Media who proclaimed carriers were keeping a low profile at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas were sorely mistaken.
AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless and Sprint (NYSE:S) Jan. 9 all announced major handsets, most of which are based on Google's Android operating system. AT&T arguably made the loudest noise, unveiling five handsets and a 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) tablet as part of its 2012 Developer Summit.
Perhaps the most high-profile handset was the Samsung Galaxy Note "phablet," a phone with a 5.3-inch, HD Super AMOLED screen that provides some tablet-type real estate to work with for consumers and business types alike. The handset, which AT&T has not priced but will launch in the coming weeks, boasts the S Pen digital pen input technology and software to let users draw, sketch or just write.
Two more Samsung Android handsets are coming from AT&T in the coming months. First is the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket HD, a 4G LTE smartphone with a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. This phone will run either Android 2.3 Gingerbread or Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS).
Second, AT&T will sell the Samsung Exhilarate, a so-called "green phone" with a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen composed of 80 percent recycled post-consumer materials and fitted with an eco calendar and calculator.
AT&T will also sell Sony's Xperia ion 4G LTE smartphone as the first smartphone to be sold under the Sony brand in the United States. Launching in the second quarter, the Xperia ion is based on Gingerbread, and has a 4.6-inch HD display and a 12-megapixel camera.
Pantech and AT&T will also sell the Pantech Burt 4G LTE Android smartphone, which has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, for $49.99 on a two-year contract, beginning Jan. 22, in titanium or ruby red.
On the same day, AT&T will sell the Pantech Element 4G LTE Android 3.2 Honeycomb tablet for $299.99 with a two-year data deal. This waterproof tablet and the Burst phone may be purchased together on contract for $249.99 for a limited time.
Not to be outdone at CES, Verizon reteamed with its first Android phone partner Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) to debut the Motorola Droid 4 4G LTE QWERTY phone. The phone, which runs Gingerbread but will be upgraded to ICS this year, is half an inch thick and powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.