Samsung Epic 4G smartphone to debut Aug. 31

Sprint says release date is based on need to stockpile inventory due to industry shortage of display screens

The Samsung Epic 4G will debut Aug. 31 for $250 after rebate and with a Sprint Nextel two-year agreement, the carrier announced today.

The Android 2.1 smartphone , with a slideout physical keyboard, can be reserved for later purchase online starting Aug. 13, Sprint said. Those making a reservation then will complete the purchase starting Aug. 31.

Bloggers had predicted an earlier sales date based on comments from unnamed sources, even as early as yesterday, but a Sprint spokesman indicated the carrier was interested in building up a stockpile of the devices in light of a global shortage of display parts that has delayed sales of the HTC Evo 4G by Sprint and other smartphones sold by other U.S. carriers.

"Supply is part of the decision about the launch," the spokesman, Joe Mandacina told Computerworld. "Why launch and have frustrated customers? So we'll wait to build an inventory."

The $250 price for the Epic would be $50 higher than some analysts expected, and is $50 more than the Evo, which has a 4.3-in. touchscreen, compared with Epic's 4-in. screen.

Epic's slideout physical keyboard may appeal to BlackBerry users accustomed to a QWERTY keyboard and who are interested in making a switch to a smartphone with a larger screen and other enhancements, said Matt Carter, president of 4G at Sprint.

Carter said Sprint will sell the Epic to enterprises through its sales channels just as it does its other smartphones. One notable enterprise feature will be the ability to turn the Epic into a Wi-Fi hotspot for five other Wi-Fi devices, he said. The Wi-Fi hotspot capability will cost $30 in addition to the minimum $80 monthly fee for voice and data that Sprint charges for the Epic. (Based on a minimum voice and data plan of $70, plus an added $10 per month premium data plan required for customers to "take advantage of a richer data experience than ever before," Sprint said in its official release.)

With its Super AMOLED touchscreen, users can view movies and other video content with greater clarity and brilliance, Sprint said. Carter said the screen will be useful to workers for wireless videoconferencing. An upgrade to Android 2.2 will be available in "coming months," Sprint said, offering easier IT support and Flash 10x, voice dialing over Bluetooth and storage of applications on external memory.

Sprint said that even with Android 2.1, businesses can use the device with add-on applications for bar code scanning, signature capture, document viewing and streaming and uploading of video for business purposes.

The Epic runs a 1 GHz processor and has two cameras, including one 5 megapixel camera/camcorder. It is 4.9 x 2.54 x 0.56 inches (when closed) and weighs 5.46 ounces.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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