Analysts question T-Mobile’s choice of myTouch over Hero
Some analysts worry that T-Mobile USA may have missed a trick by opting for a new Android device, myTouch 3G, which is mostly the same as HTC’s first one, the G, except for its slimmer shape and lack of a physical keyboard.
According to T-Mobile USA Chief Technology Officer Cole Brodman, the No. 4 U.S. carrier currently has no plans to sell Hero, another HTC phone that runs Google’s Android but has an updated user interface that looks similar in some ways to Palm Pre.
From today until July 28, T-Mobile USA customers can order the myTouch online with the potential to have their phones deliverd before its national launch stores on Aug. 5. Brodman says myTouch, with its nifty travel case, personalizable covers and T-Mobile recommendations for hot applictions, will appeal to a broader audience than G1. The idea is that myTouch’s sleek shape and Android’s straightforward user interface will encourage T-Mobile customers who had never bought a smartphone before to now consider this one.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to bring them into the smartphone space with a portable easy to use device,” said Brodman in an interview at a myTouch demo event. “It felt like the right choice for the target we were going after.”
Brodman also promised that T-Mobile USA will have more Android devices later this year. He would not give any hints about the vendor but said integration of mobile social networking could be a key feature in a future Android phone.
But Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart was not convinced by myTouch and questioned why T-Mobile chose it over Hero, which like Pre cleverly integrates social network services such as Facebook and it can operate multiple applications at the same time. “That’s just T-Mobile being shortsighted,” said Greengart who also worried about the myTouch’s $199 pricetag, which has to compete with a $99 iPhone that has twice as much memory. “You’re paying $50 to lose the keyboard,” said Greengart comparing it to the G1, which has a physcial keyboard and a $149 price tag. Brodman argues that T-Mobile USA customers would be able to make up the difference in a matter of months as its service fees are cheaper than those of AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier for iPhone.
NPD analyst Ross Rubin says myTouch faces tougher competition but could still do better than G1, for which T-Mobile USA has more than a million customers. “This is a sleeker device. It will likely do better than the G1 did if T-Mobile continues to build out its 3G network,” he said.
Another analyst Michael Gartenberg of market research firm Interpret was less than impressed by myTouch. “It’s very evolutionary. In an era of new devices offering new functionality and new features this doesn’t feel particularly exciting,” he said.
As to the device’s appearance ahead of Hero, which a rival U.S. carrier is expected to sell, Gartenberg had this to say: “It’s hard to introduce a product when your supplier has already announced the next update … It would have had a lot more excitement around it six months ago. It almost feels very dated.”
HTC has not said which U.S. carrier plans to sell Hero in the fall but Gartenberg sees AT&T as the most likely contender, since HTC has already built a version for Europe’s Orange based on the GSM wireless technology that AT&T supports.
Sprint often sells HTC phones but since it already has an exclusive deal to sell Palm’s high-profile Pre phone until year-end at least, Gartenberg sees it as a less likely candidate than AT&T. “Do they (Sprint) really want to take on another big device that requires a lot of marketing?” he said.
(Photo from T-Mobile USA: myTouch white black and merlot versions, T-Mobile CMO Denny Marie Post and CTO Cole Brodman at Wednesday’s event)