U.S. holiday smartphones for 2010 from the nation's Tier 1 carriers

The holiday shopping season unofficially begins Nov. 26--Black Friday. In anticipation of this unofficial holiday, FierceWireless assembled this compact holiday smartphone guide. The guide provides details on the marketing and features for the top smartphones and tablets the Tier 1 wireless carriers will be promoting during the holiday season.

More so than in years past, carriers are pushing smartphones and tablets (and their attendant data plans), which is why we have focused exclusively on these devices. This list is by no means exhaustive. (And don't forget to see how this year's holiday handsets stack up against last year's list.)

A quick glance at the list and a few major themes emerge. One is that Google's Android platform is as hot as ever. Indeed, according to research firm Gartner, Android made up 25.5 percent of smartphone sales to end users in the third quarter, up from 3.5 percent in the year-ago quarter. Another theme is the emergence of the tablet as a hot device for the holidays. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad is currently dominating the market, and is now available at both AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). However, Samsung plans to make a big push as well, and will have its Android-powered GalaxyTab available from all four Tier 1 carriers this season. Finally, Microsoft also hopes its Windows Phone 7 platform catches fire amid the crowded market.

It's going to be a busy holiday season, so here's a glance at how things stack up.--Phil

Click here for Verizon Wireless' holiday handsets.

Click here for AT&T Mobility's holiday handsets.

Click here for Sprint Nextel's holiday handsets.

Click here for T-Mobile USA's holiday handsets.

 


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Apple iPad

ipad
pictures and specs

Price: $629.99 for the 16 GB iPad, $729.99 for the 32 GB iPad and $829.99 for the 64 GB iPad (all bundled with Verizon’s MiFi mobile hotspot).

Features: The iPad has a 9.7-inch capacitive, fingerprint-resistant touchscreen display, is 0.5 inches thick, weighs 1.5 lbs. and sports a 1 GHz processor built by Apple. The device has built-in speakers and a microphone, but no camera, and can get up 10 hours of battery life when surfing the Web on WiFi. The iPad syncs to PCs and Macs like iPhones do, and users can upload photos, videos and contacts in much the same way as they do for the iPhone. The iPad has built-in access to Apple’s App Store, as well as access to iTunes Apple’s ebook store, called iBooks.

Positioning: Verizon’s version of the iPad, when bundled with its MiFi product, gives customers who are interested in the iPad another option besides AT&T’s network. The iPad also is the first Apple product Verizon is directly supporting, which has kicked up the never-ending rumor that Verizon will land the iPhone. Getting the iPad at Verizon also helps Apple increase the number of its iPad distribution points.

Motorola Droid 2
droid 2
pictures and specs

Price: $149.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

 

Features: The Droid 2 runs Android 2.2 and has a 3.7-inch screen, Swype's text-input software, Adobe's Flash Player 10.1 and a full Qwerty keyboard. The phone also supports Verizon’s 3G Mobile HotSpot service, which allows users to connect up to 5 WiFi-enabled devices to the carrier's 3G network.

Positioning: The Droid 2 is the sequel to the original Droid and is--for now--one of the go-to phones for Verizon customers who want the Android experience coupled with a physical keyboard. The device has some improvements over the original, mainly upgraded software. 

Motorola Droid Pro

droid pro
pictures and specs

Price: $179.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The global-ready Droid Pro promises users CDMA and GSM voice and data coverage spanning over 200 countries. The device adds a BlackBerry touch to Android with full push corporate email, a unified calendar with additional work tools, preloaded Quickoffice Mobile Suite, a 1 GHz processor; 4 GB of memory (2 GB internal and 2 GB removable), a 3.1-inch touchscreen and a Qwerty keyboard.

Positioning: The phone is definitely aimed at enterprise users who like the functionality of a BlackBerry device but want the Android experience.

Motorola Droid X

droid x
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The Droid X runs Android 2.2 and a modified version of Motorola's MotoBLUR user interface. The device features a 1 GHz OMAP processor from Texas Instruments, a 4.3-inch screen, Swype’s messaging technology, a dual-flash, 8-megapixel camera, HD camcorder, as well as DLNA and HDMI connectivity, allowing users to download, stream and share personal HD content. The phone has three microphones--one for video, one for voice and one for noise cancellation. The device also features a mobile hotspot service that will allow users to connect up to five devices via WiFi; the service is $20 per month extra and comes with a 2 GB data cap.

