Sprint (s S), the beleaguered mobile carrier, today announced that it will start selling HTC Hero, a touchscreen phone based on Google’s Android OS, on Oct. 11 for $179. The availability of this device only underscores how badly Sprint needs a fast-selling smartphone model.
Sprint had been betting big on Palm Pre (s PALM) to make a strong play in the fast-growing and lucrative smartphone business. Unfortunately, things have not worked out as planned. Some analysts say that Sprint, which had hoped to sell 1-1.5 million Pre devices in the first year, will miss that target. Palm is selling about 25,000 devices a week, according to David Eller, an analyst with Town Hall Investment Research. The device is being hurt by the availability of the BlackBerry Tour, which is one of the best smartphone devices. The HTC Hero looks pretty much like the HTC-made MyTouch currently being sold on T-Mobile, with a few changes.
It is part of a few dozen Android phones that are slotted for release later this year. Much as I would like to think that HTC will be Sprint’s Hero, it will be hard. With so many Android devices, including some Motorola (s MOT) is likely to announce at our Mobilize 09 conference, Sprint would have to do something special to stand out in the crowd, which is dominated by the presence of the iPhone 3G.