Android the Giant: T-Mobile, Acer Sign On

In the amped-up Android rollout, T-Mobile and Acer both confirmed they will be introducing smartphones based on Google’s open-source mobile platform.

T-Mobile is planning to offer the follow-up device to the T-Mobile G1 early this summer, but declined to offer any more details, while Acer announced a time-frame for its Android devices for Q3.

Acer this week joined the Open Handset Alliance and said it will launch smartphones based on the open source Android platform by the end of 2009.

The computer manufacturer will also launch Acer Aspire One netbooks based on the Android platform, with the netbooks hitting the market in advance of the smartphones.

“Netbooks are designed to be compact in size and easy to connect to the Internet wherever you go,” said Jim Wong, Acer’s president of IT Products Global Operation, in a statement. “The Android operating system offers incredibly fast wireless connection to the Internet. For this reason, Acer has decided to develop Android netbooks for added convenience to our customers.”

Up to 20 Android smartphones will be on the market worldwide this year as the battle for mobile market share becomes more fierce. In addition to Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android, a key software update from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) for its iPhone is coming soon, while Palm’s highly touted Pre, sporting the new webOS, goes on sale Saturday.

News of Android phone releases comes at a time when competitors are enhancing their operating systems and gearing up for signature product launches in an effort to capitalize on the lucrative smartphone market, which is posting gains amid a wider slump in handset sales.

Smartphone shipments will grow by almost 19 percent this year, despite an overall decline in the worldwide mobile phone market, according to the research firm Ovum.

Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) just finished tweaking the BlackBerry operating system to support touchscreens and speedier browsing, while Apple is poised to release iPhone OS version 3.0, with a slew of enhancements and perhaps a new iPhone model. Microsoft is also prepping updates to its Windows Mobile software.

Android is widely expected to be a challenger in the increasingly crowded mobile OS space. Android’s open source model means it’s relatively inexpensive for handset makers to build into their designs and also that it has the potential to be more customizable than the BlackBerry or Apple operating systems. It also integrates features such as Gmail and Google maps into the phone and includes an app store, designed to compete with the successful Apple App Store.

Still, with only one available Android phone on sale in the U.S., HTC’s T-Mobile G1, which surpassed 1 million in sales after six months, industry watchers have lamented the dearth of specific launch details by manufacturers.

Clearly, that’s about to change. In addition to T-Mobile and Acer, other Android models are poised for release in coming months, notably two from Samsung and two from Motorola later in the year.

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