Android does 4G first, updates to 2.2 and enters car market

Android gets 4G first

Sprint is about to send Steve Jobs packing by releasing America’s first 4G smartphone, the HTC EVO 4G, on June 4, beating the much-hyped iPhone 4G by at least a month or two.

The new HTC smartphone features a 4.3-inch HD-enabled touch screen, an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front for video conferencing, and a kickstand for viewing the phone on a desk or table.

It’s powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, uses a 1,500 mAh battery, and allows microSD cards up to 36GB.

It runs the Android 2.1 OS with the HTC Sense UI overlay and features a multitasking manager called Leap.

Alongside its 3G and 4G capabilities it has WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse revealed the pricing plans for the HTC EVO 4G as $200 with a new 2-year contract or $450 unsubsidised. Uers will pay a minimum of $70 per month with Sprint’s Everything Data Plan, as well as an additional $10 per month for 4G coverage as part of the Premium Data Add-on. The additional $10 per month charge will be mandatory for all EVO 4G users, regardless of whether they live in a 4G coverage area or not.

This Premium Data Add-on will be uncapped, unlike some of Sprint’s 3G offers that have a data usage cap of 5GB. For an extra $30 per month the phone can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing up to eight devices to connect.

The HTC EVO 4G will support simultaneous voice and data, Youtube HQ, a video-chat application called Qik, and all the standard applications and services available on an Android-based phone.

HTC and Apple have long been at war on the smartphone stage, with HTC pushing out phone after phone with Apple rival Google’s Android operating system. Recently Apple brought HTC to court over patent infringement and HTC countersued.

Apple’s own iPhone 4G plans have been leaked several times, including yesterday in Vietnam, which has lessened its thunder for when the big announcement will finally come. With this new HTC 4G phone, however, there may not be any thunder left at all.

Android 2.2 on the way

While this latest HTC phone features Android 2.1, Google has just added the tell-tale frozen yogurt sculpture of Android 2.2, nicknamed Froyo, outside its headquarters today, hinting at its imminent launch.

TechCrunch revealed some of the new features, such as full Flash support, which is perhaps a stab at Apple’s decision to stop supporting Flash. It will also include a major speed improvement over Android 2.1, and, another triumph over Apple, full USB tethering to allow data sharing with laptops.

You will also be able to turn your Android phone into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot as well, although it seems that Android 2.1 will allow this on the HTC EVO 4G as part of Sprint’s optional add-ons. If Android 2.2 allows you to do this for free, however, it may hamper Sprint’s plans to get an extra few bob out of its data-hungry users.

Android 2.2

The new Android OS version will most likely launch next week at Google I/O.

Android for cars

If 4G and an updated OS were not enough for Android fans there’s also news that General Motors has entered into negotiations with Google to bring the Android OS to vehicles.

GM is hoping to compete with Ford and Microsoft’s Sync and believes Google’s OS is the one for the job. The idea is for GM customers to have built-in Android in their vehicles that will allow full synchronisation of their smartphones.

One area that Android will automatically trump Microsoft’s Sync system is in its ability to allow users to open, start, and adjust their vehicles. Microsoft may be forced to add these features in a future release of Sync, but for now they will be joining Apple in playing catch-up.

An area of contention that may surface during the negotiations is General Mother’s OnStar navigation system. Employing Android would render OnStar obsolete, so either the Android OS will be modified to incorporate OnStar, which probably won’t sit well with Google, especially in terms of synchronisation to its smartphones, or GM gives OnStar a last farewell.

An expected release date for this would be 2011 at the earliest, depending on how well the negotiations go.