Sprint Throws a Classy Hail Mary

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Move over, Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) Pre. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) wants some shelf space in those Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S  ) stores you've been anchoring since May.

You'll soon have your choice of high-end smartphones on the Sprint network -- and a choice of networks selling Android phones. The HTC Hero handset will be available through Sprint starting Oct. 11. For a measly $180 and a two-year contract commitment, you'll get 3G high-speed networking, a 5-megapixel camera with auto-zoom, and arguably the most polished Android interface yet.

T-Mobile has been selling Android phones since last fall, and recently launched the spiffy MyTouch phone. The Hero adds an overhauled user interface called HTC Sense that puts social media channels like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook right at your fingertips. It's slick enough that some intrepid phoneaholics have installed a Sense-like environment on their Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhones. Given Apple's reputation for excellence in user experiences, that act of Apple heresy is mighty high praise.

The European version of the Hero even supports Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) Flash right out of the box. While Sprint didn’t explicitly mention Flash in its press release, it’s not a stretch to imagine that this feature should be coming stateside in short order, which could make surfing the Internet on mobile devices a bit more user-friendly. And the phone is coated in Teflon -- not so you can fry eggs on the battery cover, but to avoid unsightly fingerprints and grease marks. Those are features Apple cannot match.

Those Androids are starting to look slick -- and they'll only get better. Google claims it will have at least 18 different models on the market by the end of 2009, and some of them look even more impressive than the Hero. We've known since time immemorial that Sprint would join the bandwagon; I'm left wondering why they waited so long, but at least Sprint is starting its Android support in style.

The Palm Pre's sales haven't exactly impressed, making the Hero look a bit like a Hail Mary from the beleaguered telecom. If Sprint wants Google to save its bacon, it should go all the way and introduce a range of models to cover multiple price points and target markets. Samsung and Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) both have several models on the cooker, and HTC has more than just the Hero. If Sprint is smart, it'll shoot out a whole bunch of new product announcements over the coming weeks and months.

It's a race against time, and a battle fought with unconventional and unproven weapons. Will it be enough to pull Sprint out of the fire, or will Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) end up buying another also-ran network with Verizon-esque network technology? Only time will tell, but you could share your two cents in the comments below.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Sprint Nextel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (12)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2009, at 5:00 PM, dino1818 wrote:

    Sprint offers a much better value than anything from Verizon or AT&T. Neat phones, good coverage and improved customer service. The federal watchdogs would never allow Verizon to buy Sprint. It would be too much market concentration.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2009, at 10:38 AM, jedfoley wrote:

    Sprint offers its service at a lower price. They do not offer a better value or they would not have to keep lowering their prices to stem their customer defections.

    Sprint appears to be in a death spiral. They outsourced their network operations and customer care and have hitched their wagon to WiMax, which more and more is looking like it will be an also ran in the 4g race.

    IMHO, Sprint jumped the shark when they bought Nextel and failed to take their merger challenge head on by converting their iDen customer base to CDMA.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2009, at 12:20 PM, Nowireless29 wrote:

    jedfoley might have some facts right about the nextel acquisition but IMHO some people are spewing their opinion as FACT and that is flawed - Sprint is hurting yes, but a death spiral hardly, they have billions in the bank and the subscriber losses and slowing dramatically, yes the shine is off the PTT for many cinsumers - since M to M is included in all plans - but there is a true core business base of about 12 million subscribers that live and die with thir industry BEST PTT.

    One other thing for the not so informed jed - SN owned the business market for years and in case u haven't notice there is a severe recession that has been going on for about 18 months and if you connect the dots double digit unemployment would equate to millions of subscribers being lost due to downsizing and companies going out of business - SN does not use this as a crutch but should make more mention of it in their discussions with the intelligent pondents.

    VZ & T do a great job of marketing themselves and have deep pockets to do so, so the reality is that if all you see is their adds at a rate of 7 or 8 to 1 of SN people like you would make the assumtions you spew in your post.

    SN is a better value than the other 2 major carriers, T-mobile in their bottom feeding methods will be the next carrier to feel the credit unworthy crunch which used to plague SN but not any longer.

    Keep you eye on the debt of the 2 big guys, they are approaching $70+BILLION and growing how long with the beleaged local businesses they own generate enough cash to fund that debt as the debt grows and revenues shrink.

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