At a press event in New York City, Samsung officially launched its bright-screened Galaxy S smartphone among a whopping six US carriers, adding Cellular South to the list of known cellular service providers and pointing to similarities and differences between versions of the Android OS phone to be offered by Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
Although lots of details had already leaked out about the Galaxy S, Samsung officials and representatives of the “big four” wireless carriers filled in many of the rest at the press conference on Tuesday night.
Variations on a Theme
In a presentation, J.K. Shin, president of Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business, contended that renditions of the phone from the various carriers will combine “the very best in hardware and software.”
Omar Khan, chief strategy officer for Samsung Telecommunications America, said that Sprint’s Epic 4G, Verizon’s Fascinate, AT&T’s Captivate, and T-Mobile’s Vibrant will each contain customizations by the respective wireless partners.
“We’ve kept the core DNA alive, while allowing unique customizations,” according to Khan. Yet demos and specs provided by the cellular partners made it clear that the largest customizations among the “big four” by far will come from Sprint.
“Sprint’s [version of the Galaxy S] will be the only one with a slideout QWERTY keyboard, a front-facing camera, and 4G WiMax,” said Michelle Leff Mermelstein, a rep for Sprint, during a demo at the event.
A High-End Feature Set
“We are making the smartphone brilliant,” Shin said during his speech. “The starting gun has just been fired, and Samsung has already won the race.” Shin listed what he considers to be the key differentiators for Samsung’s latest Android device: screen, speed, and content.
All versions of the phone will come with a four-inch display using Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology. Other shared capabilities will include a Samsung 1 GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird Application Processor, designed to support “HD-like multimedia content;” a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera; and support for advanced touch screen gestures such as multi-touch pinch and vertical and horizontal swiping.
Khan touted the brightness, high refresh rate, and high contrast ratio of Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen. The various phones will also come with six-axis motion sensing, a gaming-oriented feature – demo’d at the event in a road race game — that uses a built-in accelerometer and geo-magnetic sensors.
On the content side, each of the phones will include a Social Hub with capabilities for sending and receiving e-mail, text messages, and social network updates plus two-way synchronization with calendar information from Google Calendar, social networking services, and portal calendars.
Khan also unveiled plans for a future Media Hub, to consist of downloadable movies, TV shows, and other content “optimized” for playback on the Galaxy S-based phones.
The smartphones from Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will all ship this summer, whereas still unnamed editions of the phone from two regional carriers — US Cellular and Cellular South — are slated for availability this fall, said Kahn.
Khan also confirmed that the smartphones will get updates to Android 2.2 and Flash 10.1 this summer.
T-Mobile expects to ship the Vibrant on July 21 for $200 with a two-year contract. If you buy the phone, you’ll receive a $50 gift card. Pre-orders will be available starting July 1 at Radio Shack stores. The other three members of the “big four” haven’t given specific ship dates or pricing.
Different Routes to the Same Point
T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T will each customize the Galaxy S mainly through pre-loaded applications, although there are also some slight differences in hardware specs.
T-Mobile will customize the Vibrant with Slacker Radio, Amazon Kindle for Android, and a 30-day subscription to MobiTV. In addition, the Vibrant will come with a 2 GB microSD card pre-loaded with the Avatar movie and the Sims 3 game, said Scott Whiteker, director of marketing in Samsung’s Wireless Terminals Division.
Verizon, on the other hand, plans to customize the Fascinate with the same 3G mobile hotspot support announced last week for the Droid X, said Remy Basuri, a marketing manager at Verizon. Other customizations will include Verizon services such as V Cast Music, Visual Voice Mail, VZ Navigator, and Video on Demand. The Fascinate will support microSD cards in up to 32 GB capacities, and it will ship with a 16 GB card.
AT&T plans to customize the Captivate with AT&T Navigator, AT&T Address, and AT&T Family Map. The Captivate will come with 16 GB of on-board storage. It will also include a microSD slot supporting 16 GB of additional capacity.
The various carriers also come to the Galaxy S with different historical perspectives on Android. The Fascinate marks Verizon’s 12th Android phone, following last week’s introduction of number 11 on the list, the Droid X. Basuri said he couldn’t comment on how Verizon will position the Fascinate and Droid X versus its ten other Android phones.
Yet for AT&T, Apple’s sole US wireless provider for the competing iPhone, the situation is quite different. “This is only our third Android phone, and we’ve worked very closely with Samsung on the customizations. The Samsung Captivate is very, very important to us,” said Mariloly Melguizo, an AT&T rep.
Although it isn’t exactly unprecedented for a cell phone maker to offer a single phone on different wireless networks, the scope of the Galaxy S’s presence on at least six US wireless networks is highly unusual.
“Samsung, though, has had strong relationships with these wireless carriers for a number years,” noted Ross Rubin, an analyst at the NPD Group.