Despite being ubiquitous, "Android" can be awfully hard to find. Many smartphones and tablets that use Google's open-source Android operating system, such as the Kindle Fire and Samsung's latest phones, barely mention this fact in a footnote.
Android phones often work very differently from each other, such as with the Windows Phone-style home screen on the HTC One. And most come with preinstalled "crapware," put there by the manufacturer or the wireless carrier, which can't be removed and might do things you don't want it to do.
Archos, formerly best known for its Android media player tablets, is making a series of smartphones which goes against that trend.
Carbon and platinum
According to the press release and device comparisons on Android Police, Archos' new smartphones include the 35 Carbon ("May be good for a child's first smartphone"), the 50 Platinum ("actually pretty usable"), and the 53 Platinum ("the largest of the three"). The names indicate how high-quality they are, as well as their screen size; the 35 Carbon has a 3.5-inch screen, the same as the original iPhone, while the 53 Platinum has a 5.3-inch screen, larger than the Galaxy S 4's.
Not just prepaid, but SIM-free
Archos' Android smartphones will not be tied to any one wireless carrier, the way even the prepaid phones that you buy up front are. (In this respect, they'll be similar to unlocked phones like Google's Nexus 4.) They will also have two SIM card slots, so that you can switch between carriers without needing to pop the case open.
"Pure un-skinned Android OS"
The press release does mention that Archos' phones will include "ARCHOS Media Centre apps," but this is to be expected from a company that used to make media players. Since the "pure" Android experience is a selling point, though, any extra apps shouldn't be as invasive as the ones on (for instance) a Samsung device sold by Verizon.
What about the specs?
The 35 Carbon has entry-level hardware, with a 1 GHz processor and 512 MB of RAM. It only has 4 GB of storage, but has a microSD slot for a memory card. Surprisingly -- for a $99 smartphone -- it has a front-facing camera. But its rear-facing one has the same VGA resolution, which will make for fuzzy, low-res photos. It has a 320x480 screen, and runs Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich").
And the Platinum smartphones?
The $200 50 Platinum has (as the name suggests) a 5-inch screen, plus a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. The $250, 53 Platinum has the same internals, but a 5.3-inch "phablet"-sized screen.
Both have the same 4 GB of storage (plus microSD) that the 35 Carbon has, but have significantly better cameras. They also run Android 4.1.2 ("Jelly Bean"), a newer version with more features.
When will they be available?
The press release says they "will be available starting in Europe at the end of May." Since there's an American English web page up for each smartphone, a stateside release ought to follow.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
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