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AT&T bringing Gingerbread to all 2011 devices; Android phones see discounts

by Phil Hornshaw

Among the troubles for Android owners is that the open source nature of the operating system means getting big updates is a multi-step, irritating process.

New versions of Android for smartphones are not just dependent on Google (GOOG) developing them,  but also on the phone carrier and manufacturer tweaking them to function correctly on each device. That takes a lot of time and effort, and it means that upgrades for Android can take a long time in getting to the end user and the phones for which they’re designed.

But in a move that should make a few customers rejoice, AT&T (T) is pledging that all its phones released for the rest of the year will include Android 2.3 Gingerbread, according to a story from After Dawn News. That means the LG Phoenix, Motorola Atrix 4G, Samsung Infuse 4G and Captivate, HTC Inspire and Pantech Crossover all get the latest phone version of Android.

Gingerbread will soon stale

The bummer is, the “latest” version of Android isn’t really that new at all precisely because of the slow upgrade process mentioned above. Gingerbread has been available since December, hitting the scene along with the Google Nexus S phone from Samsung – and it has even been updated to 2.3.4 since then. But most phones don’t have the update, and in a market in which phones become dated very quickly, it’s possible that some seemingly not-that-old older phones might be waiting indefinitely for the update.

AT&T hasn’t said just how all the phones will be receiving the update, so users will want to pay attention to AT&T’s website – some will be able to download it over the air automatically, while others will need to manually download the software to a computer and update their phones that way.

Nexus S, Xperia PLAY available for $100

Speaking of the Nexus S, Samsung’s Google-branded phone just hit AT&T over the weekend, and is available at Best Buy for just $100, according to Engadget. You’ll need to pick up a two-year contract to go with it, and if you already paid the $600 for an unlocked Nexus S, then you’re a bit out of luck.

The AT&T Nexus S just became available during the weekend, and is exclusive to Best Buy (BEST), at least for the time being. Like the original version of the Nexus S, it comes preloaded with Android Gingerbread 2.3 – and at a hundred bucks, it’s a hard price to beat.

But it’s not the only smartphone that’s $100 right now: the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY cut its price in half when  purchased with a Verizon contract. Tech Crunch has the story, analyzing what’s going wrong with the gaming-centric smartphone – it has been available only for two months, and already is seeing a big price cut.

I rather enjoyed what little time I was able to spend messing around with the Xperia PLAY, but with a smallish game library and not much PlayStation Suite software on offer, the phone seems to be struggling to find its niche, with its top-selling PlayStation games selling fewer than 1,000 units in Europe.

But maybe a price cut will stir up some more sales, because $100 is a pretty enticing mark.