The Dell Aero Smartphone on AT&T is $100 with a contract, suggesting that Dell may not intend for it to compete with high-end smartphones. Is its niche instead with small business customers?
Dell introduced the Android-running
Aug. 24, and already reactions are mixed.
Dell calls the Aero its first U.S.
smartphone-which may come as news to those who thought the
Dell Streak, launched Aug. 13,
claim to that title. A spokesperson for Dell confirmed to eWEEK Aug. 25
that the Aero runs a "superset" of Android 1.5 and features a
3.5-inch capacitive touch screen with a resolution of 640 by 360 pixels. On
board are 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a full HTML browser,
e-mail support and a 5-megapixel camera. The price, notably, is $99.99 with a
two-year service contract with AT&T, or $299.99 without contract.
"With Dell's established relationships to small businesses through its
laptop and PC business, the Dell brand, and Android's consumer appeal, this
device may help AT&T capture new customers in [the] underserved [small and
midsize business] segment," ABI
Research analyst Michael Morgan said in a statement. These are customers,
Morgan continued, "who want a capable smartphone without the high price of
an iPhone or the additional enterprise fees of a BlackBerry device."
Morgan called the release of the Aero and its pricing a "a major
accomplishment for Dell," which saw its smartphone initiatives rebuffed in
2009 by U.S. carriers, causing it to instead release
the Dell Mini 3 smartphone in China and Brazil.
However, where Morgan sees an accomplishment, others see old news. On Aug.
25, PC World
published an article titled,
"Dell Aero: Three Reasons to Avoid It." The first reason was
The Aero runs a 624MHz processor, while any number of recently debuted smartphones
feature processors running 1GHz processors. Indeed, on June 1, Qualcomm even announced it had begun shipping
dual-CPU Snapdragon chipsets with enhanced cores
running at up to 1.2GHz.
In a video
on the Direct2Dell blog,
Linda Logan, a member of the Aero product team,
demonstrates a few of the Aero's features. However, in more than one instance, Logan
has to swipe or tap more than once, as the device doesn't respond. When it
does-when she's swiping through various "panels" displaying the
device's applications, for example-its response appears as slow as Logan
Another of PC World's gripes is the operating system, which the article
calls "an embarrassment to Android." Avi Greengart, an analyst with
Current Analysis, seconded this opinion, telling eWEEK that the Aero's
"old OS version" is "indeed a problem."
The third drawback, per PC World, is the Aero's link to AT&T Wireless.
The problem is that the iPhone has put enormous strain on AT&T's network,
even as the carrier has worked ardently and spent billions to address the data
demands of its users. Likely, however, the iPhone is also the reason that
AT&T scooped up the Aero and the Streak (and even Research In Motion's
BlackBerry Torch) and agreed to be part of Dell's big debut in the consumer
smartphone space. Analysts widely expect that in early 2011
AT&T will lose its exclusive contract to carry the iPhone,
the wise ant preparing for the hardship ahead-AT&T has been working to
round out its offerings, including boosting its Android portfolio.
The Aero can be purchased without the AT&T contract, through Dell.com,
but this creates an issue in itself. Greengart, who had not yet received a
review unit, said while, based on the information he's been given, the Aero
"definitely has its challenges" beyond the older operating system,
"its online-only distribution is actually more problematic for volume
With the Aero, Dell doesn't appear to have a mainstream hit on its hands,
but ABI's Morgan added that Dell may be
approaching the smartphone market the same way it did the PC market more than a
"It will be important to follow Dell's approach to the smartphone market,"
Morgan said, "to see if it can carve itself a niche outside of high-end,