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Sony Ericsson Adds Cyber-shot Brand To Lineup

2/28/2006 02:38:00 PM Eastern

New York — Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson added Sony’s Cyber-shot digital-camera brand to its cellular phone selection, while expanding it selection of phones bearing Sony’s Walkman brand.

Two Cyber-shot camera phones — one for the North American market — will join a Walkman selection that has been expanded to seven phones from five, with one of two new models slated for North America. That model will lower the opening price point of Walkman-brand phones to less than $250 when sold without carrier subsidy and perhaps as low as $99 after carrier subsidy, the company said.

Sony Ericsson also launched a new low-end phone, the K-310, and midtier phone, the K-510, for the North American market. The company also announced that Google will be the standard search engine on all of its Internet-enabled phones.

All new models unveiled here in New York operate in GSM networks. The new Cyber-shot and Walkman phones are also capable of downloading music over-the-air from the new Napster Mobile site, if supported by the carrier selling the phones.

The Cyber-shot phones, said North American marketing VP Frances Britchford, are “the first to earn the right to be called Cyber-shot” and represent the initial salvo in a product plan that in 2006 will “establish the phone as a credible camera.”

Sony Ericsson’s previous generation of camera phones featured “click-reduction” QuickShare technology and dual-front design. With dual-front design, one side of a phone looks like a phone, the other side looks like a camera, and consumers can hold them in a horizontal position like a camera to take a picture. QuickShare technology lets users take a picture with two clicks, thanks to a dedicated shutter button.

Cyber-shot phones take camera phone technology a step farther, bumping up picture quality to 3.2 megapixels, incorporating active lens cover, adopting the Cyber-shot user interface and featuring Xenon flash with red-eye reduction. Camera phones with LED photo light, in contrast, lack red-eye reduction, don’t give off a burst of light and light up only a small area up to 3 feet away. The Xenon flash, thought by Sony Ericsson to be the first in a North American camera phone, projects almost 10 feet and “illuminates a whole scene rather than just a face,” said product marketing manager Suzanne Cross.

The new phones also add Google’s eBlogger application to upload images with text to a blog.

In another major advance, the phones feature a proprietary technology not available in Cyber-shot digital cameras. Called BestPic, the technology lets users capture nine sequential shots at the first touch of the shutter button, store the images in buffer memory and select the best of the lot to store in removable memory. Most digital cameras, in contrast, take sequential shots and store all of them in embedded or removable memory, requiring users to delete unwanted shots through the traditional delete process. Only Nikon and Casio have a BestPic-like feature in their digital cameras.

Like its Sony Ericsson predecessors, the Cyber-shot phones feature PictBridge technology for downloading photos directly to a printer via USB or Bluetooth.

The K790 Cyber-shot phone, targeted to the North American market, features include triband 850/1800/1900MHz GSM/EDGE radio; 64MB internal memory; Sony Memory Stick Micro (M2) slot for the company’s new flash-memory format; Bluetooth 2.0; RDS-equipped FM radio; HTML browsing; RSS feeds; and support for playback of MP3, AAC, AAC+ and eAAC+ music files. It uses the Open Mobile Alliance’s digital-rights-management (DRM) technology to protect music downloaded over the air. Talk and standby times are up to seven hours and 350 hours, respectively.

The other new Cyber-shot phone, the K800, is slated for overseas markets and uses GSM/GPRS technology at 900/1800/1900MHz and W-CDMA at 2100MHz.

The latest North American Walkman phone is the W300, a clamshell that would be priced the lowest among three Walkman phones designed for the North American market. It’s targeted to the “mass market,” said Britchford. Its unsubsidized price of less than $250 compares to unsubsidized W600 and W810 prices of less than $400 and $500, respectively, the company said. The W600, priced between the W300 and W810, regularly sells with subsidy at $200 and, during promotions, at $149.

The W300, due in the second quarter, is a quadband 800/900/1800/1900MHz GSM/EDGE phone shipped with removable 256MB Memory Stick Micro (M2) memory card, MP3 and AAC music decoders, OMA DRM technology and battery that delivers 30 hours of music playback. Other features include VGA camera, RDS FM radio, 4x digital zoom, and talk and standby times up to 9.5 and 400 hours, respectively.

Another new Walkman phone, the W950, is designed for overseas markets and is a Symbian-based PDA-phone with GSM/W-CDMA radio, large screen and 4GB of embedded flash memory.

Like four other Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, the W950 could appear in select non-carrier stores and Web sites in the United States as an unlocked, unsubsidized model.

Two other new phones, the K310 and K510, are camera phones due in the second quarter to target the entry- and midprice levels, respectively. The K310 features VGA camera, while the K510 features 1.3 megapixel camera. Both are 850/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS phones with MP3 players and “fun” imaging effects. The latter adds Bluetooth, AAC music playback with OMA DRM support, PC synchronization, and optional flash with red-eye reduction.

Also new: three new Bluetooth headsets and a hands-free car kit that clips onto a car visor and requires no installation. They’re due in the third and fourth quarters.