Positioning: The Droid X, with its monster screen, is geared toward video consumption. Indeed, Droid X users have the ability to rent and buy movies from Blockbuster via the gadget.

Samsung Fascinate
samsung fascinate
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The Fascinate, Verizon’s variant of Samsung’s Galaxy S phone, runs Android 2.1 and has a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor. The phone has a 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, 720p HD video recording, and support for up to 32 GB of external memory. Perhaps the most impressive
hardware feature of the device is its 4-inch Super AMOLED screen.

Positioning: The Fascinate marks Samsung’s entrance into the upper echelon
of Verizon’s smartphone lineup and also gives customers who are weary of the Droid franchise another alternative. However, the device now has competition
at Verizon in the form of Samsung's own Continuum, which sports a Super
AMOLED ticker display.


Samsung Continuum

samsung continuum
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The device--the latest member of the Galaxy S line--is notable due to the 1.8-inch Super AMOLED ticker display at the bottom of the device that will present news, sports, finance and social networking updates without disrupting activities on the gadget's main 3.4-inch screen. The Continuum runs version 2.1 of Google's operating system, and--like some of Verizon's Android phones--comes preloaded with Microsoft’s Bing Search and Maps applications. The device has a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor, WiFi, Swype and a grip sensor at the bottom that activates the ticker screen. Positioning: The device is another feather in Samsung’s cap, and could provide a welcome alternative for tech-savvy customers turned on by the ticker screen.

Samsung GalaxyTab

samsung galaxytab
pictures and specs

Price: $599.99

Features: Samsung’s 7-inch tablet runs version 2.2 of Google's Android platform and has a Cortex A8 1 GHz processor, a 3-megapixel camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, access to the Android Market, support for Adobe Flash 10.1 and WiFi. Samsung has also been touting a media distribution service for the gadget that will offer content through “hubs.” The hubs, which are Samsung's answer to Apple’s iTunes, will allow users to rent movies and TV shows for $3 per day and buy them for between $12 and $20. Digital books also will be available. Positioning: Verizon’s second tablet after the iPad, the GalaxyTab gives Verizon customers an option if they don’t want the iPad. It also serves as another distribution point for Samsung.  


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Apple iPhone 4iphone
pictures and specs

Price: $199 for the 16 GB version and $299 for the 32 GB version, with a two-year contract. Features: The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch display and squared-off edges and runs on Apple's A4 processor, which also powers the iPad. The device has a glass front and back and a 960 x 640 resolution, giving the phone what Apple calls a “retina display.” The phone's camera has been upgraded to a 5-megapixel camera, with 5X digital zoom, and can also record HD video at 720p/30fps. The iPhone 4 has a front-facing camera for video chatting.

Positioning: Though Apple took a PR hit over “antennagate,” the issue did not seem to dampen sales in the third quarter, when Apple shipped a record 14.1 million iPhones. The device is still the premier draw at AT&T, and although a number of phones running on Google’s Android platform have closed the gap, the iPhone still commands a leading position among smartphones.    

Apple iPad

ipad
pictures and specs

Price: $499-$829, depending upon storage and 3G connection.

Features: The iPad has a 9.7-inch capacitive, fingerprint-resistant touchscreen display, is 0.5 inches thick, weighs 1.5 lbs. and sports a 1 GHz processor built by Apple. The device has built-in speakers and a microphone, but no camera, and can get up 10 hours of battery life when surfing the Web on WiFi. The iPad syncs to PCs and Macs like iPhones do, and users can upload photos, videos and contacts in much the same way as they do for the iPhone. The iPad has built-in access to Apple’s App Store, as well as access to iTunes Apple’s ebook store, called iBooks.

Positioning: The iPad is dominating the tablet market right now, according to Strategy Analytics, and AT&T will no doubt be pleased if that continues to be the case. However, the iPad is more than just an opportunity for AT&T to sell more data; the iPad is seeding AT&T’s base with a desire for tablets, something the carrier hopes to take advantage of in the months and years ahead.  

