By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
NEW YORK – A $29 LTE-equipped tablet, ZTE’s first phablet, an updated BlackBerry OS and LG’s curvedscreen phablet are among the mobile product making their U.S. debuts.
The new products also include a smartphone with slide-out QWERTY keyboard, joining only a handful of such products in the market.
The launches follow a fourth quarter in which Android and Windows smartphone share rose in the U.S. while Apple’s share declined, according to a consumer survey by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
In the U.S., Apple’s sales share fell 5.8 percentage points to 43.9 percent from the year-ago quarter while Android share rose 4.4 percentage points to 50.6 percent and Windows share rose 1.9 percentage points to 4.3 percent. BlackBerry accounted for 0.4 percent of sales, down from 0.9 percent.
Here’s what products arrived in recent weeks and what’s coming in the next few days:
BlackBerry: The ailing company didn’t unveil new phones but did update its BlackBerry 10 OS software to offer hundreds of improvements, many designed to help users find information they want more quickly.
BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 also includes what the company called “a simplified phone experience” through a new incoming call screen that lets users swipe to the left to answer or swipe right to ignore a call. The call screen also features new icons to instantly silence an incoming call or send a reply through BBM, SMS or email that the user can’t answer right away. Users choose from a list of responses or respond with a personalized note.
An improvement to the BlackBerry Hub, which puts all messages and notifications in one place, lets users instantly filter a message list to show only unread messages, flagged messages, draft messages, meeting invites, sent messages or Level 1 Alerts. Once the filter criterion is set, users activate it with a pinch gesture.
The new OS also lets users create SMS and email groups, open messages on the lock screen, and customize what appears on the settings menu.
With the updated OS, users can also save a web page for later online or offline viewing, and an FM radio built into the BlackBerry Z30, Q10 and Q5 smartphones is activated.
Boost Mobile: The prepaid brand’s phablet is also ZTE’s first phablet.
Boost Mobile, one of Sprint’s no-contract brands, launched the ZTE-made BoostMax with 5.7-inch 1280x720 HD IPS display and a price tag of $299.
The Android 4.1 phone, shown at International CES as the Iconic Phablet, features 4G LTE and 3G cellular data, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB embedded memory, 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p video capture and 1-megapixel front camera with 720p video capture.
The BoostMax is promoted as the only phablet or smartphone currently available to U.S. consumers with the ability to open and operate any two apps at the same time. It’s also said to be is the first prepaid U.S. smartphone with Dolby Digital Plus audio technology, which delivers surround sound through built-in speakers and headphones, and enhances clarity and dialog.
Other key features include stereo Bluetooth 4.0 LE (low-energy profile).
The phone is available in stores that sell only Boost Mobile products, select independent wireless retailers and at BoostMobile.com/Max. The device will be available through national retailers in mid-February, a spokesperson said.
Sprint: The carrier launched a $29 cellular-equipped 7-inch tablet, marking the lowest price at which the carrier has ever launched a tablet.
ZTE’s Optik 2 is available through Sprint’s website and business channels at $29 with a twoyear service agreement on a qualifying data plan. The tablet offers 3G, not 4G, access to the Internet.
The tablet features Android 4.1.2 OS, 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash, and front 2-megapixel camera.
The tablet can also be used as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot, allowing up to five Wi-Fi-equipped devices to simultaneously access the Internet through the Optik 2.
Other tablet features include 802.11b/g/n, integrated GPS, 4,000 mAh lithium-ion battery, stereo speakers, MicroSD card slot supporting 32GB cards and Bluetooth 4.0
In addition, Sprint began offering LG’s curved-screen G Flex at $299 with two-year contract on Jan. 31 through its website, telemarketing and business-sales channels. The phone will be available in Sprint stores and indirect channels on Feb. 7.
AT&T also plans to offer the G Flex at $299.
T-Mobile: The “uncarrier” plans Feb. 5 availability of LG’s curved-screen G Flex and Optimus F3Q smartphones, the latter with slide-from-the-side QWERTY keyboard.
The G Flex will launch nationwide beginning Feb. 5 at participating T-Mobile retail stores, select dealers, national retail stores, and online at T-Mobile.com. The LG Optimus F3Q will launch on T-Mobile.com, select dealers and national chains on Feb. 5, with select T-Mobile stores offering it the same week.
The G Flex will cost $0 down with 24 equal monthly device payments of $28 with T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan. Buyers will also get six months of free Netflix streaming service. The LG Optimus F3Q will be available for $0 down with 24 equal monthly device payments of $13 with T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan.
The G Flex features 6-inch P-OLED 1,280 by 720 HD screen that curves to match the contours of the face to improve call quality, fit in a back pocket, and provide more immersive video viewing, LG said. A new Dual Window feature displays separate applications in two windows and drag information between apps.
The LG Optimus F3Q with QWERTY keyboard features 4-inch IPS TFT display, 5-megapixel camera, and QuickMemo, which lets people user their finger to write or draw on any screen shot or photo. QSlide displays two apps simultaneously.
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.