T-Mobile announced on Monday its first two smartphones capable of fully utilizing the operator’s 42 Mbps mobile broadband network. The carrier’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S II and the HTC Amaze 4G, both Android phones, were introduced at GigaOM’s Mobilize event in San Francisco. A new 42 Mbps MiFi, the T-Mobile Sonic 4G Mobile Hotspot was also launched.
The new devices come at a time when the no. 4 U.S. carrier has spent much of this year upgrading its mobile broadband data network. In 2010, T-Mobile boosted the network to 21 Mbps speeds and wasted little time in doubling the network speeds in 2011 with HSPA+ 42 wireless capability and additional backhaul to cell sites. That’s because the carrier is seeing data consumption double every six months.
The increased speeds are helping to quickly transition T-Mobile customers to smartphones that generate increased data revenues. In a phone conversation with Cole Brodman, T-Mobile’s Chief Marketing Office, he told me that “75 percent of the phones T-Mobile sells this year will be smartphones, and of those, 90 percent are Android.”
Without an Apple iPhone, the Android figure makes sense and the overall percent of smartphones sold is higher than the industry, which is estimated to be around 55 percent of all phones sold in the U.S. this year, according to Chetan Sharma, an independent telecom analyst.
As far as the new phones themselves, the Galaxy S II will look familiar as both Sprint and AT&T have introduced their versions. One immediate difference in T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II, aside from the 42 Mbps radio, is a larger, 4.52-inch Super AMOLED Plus display.
The phone also has NFC capability, although Brodman told me the feature won’t be used at launch. Most other specifications are similar or the same: a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor (from Qualcomm, not Samsung), 16 GB of storage capacity with expansion up to 48 GB, an 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera and HDMI output.
The new HTC Amaze 4G with Sense 3.0 is also a powerful smartphone, using the same 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU but with a 4.3-inch qHD (960×540 resolution) Super LCD screen. However, the HTC Amaze 4G is positioned as a top-notch camera device with simple sharing on the fast HSPA+ network.
The wide aperture f/2.2 camera — good for low-light conditions — uses an 8-megapixel sensor. A few new scene modes, similar to those found on T-Mobile’s HTC Sensation 4G, are included to enhance the image-taking experience:
- SmartShot takes five pictures and combines the best attributes of each to capture smiles and eliminate blinking eyes.
- ClearShot HDR creates high contrast images.
- SweepShot captures wide panoramic views.
- PerfectPics intelligently surfaces the best or most meaningful photos into a separate photo album.
The phone also boasts zero-shutter lag, face detection, 1080p HD video capture and a five-image BurstMode. Images can be shared natively to Facebook, Picasa and Flickr.
Those who prefer to use laptops and tablets on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network may be interested in the Sonic 4G Mobile Hotspot. The 3.88 ounce device shares its mobile broadband connection with up to five devices over Wi-Fi and has a 32 GB microSD card slot to save and share data across the personal hotspot network. A small OLED display shows the number of connected devices, signal strength and battery life, which is estimated at 4.5 hours of continuous use.
Both new handsets will be available for online orders starting Oct. 10 with widespread retail availability two days later. T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S II, is priced at $229.99 with contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate, while the HTC Amaze 4G will cost $259.99 with contract and after the same $50 mail-in rebate. T-Mobile hasn’t set a price for the Sonic 4G but expects it to be available in stores before the end of October.