NEW YORK — Most of the latest smartphone launches are focused on affordability, but at least one premium phone also made its debut in recent days.
The smartphone growth area in the U.S. has been in “value devices,” said HTC’s Nigel Newby-House, executive director of North American product strategy and planning. For that market, the company’s Desire-series phones, sold by multiple U.S. carriers and nocontract brands, bring a “great software experience” to more affordable price points, he said.
Carriers nonetheless aren’t neglecting the premium space. Verizon and T-Mobile announced plans for the Sony Xperia Z3v and Z3, respectively.
Here’s what’s coming on the affordable side:
Motorola: The LTE Moto G became available in AT&T stores at only $179 without contract, or $7.50/month on the Next18 installment/trade-up payment plan and $9/ month on the Next12 plan.
The phone features Android 4.4, quad-core 1.2GHz CPU, and 1,280 by 720 HD 4.5-inch display.
Huawei: MVNO Consumer Cellular began rolling out its largest screen smartphone to date, the LTE-equipped Huawei Ascend Mate 2 with 6.1-inch 1,280 by 720 display with no contract at $250. The $250 LTE-equipped Huawei Ascend Mate 2 features 6.1-inch 1,280 by 720 display, 1.6GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 13- and 5-megapixel cameras, Android 4.3 OS, 1080p video capture and 16GB embedded memory.
The MVNO also rolled out the $100 Huawei Vision features 3G HSPA+ and 4-inch 800 by 480 display.
HTC: The flagship phone in the value-oriented Desire line is the 4G LTE Desire Eye with 5.2-inch 1080p display. It will be launched exclusively through AT&T with such imaging features as 13-megapixel cameras on both the front and rear, dual-LED flashes, and 1080p video capture on both cameras.
The phone also features a suite of new camera/video features that will be rolled out to HTC One-series phones and to the Desire 612 and 816 in the coming months.
AT&T hasn’t disclosed pricing or availability, but the phone is expected to retail without contract for between $199 and the HTC One M8’s current price of $599 to $669 without contract.
The phone’s Eye Experience mobile-imaging software offers multiple new ways to improve front-camera selfies. With the selfie camera, for example, users will be able to auto-capture an image simply by holding still, smiling, or giving a voice commands. Split capture lets users create a split-screen image of themselves and an image taken from the rear camera either simultaneously or later. A Crop-Me- In feature lets users burn their selfie portrait into another image. A face-tracking feature for video chats tracks up to four people in a room for simultaneous display.
The phone has a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, zero-gap plastic unibody and IPX7 waterproof rating.
Sharp: Sprint began offering the first Sharp smartphone to be available through a U.S. carrier.
The Aquos Crystal, unveiled in August, became available at $149 in white through Sprint’s prepaid Boost Mobile brand through Boost’s web store, Boost Mobile-branded retail stores and Best Buy.
With Sprint-brand postpaid service, the phone became available in black through all Sprint retail channels at an unsubsidized $239 or, under the Easy Pay installment-payment plan, $0 down with 24 monthly payments of $10.
With Sprint-brand prepaid service, the phone is available in black at $149 in Best Buy stores and will be at RadioShack locations on Oct. 21.
Sharp phones haven’t been available through major U.S. carriers for some years, though a handful of Sharp feature phones were available through select carriers in years past.
The Crystal features a 5-inch HD 1,280 by 720 edgeless LCD display, Android 4.4.2, 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 1.5GB RAM.
In premium devices, the Sony brand returns to Verizon’s phone lineup after an absence of three years, joining connected Sony accessories and a Sony 4G LTE tablet launched during the summer. The company also sells through T-Mobile but no other carriers.
The Verizon phone is the Xperia Z3v, a variant of the Android 4.4 Z3 unveiled at IFA and coming to the U.S. through T-Mobile. The Z3v will be available at $199 with two-year contract on Oct. 23 through Verizon stores and national retailers. The no-contract up-front price is $599, but Edge installment-payment plans will be available.
The Z3v variant will feature such enhancements over TMobile’s Z3 as wireless charging and 3,200 mAh battery instead of 3,100 mAh battery.
Both the Z3 and Z3v feature 5.2-inch 1,920 by 1,080 display; 2.5GHz quad-core processor; 3GB RAM; and 20.7-megapixel main camera with 4K video capture, IS0 12,800 sensitivity and 25mm lens. It also has high-resolution audio playback and IP65 and IP68 ratings.
PlayStation4 remote play enables either phone to be mounted onto the PS4’s controller in landscape mode to display game play via Wi-Fi connection to the console.
T-Mobile plans Oct. 29 availability of the Z3 with Wi-Fi calling at participating stores nationwide and online at $0 down and $26.25 monthly for 24 months, for a total of $630.