The Samsung Captivate, an Android 2.1 smartphone, will go on sale through AT&T later this year, offering a 4-in. Super AMOLED touchscreen display and a 1-GHz processor that may help make it a viable competitor to the iPhone.
AT&T didn't announce pricing. The carrier has been building up an inventory of Android phones and other alternatives to the iPhone, which it now sells exclusively. AT&T may lose that exclusive right next year, and if that happens it would probably like to be able to offer customers Android devices with a variety of hardware features.
The Captivate fits into Samsung's Galaxy S class of devices, which are intended to helping Samsung capture more of the smartphone market from leaders like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. and Apple Inc., analysts said.
"The Galaxy class of devices is Samsung's direct assault on the iPhone marketplace and is a strong competitor," said Jack Gold of J.Gold Associates LLC.
"I think this Captivate will be a very popular device, and it puts AT&T squarely into the Android world. It also allows AT&T to tell Verizon Wireless users that AT&T also offers Android," Gold added, noting that even though AT&T has the iPhone as its "premiere product," it must prepare for the day that it not longer has iPhone exclusivity.
The Captivate pushes in many directions to attract both consumers and business users with a range of hardware and software features. Notably, it has a 4-in. touchscreen -- which is slightly larger than the 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone 4, which begins shipping Thursday.
In comparison, the HTC Evo 4G from Sprint Nextel features a 4.3-in. touchscreen, the same size as the screen on the Droid X, which is expected to be announced by Motorola and Verizon on Wednesday.
While a bigger screen may not be everything, Gartner Inc. analyst Ken Dulaney said the Super AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic LED) technology makes for "a pretty amazing screen" -- one that is optimized for brightness and clarity, unlike Apple's Retina screen, which is optimized for greater resolution, he noted.
Samsung said Super AMOLED technology allows for thinner displays and makes it easier to watch video, even in bright light and outdoor settings.
The 1-GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor inside Captivate would offer theoretical speeds comparable to those of the 1-GHz Snapdragon chip in the Evo, the Apple A4 chip in the iPhone 4 and, reportedly, the Snapdragon chip in the Droid X.
Regarding software, Dulaney said it appears that Samsung is primarily relying on native Google apps for the Captivate; in comparison, several HTC smartphones have an HTC Sense software layer on top of the Android operating system. "That's the major difference" between Capitivate and Evo, he said.
The Captivate also has a feature called the Social Hub, which is similar in concept to capabilities in other smartphones that consolidate e-mail, instant messaging, social network updates and text messages. The virtual keyboard uses Swype technology, which is designed to make it easier to input text because it doesn't require users to lift their fingers while typing and instead allows them to write messages using a continuous motion.
Storage can be expanded from the standard 16GB to 32GB, meaning the Captivate's capacity is similar to both iPhone 4 models.
The Captivate will include a five-megapixel camera/camcorder to allow it to be used for HD video recording at 720p. The Droid X will also allow 720p recordings and reportedly has an eight-megapixel camera.
AT&T and Samsung didn't provide all of the specs for the Captivate, but AT&T's Web site says the device has a "sleek and slim design."
Samsung was the No. 1 provider of mobile phones in the U.S. in the first quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. Globally, it is the No. 2 provider of all types of handsets, behind Nokia, according to Gartner. Analysts said Samsung has been striving to capitalize on a surge in smartphone sales to position itself as a competitor with Apple and RIM, which make smartphones but not traditional cell phones.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is email@example.com.