By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Kyocera Wireless will replace its current Palm-based smartphone with a lighter model that's more phone-centric and packs additional features, including CDMA 1X, assisted-GPS position-location technology, color screen, removable memory cards, and MP3 playback.
The 7135 trimode CDMA phone will be available later this year through carriers whose names were to be announced June 24 or soon after, said Rick Goetter, senior product marketing manager for converged devices. The predecessor QCP6035 was sold by Alltel, Qwest, Sprint and Verizon.
The new model's price wasn't revealed, but the predecessor retailed for $499 when it first became available in March 2001. It's currently retailing at $399, although it's available for less on promotion.
In comparing the two models, Goetter pointed out that the 7135 was designed to be more phone-centric because "the majority of the usage time of a converged device is still voice." Kyocera, he claimed, "will have the only converged device with a phone-centric design."
To achieve that goal, the new model is a thinner 6.6-ounce clamshell-style phone said to be more comfortable to use as a phone. On the new model, the graffiti writing pad is on the same surface as the dialing keypad and PDA function buttons, and the color touch screen is on the phone's flip-up panel. The predecessor was a 7.35-ounce bar-type design with a keypad that flipped open to reveal the LCD touch screen and graffiti writing pad.
The functions of the PDA function buttons were also changed to reflect a voice-centric design, he said. Two one-touch buttons still launch the address book and calendar, but the to-do and memo-pad buttons were replaced with buttons that launch a Web browser and access voice/text messages.
Caller ID on the phone's top edge also increases phone usability, he said.
The new model uses Palm's latest 4.1 OS, boosts on-board RAM to 16MB from 8MB, and accepts MMC and SD slots to store data or load Palm applications. The LCD screen is the same size at 160x160 pixels (2.5 inches diagonal) but is a 16-bit 65,000-color TFT display.
Like the current model, it will support e-mail redirection of Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes e-mail, said Goetter. The capability became available six months ago as a software add-on for the current model, and Kyocera hopes to ship a redirection program (in desktop and server editions) in the new phone's box.
For entertainment purposes, the 7135 adds MP3 player capability lacking in the previous model. Users will be able to download MP3 files directly from a connected PC to the phone's removable memory card. Users will be able to select songs through an onscreen menu and play them back through optional earphones.
Another new entertainment application is an included media player, which displays digital still images in JPEG and TIFF formats and AVIs full-motion video clips stored on memory cards or in embedded memory.
Other new features include user-replaceable lithium-ion battery pack.
It will support multiple browsers, the choice of which is up to a carrier. Supported browsers include Handspring's Blazer browser, which accesses HTML sites via a proxy server, which reformats Web pages for small-screen displays. Kyocera can also add WAP and proxy-less HTML browsers depending on carrier requests, Goetter said.
Other features include voice dialing, voice memo, speakerphone, 153kbps wireless-modem functionality, two-way SMS, vibrating alert and Eudora e-mail client.
The device doesn't include Bluetooth because carriers haven't asked for it, said Goetter, who also views Bluetooth as an add-on. Kyocera also didn't choose to include BREW or Java-based J2ME technology because they're "redundant with the Palm platform," he said. J2ME or BREW can run application programs that can be downloaded wirelessly.
Digital talk and standby times are 3.2 hours and up to 120 hours, respectively. That's down from the predecessor's 5 hours and 180 hours, Goetter said, but the previous model came with bigger battery and used a grayscale LCD screen that consumed less power.
The only other companies offering Palm-based smartphones are Handspring and Samsung, Goetter said. Companies such as Audiovox offer PDA-phones based on Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 OS.
In other developments, Goetter said:
Kyocera no longer plans to build iDEN-network phones because of the technology's "lack of an evolutionary path to 3G."
Kyocera's 2300-series candybar-style phones with assisted GPS are due later this summer, one for Sprint and the other for Verizon and other carriers. They were shown at CTIA 2002.
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