Dell has launched the U.S. version of the Aero, an Android-based smartphone that’s selling for $100 with a two-year service contract from AT&T. The company has been selling similar phones in China and Brazil since late last year and has been promising a U.S. version since January.
The Dell Aero is now available on the AT&T network, Dell announced Aug. 24. The smartphone, which Dell is calling its first in the United States uses an older version of Google Inc.’s Android operating system than many competing phones on the market today.
It runs version 1.5 of Google’s Android mobile operating system, also known as “Cupcake,” while most phones now use version 1.6 or higher. Dell says it has done a significant amount of work adding features to the base Google system.
The phone is priced at $100 with a two-year AT&T contract, or $300, via the Dell Website without a contract.
Dell, one of the world’s largest makers of personal computers, has been looking for ways to diversify its business as profit margins on traditional PCs have grown thinner and thinner. Dell also wants to stay relevant as more everyday computing tasks get done on smartphones instead of desktops and laptops.
The launch of the Aero follows the Aug. 13 debut of the Dell Streak — a “hybrid” device that in size and pricing is something of a large smartphone or a small tablet.
The Streak is also available on the AT&T network, or unlocked at an unsubsidized price ($300 with a two-year contract or $550 without.) With the Aero, however, there’s no second-guessing — it’s a smartphone all the way.
“The Dell Aero is built with a focus on style and performance to help people find new ways to connect with friends and express themselves socially, supported by the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network,” Ron Garriques, president of Dell Communications Solutions, said in a statement.
The Aero measures 4.8 by 0.46 by 2.28 inches and weighs just 3.67 ounces. By comparison, the Streak measures 6 by 0.4 by 3 inches and measures 7.7 ounces, and the Apple iPhone (still the measuring stick for all smartphones) is 4.5 by 0.37 by 2.31 inches and weighs 4.8 ounces.
The phone has a 3.5-inch multitouch display (the same size as the iPhone) with pinch-to-zoom functionality and a resolution of 640 by 360 pixels. (Last comparison: the iPhone display, notably, is 960 by 640 pixels.)
Staying focused on the Aero, Dell has packed in the features usually arriving on phones at twice the price. The 3G-running Aero supports quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA (850/1900/2100MHz) networks.
There’s also WiFi connectivity — users going for the AT&T contract will receive “free” access to the carrier’s 20,000-plus hotspots — as well as Bluetooth, GPS and assisted GPS.
Dell has included its own user interface on top of Android, and the Aero ships with Quick Office, Facebook, Twitter and a number of Google applications already installed. Facebook and other social-networking apps are additionally accessible with a single tap.
The Aero also comes with a 5-megapixel camera with 8-times zoom, flash, a dedicated camera key, and it has photo and video editing functions built in. Also on board are a 2GB microSD card expandable to 32GB and support for Adobe Flashlite, a full HTML browser, POP, IMAP and Webmail email accounts, and Microsoft Active Sync Email.
Like rising smartphone giant HTC, Dell appears to have placed its smartphone bets with Android OS, which has proven to be the fastest-growing OS in the country. Dell’s Mini 3 smartphone — the very first phone offering from the Texas PC maker — was introduced in November 2009 and debuted on Brazil’s Claro network and in China on China Mobile.
Dell has not yet shared sales figures for the Streak, and during a conference call to announce revenue for its fiscal 2011 second quarter, executives kept the focus primarily on the company’s commercial business, offering little more than to express that it expects the tablet market to grow, and that there’s major buzz connected with Android.
Android in the second quarter became the leading smartphone OS in the United States, toppling the BlackBerry OS, according to the NPD Group. Android was the OS on 33% of all smartphones sold to U.S. consumers, compared to 28% for the BlackBerry OS and 22% for iOS. [Dell and AT&T via Tech Eye and NPR]