Sony Ericsson Updates Android Plans

Sony Ericsson is dusting off plans to unveil an Android handset this year, joining Motorola, Acer and Samsung in the later launch cycle for smartphones based on the Google-backed open source mobile platform.

Codenamed “Rachael,” the Android touchscreen phone will be part of the company’s Xperia Series, which also includes the Windows Mobile X1, and include an 8-megapixel camera, according to reports by Danish Mobile magazine’s Web site.

If reports are true, the phone will run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform, which means it would have processor speeds of up to 1GHz. No other details were provided by the magazine and Sony Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) declined to comment on the report.

The news of the device comes after slumping Sony Ericsson announced during a grim earnings call in April that it would delay releasing any Android smartphones. At that time, the company posted a $382 million loss for the first quarter and a 35 percent drop in shipments year-over-year amid widespread layoffs.

It’s possible that the Finnish firm is counting on Android sales to take off and doesn’t want to be left behind as other first-string players in the mobile sector begin rolling out new models.

T-Mobile two weeks ago unveiled key details of the Android myTouch 3G, which is available to pre-order for T-Mobile subscribers beginning on Wednesday.

The highly-anticipated follow-up to the T-Mobile G1, the myTouch 3G uses a virtual keyboard and a 3.2-inch HVGA touchscreen display. The new smartphone also features a 3.2-megapixel camera, a music player with a pre-installed 4GB memory card and enhanced video capabilities.

Meanwhile, Motorola and Samsung have also announced plans to release Android handsets in time for the holiday sales season and computer-maker Acer is slated to debut Android phones in Q3 as well. Dell has even hinted at making a move into the smartphone sector with an Android handset to go on sale late in 2009.

The Android newcomers will join signature models just out from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), the iPhone 3G S, and the Pre from Palm (NASDAQ: PALM). While the T-Mobile G1 topped 1 million in sales after six months, the iPhone 3GS sold as many in the first three days of launch, while the Pre is estimated to have sold about 150,000 since June 6, according to analyst estimates.

Android is widely expected to upset the status quo in the increasingly competitive 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.

Palm is expected to release the SDK for its Pre platform, webOS, later this summer and Apple just upgraded the iPhone OS to version 3.0. Meanwhile, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is slated to unveil Android 2.0, dubbed “Donut,” by the end of the year.

As handset makers introduce new models this year in an attempt to dominate market share in the lucrative mobile market, the industry is closely watching new Android phone developments to see how they’ll fare in the competitive sector.

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