. I woke up this morning to the soothing chimes of my over-priced alarm clock, took a look at the ungodly hour, and immediately sank back into my pillow. It wasn’t until my second alarm (strategically positioned far out of arm’s reach) kicked in that I remembered the task at hand: Droid day.

Ah yes, the phone that seemingly came out of nowhere — at least to those who haven’t had their ear to the ground on Android phone news, which until now has largely been a steady stream of mediocracy, fueled by underpowered CPUs and generic UIs. But Droid has something special. Mostly, it’s the phone’s heavy duty processor, but there’s also its brilliant screen, much-improved operating system, and the fact that it runs on a network that doesn’t leave people screaming profanities (at least until they get their monthly bill).

So I embarked this morning to the Palo Alto Verizon store, hoping to use a Qik live stream to capture the festive line of Droid fans sure to be present. After all, Verizon customers have plenty to celebrate — though they’re on the nation’s best network, they’ve long been burdened with an underwhelming selection of phones. This is the first time they’ve had a chance to pick up a device that’s a viable alternative to the iPhone. And with Verizon’s marketing onslaught over the last few weeks, not to mention the generally very positive reviews, I expected the turnout to be good. Not Apple good mind you — no marketing push can match Steve Jobs’ mystical mind control over a rabid fanbase of millions. But this was the heart of Silicon Valley, where gadget geeks flourish.

Alas, it seems that my expectations were unwarranted. I walked up to the Verizon store no later than 6:20 AM, forty minutes before the 7:00 AM opening time (three hours earlier than usual in light of the big day). But no sooner had I arrived than I began to question my still-groggy mental state. The Verizon sign was directly above my head. There were five or six employees buzzing around the well-lit store, two of whom were decked out in bizarre Droid-branded outfits, complete with black leather vests. But the street could not have been more empty.

The door cracked open. One of the employees, perhaps concerned by my confused expression or excited that someone had actually shown up, had come to talk to me. Yes, I was in the right place. Yes, they were due to open in a little more than half an hour. And yes, they too had expected more than one person to be standing in front of the store at this point. The door closed again.

A few minutes later I was joined by two new Droid fans. Unfortunately, my excitement over my new friends was rather shortlived — the newcomers turned down my offer of free TechCrunch T-shirts, and informed me that they weren’t actually waiting in line, but had come to witness it for themselves too. As it turned out, they were members of the Android team, who were also apparently let down by the sad turn out. But, as they quickly pointed out, the line was not actually as empty as it seemed! For I had neglected to take into account the three cars parked at the side of the road, each of which was occupied by one future Droid customer. And we were also joined by one other person, who was officially the first person in line, a mere 30 minutes before the store opened. You can relive this moment in the poorly shot video below.

Over the course of the next half hour we were joined by perhaps four more people. I was cheered up by the fact that many of them accepted my offers of free TechCrunch T-shirts (the Android team members eventually caved and asked for some too). But the atmosphere was oddly solemn as we tried to brainstorm where everyone else could possibly be. We eventually arrived at the conclusion that people may have decided to head to the nearby Best Buy, which actually offers a better deal because they take care of the Droid’s $100 mail-in rebate for you (Verizon makes you go through rebate hell). It was time to look elsewhere for a line. You can see our heartfelt goodbyes in the video below.

Thus, I set out on part two of my journey, which was even more boring than part one. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say, there wasn’t a single person in front of the Best Buy. Not even an Android team member. My quest was a failure. There are lines being reported in places — dozens of them —  across the country, and I was unable to find one.

All of this would bother me more, were it not for the fact that I now have a Droid sitting on my desk. Over the course of the last few hours, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that this thing rocks, plain and simple. I’ll always have a soft spot for the iPhone, but for this generation of smart phones, at least, I’ve made my choice.