Verizon’s Eris Ups Its Bet on Android

Verizon Eris by HTC
Verizon Eris by HTC
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Source: Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless today unveiled its second Android-powered handset, the Droid Eris manufactured by HTC — and using the same interface as the widely lauded HTC Hero offered by Sprint.

The Eris will go on sale tomorrow for $99.99 after rebates and new two-year service plan, joining the Motorola Droid — Verizon’s first Android phone, which Droidwill also hit store shelves tomorrow.

Powered by the 528 MHz Qualcomm MSM 7600 processor, the Eris weighs in at a tad over 4 ounces, and is 4.4 inches long, 2 inches wide and half an inch thick. It uses CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A for connectivity and boasts a 3.2-inch touchscreen with 320-by-480 resolution.

The Eris also includes GPS, an accelerometer, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a 5-megapixel camera and full HTML browser.

Despite all the features packed into the Eris at a price below many of its competitors — many smartphones cost $199 — the Sense interface is what is likely to stand out.

The interface, which received warm reviews when it debuted on the HTC Hero at Sprint, allows users to customize a seven-panel homescreen with a variety of widgets.

Owners can also create multiple homescreens featuring different menus of shortcuts and information. So, for example, one can be optimized for business while a second one focuses on social contacts.

Additionally, Sense lets users access text messages, e-mails, calls and Facebook updates from friends in a single “contact card.”

Like the Motorola Droid, the HTC Eris is powered by Android, the open source mobile platform backed by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). However, Eris runs on Android version 1.5, unlike the Droid, which uses Android 2.0.

The debut of the HTC Eris comes at a time when Verizon is employing a full-court press in the smartphone sector — no longer content to rely primarily on the BlackBerry family. On the heels of a public partnership with Google to co-develop Android devices, Verizon began a feisty campaign ad pelting AT&T and the iPhone with criticism as it talked up its own upcoming Droid.

For Verizon, the holiday release timing of the Droid and Eris aims to reinvigorate its smartphone lineup after having largely sat on the sidelines during the summer — while Apple’s iPhone 3GS launched with AT&T as its exclusive carrier, and Palm’s Pre and Pixi grabbed headlines for Sprint.

Now, it may be Verizon’s time to score some points. Droid and Eris are debuting just as Android’s momentum is picking up: The latest release of the 2.0 SDK and recent handsets are winning praise compared to the first iterations of the OS and Android-based phones, which for the most part garnered only lukewarm critical reception.

Currently, three of the nation’s top four carriers offer Android smartphones — AT&T remains the exception. Still, there are reports that Dell may introduce an Android phone on AT&T early next year.

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