Verizon and HTC just dropped a bombshell on Sprint and its HTC Hero offering, marketing a virtually identical handset for $80 cheaper in the US, in what is sure to create a price war in the run up to the holidays.

The new handset, The Droid Eris by HTC, has been announced as part of the new DROID range on Verizon and will cost just $99 compared to Sprint's $179 HTC Hero.

The new model will come with the same 3.2-inch multi-touch touchscreen display, the same Qualcomm MSM 7600, 528MHz chipset and same ROM and RAM specifications (512MB and 288MB respectively), however, a proximity sensor has been added to turn the touchscreen off when next to your head. It will sport a slightly smaller battery (1300mAh vs 1500mAh) though.

Aiming to the be entry level handset to Verizon's new Droid range and taking on the Apple iPhone 3G, the HTC Droid Eris, as it will be known, will come with Android 1.5 OS rather than the newer 2.0 offering from Google and feature HTC's Sense UI as found on the HTC Hero.

In keeping with the Droid by Motorola handset launch, Verizon has left the handset operating system untouched only adding in its Visual Voicemail service.

The handset will be in stores from 6 November.