By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Messaging and advanced Internet applications are the key features in the latest round of cellular handset introductions reaching the market this month and next in carriers' successful push to drive the applications into the consumer mainstream.
Many of the new phones feature a touchscreen but no hard-button QWERTY keyboard or dialing keypad.
New phones available now or next month include T-Mobile's Samsung-made Gravity and Behold. The former features slide-out hard-button QWERTY keyboard. The latter lacks hard-button keyboard or dialing keypad, but uses a tactile-feedback touchscreen with virtual keyboard and keypad. Alltel's Samsung-made Delve and AT&T's HTC-made Fuze also feature touchscreen and no hard-button keyboard or keypad.
Other new phones include T-Mobile's Motorola-made ZN5 5-megapixel camera phone, which incorporates Kodak technologies and is touted as surpassing the quality of some digital cameras from the standpoints of quality of image, user interface and ease of sharing.
The products come at a time of rising market share for phones focused on messaging and Internet applications, The NPD Group found in its third-quarter survey of consumers who bought phones. Phones with a QWERTY keyboard, for example, accounted for 30 percent of handsets sold to consumers in the third quarter compared to 11 percent during the year-ago quarter, NPD found.
"Four of the five best-selling handsets in the third quarter were optimized for messaging and other advanced Internet features," said Ross Rubin, NPD's industry analysis director.
Here are some of the latest messaging- and Internet-oriented phones that hope to make it to the top five in the coming quarter. Many feature the Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional OS, which supports a touchscreen interface.
HTC Fuze: With the device, AT&T is expanding its selection of HSDPA-equipped 3G PDA phones incorporating the Windows Mobile 6.1 OS. It operates in 3G mode in the U.S. and international markets, features touchscreen, and comes with QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the side. The price is $299 with two-year contract and after rebates.
Its 2.8-inch TFT-LCD VGA touchscreen uses HTC's TouchFLO 3D motion user interface, which delivers 3-D touch access to launch applications as well as to access an application's features. Other features include Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, stereo Bluetooth with Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), 3.2-megapixel camera, MicroSD slot, integrated business-card reader, assisted GPS for turn-by-turn driving instructions and push-to-talk (PTT) capability. It also delivers various AT&T services, including Video Share, which lets users share live video. It also provides access to online subscription music content, including eMusic and XM Radio Mobile content, and other services, such a video-clip streaming and full-length MobiTV streaming of video programs over cellular airwaves.
Samsung Behold: Available through T-Mobile at $149, the 3G device is Samsung's first touchscreen-only phone for the carrier. It's also only one of two Samsung phones with the company's proprietary Touch Wiz user interface, which lets consumers customize the main screen with widgets that let them access key features with only one touch. The touchscreen features tactile feedback.
Behold operates in 3G HSDPA mode or lower speed EDGE mode in the U.S. It also operates in EDGE mode in international markets. Other features include 5-megapixel camera, included 1GB MicroSD card, full HTML Web browsing, stereo Bluetooth, assisted GPS for turn-by-turn driving instructions, and music and video playback.
Samsung Gravity: Also for T-Mobile, the quadband EDGE phone features QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the side, built-in POP3 email clients, 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, MicroSD slot, and music and video player. It will be available Nov. 17th at a price unavailable at press time.
Samsung Delve: The touchscreen-only phone, available through Alltel channels at $199 after $100 mail-in rebate, is a dual-band CDMA 1x EV-DO phone with tactile-feedback touchscreen, which displays an onscreen QWERTY keyboard and dialing keypad. It's also one of Samsung's two phones with the Touch Wiz user interface.
Other features include music and video player, 2-megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth, full HTML browser, MicroSD card slot, 3.5mm headset jack, and free access to the Nutsie music-streaming service.
Motorola Motozine ZN5: The 5-megapixel camera phone, offered through T-Mobile at $99 after discounts and rebate, is the industry's first camera phone incorporating Kodak technologies. The technologies are said to address three key sources of consumer camera phone dissatisfaction: picture quality, ease of use and photo sharing.
Proprietary Kodak Processing Smart algorithms, for example, adjust white balance, reduce noise and the like.
To overcome ease-of-use challenges, the companies developed a fast autofocus feature that operates in less than a second to reduce shutter lag. To simplify use, the camera phone sports a dedicated Kodak Gallery button, enabling one-touch uploading of photos via cellular EDGE technology or embedded Wi-Fi to the Kodak Gallery online photo sharing site. Users can also post pictures to other photo-sharing sites.
Consumers could use the phone to send pictures via cellular directly to a cellular-equipped digital picture frame, the $99 Parrott-made cameo, which has its own phone number and requires a separate $9.95 monthly service contract.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.