By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Motorola and accessories supplier Plantronics will bring their previously postponed Bluetooth headsets to market in the coming months, when Motorola will also begin shipping a Bluetooth-equipped hands-free car kit.
Bluetooth headsets are already available in the United States from Sony Ericsson for use with a limited number of Bluetooth-equipped handsets or with phones that accept add-on Bluetooth modules.
For its part, GN Netcom, which supplied the technology for Motorola's headset, is targeting mid-year shipments for its own headset under the Jabra consumer brand. It won't come with an add-on module for phones, so it will have to be used with phones incorporating Bluetooth.
Plantronics and Motorola showed Bluetooth headsets at last year's Wireless 2001 show but decided to hold off shipments until this year. Both cited the dearth of Bluetooth-equipped phones. (At the time, Plantronics wasn't planning an add-on module.) Motorola also said it wanted to wait until the technology became more current-efficient and its size and cost could be reduced.
GN's product had been targeted to ship last fall, but a spokeswoman didn't know the reason for the delay.
Sometime in the spring, Plantronics will ship the M1500, consisting of a headset and Bluetooth plug-in adapter for use with select wireless phones at a tentative suggested retail of $199-$229. A precise ship date and price will be announced during the Wireless 2002 show, planned for March 18-20 in Orlando, Fla.
At launch, Plantronics will offer a matchbook-size Bluetooth module that plugs into the standardized 2.5 mm headset jacks of multiple phones, including phones from Audiovox, Kyocera, Motorola and Samsung phones. A separate module due simultaneously will plug into the proprietary jacks of many Nokia phones. Availability of a second module compatible with other Nokia phones hasn't been set.
"Down the road, we'll offer modules for most popular phones," said a spokesman.
Among its Bluetooth introductions, Motorola plans first-quarter shipments of a $199-suggested over-the-ear headset, February shipments of an add-on module for Motorola phones at a tentative suggested $110, and expected shipments of a hands-free Bluetooth car kit (without headset) at the end of the second quarter for an unannounced price. A $299 connectivity kit (which consists of a plug-in module for Motorola phones and Bluetooth PC Card) is available.
The headset can also be used with Motorola's Timeport 270, a Verizon-network $299 CDMA trimode that accepts a Bluetooth module integrated into a replacement battery cover.
Motorola's over-the-ear headset, with collapsible boom microphone, is less than 2 inches in diameter, weighs less than an ounce, and delivers up to 3 hours of talktime or 100 hours of standby on a rechargeable battery that can be recharged in Motorola phone chargers. The headset features a volume and mute button, second button for on/off and send/end, and ability to voice dial voice-dialing handsets.
With Motorola's car kit, consumers will be able to talk on a phone as they enter their cars, then continue their conversations through the hands-free kit as soon as their cars are turned on.
The car kit consists of an in-car microphone, speaker, and under-dash control module with buttons for send/end, volume, and dialing by voice. The module makes it possible to dial 100 numbers by name even if the handset doesn't offer that feature built-in. To dial by name, users must first press the module's voice-recognition button. To end a conversation, the user hits the module's end button or waits for the other party to hang up.
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