Samsung teams with O2 Germany for Android launch

HTC's extended period as the only major with a commercial Android handset is finally coming to an end, with Samsung unveiling its first phone for the Google platform, initially in an exclusive with O2 Germany.

The touchscreen I7500 joins an increasingly crowded line-up of high profile launches for June, with new iPhones, the Palm Pre, the Nokia N97 and new HTC models also expected to ship. There is no pricing for the Samsung device yet, but some details have been released. These show the product being fairly average as Samsung smartphones go, in terms of feature set, with the operating system its main claim to grab headlines.

This suggests Samsung may position Android for affordable smartphones and midrange webphones, probably the OS's natural home in the phone world, at least in its current immature state. Specs include HSPA support, 5-megapixel camera, 8Gb of internal memory, Wi-Fi, 3.2-inch OLED touchscreen and one-click access to Google apps like Mail, Maps and Android Market. This last will reinforce nervousness about the extent to which the supposedly open OS is being tightly integrated with Google's own services.

It appears that the O2 exclusive is just for Germany to start with, but it is not clear whether it might extend to other European territories - the UK, Ireland, Czech Republic and Slovakia - or even parent Telefonica's Spanish homeland. In the UK and Ireland, O2 always has the problem of positioning new smartphones so they do not cannibalize its all-important iPhone exclusive, while the Telefonica group is said to be negotiating for an exclusive for the Palm Pre launch.

In Germany, though, where O2 is dwarfed by T-Mobile and Vodafone, it needs eye-catching handset launches to fend off the incumbent's iPhone and other rivals like the Vodafone HTC Magic. Vodafone recently announced pricing for the Magic, and O2 will need to match or better this with the similarly profiled I7500 - in Germany, for instance, the Magic will be offered for €60 with a basic €25-per-month data tariff, or just €1 with a high end €120-per-month package, all deals for two years.

Rethink Wireless