By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
NEW YORK — A wider selection of Windows Phone 8 smartphones, more phablets, more waterproof smartphones and next-generation iPhones will greet consumers during the fourth-quarter selling season.
New phablets include LG’s G2 with 5.2-inch FullHD screen, Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 3, and the Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3-inch phablet, which launched on the AT&T network and will come to additional carriers later this year.
New waterproof phones arrived from Kyocera and ZTE, and an entry-level smartphone from LG rolled out to Verizon.
For its part, AT&T expanded its selection of Windows Phone 8 smartphones with the addition of the Nokia Lumia 925.
On Sept. 10, Apple is expected to unveil a pair of new smartphones for the first time. One flagship and one more modestly priced model will help the company defend its market share from an onslaught of lower-priced Android models and flagship Android models that offer better features and hardware performance.
Here are some recent and planned product launches:
BlackBerry: Sprint became the last of the four national carriers to offer a BlackBerry 10 OS smartphone, pricing it at $199 with contract.
The phone, however, isn’t stocked by any brick-and- mortar stores. Sprint offers the LTE-equipped device on its web site and through its telemarketing staff. Consumers who want to buy it in Sprint stores or in indirect-channel stores can order it through those locations for shipment to their homes, a spokesperson said.
BlackBerry’s other U.S.-market smartphone with 10 OS, the full-touch Z10, has been available from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile since March. Sprint doesn’t offer it.
For Sprint, the Q10 is the carrier’s first LTE-equipped BlackBerry.
The Q10 and Z10 were unveiled in January to revive BlackBerry’s fortunes, but the company’s market share has continued to shrink, and the company recently announced plans to pursue strategic alternatives to boost its smartphone share.
Kyocera Communications: It introduced its Hydro series of waterproof smartphones and began offering its first Verizon-network phone since 2007 with the launch of the Hydro Elite.
The $99 LTE-equipped Android 4.1 smartphone, like Kyocera’s other waterproof phones, are protected from blowing rain and immersion in up to 3.28 feet of water for as long as 30 minutes.
The Hyrdo Elite is Kyocera’s third LTE smartphone for the U.S. market. It features a 4.3-inch 1,280 by 720 HD display and Smart Sonic receiver technology, which uses a ceramic actuator in lieu of a speaker to make an incoming call audible even in the noisiest environments, Kyocera said.
The phone is global-ready, thanks to the inclusion of foreign frequency bands for GSM voice and HSPA+ data.
Other features include dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 16GB embedded memory, Qi wireless charging, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n with dual-band N, MHL connector, DLNA, mobile hot spot, Touch-and- Send nearfield communications (NFC) sharing, 2,100 mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p video capture, and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. A starter mode user interface is designed for first-time smartphone users.
LG: This month shipments are set in the U.S. and Germany of its previously announced flagship G2 smartphone.
The Android 4.2.2 phone, which features 5.2-inch edge-to-edge FullHD IPS display, is promoted as the first smartphone available globally with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset, whose quad-core CPU runs at a rate of 2.26GHz per core to deliver the smartphone industry’s fastest processor speed, LG said. The phone also supports next-generation LTE technology called LTE Advanced to maximize wireless-network efficiency and deliver faster speeds in networks equipped with the technology.
Design enhancements include the placement of the power button and volume key to the back of the handset from the sides to make them easier to use when holding the phone in one hand. If the phone is facing screen-up on a table, users can tap the display twice to turn the phone on and off.
The rear volume keys also do double duty to launch other functions when long-pressed. No other physical buttons appear on the phone.
Other features include 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and an Audio Zoom mode that downplays background noise and zooms in to capture the subject’s audio.
UI features include Answer Me, which automatically answers a call when the phone is raised to your ear; Plug and Pop, which automatically recommends options most likely to be used when a headset or USB cable is connected; and Guest mode, which protects privacy by displaying only pre-selected apps when guests unlock the phone by tracing a G on the screen. Slide Aside lets users slide among open apps from left to right.
It has a 423 ppi display.
Nokia: AT&T expanded its selection of Nokia phones with the Sept. 13 availability of the Lumia 925, which had been available only through TMobile.
Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 smartphone, which is available exclusively in black for the AT&T network, retails for $99 with contract or $21 per month for 12 months on AT&T’s Next plan. Next lets consumers pay off an unsubsidized no-contract phone after 12 monthly payments, then trade in their device and begin payments on a new device. The plan is not available through indirect channels.
The phone features 4.5-inch AMOLED WXGA touchscreen with curved Gorilla Glass 2; 1.5GHz dual-core processor; 16GB of internal memory; a 2,000 mAh battery; and an 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with optical image stabilization, dual LED flash and 1080p video capture.
The Lumia 925 joins multiple Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 phones on the AT&T network, including the Lumia 1020, 920, 820 and 520, AT&T said.
Samsung: The Galaxy Note 3, its latest phablet, debuted last week at IFA. The 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega smartphone/ tablet hybrid is available through AT&T at $149 with two-year agreement and at $24/month for 12 months (or $288) without contract under the carrier’s Next trade-in program. Sprint and U.S. Cellular also plan to offer it but hadn’t announced a date at press time.
Verizon Wireless: Two LG phones for Verizon include an LTE Android slider, which is one of only a handful of smartphones on the market with a slide-from-the-side QWERTY keyboard. The $19 LG Enact features Android 4.1.2, slide-from-the- side QWERTY keyboard, 4-inch 800 by 400 display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1080p video capture, mobile hot spot capability and a 2,460 mAh battery.
Q Slide 2.0 lets users slide among select open apps without having to go first to the homescreen to access another open app. The Enact also features LG’s Quick Memo, which lets users hand-write notes with their fingertip on pictures and web pages for sharing via social networks, messaging, email and more. Starter mode offers a simplified user interface for first-time smartphone users.
For basic-phone consumers, the $79 LG Exalt for Verizon is a retro flip phone featuring basic CDMA 1 x RTT data service, internal 3-inch color LCD display and ability to read out messages.
ZTE: Virgin Mobile’s first waterproof smartphone is the $149 ZTE-made Reef, a 3G Android smartphone that joins a growing number of phones with IPX7 certification to withstand submersion in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. It’s available on Virgin’s website and select retail locations.
Reef features include Android 4.1, 1GHz processor, 4-inch 800 by 480 WVGA IPS display, 1GB RAM, and 5-megapixel main camera with 720p video capture, and 1-megapixel front camera.
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.