HTC Surround

htc surround
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Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The Surround, one of three Windows Phone 7 devices AT&T is launching for the holiday season, features a 3.8-inch touchscreen display and integrated Dolby Mobile and SRS surround sound speakers that slide out to reveal a kickstand. The phone also has a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and features a 5-megapixel camera and 16 GB of storage. Like all Windows Phone devices, the central experience is based around “hubs,” which integrate related content from the Web, applications and services.   Positioning: The phone, with its focus on its slide-out speakers, is clearly aimed at the music and entertainment crowd. The lack of a physical Qwerty keyboard makes it less of a messaging phone and more of a media-consumption device.

LG Quantum

lg quantum
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The Quantum has a 3.8-inch screen, 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel camera. The phone has a full Qwerty keyboard as well as DLNA technology through a preloaded application called Play To, which allows users to wirelessly stream videos, music and pictures from the phone to DLNA-enabled TVs, stereos, Windows 7 PCs and other consumer electronics devices.

Positioning: The Quantum is more focused on productivity than the Surround, and its keyboard likely will make users of Microsoft’s Office Mobile suite happy. However, LG does not want people to forget about play either, and so it has put a lot of emphasis on the DLNA content-sharing feature, which helps push the idea of convergence between the mobile realm and home entertainment.

Research In Motion BlackBerry Torch

blackberry torch
pictures and specs

Price: $99.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The Torch has a 3.2-inch screen, a 35-key Qwerty keyboard and a 624 MHz processor with 512 MB of Flash memory. The device also has a 5-megapixel camera with flash, WiFi and 4 GB of built-in memory storage plus a microSD/SDHD memory card slot that supports up to 32 GB cards.

Positioning: AT&T has put a lot of marketing muscle behind the Torch, and, along with RIM, the carrier is pushing the device as its premier BlackBerry smartphone and a showcase for the new BlackBerry 6 platform. RIM hopes the new OS will help it maintain loyalty among core users while attracting customers who might have been thinking about picking up an Android phone. BlackBerry 6 features a revamped user interface geared toward a touchscreen experience, a WebKit-based browser and a new app called Social Feeds that organizes social networking and RSS feeds. The OS also has threaded messaging, new multimedia software and a WiFi music sync function.

Samsung Captivate

samsung captivate
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The Captivate, AT&T’s variant of Samsung’s Galaxy S phone, runs Android 2.1 and has a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor. The phone is HSPA 7.2-capable, and has a 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, 720p HD video recording and a 16 MB microSD card. Perhaps the most impressive hardware feature of the device is its 4-inch Super AMOLED screen.

Positioning: The Captivate is the only true, high-end Android experience at AT&T now, and it allows the carrier to flesh out its multi-platform strategy with a credible Android entrant. For Samsung, AT&T’s support gives it added heft in a crowded smartphone market.

Samsung Focus

samsung focus
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The Focus sports a 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED screen, 5-megapixel camera and 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The device only has 8 GB of internal storage though, which some may quibble with.

Positioning: The device is standard-bearer of AT&T’s Windows Phone efforts, and was the only Windows device available from AT&T at the platform’s launch. It also represents Samsung’s best effort to create a mass-market smartphone experience in the United States outside of its Galaxy S line. 

Samsung GalaxyTab

samsung galaxytab
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Price: TBD

Features: Samsung’s 7-inch tablet runs version 2.2 of Google's Android platform and has a Cortex A8 1 GHz processor, a 3-megapixel camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, access to the Android Market, support for Adobe Flash 10.1 and WiFi. Samsung has also been touting a media distribution service for the gadget that will offer content through “hubs.” The hubs, which are Samsung's answer to Apple’s iTunes, will allow users to rent movies and TV shows for $3 per day and buy them for between $12 and $20. Digital books also will be available.

Positioning: The GalaxyTab stands as the closest competitor to Apple’s iPad. The gadget also serves to burnish AT&T’s reputation as the carrier with the most connected devices, and, depending upon the price AT&T sets, will likely serve as another strong revenue stream in the holiday season.


