Cordless Style To Strut Stuff At CES

By Greg Scoblete On Dec 22 2003 - 8:00am

In a fashion-obsessed world, cordless phone suppliers have reasoned that if you can't beat them, accessorize them. To that end, CES next month will be a veritable cordless catwalk with suppliers placing marked emphasis on stylish, stand-out designs and niche features aimed, in part, at elbowing out the cellphone as the gadget glued to a teenager's ear.

Aside from the focus on appealing design, suppliers will continue to promote expandability in 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz digital, with three major suppliers to announce new 8-handset systems and one to announce a 10-handset piece. Multi-handset bundles will continue to be a popular offering among manufacturers.

Buyers can also expect:

  • More suppliers to enter the 5.8GHz digital, joining Panasonic, VTech, Uniden and AT&T in the higher-priced realm.

  • The launching of the first RCA-branded telecommunications products from Atlinks (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thomson). The company will also make limited introductions under its GE brand.

  • A refresh of Uniden's entire 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz digital lineups, including new pricing, bundles and features.

The focus on style reflects a cordless phone industry feeling the heat from cellphones, said Scott Smyser, senior analyst, iSupply. It is also forcing vendors to offer more features on the handsets themselves.

"Caller ID, speakerphone, ring tones, these are all being incorporated in the handsets in 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz," in response to the rapid penetration of cellular technology, he said.

Donna Silbert, VP, product management, VTech, acknowledged cellphones loom large in the minds of suppliers, and have led to a huge increase in caller ID-enabled handsets. Silbert said that industry-wide, 80 percent of all cordless phones sold through October of this year came with caller ID.

"We see at least one to two solid years in cordless sales and then we expect to see more of a transition" between cellular and landline telephony, said Kerry Cooper, director of marketing, Southwestern Bell.

And an old technology has been given an unexpected lift, Cooper said. Thanks to the Northeastern power outage in August of this year, manufacturers have seen a spike in demand for cordless systems that featured a corded base station (which could continue to make calls even with the power out).

"These systems are also very popular with home office users, who want to use the corded phone for business calls and have the cordless expansion handset available for roaming the house," Silbert said. Several suppliers plan on introducing new two-line, corded/cordless product in 2.4GHz digital to appeal to this customer.

Overall, the market picture continues to show modest unit growth and flat to drooping prices, a condition which doesn't look to change in the near future, Silbert said.

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