Android finally invades AT&T

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Biz Feed blog at PCWorld.com.

AT&T has finally added the Google Android platform to its portfolio of mobile devices with the launch of the Motorola Backflip. AT&T, the exclusive provider of the Apple iPhone in the United States, now offers business professionals a more diverse array of choices--expanding even further later this year with the expected addition of devices based on Palm’s WebOS.

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the fortunes and pitfalls of AT&T seem to rely almost exclusively on that one platform. AT&T offers a range of mobile devices—feature phones, BlackBerry devices, smartphones based on the Windows Mobile platform, and more. However, it is the iPhone that gets all of the attention—both good and bad.

Businesses and business professionals that prefer AT&T as a wireless service provider, or that find themselves locked into AT&T through contractual obligation or because it’s the platform chosen by their employer have had to sit on the Android sidelines and watch with envy as the world embraced the mobile platform.

The launch of the Motorola Droid, and the massive marketing campaign Verizon unleashed to promote it, threw down a thinly-veiled, not-so-subtle attack on the shortcomings of the iPhone. Verizon’s marketing campaign has been much more direct about attacking the weaknesses of the AT&T wireless network behind the iPhone—sparking a legal battle between the two which was eventually dropped.

Apparently, AT&T gets the last laugh, though. Or, they at least get to win this round of the ongoing battle. Despite persistent rumors and speculation that Apple would end its exclusive arrangement with AT&T and begin to distribute the iPhone through additional wireless providers—like Verizon—Apple has defended AT&T and doubled down on its partnership with the wireless provider by announcing it as the exclusive provider of 3G networking for the upcoming iPad.

So, AT&T remains as the exclusive provider of the popular iPhone, is also anointed as the sole provider of 3G connectivity for the iPad, and also now provides customers with more choice by also providing smartphones built on the Google Android platform.

If you’re an AT&T customer who has been admiring the Droid or Nexus One with envy from afar, don’t pop the cork on the champagne just yet, though. The Motorola Backflip brings Android to AT&T, but the Backflip is no Droid.

The Backflip is a unique new form factor, flipping open to provide a wider, larger QWERTY keyboard with a landscape display. It comes with Motorola's innovative Motoblur interface--a good concept that still has some kinks to work out. Bottom line, though—it is not as compelling as the Droid or Nexus One.

On top of that, AT&T is offering the Backflip for $99 with a two-year contract—the same price as the base model iPhone 3G. Granted, it is cheaper than the more capable iPhone 3GS, but it doesn’t seem to provide the same value, and it won’t fill that void for AT&T customers that are envious of the Droid or Nexus One.

The addition of Android to the AT&T portfolio is great news for AT&T customers. Hopefully the Backflip will be the first of many Android devices, and the addition of the Palm WebOS platform will make AT&T the wireless provider with the most diverse selection of mobile platforms.

I think it choice is good and, as an AT&T customer I appreciate having options. Pardon me if I’m not that excited yet, though. Call me when AT&T gets the Droid or Nexus One.

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