The summer is shaping up to be a battle of high-profile smartphones, and Apple really kicked it to another gear with Monday's introduction of the iPhone 3G S and the discounted iPhone 3G.
Nokia started things off by shipping its first high-end touch-screen smartphone last week. The N97 has a 3.5-inch touch screen, a slide-out full keyboard, Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, a 5-megapixel camera, and 32 GB of internal storage. The handset may have a difficult time gaining traction in the United States, though, as it wasn't picked up by a carrier and is being sold unlocked for about $700.
Palm had a big launch event for its Pre smartphone over the weekend, and Sprint said it broke numerous sales records. While Palm and Sprint didn't elaborate on how many units were sold, analysts estimate more than 50,000 units were sold over the launch weekend.
The touch-screen Pre has received positive reviews from multiple publications, and its webOS operating system offers a finger-friendly way for users to multitask and aggregate contacts from various Web services. Sprint is positioning the device as its flagship handset and will be throwing its marketing heft behind the phone.
It's unclear how many new customers the Pre will attract, as RBC analyst Mike Abramsky estimated 90% of Pre buyers over the weekend were existing Sprint customers. Additionally, Verizon Wireless has said a device like the Pre will wind up on its networks in about six months, which may limit the number of customers who switch to get the phone.
Apple undoubtedly stole some of Palm's thunder with Monday's announcements, as the iPhone 3G S trumps the Pre in a few features like video recording. But Apple is also facing some hurdles with its new handset as well, as many existing iPhone 3G owners won't be able to upgrade easily. Still, Apple's price cut of its existing lineup of smartphones means new subscribers can get an iPhone 3G for half the price of a Pre.
The Google-backed Android operating system is expected to ship on a few handsets this summer as well, and devices like the HTC Magic and Samsung I7500 offer sleek designs that put it on par with rivals. Additionally, Google has pushed out a firmware update that adds features like video recording, a software keyboard, voice search, and a native YouTube uploader.
Research In Motion has been relatively quiet about what's on tap for the next few months, but the company acknowledged that it's working on a sequel for the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm. Rumors and leaks also suggest the company is working on BlackBerry smartphones that ditch the trackball for an optical sensor pad for navigation.
Microsoft isn't sitting still either, as its upgraded Windows Mobile software and application store are expected to hit in the second half of the year. HTC probably has the most-anticipated Windows Mobile handsets with its Touch Pro 2 and Touch Diamond 2, and these smartphones feature beefed-up specs and will be compatible with Windows Mobile 6.5.
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