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CES 2010: Dell, Motorola, HTC Android assault comes to AT&T; is current pace burning adopters?

CES 2010: AT&T announced that it will deploy five Google Android-based handsets from Dell, Motorola and HTC in the first half of 2010.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor on

It was only a matter of time.

AT&T on Wednesday announced that it will deploy five Google Android-based handsets from Dell, Motorola and HTC in the first half of 2010.

AT&T said it's bringing a "unique form factor" Motorola phone (Motus, anyone?), Dell's first smartphone and a completely new HTC handset all to its 3G network.

The move rounds out the Android assault across all four major U.S. carriers -- Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile -- and finally makes direct competition and comparison shopping possible between them.

But is the introduction of all these new smartphones burning adopters?

At the rate that new handsets are being announced, Android phones are set to become the new feature phones -- lots of 'em, and consumers can distinguish between them about as well as standing in the toothpaste aisle at the pharmacy.

That's great for carriers -- data plans! -- but not necessarily good for manufacturers long-term. (Ask LG.)

But what really irks me is that the hardware has improved with such rapid acceleration -- it was a little over a year ago that the T-Mobile G1 was announced -- that anyone who's opted into buying an Android phone is likely to feel burned.

T-Mobile G1? Burned by the myTouch 3G, which was burned by the HTC Hero and Motorola CLIQ, which were burned by the Motorola Droid, which was just burned by the Google Nexus One.

If you're an Android user, you feel out-of-date before you make it back to your car from your local carrier store.

That's the nature of technology, of course, but the problem with mobile is that most folks are locked into two-year contracts. That means there are plenty of consumers who, aside from the iPhone, haven't even had a real crack at any of the latest iteration of smartphones.

Google's "superphone"? Most folks don't even have access to a smartphone of the Clark Kent variety.

AT&T's offerings aren't likely to be major splashes -- the Motus will run the lower-end Motoblur, and Dell's handset doesn't look the flagship part -- and the carrier's held out on Android while it's reaped the benefit of having iPhone exclusivity, so most consumers won't be switching to AT&T for a particular Android handset.

But it will encourage current AT&T customers without smartphones to upgrade. But if the phone's hardware and software feel out of date in a New York minute, what's the point?

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