Android This Week: Hot Handsets; Carrier Billing; Antitrust Actions

The Android Army invasion continues marching this week as Google(s goog) announced 350,000 device activations take place each day. That’s an annual run-rate of more than 127 million Androids which shows incredible momentum. Our timeline, along with a dramatic video, illustrates how quickly Google caught up to, and then surpassed, every other mobile platform in terms of daily activations. Helping to drive Android forward this week was news of three hot handsets, along with another network partner for carrier billing in the Android Market.

Samsung’s Android strategy for 2011 seems to be this: Replicate 2010’s success with one well designed phone that can be tweaked for different regions of the world. That idea worked last year with the Galaxy S line of phones and 2011 looks good with the Galaxy S II, launching next month. The handset gains a boost over its predecessor with a fast dual-core processor, a larger display (4.3-inches vs 4-inches from last year), and an 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video capture support. HTC’s Sensation 4G will offer a similar package when it arrives on T-Mobile’s network, sharing many similar qualities to the Galaxy S II. Both include a video store for rentals or purchases. While that sounds good, I have reservations because videos are locked down to play on devices of the same brand.

T-Mobile isn’t just gaining the HTC Sensation, however. The carrier launched the Optimius G2X, built by LG, by way of web orders: The handset arrives in stores early next week for purchase. The G2X is the carrier’s first dual-core smartphone, running on Nvidia’s Tegra 2 (s nvda) chip. While I haven’t reviewed the G2X yet, I did spend time with the LG Optimus 2X in January, which is essentially the same handset, minus the carrier branding and software. In a video demonstration, I got a chance to see how well the handset handles high-definition video capture and playback. You can watch the video and make your own judgments, but I walked away impressed, thinking that this phone could be my next purchase.

Speaking of purchases, it’s now easier for Sprint (s s) customers to buy apps in the Android Market. Google announced a deal to bring carrier-billing to Android handset owners on the Sprint network, so a credit card number is no longer needed to buy apps. Instead, at the point of checkout, customers can simply tap a button and have the purchase added to their monthly Sprint bill. Such ease of use is important because more consumers prefer carrier billing to other payment methods. This feature could help sell more Android software and raise revenues for Android software developers.

Also this week was news of an antitrust issue in South Korea. Two companies, Daum Communications Corp and NHN Corp, claim that Google is using unfair practices by not allowing operators or handset manufacturers to pre-install a search engine of their choice on Android handsets for their networks. As a Google product, Android comes with the Google search engine built-in by default. In the wake of Google holding up the Android 3.0 source code to the open source community, this antitrust complaint will likely add more flames to the fire for those questioning just how “open” Android really is.