By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Having initially focused on entry-level phones and PDA phones in the United States, Kyocera Wireless is continuing to strengthen its midtier lineup in an initiative begun about a 18 months ago, said spokesman John Chier.
The latest midtier introductions include the:
CDMA 1x clamshell Milan KX9;
the company's first CDMA 1x EV-DO handset, which in the U.S. will be sold exclusively to start-up MVNO Amp'd Mobile;
and the previously announced CDMA 1x Slider Remix, which a small regional carrier will offer in August, and will roll out in October by a nationwide carrier.
The Amp'd Jet “is about as high on the midtier as you can go from a feature standpoint and will sell in the $99 to $129 range,” Chier said. The Slider Remix will be priced around $129 to $179. And the Milan KX9 “will really slot in at the bottom of the mid-tier phones, and some carriers could easily make it an entry-tier clamshell offering,” he noted.
Other new products include the KX 13 Dorado handset, the company's lowest-priced color bar phone for the United States market.
In new accessories, the company is launching MP3 stereo headphones that double as a cellular hands-free kit, a handheld gaming dock for game-equipped cellphones, and a wireless 802.11 b/g router that accepts a CDMA 1x EV-DO card, turning the router into a mini Wi-Fi hot spot.
The new phones will be among the first manufactured for Kyocera Wireless by contract manufacturer Flextronics. Current phones are being transitioned from Kyocera's San Diego manufacturing plant to the contract manufacturer, and by the end of the summer, Flextronics will be manufacturing all Kyocera Wireless phones, Chier said.
Kyocera Wireless manufactures phones for North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel and other markets. The company accounts for the majority of Kyocera handset volume worldwide. Separate Kyocera subsidiaries in Japan and China continue to build their own phones for those two markets.
With the Flextronics-made introductions, Kyocera Wireless is offering "our most diverse product line," Chier said.
That includes the EV-DO phone for startup Amp'd Mobile, the pre- and post-paid MVNO that will launch its multimedia phones and service on Nov. 15 over the Verizon's network. The handset, called Jet (formerly Raven), will retail for $99 to $129. It will receive video streams at 30 fps and feature 1.3-megapixel camera, MP3 player with stereo speakers, removable TransFlash memory and push-to-talk service that uses Kodiak technology to operate over analog voice channels, not just digital data channels.
Jet will play back music downloaded by PC from authorized Windows Media Audio (WMA) download sites, and it'll play subscription-based WMA downloads. It will also play back MP3 files transferred from a PC and AAC+ files downloaded over the cellular network.
Amp'd Mobile is targeting 18- to 24-year-olds buying their second or third phone and interested in converged devices, the company has said.
The trimode KX5 Slider Remix combines 1.3-megapixel camera/camcorder and MP3 player that decodes compressed-music files in the Windows Media Audio (WMA), MP3, AAC and AAC+ formats. It accepts TransFlash memory cards up to 512MB. Other features include 262K color screen, one-touch camera function and WAP 2.0 browser. It's BREW- and Java-capable. Pricing was unavailable.
Accessories for the KX5 and the Amp'd Jet at launch include a sync-cradle/charger with 3.5mm audio output to play the phone's music through connected amplified speakers. A wired controller that plugs into the handsets for hands-free use will feature a 3.5mm audio input so users can plug in their own high-quality stereo headphones. Also due at launch: a gamepad developed with Alienware. All three accessories will cost about $20 to $30 each.
At the entry level, Kyocera plans an August launch of the KX 13 Dorado through carrier Cricket. The trimode CDMA 1x phone will be Kyocera's lowest price color bar phone for the U.S. market. It features 65K color screen, LED flashlight, internal antenna, voice-activated dialing and BREW/Java. Kyocera's current opening-price bar phone has been promoted for free. Because Cricket is a prepaid service that doesn't subsidize handset costs to consumers, Cricket's KX 13 likely won't be sold for free, Chier noted.
Also new: the clamshell Milan KX9, which offers similar features but adds WAP 2.1 browser, 32-chord ringtones and a slightly smaller size.
Meantime, Cricket announced Milan KX9 availability at $139.99 and plans for mid-August availability of the Dorado KX13 at $129.99.
In other Kyocera introductions, the company unveiled the KRI wireless router, which incorporates 802.11b/g wireless networking and creates an instant Wi-Fi hot spot when an EV-DO card is inserted. It supports up to 20 laptops. It's intended for use in homes or in vertical industries such as construction, Chier said.
Another new product, Phone Tools software due in the summer, will allow all future Kyocera phones, and the current KX1 and KX2, to synchronize with such PC applications as Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. Content could be edited on the phones. The application doesn't offer e-mail redirection.
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