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HTC rises to challenge after Android struggles in Europe

Old World is holding out for a Hero

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HTC's handset roadmap for 2010 has been leaked, as usual. Predictably, it is heavy on Android, where the Taiwanese vendor has blazed the trail, but it now needs to defend its early lead from the launches by Samsung, Motorola and others.

However, even as excitement about the Android race mounts in north America, the Google OS is having more problems creating the same impact in Europe.

The smartphone world seems still to be split by the Atlantic, with Nokia and Symbian set to retain their strength while squeezing Android into a corner in Europe. The US, meanwhile, where Symbian has never thrived, seems to be going mad for the Google system.

According to research firm IDC, Android still has market share of only 5.4% in western Europe, up from 4.2% in the second quarter of this year, but far short of the expectations created by the hype. "Several operators listed Android devices in 3Q09 for the first time, which helped Android shipments to grow, though consumers steer clear of Google's OS and sell-out is below everyone's expectations," said IDC in a research note.

"Consumers recognise the Google brand, but still do not understand what Android is. The lack of devices available didn't help to raise awareness, though this is expected to change, with more handsets from LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and other vendors hitting the market soon."

HTC will be doing its best to change these perceptions. It is already working with T-Mobile, the first Android carrier, on both sides of the Atlantic. Its Hero smartphone is supported by a range of operators, including Vodafone. So far it has four Android models - Dream/G1, Magic/myTouch 3G, Hero and Droid Eris, and is present on all the top four US carriers except AT&T.

In 2010, it will add the 'Bravo', 'Legend' and 'Salsa' Android smartphones in the early part of the year, as well as new models for Windows Mobile, still its biggest OS platform. The leaked slides outlining its roadmap were revealed by the Engadget.com blog and show HTC broadening its variety of form factors.

The Legend will be a BlackBerry-style device, the Salsa a successor for the popular Magic, and the Bravo will be the high end of the range, running on a gigahertz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. HTC already has a Snapdragon 1GHz model for WinMo, the HD2 and the Bravo has a similar feature set, with DivX support and 720p video capture, 5-megapixel camera with flash, 3.7-inch AMOLED display, and a range of pre-integrated apps including Facebook, Microsoft Exchange support and Google. It is likely to come to Europe before the US.

HTC's new handsets will be divided into four categories, as outlined in October along with its aggressive new branding and advertising campaign. The four headings are Design/Lifestyle, Productivity, Performance and Social. HTC has been running ads under the slogans 'Quietly Brilliant' (replacing the old HTC Innovation), and 'You don't need to get a phone. You need a phone that gets you.'

Copyright © 2009, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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