HP testing smartphone waters with 6- and 7-inch 'voice tablets'

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HP’s last venture in the smartphone market ended up in the company embarrassingly axing the whole webOS unit it had acquired 18 months earlier for $1.2 billion. They’ve been wary of reentering the market ever since, and though tablets have been in their lineup for a while, HP is now taking the first small steps in that direction with a pair of “VoiceTabs” running Android 4.2 set to be launched in India next month.

The 6-inch HP Slate 6 and 7-inch HP Slate 7 aren’t actually marketed as smartphones but that’s the closest it’ll get for the time being. The smaller of them is already on par with oversized smartphones or ‘phablets’ like the LG G Flex and Galaxy Mega, and both will work on 3G networks with support for dual SIM cards.

In terms of hardware the devices will reportedly run an unnamed quad-core processor and come with 16GB of internal storage, with microSD support for expansion. Both will carry IPS panels, with the Slate 6 sporting a 1,280 x 720 resolution and the Slate 7 bringing that up just slightly to 1,280 x 800. Elsewhere they’ll have front-facing stereo speakers, front (2MP) and rear (5MP) facing cameras, and 9 to 9.5 millimeter thin bodies with what HP describes as "a premium pixilated, scratch-resistant back cover design."

At this point there’s no indication of HP planning to bring these devices to the US, where competition is fierce and largely dominated by Apple and Samsung. Instead they’ve opted for a launch in India where HP's consumer PC business remains strong and Samsung only holds about a 15% share of the market.

Pricing details were not mentioned in the press release other than pitching the devices as “a great value.” Be that as it may, the fact that they are going with a year-old version of Android (4.2.2 landed in Feb. 2013) isn’t particularly encouraging for HP’s ambitions in the fast-moving and ultra competitive smartphone market.

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