Explainer: The Androids of autumn
This week, at the CTIA wireless industry trade show in San Francisco, the four nationwide carriers announced a lot of phones, nearly all of them based on Google's Android operating system. It's no secret that Android is fast becoming the most popular mobile OS, giving both Apple's iPhone and RIM's BlackBerrys a run for their money. Speaking of money, the latest Android lineup is surprisingly affordable, in many cases.
Here's a look at our eight favorite models, two each from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
Motorola Flipout (AT&T)
Does this resemble a certain other phone you might have seen briefly last spring? It does look a little like the short-lived Microsoft Kin One phone, but the Motorola Flipout, to be carried by AT&T, is an Android phone, and probably has a better chance of success.(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
The Flipout has a 2.8-inch touch screen and it pivots to open a full keyboard below, with a dedicated fifth row for numbers, AT&T says. In the spirit of Apple's iPods, it comes in different colors — well, the battery covers do — including saffron, dark sapphire, "fairway green" "poppy red" and "rebel pink."
Be aware, the Flipout runs Android 2.1 — not the latest 2.2 version of the operating system.
Available: Oct. 17.
myTouch by HTC (T-Mobile)
The latest incarnation of T-Mobile's flagship Android phone can do video calls using both Wi-Fi and T-Mobile's cellular network, making it among the first mainstream phones to be so abled. The myTouch, made by HTC, has a 3.8-inch touch-screen display, and will run on T-Mobile's upgraded and faster HSPA+ network in various areas around the country. (Check T-Mobile's HSPA+ Web page to see if your city is covered.) HSPA+ will be a huge help when you're actually trying to make a video connection.
The phone will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 1GHz MSM8255 processor, one that is "optimized for speed and graphic performance," T-Mobile said. The phone will also use Android 2.2, the operating system's newest version.
Four colors will be available: black, white, plum and red.
Cost: Not known yet; probably in the $200- to $300 range.
Available: No specifics yet, but in time for the holidays, T-Mobile says.
Motorola Droid Pro (Verizon)
The most BlackBerry-like of Droids, the Pro looks a little like a cross between the BlackBerry Torch and the Palm Pixi. But the Torch can retract its keyboard. The Droid Pro can't hide its keys.
For execs on the go, the Droid Pro can do global roaming: Verizon's network in the U.S., and on the more commonly found GSM network while abroad.
Motorola has had several successful Droids at Verizon — the original Droid, the Droid X and the Droid 2. Verizon says this phone, which uses Android 2.2, "meets employers' and employees' needs by addressing the productivity tools businesses require including corporate connectivity and security; full push corporate e-mail with corporate level security; unified calendar with additional work features" and a pre-loaded Quickoffice Mobile Suite."
Cost: Not known yet; probably around $200 with a two-year contract.
Available: "In the coming weeks," Verizon says.
Samsung Transform (Sprint)
The Transform has a 3.5-inch touch-screen display, slide-out QWERTY keyboard and both a 3.2-megapixel rear- and front-facing camera for video conferencing.
It's one of the first Sprint phones that will use the carrier's new ID packs that let customers personalize the apps, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers they want by theme. For example, if you're a Disney buff, there will be a Disney ID pack for you; if you like sports, there's an ESPN pack. These are in addition, of course, to apps you can buy from the Android Market.
The phone comes with Android 2.1, but is scheduled for an upgrade to 2.2 later this year, Sprint says.
Cost: $149.99 with a two-year service agreement "and after a $100 mail-in-rebate (taxes excluded) with a new line activation or eligible upgrade," Sprint says.
Available: Oct. 10
Motorola Flipside (AT&T)
With Flipside, Motorola brings another Android phone with slide-out QWERTY keyboards to AT&T’s network.
The phone uses Android 2.1, and has a 3.1-inch display and 3-megapixel camera. (Processor speed is not known at this point, but given the price, Flipside's probably not housing a high-performance chip.) The phone includes Motorola’s CrystalTalk Plus technology to help eliminate background noise.
AT&T says the phone is business-ready, with push corporate e-mail and corporate directory lookup. The Flipside, on the flipside, also has MotoBlur, Motorola’s social-oriented program for filtering and delivering all your messages to your home screen.
Cost: $99.99 with two-year agreement.
Available: In time for the holidays, AT&T says.
LG Optimus T (T-Mobile)
LG's Optimus T for T-Mobile is also expected to be in the more affordable class for an Android smart phone, especially for one that comes with the latest Android 2.2 OS. T-Mobile didn't announce pricing, but Sprint is carrying the same model, essentially, the LG Optimus S, which is going to sell for $49 after rebates with a two-year contract.
The Optimus has a 3.2-inch screen, 3.2-megapixel camera and uses a 600 MHz processor, which isn't as snappy as the 1 GHz myTouch, but it may suit you just fine, especially given the likely price differential.
T-Mobile, which recently teamed with Wal-Mart, is positioning itself as a "family" wireless carrier, offering special promotions for families, and this Android phone will fit into that family portrait quite nicely.
It comes in either a burgundy or titantium finish.
Cost: Not known yet.
Available: In time for the holiday season, T-Mobile says.
Motorola Citrus (Verizon)
The design seems recycled from the Palm Pre, but that's not all that's recycled about this entry-level Verizon phone: Its body is made from 25 percent "post-consumer recycled plastic," says Verizon Wireless, and it's "certified CarbonFree through an alliance with Carbonfund.org, and is PVC and BFR (Brominated Flame Retardant) free."
The phone's packaging is also green, made from "80 percent post-consumer recycled paper." That's not all: The user manual is made with "100 percent recycled paper and soy-based ink," Verizon says.
The Citrus has a 3-inch touch screen-display, runs on Android 2.1 and uses a 528 MHz processor, kinda pokey for an Android phone, but you can tell your friends it's just more energy conservative.
Cost: No information yet available.
Available: In "Q4," Verizon says.
Sanyo Zio (Sprint)
For those who don't want to spend two bills for a smart phone, and an Android smart phone at that, the Sanyo Zio could be an option. After all the normal wireless carrier cost falderal (rebates, two-year agreement), it's about 100 bucks.
It's also probably one of the lighter-weight smart phones, at 3.7 ounces; most smart phones are one to two ounces heavier. It has a 3.2-megapixel camera and can record videos at 30-frames-per-second.
It runs Android 2.1 (but can be upgraded later to 2.2), and also can use Sprint's ID packs.
Cost: $99.99 "with a new two-year service agreement or eligible upgrade and after a $100 mail-in rebate (pricing excludes surcharges and taxes)."
Available: Oct. 10.
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