Samsung Illusion Arrives as $79.99 Gingerbread Phone: Verizon

Verizon Wireless today launched the Samsung Illusion, an Android 2.3 Gingerbread smartphone that costs $79.99 on contract.

Verizon Wireless and Samsung have managed to slip another Android smartphone for sale ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The companies, which are preparing to launch the Galaxy Nexus as the first Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" smartphone in the U.S. next month, introduced the Samsung Illusion, an Android 2.3 Gingerbread handset powered by a 1GHz processor that costs $79.99 on contract.

At a time when Samsung and Verizon are pumping out 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) phones such as the Galaxy Nexus, the Illusion is a no-frills, candy-bar-shaped smartphone equipped with a 3G radio and a 3-megapixel camera.

The device also features Swype gesture input software, support for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office Exchange-based email, contacts and calendars for business users, and access to Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android Market application store, as well as Gmail, YouTube, Search and other Google mobile applications.

The phone has 2GB of on-board memory, expandable to 32GB via a microSD card. A mobile hotspot feature lets users connect up to five WiFi devices for $30 a month.

What's particularly interesting about the Illusion is its pricing scheme. The Samsung Illusion will be available online at on Nov. 23.

For consumers who can wait a day, the Illusion will be available free with a new two-year customer agreement between Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 24) and Monday, Nov. 28 online.

Beginning Nov. 29, the phone will be available for $79.99 again. However, the handset won't be available in Verizon's retail stores until January 2012.

The Illusion is the latest low-cost Gingerbread phone, following Verizon's Pantech Breakout, Sprint's Samsung Conquer and AT&T's Motorola's Atrix 2, which all cost $99 on contract.

Samsung has also teamed with T-Mobile to launch a white version of the popular Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone. Specs for the white version will be the same as T-Mobile's existing, black Galaxy S II, which includes a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus (Super active-matrix organic LED Plus) display and a 1.5GHz processor.

The announcement was clearly geared to whet users' appetites for a premium white Android smartphone this holiday season.

"We'll have additional details to share soon, including when you can purchase the white Samsung Galaxy S II in the coming weeks, but it will be available in time for the holidays," a Samsung spokesperson told eWEEK.