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Wireless carriers and handset suppliers are preparing for the fourth-quarter selling season by launching a mix of fashion-, entertainment-, and business-oriented phones.
Among them: a Samsung phone with integrated TV, the first Windows Mobile-based GSM/GPRS smartphone in the United States, a leather-look phone from LG, Sony Ericsson's first clamshell phones and Siemens's long-awaited slider phone with jewel-like keys.
For business-oriented consumers, Motorola unveiled the GSM/GPRS MPx200 Windows Mobile-based smartphone, which AT&T Wireless will sell through direct and indirect channels in the fourth quarter. Pricing will be in line with high-end phones and lower than PDA phones, the carrier said without elaborating. On its Web site, however, AT&T prices high-end phones up to $299 and PDA phones from $349-$549.
The Windows Mobile OS is designed for small-screen phones and offers more limited functionality than phones based on Microsoft's PocketPC Phone Edition, which packs full PDA functionality into a cellphone.
AT&T believes the phone will be the first Windows Mobile phone available for any U.S. network. Samsung has shown a Windows Mobile phone for CDMA 1X networks but hasn't announced availability.
The color-screen MPx200, which operates in the 1,800/1,900MHz bands, will synchronize with a user's desktop Outlook functions, including contacts, e-mail, calendar and tasks. Outlook data can be modified on the handset by using the phone's dialing keypad, which is equipped with predictive text input software. The device doesn't display Microsoft Word or Excel files.
The smartphone also features Pocket Internet Explorer to browse Web sites, MSN Messenger instant messaging and Windows Media Player for playing video, Windows Media Audio music and MP3 music stored in memory expandable to 1GB.
For enterprise-wide installations, the phone will be able to synchronize Outlook functions over AT&T's GPRS network. Consumer users will have to synchronize via a PC cradle, but they have the option of subscribing to AT&T's wireless e-mail redirection service for $3/month on top of AT&T's mMode data-service subscription fees.
For non-business-oriented users, Motorola upgraded its V60 clamshell by adding color screen, voice-activated digit dialing, two-line external display and access to key features via voice command. The 850MHz TDMA phone, redubbed the V60t, comes with preloaded color screensavers, wallpaper and games to take advantage of the color screen. The V60t is available through Cingular Wireless stores at $99 after $50 rebate and two-way contract.
For the fashion-oriented, Siemens began shipping its SL56 slider-style phone, said to use fashion-forward styling cues such as BMW-like rounded design, titanium color and cut-glass-style dialing keys. It's available through Cingular at $249 and will be available through AT&T by the end of September at the same price, the company said.
Promoted heavily during Fashion Week activities in New York, the 850/ 1,900MHz GSM/GPRS phone is targeted to status-seeking 18- to 50-year-olds, of which 55 percent are male, said senior VP/GM Bernt Klein.
The 2.8-ounce model features 4,096-color screen, infrared port, MMS, Java, picture caller ID, synchronization with Outlook and Notes, integrated antenna and optional $80 VGA camera attachment with flash.
For young males, Siemens plans to offer the M56 850/1,900MHz GSM/GPRS phone, expected to be available from carriers "soon," the company said. It features an angular design, side LEDs that can be programmed to blink in a customized pattern when the phone rings, and a large memory to store ringtones custom-composed on the handset. It also features 4,096-color display, MMS, and Java.
Siemens expects carriers in early 2004 to offer its Symbian-based SX1 PDA phone with built-in camera and camcorder.
Also for the style-conscious, LG has begun offering a leather-look clamshell phone through Verizon. The VX3100L, a leather-look version of the silver VX3100, is sold through Verizon at $99 with two-year contract.
Though not a videophone, the Samsung SGH-P704 is a phone that offers video via its built-in NTSC TV. The GSM/GPRS model with 260K color screen will be available in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2003 or first quarter of 2004, Samsung said. Additional details were unavailable.
For the entertainment- and fashion-oriented, Sony Ericsson unveiled the Z600 clamshell phone. It accepts an optional gameboard attachment and exchangeable front and back covers, which will be available in a variety of patterns and colors.
The Z600 and a fashion-oriented Z200 represent the company's first U.S. market clamshell phones. Both are 900/1,800/1,900MHz GSM/GPRS phones that will be sold initially through the company's Web site beginning in the fourth quarter. They can be activated on any U.S. GSM network, the company said.
The 3.9-ounce Z600 features built-in camera, 56K color screen, MMS, Bluetooth, embedded games, support for Java- and Mophun-based games, 32-voice polyphonic sounds and the ability to custom-compose ringtones on the handset. The standard keypad allows for simultaneous key presses for better gameplay. Its tentative price on the company's Web site is $150 to $199, with promotions at $99.
The Z600's optional EGB-10 gameboard is expected to sell for under $100 on the company's Web site. It features an eight-way control and four action buttons.
For "fun-loving youth" and fashion-conscious adults, Sony Ericsson will offer the 3.5-ounce Z200 clamshell model. It features an off-center exterior LCD display that's round. Interchangeable front covers are available. The tentative price is $100 to $150, with promotions driving down the price to $50 to $100.
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.