RealTime IT News

AT&T Dialing Up Android, BlackBerry for Summer?

Despite the Apple iPhone proving a big seller and a key growth driver for AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless network isn't resting on its laurels.

Instead, with a host of rivals poised to unveil flashy new phones that aim to unseat the iPhone, AT&T's marching out a parade of new smartphones of its own this year -- with a lineup that could include Motorola Android phones, new BlackBerry models and two HTC handsets.

Though AT&T (NYSE: T) declined to comment on the information, spec sheets comprising a roadmap for the remainder of 2009 obtained by Engadget Mobile show that the telecom giant is prepping a mix of smartphones across all platforms.

According to the report, the lineup includes a pair of 3G Android phones from Motorola (NYSE: MOT). The company has long been a participant in the Google-backed Open Handset Alliance, which oversees Android development, and has said publicly that it expects to be relying heavily on the open source mobile operating system for future devices.

If the reports are true, the Motorola phones -- dubbed "Sawgrass" and "Heron" -- both offer full keyboards and slider designs. Sawgrass also includes integrated blogging features and threaded text-messaging conversations, while Heron, expected Nov. 2, will boast a 2.8-inch touchscreen, social networking and location-service based functionality.

Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) is also on board for a host of AT&T rollouts this year, though release dates were not included in the information. Slated for 2009 is the tri-band BlackBerry Onyx, equipped with full keyboard and HVGA display. Also listed is a BlackBerry Pearl, codenamed "Gemini," and the next iteration of the Bold, dubbed "Magnum."

On the HTC front, a new 3G Android model called "Lancaster," featuring a slide-out keyboard, is slated to go on sale in August. HTC has already made a name for itself in Android-based smartphones, having developed the first two devices to hit the market, with its inaugural model, the T-Mobile G1, arriving to much fanfare.

Rounding out HTC offerings are a model codenamed "Warhawk," which looks to be the HTC Touch Diamond 2, and the "Fortress," which may be the HTC TouchPro 2. The Warhawk will run on Windows Mobile 6.5, and is slated for an Aug. 24 release, while Fortress was suppose to be out by the end of May, though it's yet to emerge. Both handsets support Wi-Fi.

Looming competition for AT&T

AT&T's efforts to strengthen its lineup come at a critical time for the competitive smartphone market, with rivals planning a number of new models this summer in a bid to steal the iPhone's limelight.

Dubbed by some as an "iPhone killer," Palm's Pre is set to go on sale June 6, in partnership with the No. 3 U.S. carrier, Sprint. While early reviews have heaped praise on the Pre, industry experts agree that Palm needs the debut to be a smash hit to keep the business out of jeopardy.

Meanwhile, rumors abound that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) will launch new iPhones around the same time as an extension of its exclusive contract with AT&T, although the iPhone maker is also rumored to be in talks with AT&T rival Verizon Wireless.

Additionally, recent research shows that despite the recession, smartphone sales are still growing, amid an overall cell phone slump, resulting in burgeoning application and mobile advertising markets as well. To capitalize on the trend, mobile network operators are trying to create portfolios with a knock-out mix of all operating systems and devices to entice consumers to buy -- and spend on data plans.