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HTC Evo

htc evo
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Features: The Evo, Sprint’s first 3G/4G phone, packs an impressive feature list. The phone has a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, an 8-megapixel camera on the back, a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front, HD video capture, Android 2.1, HTC’s Sense UI, Qualcomm's 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, support for Adobe's Flash technology in the browser and a hotspot capability (whereby it can broadcast a WiFi signal for up to eight devices). The WiFi service costs $29.99 extra per month. Positioning: Despite the launch of another 4G handset (the Samsung Epic, see below), the Evo still represents the cream of the crop of Sprint’s smartphones. The device has helped Sprint compete with the iPhone and also gave HTC a major boost in U.S. market this year. With Sprint and Clearwire lighting up more mobile WiMAX markets as Clearwire hurtles toward 120 million POPs covered, the phone’s appeal is likely only going to go up.

LG Optimus S

lg optimus s

pictures and specs

Price: $49.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The Optimus S is on the lower end of LG’s Optimus line of Android phones. It runs on Android 2.2 and features 3.2-inch screen, 3.2-megapixel camera and support for Sprint ID, which allows customers to download a predefined package of applications, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers that fits their style.

Positioning: The phone is definitely aimed at first-time smartphone buyers, and is LG’s attempt to corner the low end of the smartphone market.

Samsung Epic
samsung epic
pictures and specs

Price: $249.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The device, a version of Samsung's Galaxy S line of smartphones, is Samsung’s first WiMAX-powered handset and Sprint’s second, after the HTC Evo. Like the other variants of Samsung’s Galaxy S, the Epic runs Android 2.1 and sports a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor, 4-inch Super AMOLED screen and 5-megapixel camera. However, unlike other versions, it also offers a full Qwerty keyboard and a front-facing camera for video chatting.

Positioning: The Epic is another way for Sprint to demonstrate the capabilities of Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX network. Further, the device’s full keyboard and front-facing camera are small but important differentiators for both Sprint and Samsung. The Epic also gives Samsung another platform to demonstrate its expertise with WiMAX. 

Samsung GalaxyTab

samsung galaxytab
 
pictures and specs

Price: $399 when paired with a two-year contract, $600 without a contract.

Features: Samsung’s 7-inch tablet runs version 2.2 of Google's Android platform and has a Cortex A8 1 GHz processor, a 3-megapixel camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, access to the Android Market, support for Adobe Flash 10.1 and WiFi. Samsung has also been touting a media distribution service for the gadget that will offer content through “hubs.” The hubs, which are Samsung's answer to Apple’s iTunes, will allow users to rent movies and TV shows for $3 per day and buy them for between $12 and $20. Digital books also will be available.

Positioning: Sprint’s first tablet gives it credibility in the market against Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility. And for Samsung, partnering with Sprint is just another feather in Samsung’s cap.

Samsung Transform

samsung transform
pictures and specs

Price: $149.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The Transform sports a slide-out Qwerty keyboard as well as a 3.2-megapixel camera and a front-facing VGA camera for video conferencing. The Android 2.1 phone has a 3.5-inch HVGA screen and support for Sprint ID, which allows customers to download a predefined package of applications, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers that fits their style.

Positioning: This mid-range Android phone should appeal to younger consumers who want an Android phone but who aren’t interested in the bells and whistles of the Evo and Epic.

Sanyo Zio

sanyo zio
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Price: $99.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

Features: The Zio feature s 3.5-inch touchscreen display, Android 2.1 and a 3.2-megapixl camera, as well as Sprint ID.

Positioning: The device is similar in many respects to the Samsung Transform, and is primarily aimed at first-time smartphone buyers who are looking to make the transition from a feature phone but are not willing to plunk down the kind of money a high-end phone demands. It is also Kyocera’s first effort in years to return to the U.S. smartphone market in any meaningful way.


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HTC HD7HTC HD7
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract Features: The HD7, running on Windows Phone 7, features a massive 4.3-inch capacitive screen with built-in kickstand and a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The device also has a 5-megapixel camera and is capable of recording 720p video. T-Mobile said the gadget will be pre-loaded with several entertainment applications, including Netflix and T-Mobile TV, which will offer consumers access to live and on-demand TV, including free programming from ABC News NOW, FOX Sports, PBS Kids, Azteca America and other content.

