updated 11:10 am EST, Tue December 6, 2011
Motorola Droid Xyboard detailed for Verizon
Motorola took its second shot at tablets in the US with the now official launch of the Droid Xyboard. Its versions of the Xoom 2 come in the same 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch sizes but get the expected 4G LTE upgrade and support for creating a hotspot with as many as eight devices. Along with Motorola's custom apps such as its MotoCast streaming, users primarily get Dijit's remote control app to steer home theater gear.
Along with 4G, the two are both major improvements over the original Xoom with much slimmer and lighter designs and significantly higher-quality IPS-based, 1280x800 LCDs. The five-megapixel camera on the back hasn't been changed, but the front camera is a slight step down at 1.3 megapixels. Either has the upgraded 1.2GHz TI OMAP processor common to much of Motorola's late 2011 hardware.
The smaller Xyboard 8.2 makes up for its size with a stronger than usual speaker system. Either tablet ships with Android 3.2, but the two will be upgraded to Android 4.0 sometime in the near future.
Both should ship before the end of the month in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB capacities. The Xyboard 8.2 will be the least expensive at prices of $430, $530, and $630 on contract; the 10.1-inch models will carry a $100 premium. In a gamble, however, Motorola and Verizon have risked sales by making the two-year plan mandatory, not optional like before. As such, it raises the minimum actual cost of ownership to $1,150.
Those who buy a Droid RAZR at the same time with a new contract get a $100 discount on the tablet as well as a $50 cut on accessories.
The decision could be costly for Motorola, which has so far had little traction in tablets. It assumed it could repeat the success of the original Droid through a Verizon deal this February but never mounted a significant challenge to the iPad 2. After upping shipments in the spring from 250,000 to 440,000, Motorola had to drop to 100,000 shipments in the summer, even after cutting the price of the Xoom from an $800 3G/4G model to just $379 for a Wi-Fi version. Tablets that have been tied to a contract have always fared poorly in the US and could see Apple walk away with the lead for tablets on Verizon once again through its insistence on a prepaid option.