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The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) is releasing a phone sporting Google Inc.’s Android software on Oct. 11.

The release will make Sprint the second U.S. carrier to get on board with Google’s entry in the "smart" phone field, where the online search leader is competing against Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Palm Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry.

The Sprint phone announced Thursday will be HTC Corp.’s Hero, a touch-screen phone similar to the , which T-Mobile USA launched in August. It doesn’t have a physical keyboard.

The Hero will cost $180 after a $100 mail-in rebate when signing a two-year contract.

Sales of smart phones are growing while the general phone market has contracted, and Android is getting some momentum as the leading "open source" software choice. It’s free to use for manufacturers.

Motorola Inc. has said it will have two Android phones on the U.S. market before the holidays, as part of its attempt to turn its business around. Verizon Wireless has confirmed it will sell one of them, but hasn’t said when. Samsung Electronics Co. has also said it is making an Android phone.

Sprint is based in Overland Park, Kan., while Google has its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.