Sprint helps take Android mainstream

Sprint (NYSE:S) become the second carrier today to get in the Android camp, announcing it will start selling the HTC Hero, based on Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system. While all the major carriers have pledged to support Android, Sprint is the second carrier to actually sell a device. To date, only the G1 and the MyTouch 3G are available from T-Mobile (NYSE:DT). With the addition of Sprint, Android will reach a larger audience and could be on its way to the mainstream.

Android has received a lot of buzz in the industry, but has gotten off to a slow start. Google has promised 18 to 20 handsets spanning eight or nine handset makers within the year, and so far handset makers Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and LG have all promised to create at least one. IMS Research predicted that Android will ship more than 43 million handsets in 2014, giving it a substantial share of the smartphone market.

Sprint was a charter member of the Open Handset Alliance, formed to promote the open OS. The carrier has struggled to compete with the other tier-one carriers, and its Palm exclusive device, the Pre, has yet to help its improvement. The carrier is counting on the Hero to not cannibalize its smartphone base, but broaden it as it competes in this increasingly competitive space, still dominated by the Apple iPhone and Research In Motion’s line of BlackBerry smartphones.

Sprint made a few design tweaks to the Hero, and the device will feature HTC Sense, a seven-panel wide home screen that users personalize with widgets. Users can also customize several home screens and call them up at different times. For example, a user can create a home screen for business, with stock updates, email and a calendar and one for travel, including maps, weather and the local time. The phone also includes HTC Footprints, which creates digital postcards with audio clips and location, a multi-touch display, search, a 5.0 MP camera and camcorder and can be silenced by turning it over. The Herosynchs up with all of Google’s mobile services, as well as provides access to the Android Market, housing more than 8,000 apps to date.

Consumers can pre-register for the phone today, which officially goes on sale Oct. 11 for $179.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate and $50 in savings for signing up for a two-year service agreement. Sprint will hold its annual Open Developer Conference, sponsored in part by HTC, at the end of October in Santa Clara, Calif. at which it will announce more details on developing apps for Android.

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