When you get to a certain point, let’s say almost a year, before a company launches a device, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the anticipation for the device has waned. In fact, considering how quickly the mobile market moves in today’s world, it’s an out-right wonder if anyone is even remotely interested in a device that hasn’t seen retail availability (on Verizon's network -- we've seen it already land on store shelves for a rural carrier) for almost 12 months. But it looks like Verizon is betting on the opposite with the HTC Merge, a device that we originally learned about nine months in the past, as it’s rumored to be hitting third party store shelves today.
The HTC Merge isn’t a high-end device. Even Verizon doesn’t believe that it’s a high-end device, as the wireless carrier is tacking Microsoft’s Bing all over the device, just as we’ve seen with other non-DROID-branded Android-powered devices. Under the hood you won’t find a 1.2GHz processor, or even a 1GHz processor. Instead, there’s the same 800MHz processor that HTC included with the T-Mobile G2, which launched months ago. It will launch with Android 2.2 running the show, has 4GB of internal memory, and 512MB of RAM. The touchscreen display measures in at 3.8-inches, and around back there’s a 5MP camera. No front-facing camera, no access to Verizon’s 4G LTE network and it doesn’t even have the latest version of HTC’s Sense UI. It does have that gorgeous looking hardware keyboard, though. And yes, it's still a global phone.
To stack onto that already disappointing array of features (when compared to devices that are already available on Verizon’s network), it looks like Verizon won’t even be selling the handset in its corporate stores. More and more rumors are suggesting that starting today, May 12th, the HTC Merge will only be available in third-party retail stores. So you’ll only be able to find it in places like Best Buy, Costco, or authorized retailers of Verizon products in your area. That right there just goes to show that the Merge isn’t a device that Verizon’s putting too much faith in.
So that begs the question, why didn’t Verizon just skip the device altogether? Sure, having another Android-powered handset available for subscribers isn’t a bad thing, especially not for a company that makes its money by providing handsets to consumers, but this one just seems to be a flop. It isn’t even a stop-gap. It’s a device that some people have been waiting a year for, but that has been replaced by numerous, better handsets. It all comes down to price, I imagine. If Verizon is planning on selling the HTC Merge for somewhere around $100, then I can see the Merge being worthwhile to someone who wants Android but doesn’t want to pay the high price tag which accompany the other, popular devices.
But since third party retailers are rumored to be the sole distributors of the device, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much they will be selling the device. They obviously aren’t too shackled by the grip of Verizon, so it will be interesting to see how well Best Buy and other third party locations position the Merge against other handsets available on Verizon’s network.
As of the time of this writing, Verizon’s official site doesn’t have the HTC Merge listed as an available device; however you can still find some helpful tutorials on the device if you do a little searching. And a quick search on some local third party retailers’ websites in my area didn’t show the HTC Merge as available yet, either. So is it coming today? Who knows? And, here’s the bigger question: if it does launch today, or soon, is anyone going to pick it up? Let me know in the comments what you think.