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Archos, a French company that has been building inexpensive tablets longer than most, is now entering the smartphone market. On Thursday, Archos announced a trio of Google Android(s goog) smartphones with dual-SIM capability that it will sell at full price. But don’t expect to pay the $600 or more that a flagship phone often lists for: these Archos handsets range in price from $99 to $249 without a contract.
All three devices offer the basic, native Android experience, just like Google’s Nexus phone line. That could appeal to many who prefer Android’s user interface over HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz interfaces, for example. Of course, at this price, you won’t get the hardware that’s inside a Google Nexus flagship. The internal components aren’t bad for the price, but you won’t find support for LTE. Instead, all three devices use 3G/HSPA networks with download speeds up to 7.2 Mbps.
For $99, the entry-level Archos 35 Carbon gets you a 3.5-inch IPS display with low 360 x 480 resolution. Internal memory is just 4 GB, which can be expanded with up 32 GB on a microSD card. The Android 4.0 device runs on a 1 GHz Qualcomm(s qcom) 7225A chip and includes aGPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0 and can be a hotspot. The two cameras — front and rear — only capture VGA quality images.
The $219 Archos 50 Platinum is a 5-inch handset with 960 x 540 resolution and IPS screen, running Android 4.1.2. The Platinum gets a big performance boost over the Carbon with a quad-core Qualcomm 8225Q running at 1.2 GHz paired with 1 GB of memory. Internal memory still tops out at 4 GB but can be expanded with removable storage. The same connectivity options from the Carbon are here. The two cameras, however, get a vast improvement: 8 megapixel on the rear camera with 720p video capture and 2 megapixels on the front.
An additional $30 moves you up to the Archos 53 Platinum at $249. A cursory scan of the specs shows me that the $30 gets you a larger version of the Archos 50 because the specs appear to be the same. The key difference is the screen, which is a 5.3-inch IPS panel using the same qHD resolution as the Archos 50. You do get a larger battery, however, than the slightly smaller, cheaper model.
Archos plans to begin selling the smartphones by the end of May in Europe. I haven’t seen any indication of whether the handsets will arrive in the U.S., but I suspect you can always order one from overseas if you want a low-cost, unlocked Android phone without a homescreen skin.