AT&T Singing Along With HTC’s Aria

AT&T and HTC on Monday announced the new HTC Aria, a pocket-sized Android smartphone that will be available exclusively through AT&T starting later this month.

HTC Aria

HTC Aria

Based on the Android 2.1 platform, the WiFi-capable Aria sports a 5-megapixel camera and a bright 3.2-inch HVGA display along with 3G speed, a capacitive touchscreen and an optical joystick.

The device is compatible with AT&T’s high speed packet access (HSPA) 7.2 Mbps technology, which provides “a considerable boost” over 3G speeds when combined with expanded backhaul, AT&T said. Its WiFi support, meanwhile, provides instant access at more than 20,000 locations. No Sharp EdgesA full selection of the newest and most popular Google services can be accessed with the HTC Aria, including Google search, Google Maps, Google Navigation, Gmail, YouTube and more. Customers can also choose from the more than 50,000 applications available at the Android Market.

Also part of the HTC Aria is the HTC Sense interface, which brings the most relevant information to the forefront of the mobile experience. Toward that end, the device supports Friend Stream, which delivers Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates in a single, consolidated view.

Measuring just over 4 inches long and weighing a mere 4.05 ounces, the HTC Aria features a seamless, wraparound soft-touch back cover that eliminates sharp edges.

The new device will be available on June 20 at AT&T retail locations across the United States or online for US$129.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate; a two-year agreement and a smartphone data plan are required.

‘A Great Next-Gen Device’

“This sounds like a great next-generation device,” telecom and wireless analyst Jeff Kagan told LinuxInsider.

“These Android devices are very forward-thinking,” Kagan noted. They “have solid features, and have really come a long way in just the last few years.”

Indeed, AT&T plans to expand its Android portfolio further with more Android smartphones during the second half of 2010, it said.

Distinguishing Features

Yet as more and more smartphones emerge, “it is becoming consistently apparent that they are much more similar to each other then they are apart,” added Allen Nogee, a principal analyst with In-Stat.

“With the fast growth in smartphones these last few years, including many good new Android devices, the obstacle facing wireless operators is how to set apart one device from all the others,” Nogee told LinuxInsider. “That is becoming more difficult with every new model, as they are looking more and more like all the other models.”

Android 2.1 “does add some additional features, but many are visual rather than adding much functionality,” Nogee pointed out.

‘Right in the Middle’

The Aria’s HSPA 7.2 Mbps technology is definitely an improvement over traditional 3G, Mike Morgan, senior analyst for mobile devices with ABI Research, told LinuxInsider.

Though the technology is not deployed everywhere yet, “all new premium smartphones should have at least that level of connectivity in them, especially data-centric devices” like those based on Android, he asserted.

The Aria’s pricing, meanwhile, puts it “right in the middle” of AT&T’s portfolio, Morgan added.

‘Building Up a Toehold’

Though AT&T also carries the wildly popular iPhone, “the whole reason it picked up Android was because of customer demand,” Morgan explained. “The first few devices they put in the water were a little weak, but it sounds like they’re slowly building up a toehold in the Android environment.”

The United States, in fact — which is “a very special smartphone market,” Morgan noted — will be “the one place where Android and the iPhone go head-to-head with the same customer base, the same network and the same data plan.”

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