The elusive HTC Merge has been on our radar since last fall, and while it's been officially announced, played with, and FCC approved, carrier availability has been all but a mystery -- until now that is. Alltel is presently taking pre-orders for the Merge with a price of $125 on contract (after $50 mail-in rebate) and a ship date of April 5th. Meanwhile, Cellular South is launching the Merge "next month" for an undisclosed price, but will offer the handset pre-loaded with the Amazon Appstore for Android -- a world first. Strangely, there's still no indication when (or even if) the device will emerge on Verizon. Just a quick recap: the Merge is a global smartphone (dual-mode CDMA / GSM) with a slide-out keyboard, 3.8-inch touchscreen, and 5 megapixel autofocus camera, running Android 2.2 with Sense UI. Hit the source link below for Alltel's pre-order page, and jump past the break for Cellular South's press release.

[Thanks, Chase M.]
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Cellular South Unveils Plans to Offer HTC Merge™ - World's First Smart Phone Pre-Loaded with New Amazon Appstore for Android

Carrier's First Android World Phone Combines Full QWERTY Slide-Out Keyboard With the Power of Android 2.2 OS, HTC Sense™ Experience, 3.8-Inch Display and 5 MP Camera

RIDGELAND, Miss.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cellular South, the largest privately owned wireless communications provider in the U.S., today announced plans to introduce the new HTC Merge, its first Android world phone and the first smart phone in the world to come pre-loaded with the new Amazon Appstore for Android.

"Coupled with the new Amazon Appstore for Android, the HTC Merge is the perfect device for customers who are looking for a reliable mobile experience with the features and functionality of a smart phone, whether it's at home or traveling around the world."

The HTC Merge Android-powered touchscreen smart phone combines a full QWERTY slide-out keyboard with the Android 2.2 operating system, HTC Sense user interface, a large 3.8-inch touchscreen display and a 5 megapixel camera to create a complete mobile experience.

"We're excited to add our first Android world phone to Cellular South's growing suite of Android smart phones and tablets as we continue to build on our promise to deliver the wireless industry's best Android experience," said Kevin Hankins, chief operating officer for Cellular South. "Coupled with the new Amazon Appstore for Android, the HTC Merge is the perfect device for customers who are looking for a reliable mobile experience with the features and functionality of a smart phone, whether it's at home or traveling around the world."

Cellular South is the first wireless carrier in the world to feature the new Amazon Appstore for Android on a smart phone. The Amazon Appstore helps consumers find, discover, try and buy Android apps using its easy and convenient shopping experience.

One Touch Access To New Amazon Appstore

Customers can shop in the Amazon Appstore for Android from any computer using a Web browser or download the Amazon Appstore application directly to their Android smart phone or tablet. When customers purchase an Android app from the Amazon Appstore, they can use the app on any of their compatible Android devices. The Amazon Appstore also is offering customers a paid app for free every day.

The Amazon Appstore for Android includes popular Amazon features like personalized recommendations, customer reviews, one-click payment options and detailed product descriptions, including screenshots and video content that show the apps in action. All apps will be Amazon-tested before they are made available in the Amazon Appstore.

"Amazon Appstore for Android is a new and convenient way to shop and discover new Android apps for your smart phone or tablet," said Aaron Rubenson, category leader for the Amazon Appstore. "Together with Cellular South, we are committed to helping customers navigate through the thousands of available apps to find those that are the most relevant to them. We aim to give customers a refreshing and unique app shopping experience."

Cellular South customers will appreciate the HTC Merge's seamless integration with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync®, enjoy quick and easy access to Flickr® for sharing and viewing pictures, and find new ways to customize their experience with Amazon Appstore. With a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, customers will be able to keep in touch with friends and family no matter where they are, as well as stay in the loop with Flickr, Facebook® and Twitter™ updates through HTC FriendStream™.

In addition, the HTC Merge smartphone has a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash that captures outstanding images, while 3G connectivity makes sharing those special moments with friends and family quick and easy. The HTC Merge smart phone also comes with integrated GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity and even the ability to capture high-definition 720p HD video.

Availability

The HTC Merge will be available next month. Pricing for the device has not been set, but will require a two-year service contract and data agreement.

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HTC Merge coming to Alltel, preloaded with Amazon Appstore on Cellular South