AT&T (NYSE: T) surprised us all today at CES by basically announcing a huge overhaul of its smartphone and mid-range phone offerings. The new line-up will position AT&T nicely for moving beyond Apple’s iPhone — which has been one of its only cutting edge smartphone offerings to date.
In the next six months, it will release five new Android devices from Motorola (NYSE: MOT), Dell and HTC and two Palm (NSDQ: PALM) OS. As part of that, AT&T is beefing up its applications offerings by creating new partnerships with Google’s Android Market and Palm’s OS app store, and will be providing carrier billing to Nokia’s Ovi Store. In addition, for its mid-range phones, which it calls “quick messaging,” AT&T will be standardizing on Qualcomm’s Brew platform, which they hope will help start to solve some of the industry’s fragmentation problems. By 2011, it expects 90 percent of those lower-priced phones to be running Brew.
Of course, if AT&T offers more smartphones, it will have to prepare its netwrok for even more mobile broadband data. De la Vega: “AT&T is managing unprecedented mobile broadband growth. We are continuing to invest aggressively and support the long-term growth of apps.”
De la Vega said with the announcements made today, it will be “the only US carrier to offer a line-up of all the major OS’s…We’ll launch all of them in the first half of the year.”
The five Android devices will be coming from Motorola (an exclusive device based on its Blur technology), Dell (which is releasing its first phone on the platform), and HTC (which did not offer any details on what handsets would be launched). HTC’s CEO Peter Chou: “AT&T and HTC has had a close and productive relationship for the past five years, and we are pleased to expand it even further by announcing new Android products to AT&T customers. AT&T has been very focused on innovation, and we have a lead Android development.”
De la Vega said that application growth is soaring. “No country has seen the growth we have seen.” In 2009, apps downloaded in the US increased to 832.7 million apps, a 9x jump in the past two years, and revenues from those downloads have increased 60 percent.
As part of the Brew platform for AT&T’s moderately priced, mid-range phones, it said that it will launch a new app store called AppCenter, and that developers will eventually be able to submit their apps online through a web form. AT&T said it will adopt what has become the revenue-split standard because of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). Developers will keep 70 percent, and AT&T will take 30 percent.