HTC’s newest Google Android phone is large in size, but packs more pixels than any of the company’s prior models. The new HTC Rezound was introduced as the latest LTE 4G smartphone for Verizon’s network and crams a 1280 x 720 resolution into a 4.3-inch display. That’s the same resolution as a 720p high-definition television, which is impressive. But the sharp screen coupled with a fast mobile broadband radio will cost you: The HTC Rezound is priced at $299 with a contract.
That up-front cost also gets you a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage with support for a 16 GB microSD card and an 8-megapixel camera. It also includes Beats Audio technology for improved sound. Not included on the Rezound, however, is Android 4.0 — at least not when the phone launches on Nov. 14. Instead, the handset runs on the Gingerbread version of Android. HTC said the device is “Ice Cream Sandwich ready,” and an update to Android 4.0 is expected early in 2012.
No tablets yet have Android 4.0 either, but perhaps the secret to Android tablet success has less to do with the underlying operating system and more to do with the user interface and available content. That’s why I think Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both going to sell millions of their Android-based 7-inch tablets in the coming months: something no other Android tablet-maker has done yet.
Between the Kindle Fire and the upcoming Nook Tablet, both products use Android 2.3 with a clean, heavily customized interface that completely hides Android. They also focus on the key activities that most people want in a mobile device: reading digital media, browsing the web, consuming video content, checking email and running a handful of popular applications found in curated application stores. And they both do this with a relatively low price and no expensive monthly mobile broadband contract: $199 and $249 for the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, respectively.
In contrast, traditional phone and computer makers haven’t figured out this tablet strategy, or they don’t have the content to leverage. Instead, they’re focused on computer-like specifications and hardware and are trying to compete with Apple’s iPad.
A perfect example is the new Motorola Xoom 2, just introduced this week for the U.K. and Ireland. There’s little change from the first Xoom, which hasn’t been a popular seller: a 20 percent faster chip, weight savings, and a splash-guard screen coating are some of the differences. But none of these address why the Xoom hasn’t been selling millions of units.
Motorola, Samsung, HTC, LG and a score of others are likely to do better when the improved interface of Android 4.0 arrives on slates, which at this point is looking like a 2012 event. We may see one or two tablets with Ice Cream Sandwich before year-end, but I anticipate most will be shown off at January’s Consumer Electronics Show, with availability some time after that.