By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
NEW YORK – Cellphone vendors are singling out select niches to boost share in a mature U.S. market in which smartphone growth is slowing and featurephone sales are dropping off the map.
Samsung, for example, unveiled two new Galaxy-series smartphones, one of which is a ruggedized model targeted to outdoor and underwater users. The other smartphone, targeted to photography aficionados, is the first smartphone with optical digital zoom to compete with high-end point-and-shoot cameras.
LG launched a smartphone targeted to people with visual, hearing and learning disabilities, and European cellphone supplier Just5 began shipping its second cellphone intended for consumers who want basic voice service and simplified operation.
Those products are turning up as multiple other cellphones hit the market, including BlackBerry’s longawaited Q10 with physical QWERTY keyboard and two new Google Edition smartphones from the websearch giant.
A new flagship phone from Google-owned Motorola is due sometime this summer.
Here’s what the companies announced:
BlackBerry Q10: The U.S. rollout continued with Verizon Wireless offering the QWERTY keyboard device online and through indirect channels on June 6 and through Verizon stores June 10.
AT&T plans June 18 availability. T-Mobile’s version of the Q10 became available June 5 through its stores and select indirect dealers. And Sprint said in mid- June that its version would be available “soon.”
The Q10 and full-touch Z10 are BlackBerry’s first two smartphones with BlackBerry 10 OS, which the company admitted is critical to turning around its shrinking smartphone sales. The Z10 went on sale in March through all national carriers but Sprint, which elected not to offer the model.
AT&T and Verizon have priced the Z10 and Q10 at $199 with two-year contract. T-Mobile has priced its Z10 and Q10 at $99 plus 24 monthly payments of $20, or $579 total.
Just5’s J510: European cellphone supplier Just5 has begun shipping its second cellphone intended for consumers who want basic voice service and simplified operation.
The Just5 J510 quadband GSM phone is available unlocked at $149 through the company’s online store and the company’s Amazon storefront. The phones are also sold by MVNO Red Pocket Mobile at the same price.
The J510 is available in a variety of color options and, like the company’s $89 dual-band 850/900MHz J509, it features large back-lit buttons and an emergency button. The button can be programmed with up to five different phone numbers to dial during an emergency.
The latest models features a larger screen capable of displaying larger icons, a different user interface and menu, add-ons such as games, and a rounder, slightly larger chassis to make it easier to hold. More color options are also available.
Other features include a speaking keypad that repeats the number that the user presses, a flashlight, FM radio, SMS support and amplified sound.
Google: Two more Google Edition smartphones, both unlocked LTE models that can be activated on the AT&T or T-Mobile networks, are planned.
The phone will offer a pure Google experience that strips out the handset makers’ own user interface and Android modifications.
The Google Edition of HTC’s flagship One smartphone will be available at $599 on June 26 through the Google Play store. Google plans June 26 availability of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S4 at $649.
LG Optimus F3: Through Sprint, LG launched the first U.S. smartphone to allow the visually impaired to receive voice prompts out of the box, thanks to Talk- Back by Google technology.
The $29 4G LTE Android smartphone also offers other features for people with hearing and learning disabilities.
The Optimus F3, for example, downloads Sprint’s new Accessible Education ID pack, a package of applications and mobile web services available in a single download. The ID pack is for K-12 students who cannot effectively read print because of visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive or learning disabilities. The pack accesses web-based educational resources through the phone.
For the hearing-impaired, an LED indicator on the phone’s home button blinks in different colors to signify different events, such as green for an incoming phone call or red for an incoming text message.
Motorola: Owned by Google, Motorola said its next flagship smartphone, the Moto X, will be available this summer and will the first smartphone in the U.S. market to be made in the U.S. Details of the new phone were not announced by press time.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom: Unveiled last week Samsung described it as it as the industry’s first smartphone with optical zoom.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom is positioned as offering the picture quality of high-end compact digital cameras, thanks to 10x optical-zoom capability, 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, optical image stabilizer, Xenon flash and other features.
Availability dates for global markets were not announced at press time.
The Android 4.2 Jelly Bean phone features 4G LTE, 4.3-inch qHD 960x540 Super Amoled display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1.5GB RAM, 8GB embedded memory, and 64GB MicroSD Card slot. The 4.94 by 2.5 by 0.6-inch device comes with 2,330mAh battery.
Other main-camera camera features include 24-240mm zoom capability, f3.1-F6.3, and 4fps continuous shot with autofocus.
A new camera interface, called zoom ring, lets users access multiple camera modes with a twist of a ring. The modes include auto, gallery and smart mode. The ring also provides optical zoom control, replacing dials and buttons to deliver smooth operation, the company said. Consumers also use the zoom ring to activate the in-call photo share feature, which lets users capture and send an image via MMS to whomever the user is talking with on the phone.
Like select other Galaxy products from Samsung, the device features drama shot, which merges continuous shots of moving objects into a single composed image to capture high-speed action. Smart mode lets users choose preset modes while the camera automatically adjusts to the mode to capture the best possible picture, the company said.
Other camera features also available on other Galaxy products include HDR, Panorama, Waterfall, Animated Photo, Eraser, and Sound and Shot.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active: This is a new version of its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone with features targeted to active outdoor users.
The new phone, the Galaxy S4 Active, will be available from AT&T at $199 strating June 21. The Android 4.2.2 model offers almost all of the same features as the Android 4.2.2 Galaxy S4 but adds IP67 water and dust resistance to seal out dust and protect the device from damage when under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Its camera also adds an Aqua mode to increase the visual quality and clarity of images and videos taken under water for enhanced underwater images and video. The main camera’s LED flash also turns into an LED flashlight. Other features on the S4 Active but not on the S4 include water-resistant earphone jack.
In another difference, the Active’s main camera features 8 megapixels while the S4’s main camera offers 13 megapixels. The Active camera also lacks such features as Dual Shot, Dual Recording, Dual Video Call, 360 Photo, Cinema Photo and Eraser, the company’s web site shows.
Like the S4, the S4 Active features 5-inch FullHD display, though it uses a TFT LCD display instead of the S4’s Super Amoled display. Both models feature 1.9GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB RAM, 4G LTE and HSPA+42, 2,600 mAH battery, and display with similar pixel counts: 443 ppi for the S4 Active and 441 for the S4.
Key features shared by both include 4G LTE and HSPA+42Mbps, NFC, Smart Pause, Smart Scroll, Air View, Air Gesture, ChatOn, WatchOn, S Voice, S Travel, S Health, S Voice Drive, Story Album, Group Play, Sound and Shot, and glove-touch display.
Samsung Galaxy S III: The year-old phone, which was Samsung’s flagship, comes to prepaid-service provider Boost Mobile and went on sale June 12 to expand Boost’s LTE phone selection to three. It’s priced at $399.
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