RealTime IT News

T-Mobile's Next Android Phone: myTouch 3G

T-Mobile today unveiled key details about the highly anticipated follow-up to the T-Mobile G1 -- a new, Android-powered model called the myTouch 3G.

Like the G1, the myTouch is built by HTC and runs on T-Mobile's 3G network, while also supporting Wi-Fi connectivity.

Unlike the previous Android phone, which sports a QWERTY keyboard, the myTouch 3G uses a virtual keyboard and a 3.2-inch HVGA touchscreen display. Similarly to the Apple iPhone, the virtual keyboard orients itself automatically from portrait to landscape mode in most applications.

The new smartphone also features a 3.2-megapixel camera, a music player with a pre-installed 4GB memory card and enhanced video capabilities to make it easy for users to record and share pictures and videos through e-mail, MMS or one-click upload to sites such as YouTube.

T-Mobile's myTouch will be available to pre-order for current T-Mobile customers starting July 8, with a price tag of $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Additional product features and details will be available at that time, according to the company.

Devices sold through pre-sale will begin shipping in late July, and national retail availability for myTouch is planned for early August, it said.

News of the myTouch 3G comes on the heels of two significant industry events -- the launch of the Palm Pre June 6 and the sale of the iPhone 3G S last Friday.

Both continue the unprecedented competition on all fronts of the smartphone market -- with handset makers are racing to update their operating systems as well as roll out key models to keep pace with rivals.

But at least one industry watcher isn't sure the myTouch is priced accordingly, especially given the recent price cuts to the older Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 3G.

"I think the myTouch is out of touch with current pricing models -- it is basically a G1 without the keyboard, yet it costs more," Avi Greengart, analyst at Current Analysis, told InternetNews.com. "It is competing with the $99 Apple iPhone 3G, which offers a richer applications environment and more storage, the 8 GB versus myTouch 4 GB, for half the cost."

Betting on Android

At the heart of the new myTouch G3 is Android, the open source mobile OS whose development effort is led by Google and includes a large roster of big-name handset manufacturers -- and is being closely watched as a rival to Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Mobile, the Apple iPhone and Research in Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry operating systems.

One of the software's key selling points: Android's open source model means it's relatively inexpensive for handset makers to build into their designs. It also means it has the potential to be more customizable to carriers' individual wants than the BlackBerry or Apple operating systems.

[cob:Special_Report]The Google-backed open source mobile operating system also integrates features such as Gmail and Google Maps into the phone. Additionally, it includes an application store, the Android Market, which competes with the successful Apple App Store introduced for the iPhone.

That recipe spelled success for the G1, the first Android-based phone to hit the market. But it's unclear whether it'll deliver a similar payoff for the myTouch.

"The G1 ... captured the imagination of thousands of developers as the first Android-powered phone," Andy Rubin, vice president of mobile platforms at Google, said in a statement. "With myTouch, T-Mobile is poised to capture the imagination of consumers everywhere, and by expanding the availability and appeal of Android-based devices, they're giving developers a bigger market for the next wave of killer Android applications."

Yet Greengart says the myTouch may not have an edge over other Android-powered handsets. Motorola, Acer and Samsung are slated to release new models before the end of the year.

"It is also worth noting that the myTouch is a Google-branded Android device, so T-Mobile and HTC have not enhanced the standard Android OS with additional functionality," he added. "Vendors have more flexibility with non-Google branded Android devices. For example, HTC has added an improved dialer and full [Microsoft] Exchange ActiveSync support to the HTC Magic -- which is essentially identical to the myTouch -- for Rogers in Canada," Greengart said.

Meanwhile, in what appears to be an effort to differentiate itself from the competition, T-Mobile is touting the end-user customization features of the myTouch.

"T-Mobile myTouch 3G puts you first, so you can create a mobile experience that is truly your own," Denny Marie Post, chief marketing officer at T-Mobile USA, said in a statement. "There's no cookie-cutter approach to myTouch. Inside and out, there are boundless possibilities for personalization so you can put your personal touch on the phone and make it uniquely yours."

Part of this marketing effort is the emphasis on an included myTouch application for local searches.

Called Sherpa, the app is being billed as a "a learning engine that automatically customizes itself to the user's preferences," according to the company.

"Through behavior and user feedback, the application learns a person's likes and dislikes, prioritizing recommended retailers, restaurants and attractions," the company said in a statement. "Seamlessly blending behavior recognition, a recommendation engine and location relevant information, this combination of learning is exclusive to Sherpa and unlike any experience currently on the market."

Greengart says customization is an area where myTouch could excel, but isn't sure Sherpa alone will do it.

"Personalization is certainly an area where Android can differentiate, particularly when compared to the iPhone or Palm Pre," he said. "I have not had a chance to test the Sherpa local information application, so perhaps that -- along with customized case options -- will make the myTouch feel unique in a way that other smartphones do not."

"However, local information applications are available on every mobile OS platform," he added. "For example, even the Palm Pre, which has just a handful of apps in its App Catalog right now, has WHERE."