Positioning: The HD7’s enormous screen should make it a natural fit for media consumption, and it serves as a sequel of sorts to the HTC HD2 from T-Mobile, which also featured a 4.3-inch screen but ran Windows Mobile 6.5 The device also represents an opportunity for HTC to further establish its smartphone credentials with T-Mobile; the smartphone vendor has become the premier supplier of T-Mobile’s Android phones.   

myTouch 4G

htc mytouch 4g
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

Features: The HSPA+ myTouch is powered by Android 2.2 and features a 3.8-inch WVGA touchscreen display with virtual keyboard and Swype text input. The device uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 1 GHz processor and features a 5-megapixel camera that records 720p video, an 8 GB microSD memory card and an integrated media player. The device also features a front-facing camera and supports Qik’s video chat service.

Positioning: The myTouch 4G is--even in its name--T-Mobile’s most daring attempt to market its HSPA+ network as “4G.” The device is the culmination of the myTouch line of phones (all made by HTC) and gives T-Mobile a sleek platform to showcase its speedy network.  

Samsung GalaxyTab

samsung galaxytab
pictures and specs

Price: $399.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate, or $599.99 without a contract

Features: Samsung’s 7-inch tablet runs version 2.2 of Google's Android platform and has a Cortex A8 1 GHz processor, a 3-megapixel camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting, access to the Android Market, support for Adobe Flash 10.1 and WiFi. Samsung has also been touting a media distribution service for the gadget that will offer content through “hubs.” The hubs, which are Samsung's answer to Apple’s iTunes, will allow users to rent movies and TV shows for $3 per day and buy them for between $12 and $20. Digital books also will be available.

Positioning: T-Mobile’s first tablet product serves as a way for the nation’s No. 4 carrier to establish more device parity with its larger rivals. T-Mobile also is another distribution point for Samsung.

Samsung Vibrantsamsung vibrant
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The Vibrant, T-Mobile’s variant of Samsung’s Galaxy S phone, runs on Android 2.1, and has a 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor. The phone is HSPA 7.2-capable, and has a 5-megapixel camera, WiFi, 720p HD video recording, and support for up to 32 GB of external memory. Perhaps the most impressive hardware feature of the device is its 4-inch Super AMOLED screen. T-Mobile’s version is notable in that in comes pre-loaded with James Cameron’s “Avatar” on an included 2 GB external memory card.

Positioning: The Vibrant is definitely being pushed at T-Mobile as a media-consumption device, and comes equipped with Amazon’s Kindle application for Android, MobiTV service and Slacker Radio.

T-Mobile Comet (Huawei Ideos)

t-mobile comet
pictures and specs

Price: $9.99 with a two-year contract after a $50 mail-in rebate. Also available as a prepaid phone at Best Buy, Radio Shack and Target for less than $200 (plus taxes and fees).

Features: The Comet runs Android 2.2 and features a 2.8-inch touchscreen and a 3.2-megapixel camera.

Positioning: T-Mobile is looking to migrate feature phone customers to smartphones with the Comet, which is far and away the cheapest smartphone on the market. More importantly though, the phone is made by Huawei and represents the Chinese vendor’s first breakthrough with a Tier 1 U.S. carrier.

T-Mobile G2

tmobile g2
pictures and specs

Price: $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Features: The HSPA+ G2 is built by HTC (just as the original G1 was) and runs Android 2.2 with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard. The phone has a 3.7-inch touchscreen display, 800 MHz Qualcomm processor, 720p HD video recorder, 5-megapixel camera, Swype input technology and 4 GB of internal memory with a pre-installed 8GB micro SD card and support for up to 32 GB of external memory.

Positioning: Like the myTouch 4G, the G2 gives T-Mobile a way to showcase its HSPA+ network speeds. Additionally, the phone represents the evolution of Android from the original G1, which was released in the fall of 2008 as the world’s first Android phone.

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U.S. holiday smartphones for 2010 from the nation's Tier 1 carriers