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Sprint, HTC, Harman Team Up For High-Res Audio Phone

New York – High-resolution music playback and Harman audio-enhancement technologies will appear in the Harman/Kardon edition of HTC’s One (M8) Android smartphone, which will appear in Sprint-owned stores and select audio stores in the coming days.

The phone will be the first that Sprint is making available for sale through audio retailers. The first audio retailers will be Crutchfield and Worldwide Stereo, which don’t currently sell cellular.

The black-aluminum phone with champagne highlights will be HTC’s first phone with high-resolution audio playback, enabling native decoding of 192kHz/24-bit FLAC files. The phone also supports CD-quality WAV files and multiple music formats from MP3 to AAC+ and Ogg Vorbis.

The current One M8 plays back FLAC and WAV files up to 48kHz/16 bits.

The phone will be the first phone bearing one of Harman’s brand names and the first with Harman’s Clari-Fi technology, which restores missing information in lossy compressed-music files and was formerly known as Signal Doctor. The phone will also be the first with Harman’s Live Stage technology, which widens the sound stage and places it in front of the listener.

Clari-Fi and Live Stage improve the sound quality of streamed music and locally stored music.

The special edition phone will be available May 9 in Sprint-owned stores for $229 with two-year contract or, without contract, for 24 monthly payments of $28.34 with no down payment. The price includes Harman/Kardon earbuds that retail for $149.

Audio retailers Crutchfield and Worldwide Stereo will offer the phone on around May 9. Following a press conference here, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told TWICE that he wants to roll the phone out to more audio retailers in the future.

Distribution will ultimately be rolled out to all of Sprint’s indirect retail channels, Hesse noted.

The phone will also be available May 2 on Sprint’s web site and telesales channel.

The phone will also appear in Harman’s flagship store in New York City but won’t be sold by Harman, said Dinesh Paliwal, Harman’s chairman, president and CEO.

Besides playing back FLAC files with up to 192/24 resolution from high-resolution download sites, the phone also improves the sound quality of compressed-music formats through Clari-Fi technology. That technology was launched in the OEM sound system of the Lexus NX in recent days and will appear in the OEM sound systems of a dozen other vehicles to be launched globally in late summer and early fall, Paliwal told TWICE. Clari-Fi also appears in two JBL-brand high-end wireless tabletop speakers unveiled at International CES.

Harman engineers were involved in the phone’s audio engineer and tuning, said Paliwal, who noted that Harman is also working with other phone makers to bring Clari-Fi to more phones. Those phones, however, “are not close” to being launched, giving Sprint and HTC exclusivity for awhile.

The phone features settings that tune response to different Harman/Kardon headphones. A single setting is available for all other headphones.

Also to appeal to music enthusiasts, Sprint teamed up with Spotify to provide discounts for Spotify’s premium service for subscribers of Sprint’s Framily plan. Beginning May 9, Framily plan users will get six free months of commercial-free premium Spotify service. After that, users get a discount from the service’s regular $9.99/month price. Users on a Framily plan with one to five Framily members will pay $7.99/month for Spotify streaming on the phone, PC and other devices. Users on Framily plans with more members will pay $4.99/month. The Spotify subscription price will be added to the user’s monthly phone bill.

Sprint subscribers who aren’t on Framily plans will get three free months of premium Spotify service and will pay the regular $9.99/month price afterward.

Sprint already offers carrier billing for Spotify’s premium service.

The phone also offers other music-related applications, including FM tuner and the NextRadio interactive radio app. The NextRadio app features an onscreen guide that lets users browse local stations by genre or frequency. The guide includes radio station logos, slogans and programming descriptions. Traditionalists can select stations through a traditional tuner interface. Users can also set favorites and view recently played stations.

Via a cellular connection, the app displays the album art of the song that’s playing, and it displays song and show details. From the app, users can purchase the song that is playing, and they can call or text the stations that they’re playing to provide feedback.