Android this week: AT&T Galaxy S II video look; Android event Oct.11; Kindle Fire

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The next U.S. version of Samsung’s Galaxy S II phone is due to arrive in AT&T stores on Sunday, so to help prepare potential buyers, we have a short video overview of a review unit. The Android 2.3.4 smartphone has a peppy dual-core processor that makes this one of the fastest Android phones yet to hit the market. But it’s more than just a phone with a speedy chip.

The 8 megapixel rear camera shoots excellent images while the front-facing 2 megapixel camera has worked well for Google Talk video chats. I had a cross-country video call with my son on the Galaxy S II and he thought I was at a computer; that’s how good the visual clarity is. You can also see in the video of how Samsung integrated movement sensors into the interface. By tapping the screen and moving the phone, you can adjust widget placement and zoom in or out of web pages or pictures.

While the Galaxy S II has the latest smartphone version of Android, a new one is coming soon. Known as Ice Cream Sandwich, the next version of Google’s mobile platform is meant to unify features between smartphones and tablets.

I received an invite to a Samsung event on Oct. 11 which also has Google’s logo on it. Given the expected timing of Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s likely that the new operating system will be unveiled at the event on a Samsung device; perhaps the next Nexus phone.

Early in the week, the newest Android tablet was launched, but you wouldn’t know it ran on Google’s platform. Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire, a $199 slate with 7-inch screen and customized user interface that completely hides Android. With the Kindle Fire, Amazon is taking a similar approach to that of Barnes and Nobles’s Nook Color, with one huge exception: Amazon has a much broader media ecosystem for its tablet.

The Kindle Fire is focused on Amazon’s content libraries for e-books, magazines, movies, television shows, and music. The Fire also comes with an email client and access to Amazon’s AppStore, which is a curated store of third-party Android applications. A Wi-Fi-only device, the Fire also has a hybrid web browser called Amazon Silk that works with Amazon Web Services to deliver content faster.

Android purists may opt for full-featured Google tablets, but for the mainstream audience, the Fire looks compelling. It delivers most of the functionality that consumers want in a small, portable device and does so at a far lower price than most competitors. See our first look video here from the Kindle Fire launch.

But there’s potentially good news for those that want a traditional tablet. Priced at $199, the Fire may put pressure on tablet makers to build devices that sell in the $250 to $300 range, instead of $499 as we’ve seen in the recent past. The HTC Flyer received a permanent $200 price cut that starts today: The capable 7-inch slate now costs $299; just days after Amazon announced its $199 Kindle Fire.

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