Samsung’s First U.S. Android Phone Debuts

Samsung today introduced its first U.S. smartphone powered by Google’s open source Android platform, and unveiled plans to expand its offerings in the mobile enterprise market.

The Samsung Moment is being offered in conjunction with Sprint (NYSE: S), and goes on sale Nov. 1 for $179.99, after rebates. It comes with equipped with mobile services from Google, including search, maps, Gmail and YouTube.

The news of the new phone from Samsung marks the electronics company’s entry into the Android-powered smartphone race that’s underway in the United States, with HTC and Motorola also rolling out signature handsets in time for the holiday season.

Sprint plans to begin selling the HTC Hero on Oct. 11, a launch date that will likely make it the third Android smartphone to ship in the United States, following the G1 and the month-old MyTouch 3G, which are both also manufactured by HTC.

Motorola’s (NYSE: MOT) first Android phone, the Cliq, will be sold through T-Mobile.

New Android devices are also expected soon from rival Verizon Wireless, which plans to introduce its first Android handsets within weeks under a newly minted partnership with Google.

At the same time, Android itself is undergoing an aggressive series of updates. Its first update, version 1.5, or “Cupcake,” shipped in May, while version 1.6, codenamed “Donut,” became available in September.

Meanwhile, as Sprint, the nation’s No. 3 carrier, prepares to roll out the HTC Hero, it is also ramping up efforts to court Android developers.

Sprint recently added tools and information for creating and testing Android apps to its application developer Web site. These include network and product APIs, such as location-based services and messaging, now available through the Sprint Developer Sandbox.

Samsung’s enterprise play

In addition to its Android plans, Samsung today also unveiled a new mobile enterprise initiative at the trade show wireless association CTIA is hosting this week San Diego.

As part of the effort, the company launched the Samsung Mobile Innovator (SMI) global program to address what it says is a fragmented market.

“Different mobile operating systems, different form factors and phone features and different carrier requirements have created challenges for mobile developers to not only develop applications, but to market those applications to the enterprise,” the company said in a statement. “SMI will focus on solving these issues by giving mobile developers the tools they need to develop and market mobile applications, widgets and ideas for different Samsung phones.”

Samsung is also leveraging SMI to further build out its enterprise ecosystem through enterprise-focused collaborations with independent software vendors such as Agito Networks.

At the CTIA conference, Samsung and Agito are planning a public demonstration of what they describe as the first commercially available server-based enterprise fixed mobile convergence (eFMC) and mobile unified communications application to run on Samsung’s smart phones.

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