Just in time to rain on Apple's (aapl) 2009 earnings report, a prime-time TV ad and a series of well-timed leaks have put the spotlight on Motorola's (mot) Droid -- a yet-unreleased smartphone that is being described by sources who have played with a prototype as the iPhone's first serious competitor.
The ad, which premiered Saturday during the Yankees-Angels pennant game, is pasted below the fold. The challenge to Apple couldn't be less subtle; it's a series of "iDon't" screens listing key features the iPhone doesn't have -- from a physical keyboard to interchangeable batteries -- that the Droid does.
The leaks are being funneled primarily through the Boy Genius Report, a blog with unusually good sources in the telecommunications industry. On Friday the site published an illustrated walk-through of Google's (goog) Android 2.0 -- the new and reportedly much improved version of the open-source operating system that powers the Droid. Then, overnight Monday, Boy Genius posted a hands-on review -- complete with photo gallery -- that describes it as "the Android device to beat, and easily the most impressive."
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"From what we’ve been told," BGR writes, "Google had a direct hand in the Motorola Droid. Something to the point of almost dictating every move Motorola made when designing and making the phone."
The Droid is still vaporware; no release date has been set, although Verizon (vz) said two weeks ago that it would release two Android phones before the end of the year, and the cryptic clock on a new Verizon/Motorola Droid promotional site has been decoded and appears to be counting down to Oct. 30.
Verizon, meanwhile, seems to be playing both sides of the latest smartphone war. Several blogs reported over the weekend that Apple has begun testing the iPhone on Verizon's so-called LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G network, scheduled for initial deployment this fall and broader rollout in 2010.
The same sources suggest that Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam, who is said to have flown to Mountain View, Calif., every other week in recent months for meetings with Google executives, may have also been making secret visits to Apple's Cupertino headquarters, less than 9 miles away.
Below: That "iDon't" Droid ad:
Apple's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report is due out after the markets close Monday. See here.
[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]