Apple’s decision to end its exclusive deal with AT&T may end up giving Android devices a bigger boost than the iPhone. A leaked internal document obtained by Phandroid shows that AT&T is planning to launch 12 Android devices in 2011 and 20 devices that are capable of accessing its 4G network. The Motorola Atrix 4G and HTC Inspire 4G will kick off the parade when they hit shelves February 14, according to rumors.
The above image was supposedly leaked by an AT&T employee. It mostly deals with 4G. AT&T is somewhat behind in its 4G efforts, but will be offering HSPA+ high speed mobile (kind of 3.5G) in many areas as it rolls out its own LTE network throughout 2011. LTE is the same 4G technology behind Verizon’s 4G network. This document contains some inaccuracies. From what I understand, on Verizon’s LTE network, users will be able to make calls and use data simultaneously, a constant attack point AT&T has used against the CDMA carrier for the past year or two. So yes, on 3G this is true, but moving forward, it is a moot point.
We know about the Inspire, Atrix, Samsung Captivate, and Samsung Infuse 4G, but what other devices does AT&T have planned? The carrier is the most likely partner for Sony’s PlayStation Phone whenever it arrives as well as the Xperia Arc, a very capable handset Sony Ericsson showed off at CES.
Good for Apple, better for Google?
Still, the timing of AT&T’s Android party is clear. Without the exclusivity of the iPhone–still regarded by many as the standard bearer for touch smartphones–forcing customers to come and stay with AT&T, the carrier can no longer rest on its laurels. It made a gamble on Windows Phone 7 last fall, but that seed has yet to take root, making Android its only option if it wants to keep up with Verizon, which now has the iPhone and all of the hottest Android handsets.
Now the question is: was the exclusive partnership with AT&T actually a good thing for the iPhone? Now that the device is on multiple carriers, no one carrier will dedicate its efforts on Apple alone and the phone will be just another device in the lineup. Undoubtedly, Apple will sell many millions more iPhones, but with AT&T going full bore into Android mode, Google may stand to gain more sales and market share than Apple.
Android devices are being released at lightning speed. Many Android phones that released after the iPhone 4 will have sequels on the market before the iPhone 5 is ever shown, putting immense pressure on Apple if it hopes to retain its image as “the smartphone” upon which all others are compared.
If only Apple had picked Verizon instead of AT&T as its initial exclusive partner. What would the world be like if all iPhone users had great service and Verizon wasn’t there to put its marketing muscle behind Android last year? Would Google’s OS have taken off like it did? It’s difficult to say.