SAN FRANCISCO — If the recent CTIA show is any indication, Microsoft will have its work cut out for it as its tries to regain lost share in the U.S. smartphone market.
During this month’s CTIA convention, suppliers and carriers unveiled more new handsets than they did during any other CTIA show in recent memory, and all of the new models — about a dozen — were Android-based smartphones due by year’s end to further expand an already robust selection of Android phones.
The number of new Android phones unveiled at the show handily outnumbered the five Windows Phone 7 smartphones unveiled after the show by Microsoft for U.S. availability starting next month.
A smaller selection isn’t the only factor that could hinder Windows Phone 7 adoption in the U.S. Price is another factor.
All five of the Windows Phone 7 smartphones are targeted at the high end of the market, given Microsoft- mandated minimum hardware requirements, including 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 5-megapixel camera, 800 by480 or better capacitivetouchscreen display, minimum RAM and flashmemory requirements, and the like. All five also feature 720p HD video recording. Of the three models whose prices were announced, all were priced by AT&T at $199.
In contrast, among Android phones whose prices were revealed at CTIA, the opening price for a new Android handset fell to $49 for Sprint’s Samsung-made Optimus, which operates in 3G mode on Sprint’s CDMA 1x EVDO Rev. A network and incorporates mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. Another entry-level Android phone, the touchscreen-only Motorola Citrus, operates on Verizon’s slower 1x EV-DO Rev. 0 data network and could be destined for an even lower price point.
Android, nonetheless, had its share of top-end devices, including Motorola’s Droid Pro for Verizon Wireless. It’s a BlackBerry-look candy bar phone with touchscreen, hard QWERTY keyboard, enterprise-grade features, and mobile Wi- Fi hot spot. It’s also the first U.S.-market Android phone announced to date to operate in 3G mode in CDMA 1x EV-DO Rev. A markets as well as in foreign 3G HSPA markets. Pricing wasn’t revealed.
Despite its numerical and price-point handicap, Windows Phone 7 sales could exceed some analysts’ expectations. “Our industry checks and discussions with store reps indicate increasing enthusiasm for the upcoming Windows Phone 7 launch,” according to an early October research report by investment company Canaccord Genuity. The company also said its checks “also indicated strong initial sell-in orders.” As for potential sell-through, the company said, “the touchscreen interface and overall hardware performance could be on a par with higher end Android OS experiences.”All told, new Android phones were shown at the CTIA show by LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sanyo and Huawei.
The Android introductions included:
• three other Motorola-made phones for the AT&T network, bringing the iPhone carrier’s Android selection to eight.
• T-Mobile’s second HSPA+ phone, the next-generation MyTouch.
• the T-Mobile’s HSPA version of Samsung’s entrylevel Optimus at pricing that wasn’t disclosed.
• Samsung’s Galaxy-class 3G Mesmerize for U.S. Cellular at $199. It’s similar to Verizon’s Galaxy-class Fascinate and will be the third of five Android smartphones that the carrier is launching this year, with the LG Apex due in November and LG Optimus due in December.
• Huawei’s Ascend for the Cricket-branded prepaid network at $149, making it Cricket’s second Android phone.
• Samsung’s Transform for Sprint at $149 with 3G Rev. A technology. It’s the carrier’s first 3G-only phone to be announced with front- and rear-facing cameras to allow for video chatting, which can be accomplished over 3G and Wi-Fi networks, a spokesman said. The carrier’s two 3G/4G phones also offer video chat.
Sprint also unveiled the 3G Sanyo Zio from Kyocera at $99.99 with two-year service agreement and after a $100 mail-in rebate. It features Android 2.1 OS, 3G Rev. A technology. The phone was already available for the Cricket prepaid network.