AT&T promotes Samsung Captivate's 4-in. screen

The Android smartphone, viewed as rival to iPhone, goes on sale later this year

The Samsung Captivate The Samsung Captivate, an Android 2.1 smartphone, will go on sale at AT&T later this year, offering a 4-in. Super AMOLED touchscreen display and a 1 GHz processor that may help make the device 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 will want 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 Research in Motion, maker of the Blackberry, and Apple , 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. "I think this Captivate will be a very popular device, and puts AT&T squarely into the Android world. It also allows AT&T to tell Verizon Wireless users that AT&T also offers Android, even though they have iPhone as the premiere product ... and [must] prepare for the day that they not longer have iPhone exclusivity."

The Captivate pushes in many directions to attract both consumers and business users with a range of hardware and software features. Notably, Captivate has a 4-in. touchscreen, slighty larger than the 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone 4, which begins shipping Thursday.

By comparison, the HTC Evo 4G from Sprint Nextel features a 4.3-in. touchscreen, the same as the Droid X expected to be announced by Motorola and Verizon on Wednesday.

While a bigger screen may not be everything, Gartner Inbc. analyst Ken Dulaney said the Super AMOLED technology is "a pretty amazing screen," which he noted is optimized for brightness and clarity as compared to Apple's Retina screen, which is optimized for greater resolution.

Samsung said Super AMOLED technology allows for thinner displays and helps in watching video, even in bright light and outdoor settings.

The 1 GHz Samsung Hummingbird processor inside Captivate would offer theoretical speeds comparable to the 1 GHz speed of the Snapdragon chip in the Evo, the Apple A4 chip in the iPhone 4, and reportedly as well as the Snapdragon chip in the Droid X.

Regarding software, Dulaney said it appears that Samsung is relying on native Google apps primarily for the Captivate as compared to the HTC Sense software layer on top of Android used in various HTC smartphones. "That's the major difference" between Capitivate and Evo, he said.

The Captivate also feature a Social Hub, a concept similar to some other smartphones, which consolidates e-mail, instant messaging, social network updates and text messages. The virtual keyboard uses Swype technology, which allows faster text input because a user doesn't need to lift a finger while typing and relies on making a continuous motion.

Storage can be expanded to 32 GB, from the native 16GB, which offers a similar capacity to both iPhone 4 models.

The Captivate will include a 5 megapixel camera/camcorder to allow it to be used for HD video-recording at 720 p. The Droid X is also going to allow 720p recordings, and reportedly has an 8 megapixel camera.

AT&T and Samsung didn't provide all the specs for Captivate, but AT&T, on its Web site , said the device has a "sleek and slim design."

Samsung was the number one provider of mobile phones in the U.S. in the first quarter, according to Strategy Analytics. Globally, it is second behind Nokia in all handsets, according to Gartner. But Samsung has been striving to capitalize on better smartphone sales , analysts said, putting it in competition especially with iPhone 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 mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.

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