AT&T used the first day of CES as the launch point for a bevy of devices for its brand new LTE network, just as its competitor Verizon Wireless used the show to kickstart its 4G service in 2011. The new Android devices now number six — though more may surface as we get further into CES — but the big-ticket item, Samsung’s wide-bodied stylus-based Galaxy Note, has already made its debut.
Let’s take them one at a time:
- The Samsung Galaxy Note is the largest-screened smartphone (5.3 inches) to date, bridging what may become an increasingly artificial divide between the smartphone and tablet. It has the same Super AMOLED display of its Galaxy predecessors, but what’s most interesting is how users interact with it. Rather than mashing your sausage-like fingers onto the screen, you can harken back to the days of the Palm Pilot, using a stylus to make precise drawings and notations as well pen emails and text messages through built-in handwriting recognition technologies. The Note launched first in Europe and Asia, but AT&T isn’t just getting leftovers. Samsung has tweaked it with a faster 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and an LTE chip for much faster speeds.
- The Pantech Element may mark the beginning of an AT&T effort to scale LTE connected tablets down to cheaper price point. The Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) 8-inch Element won’t just be AT&T’s cheapest LTE tablet – its $300 price tag with 2-year contract is half that of the larger-screened HTC Jetstream – it will be the cheapest tablet AT&T offers period, undercutting the HSPA-only Acer Iconia Tab. As its name implies, the Element is waterproof (AT&T repeatedly dunked it in a tank of water), and is embedded with 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor)
- The Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket HD appears much like its cousin, the plain-old S II Skyrocket, on AT&T’s LTE network, except for its larger and higher-resolution screen as its suffix would imply. It measures 4.65 inches across, into which it packs a 1280 x 780 pixels of depth. Like the Note, the new Skyrocket has 1.5 GHz dual-core processor to handle HD video.
- The Sony Xperia Ion will also be HD video-focused device, though in a different way. It will sport a 4.6-inch, 1280 x 780 pixel display, but its most impressive feature is on the other side of the phone: a whopping 12-megapixel main camera for recording hi-res videos and photos. The Ion will be Sony’s first LTE phone and the first device it will market in the U.S. under its own brand since it bought up Ericsson’s stake in Sony Ericsson.
- The Samsung Exhilarate is the latest in a growing number of green phones. It’s made from 80 percent recycled post-consumer materials and comes with a few built-in apps designed such as an eco-calculator and eco-calendar targeting the environmentally conscious crowd. The Exhilarate received a platinum certification from UL Environment, which rates devices in terms of their environmental sustainability.
- The Pantech Burst rounds out the new portfolio. Like the Element targets the low-to-mid-range tablet segment, the Burst does the same for the Android smartphone. The 4-inch super AMOLED device will run $50 with a two-year contract. AT&T is trying to maximize the appeal of both devices to the budget-minded by packaging them together. For a limited time, AT&T will offer both for a total price of $250.
All the devices will be released in the first half of the year, though some will arrive sooner than others. The Note will be available in the “coming weeks,” while the Pantech devices will go on sale Jan. 22, AT&T said. The Skyrocket and Exhilarate will appear in the “coming months” while the Xperia Ion is slated for a second quarter launch.