With the high-end smartphone market filling up with a glut of choices from Apple (s aapl), Motorola (s mmi) and Samsung, HTC introduced the Rezound on Thursday , a new flagship, media-focused LTE Android(s goog) smartphone that will be the first HTC phone to feature Beats Audio technology in the U.S.
The Rezound will feature a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, 4.3-inch HD (1280×720) display, 1 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage with support for a 16 GB microSD card and an 8-megapixel camera. The smartphone will ride on Verizon’s(s vz) LTE network and will run Android Gingerbread. HTC said the phone will be “Ice Cream Sandwich ready” meaning it will be prepped to quickly upgrade to Android 4.0 when it becomes available, meaning customers will probably get it “early next year.”
The device will be the first to incorporate Beats Audio technology in the U.S. following HTC’s purchase of a majority stake in Beats Electronics in August. Verizon Wireless said the phone will retail for $299 with a two-year-contract and will go on sale Nov. 14.
The Rezound will help keep HTC in the conversation this holiday season as smartphone buyers consider their choices, from the iPhone 4S to Samsung’s Galaxy S II devices and the Galaxy Nexus, which will be the first to run Android 4.0, the latest version of the Android operating system. There’s also Motorola’s Droid Razr, a powerful LTE Android smartphone that will also run on Verizon. HTC was the top-selling 4G phone maker in the U.S. in the third quarter, said HTC CEO Peter Chou, and it’s looking to continue its success with the Rezound.
“The (Rezound) is a phone that brings you closer to everything you love. It’s a phone that gives you the best combined sights and sounds experience of any smartphone on the market.”
Verizon customers will be inundated with options this holiday season, with almost all the top devices running on its network. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top considering there’s still a limited number of consumers in the market for smartphones at any given time, even a busy period like the holidays.
The Rezound will try to compete by emphasizing top-notch media consumption and capture. The phone will feature enhanced audio tuning from Beats, which should affect not just music but all forms of audio from talking to gaming. The big 720p screen will display crisp movies while the camera will produce 1080p video. The camera will have a f/2.2 aperture for good low-light capture. There’s also additional camera features like action burst, instant capture, panorama and effects like slow motion.
We’ve pointed out the challenges ahead for HTC as it competes against Samsung in the Android Market and now faces Nokia (s nok) in the nascent Windows Phone 7 (s msft) market. The company seems to be focusing on slicing up the smartphone market and going after niches. While it didn’t say it, its purple-colored Rhyme is clearly targeting women, while the Rezound goes after music lovers. It’s a recognition, said NPD analyst Ross Rubin, that many of the smartphones are competing along the same lines now with similar features.
I’m still not sure if HTC and its Beats integration will break out and close the distance on Samsung. HTC has already forecast that its shipments for the final quarter of 2011 will be flat or possibly down from the third quarter. The Beats message is nice for a certain group of music lovers, but the idea that it will immediately transform HTC into a lifestyle brand seems like a stretch. But overall, the phone is still very easy on the eyes, in a Droid Incredible way, with red accents against a jet black body and a sculpted soft back. And it’s got almost all the specs you need to stay competitive, including a muscular processor, LTE and a 720p display. It’s all very good on paper. But at this point, I think I’m still more swayed by the Galaxy Nexus and the Droid Razr on the Android side and the iPhone 4S, which could mean trouble if other Verizon customers feel the same way.