Sprint getting a flurry of Motorola smartphones, tablets

Like an old couple trying to rekindle their marriage, Sprint and Motorola Thursday renewed their vows to work with one another.

During a press event held in New York City, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha announced that Sprint and its subsidiaries would launch a total of 10 Motorola devices throughout 2011. Two of those devices, the Motorola Xoom tablet and the Motorola XPRT smartphone, have already hit the market, while two others, the Motorola Photon and Triumph smartphones, got their official launch today.

The Photon 4G is essentially a new-and-improved version of the Motorola Atrix 4G that debuted on AT&T earlier this year. Like the Atrix, the Photon 4G has a dual-core NVDIA Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor and comes packaged with the Motorola webtop application that gives the phone the ability to plug into a laptop dock and display its screen on a computer monitor, as well as the ability to interact with a full keyboard.

BACKGROUND: Sprint expands "Evo" brand to include tablet, 3D smartphone

The Photon 4G has several key improvements over the Atrix, however, including a larger 4.3-inch display screen, an 8 megapixel camera and Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread"), which is the most up-to-date version of Google's software designed exclusively for smartphones. The Atrix, by contrast, has a 4-inch display screen, a 5 megapixel camera and runs on Android 2.2 ("Froyo"). Most crucially, the Photon can run on Sprint's WiMAX network, which in some areas is significantly faster than the HSPA+ network that the Atrix runs on.

The Motorola Triumph, meanwhile, is an exclusive for Sprint's Virgin Mobile USA prepaid wireless brand. Its specs aren't as impressive as the Photon 4G, as it features a 4.1-inch display screen and a 5 megapixel camera. The device also runs on Android 2.2 and is stuck on Sprint's slower CDMA-based EV-DO Rev. A 3G network. But since this device is an exclusive to a prepaid wireless carrier - and thus requires no contract - it could prove attractive to users looking for a quality, commitment-free smartphone.

Other planned Motorola devices for Sprint and its subsidiaries due to launch this year are the Motorola Titanium, which will be the first push-to-talk Sprint device to run on Android 2.1, as well as three phones for Sprint's Boost Mobile prepaid brand: The Motorola Clutch + 1475, the Motorola Theory and the Motorola i412.

Sprint's partnership with Motorola to carry several new Android-based devices also underscores Sprint's continued embrace of Android as the preferred operating system of its mobile devices. Over the past year, Sprint has been working closely with Google to integrate key applications and features onto all of its devices. For instance, Sprint is currently the only carrier that is supporting the Google Wallet trial program over its network through Google Nexus S 4G smartphones. Sprint and Google also announced earlier this year that Sprint had successfully integrated the Google Voice application onto all of its CDMA phones. Sprint and Google have also long been partners in the Open Handset Alliance, an industry group of carriers, device manufacturers and semiconductor makers that is dedicated to promoting Android.

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