ATT Inc. is cozying up to Motorola Mobility Holdings
Inc. as the carrier seeks to bulk up its smartphone portfolio running on Google
Inc. Android operating system in the wake of losing its exclusive hold on Apple
To attract new customers, AT&T Mobility Chief Executive Ralph de la Vega said the forthcoming Motorola Atrix 4G will be the carrier's leading device in its portfolio. Mr. de la Vega wouldn't say how much money the carrier will spend on marketing the device, but he said it would receive amounts similar to campaigns for the iPhone or its previous hit phone the Motorola Razr.
On Thursday, the second largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers said it will start selling the Motorola Atrix 4G on March 6 for $199.99 with a two-year contract. Presales will begin Feb. 13.
AT&T's embrace of Motorola and Android comes as it faces increasing pressure from Verizon Wireless, the nation's top wireless carrier by subscribers. Over the last year, Verizon Wireless has countered the iPhone by cozying up to Google, heavily marketing Android, and turning out a string of Android devices, many of which were made by Motorola. Given that success, consumers have come to associate Android with Verizon Wireless.
Moreover, Verizon Wireless began taking pre-orders for the iPhone today just as the two prominent technology gadget critics—Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal and David Pogue of The New York Times—published positive reviews of the Verizon iPhone.
But as Verizon pushes the iPhone hard, AT&T sees an opportunity to get closer to Motorola Mobility. Under Chief Executive Sanjay Jha, Motorola Mobility has revived its cellphone business by betting exclusively on Google's software and Verizon Wireless's need for a competitor to the iPhone.
The Atrix 4G phone has a powerful dual-core processor from Nvidia
Corp. and can plug into a specially designed laptop dock that can connect the phone's interface and functionality to a personal computer.
AT&T will offer bundled pricing of $499.99 for the smartphone and the Motorola laptop dock. Separately, the laptop is $499.99.
Jeff Bradley, senior vice president of devices for AT&T's wireless business, said the carrier was late to Android in part because it wanted to take a "wait and see" approach. When the first round of handsets didn't take off, Android devices took a backseat in the AT&T lineup. "It was version one of a brand new platform," he said.
But now, executives say they are ready to take a strong stand behind Android. The company said it plans to launch 12 Android devices this year at the Consumer Electronics Show.
AT&T executives say the docking feature of the Atrix 4G targets business customers who travel. AT&T will offer business customers the same subsidies as it does for its other enterprise devices like BlackBerry.
Read more: AT&T to Heavily Push Atrix 4G to Counter Verizon iPhone - WSJ.com