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Is an Android Army Mustering for a Fall Attack?

By Richard Adhikari
May 26, 2009 1:54 PM PT

Palm will unveil its long-awaited Pre smartphone June 6, and Apple's next-generation iPhone is expected to hit the market shortly thereafter. So where are the smartphones based on Google's Android platform, which is considered a potentially serious threat to the iPhone?

Is an Android Army Mustering for a Fall Attack?

Rumors have it that AT&T will unveil an Android smartphone from HTC in August; meanwhile, several vendors have announced that they'll be making smartphones based on the open mobile operating system. There are also reports that Taiwanese smartphone powerhouse HTC will soon have an Android phone in China.

However, it appears that almost all of these new Android smartphones will be announced later in the year. Why not now?

The Pre and the iPhone

Right now, the Palm Pre is getting lots of attention. Early reports say it has a very smart, fast operating system.

It also makes Web search and connecting with friends easy by heavily leveraging social networking features and consolidating all locations for a user's contacts.

Meanwhile, rumors keep on swirling around the next-generation iPhone. One postulates Apple will offer a 32 GB model (the current iPhone 3G maxes out at 16 GB), and another has it that Apple will expand the line to introduce a low-end version of the smartphone.

Will the Pre help save Palm, or will the new iPhone kill it off? Who knows? Either way, the subject makes for a great talking point at parties -- well, certain types of parties.

AT&T and Lancaster

AT&T, currently the only official iPhone carrier for the U.S., is rumored to have a new Android smartphone from HTC in the works.

The so-called Lancaster will reportedly be equipped with a slide-out keyboard, a 3 megapixel camera, and high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) connectivity. HSDPA is an enhanced 3G mobile telephony communications protocol that allows for higher data transfer speeds and capacity.

The Lancaster will make its debut in August, according to reports, but AT&T would not discuss the issue. "We have no comment," spokesperson Michael Coe told LinuxInsider.

Other Android Developments

T-Mobile had reportedly planned to upgrade users of its G1 Android-based smartphone to the new version of Android, version 1.5, around mid-May; however, it put off the upgrade to early June, apparently because it is finalizing the build.

Android 1.5 is based on Cupcake, a private development branch that funnels new features into the main Android development project. Its introduction on the G1 could improve that handset's position in a highly competitive market.

T-Mobile also reportedly plans to release an updated G1, code-named "Bigfoot," sometime in the fall. Also, it may release the HTC Magic in the U.S., and it may carry the Motorola Morrison Android phone around Christmas.

Leaked info and speculation aside, however, T-Mobile has remained relatively quiet regarding a definitive Android road map. The carrier did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

Nevertheless, the Android market remains hot. AT&T is said to be readying the Motorola Heron Android phone for November, and Sony and Panasonic reportedly plan to make Android phones available next year.

HTC in China?

Meanwhile, in a move that could impact Apple's bid to push into the China market, there are reports that HTC has sealed a deal with China Mobile, the world's largest wireless carrier, to sell the HTC Magic there.

The Magic will apparently use a Chinese-language version of the Android operating system that was developed by HTC.

HTC declined comment. "We don't comment on rumor or speculation," HTC spokesperson Linda Mills told LinuxInsider.

This Magic device may not be the only Android smartphone to hit the China market. China Mobile is also working on the so-called OPhone, based on China's OMS, or Open Mobile System. This is a combination of Android and TD-SCDMA, China's own 3G standard.

Other smartphones running the OPhone OS will be sourced from various vendors, according to reports.

Hold Your Hosses, Boys

While there's clearly much buzz surrounding new makes and models of Android phones coming out sometime later this summer or in the fall, the lack of official comments or timetables is deafening. With a smartphone smackdown in the cards for June, why not seize consumers by the throat as they are writhing under the double onslaught of the Palm Pre and the iPhone and just sell, sell, sell them Android phones?

It all comes down to timing, according to Ramon Llamas, an analyst with IDC's mobile devices technology and trends unit. Simply put: Palm and Apple are taking up all the oxygen in the room.

"Now is not the right time for Android phones," Lamas told LinuxInsider. "They'll be fighting the Palm Pre and the next-generation iPhone."

Android phones should be released at the end of Q3 and in Q4, he said. "We'll see a lot of announcements as we get close to August. We've heard that Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson are planning products."

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