Dell's First Smartphone Aero with Android 1.5 Doomed?

A close look at the spec sheet for Dell's first smartphone to hit the market, the Android-powered Aero, does include some impressive features for an entry-level handset priced at $99 with an AT&T contract, but it's missing one thing: the version of the mobile Linux OS it is running.

That may be because the Dell Aero is shipping with Android 1.5, which first debuted 16 months ago in the Spring of 2009 --light years in mobile time -- while the souped-up version, 2.2 or Froyo, is being rolled out to top-tier smartphones such as the Droid and HTC Evo 4G. The Droid 2 is shipping with the latest udpate.

The Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) Aero's introduction comes on the heels of the Dell Streak, a mobile device with a 5-inch screen that the hardware maker is billing as an Android tablet PC, that went on sale Aug. 12. The Streak, however, is shipping with version 1.6 of Android and slated for an upgrade to 2.2 later this year.

For now, Dell isn't saying if the Aero, on sale today at the Dell website for $99 with a two-year contract and for $299 without, will be updated to fresher versions of Android such as Froyo, Gingerbread or Honeycomb -- or not.

Calls to Dell seeking comment were not returned by press time, but sites including Fiercewireless and PCWorld are citing a Dell spokesman as saying there is no update schedule yet set for the Aero.

The customized Aero OS includes the Quickoffice mobile productivity app, syncing with Microsoft Exchange email and Android Market support.

Dell is marketing the Aero as "one of the lightest" Android handsets, and it weighs in at 3.67 ounces. The Aero has a 5-megapixel camera, up to 32GB microSD memory and is fueled by a 624Mhz Marvell processor. The quad-band phone supports HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), 3G wireless networks, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS and includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities.

While these specs aren't bad for a $100 phone, the stale version of Android could thwart sales, especially on AT&T, the exclusive carrier of the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone, Avi Greengart, mobile analyst chief at Current Analysis, told EnterpriseMobileToday.com.

"Yes, this could hurt sales. Generally speaking, consumers don’t track version numbers on operating systems, but Android -- especially at AT&T -- is something of a unique case. Anyone buying an Android phone at AT&T is deliberately choosing this OS because they want the Android experience -- otherwise, they could get an iPhone 3G S ($99) or iPhone 4 ($199). The problem is, Android version 1.5 is so old that it doesn’t run many apps which require newer versions of the OS, including Google’s own Navigation and Google Earth," said Greengart.

The Android 2.2 update has had its share of problems, but the Google-backed Android OS is still gaining market share, surpassing rivals iOs and BlackBerry OS.

Android 2.2 is a significant upgrade, including faster performance, stronger mobile security measures, more mobile app storage and Flash 10.1 support, among other features.


Google, Android, Dell, smartphone, Dell Aero