Sprint is building on its lineup of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" smartphones with the Samsung Conquer, the carrier's first sub-$100 4G smartphone.
Sprint plans to launch the phone Aug. 21 for $99.99, after a $50 mail-in rebate, and with a two-year contract. Equipped with a 1GHz processor, the Conquer doesn't lack for power despite its low price, compared with Sprint Gingerbread phones such as the HTC Evo View 4G and Motorola Photon 4G that cost $199.99.
The handset sports a 3.5-inch touch-screen, a 3.2-megapixel rear-facing camera with flash and zoom, and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing shutter to allow video chat via Qik and other video-calling applications.
As with most Sprint smartphones launched this year, Sprint ID packs are heavily featured on the Conquer. These free software modules, also known as carrier bloatware, let phone owners choose from applications, widgets, shortcuts, ringtones and wallpapers.
The Conquer also has a microSD card slot that comes with a 2GB card and supports up to a 32GB memory card.
Sprint said it would sell the Conquer in all its retail channels, including retail stores, the Web and telesales. Consumers must purchase the Sprint Everything Data plan, which starts at $69.99, plus a required $10 premium data surcharge for smartphones.
The handset is also 3G/4G Mobile Hotspot capable, supporting up to five WiFi-enabled devices on Sprint 3G or 4G networks. This will run customers $29.99 a month.
While it has become common for carriers such as LTE and Huawei to release low-cost, but powerful smartphones based on Google's Android operating system in Asia, it's a new trend in the U.S.
If others such as AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (VZW) and T-Mobile begin offering sub-$100 Android phones with the latest Gingerbread OS, it could result in explosive growth for Android, which has 40 percent U.S. market share (comScore) and as much as 50 percent worldwide (Canalys).
The Samsung Conquer was revealed less than a week after Sprint launched its latest high-end smartphone, the Motorola Photon 4G, for $199.99 on contract. The phone, which eWEEK reviewed, has an 8-megapixel camera and connects to a docking station to let users access their phone content from an HDTV.