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Dell Picks AT&T for Android Smartphone

Dell today announced it has chosen AT&T as its exclusive U.S. carrier for its upcoming lineup of Android-based smartphones, known as the Mini 3. Dell has already chosen China Mobile, Vodafone and Claro Brazil as partners outside the U.S.

But Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) still has not given out much information on the Mini 3, other than saying that it is an Android phone designed around power efficiency and platform customization. A spokesperson for the company said that with carriers falling into place, it would eventually start to disclose more information on the hardware.

"Smart phones are an extension of Dell's strategy to develop intelligent and more mobile products that meet the needs of operators and customers," said Ron Garriques, president of Dell Communication Solutions in a statement. "The Mini 3 is a result of listening to customers and creating products that allow people to do the things they want, whenever and wherever they want to do them."

Details about Dell's Mini 3 line will be announced closer to device availability, expected during the first half of 2010. Currently, it has one phone on the market in China, the Mini 3i. It's a slim phone, similar in design to many smartphones, with a 3.5-inch, 640x360 display, Bluetooth, GPS, a 3-megapixel camera and a MicroSD memory card slot.

Dell has been quietly building up a worldwide network of carriers. So far it has Vodafone in Europe, Australia and New Zealand; AT&T (NYSE: T) in the United States; M1 and Starhub in Singapore; Maxis in Malaysia; China Mobile in China; and Claro in Brazil.

Choosing AT&T as an exclusive partner may raise eyebrows; Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) did it with the iPhone, and three years later most iPhone aficionados wish it hadn't due to poor network performance and many are openly wishing for Apple to move to Verizon Wireless, which is having a field day poking fun at AT&T's 3G coverage problems in TV advertisements.

But Will Stofega, program manager for mobile device technology and trends at IDC, said AT&T may be a better company for the iPhone experience, headaches and all.

"No matter what happens, if Apple goes to Verizon, it is a learning experience to manage these data-intensive devices. To [AT&T CEO] Ralph de la Vega's point, they have had that experience. I don't think Verizon has had that experience. These devices, especially the iPhone, are different from a voice network device," he told InternetNews.com.

At the end of the day, more devices on your network goes to the bottom line, Stofega noted, so it certainly helps AT&T, and smart phones are preferable now. "It's important that data revenue grows because at the same time you have problems with voice. Voice doesn't generate revenue like it used to," he said.

"This is all about getting devices that will push their revenue and help them create a better user experience to help them keep their customers coming back for more," Stofega added.