Android Handset Invasion Coming This Year

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Never mind all of the hoopla surrounding Apple's iPhone: Today, Google's Android made some noise, too, in the form of news snippets from handset makers.

Take HTC, for example. The company's CEO, Peter Chou, was asked Tuesday to confirm a report that HTC will release five Android-based handsets this year. He replied that HTC will launch "at least" three. Bloggers have already gotten their hands on a leaked product lineup from the company and speculate that the HTC "Hero" will be another Android-based phone.

And a product lineup from Samsung was leaked in Amsterdam last Wednesday--one showing an Android-based phone. Rumors say that the handset has a capacitive touch-screen display and full Google integration. Two versions are expected: One for Europe and one for U.S. HSPA networks.

These tidbits are the first confirmations we've had of new life in the Android arena since last month's Mobile World Congress. At the Consumer Electronics show earlier this year, the only sign of the Android OS we saw was on a Redfly mobile terminal, not a handset. With so many manufacturers joining the Open Handset Alliance (Google's open-source business alliance) last year, it was disappointing that there wasn't more news about it.

At the Mobile World Congress, Vodafone unleashed its HTC Magic. Available in Europe this April, many observers guess that this handset will be branded as the T-Mobile G2. The HTC Magic will run the next generation of Android (code-named "Cupcake" and expected to come as an over-the-air update to Android in April); this version of Android should add functionality such as cut/copy/paste and improve some performance issues within the operating system. LG showed only Windows Mobile phones at MWC, but said that it plans to release at least one Android-based phone by June, and two more later this year.

Smart-phone customers will certainly have plenty of options to choose from this spring and summer. With Apple's iPhone 3.0 update launching in June, it is pretty certain that Apple will release new hardware, too. It will be interesting to see how the forthcoming next-generation Android devices will stack up against the iPhone's third-generation hardware and software. And don't forget the Palm Pre--it's expected to make a huge splash on the smart-phone scene in the April-to-June time frame as well.

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