Faster Forward: Android smartphone debuts have people talking

By Rob Pegoraro
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; 4:14 PM

The wireless-phone industry is gathering in Las Vegas this week for its semiannual CTIA show, and Wednesday saw a flock of new phones unveiled.

The single most talked-about entry in this beauty pageant was Sprint's coming HTC Evo 4G. This smartphone, scheduled to ship sometime this summer, runs Google's Android software and will connect to the carrier's under-construction "4G" network, with download speeds of 3 to 6 million bits per second. (Washington area coverage, once advertised as coming in the spring of 2008, is now due later this year.) The Evo, pictured below, also features an 8-megapixel digital camera with flash; a second, 1.5-megapixel camera on the front for video conferencing; a 4.3-inch touch-sensitive screen; a 1 GHz processor; the latest 2.1 Android software; and an HDMI output to connect to high-definition televisions.

Google's software also figured in other high-profile product launches at CTIA. (The show is run by the District-based trade association of the same name, whose abbreviation once stood for "Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association," then changed to "Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association" and now, technically, is short for nothing.)

AT&T Wireless showed off Dell's Android-powered Aero, the computer vendor's first U.S.-market phone. AT&T calls it "the lightest" Android device to date but, weirdly enough, doesn't specify its weight.

Samsung, meanwhile, introduced the Galaxy S, a touchscreen device that looks a bit like Apple's iPhone but has specifications closer to those of the Evo (minus the 4G). Samsung hasn't identified a U.S. carrier for this phone yet.

In other CTIA news, T-Mobile updated attendees on the progress of its "HSPA+" service--the faster-than-3G service it's begun to deploy on its existing 3G network in such markets as Washington and Philadelphia. The service, whose name is shorthand for "evolved high speed packet access", offers a theoretical ceiling of 21 MBps downloads, though a test in September revealed speeds of 3.6 MBps on existing 3G hardware--still more than twice as speedy as most 3G service. Devices optimized for HSPA+ should perform significantly faster.

And Palm, which has had a pretty lousy couple of news weeks, got a boost from AT&T with its announcement that it will soon sell versions of its Pre Plus and Pixi Plus smartphones.

What company haven't I mentioned yet? Yes, Microsoft, which is now stuck in an awkward interval between the unveiling of its rewritten Windows Phone 7 Series operating system last month and the arrival of devices with this software in the holiday season.

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