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Step-Up Phones Hit The Market

12/01/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

New York — Wireless carriers and handset vendors are testing consumers’ appetite for step-up products during the current economic slowdown with the launch of multiple new smartphones, touchscreen phones and TV phones.

AT&T launched its first touchscreen phone equipped with Qualcomm’s MediaFLO live-TV service, the Samsung-made Eternity. Verizon also expanded its selection of CDMA/GSM worldphones by three models with the launch of the Samsung-made Renown and Saga and the BlackBerry Bold, the first touchscreen-equipped model.

Through AT&T, LG launched its first U.S. smartphone, the Incite, which features Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 OS. Through Verizon, Samsung launched its high-end Omnia smartphone (see www.TWICE.com), also based on the Professional 6.1 OS. And through Sony Electronics distribution channels, SonyEriccson launched its Xperia touchscreen phone, available as an unlocked phone.

Here’s what’s flowing into the market to test consumers’ willingness to step up as the economy winds down:

AT&T:

AT&T’s Eternity and Verizon’s Motorola-made Knave, available in mid-October at $149, are the only touchscreen phones equipped with MediaFLO service.

AT&T’s Eternity, a 3G phone that lacks a smartphone OS, features a touchscreen with haptic feedback, virtual QWERTY keyboard and Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. The interface lets consumers customize the main screen with widgets that let them access key features with only one touch. The touchscreen also features tactile feedback. An accelerometer adds multiple features: switching automatically from portrait to landscape mode when the phone is turned on its side, scrolling through photos by titling the device and motion-sensing game play. It comes with 3-megapixel camera.

The quadband GSM/EDGE phone operates in 3.6Mbps HSDPA mode in AT&T’s 850/1,900MHz markets.

Another new touch screen phone, the LG Incite, is a smartphone, and it’s LG’s first smartphone for the U.S. market. The compact 4.2-inch by 2.2-inch by 0.5-inch device is available at $199 with two-year agreement and mail-in rebate.

Incite uses the Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional OS and features a 3-inch LCD touchscreen with haptic feedback and no hard QWERTY or dialing keypad. An accelerometer automatically rotates the screen to display a virtual QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode and a 20-key keyboard in portrait view. An included stylus or fingertips can be used to manipulate the touchscreen.

It features built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, built-in FM radio, 3-megapixel camera, MicroSD slot supporting up to 16GB cards, assisted GPS and stereo Bluetooth 2.0. A configurable, drag-and-drop favorites menu provides quick access to the user’s favorite apps. It also feature’s AT&T’s Video Share service, which lets users share live video while making a call.

The Samsung-made Eternity is the carrier’s first touchscreen-equipped phone with Qualcomm’s MediaFLO TV service, branded as AT&T Mobile TV by the carrier. It retails for $149 with two-year agreement after $50 rebate.

Verizon:

These worldphones join the Motorola Z6c and BlackBerry 8830 World Edition smartphone, a spokeswoman said.

The Saga is a Windows Mobile 6.1 PDA hone with touchscreen, hard QWERTY keyboard, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, optical mouse, stereo Bluetooth, 2-megapixel camera, MicroSD slot for an additional 16GB of memory and Microsoft Voice Command technology. The Saga is available at $199 with two-year service contract after $70 mail-in rebate, which takes the form of a debit card.

The clamshell Renown is available at $179 with two-year contract and after $50 mail-in rebate, also in the form of a debit card. The Renown features visual voice mail, stereo Bluetooth, and microSD slot.

The BlackBerry Storm 9530, selling for at $199 after rebate through all Verizon distribution channels, is the first touchscreen-equipped BlackBerry from Research In Motion. The Storm lacks hard buttons for dialing and typing, but RIM promotes the device’s "clickable" tactile-feedback touchscreen, said to be a world’s first, as solving the usual problems associated with typing on traditional touchscreens.

The carrier expanded its selection of GSM/CDMA worldphones with the launch of the Samsung-made Renown and Saga, both incorporating dual-band CDMA 1x EV-DO for use in Verizon’s U.S. network and quadband GSM/EDGE for use in overseas markets. Another new world phone is RIM’s BlackBerry Storm, which became available Nov. 21 with higher speed EV-DO Rev. A data technology. The Storm is Verizon’s first worldphone capable of operating around the world in 3G mode, given that it incorporates CMDA 1X EV-DO Rev. A and GSM/EDGE/HSDPA technology.

SonyEricsson:

The Xperia X1, a 3G worldphone, is the company’s first Windows Mobile smartphone and first phone under the premium Xperia sub-brand. It features touchscreen and arc-sliding QWERTY keyboard and is based on the Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional OS. The 3-inch VGA touchscreen displays either the Windows Mobile 6 Professional desktop or nine user-configurable desktop panels to launch specific applications. It operates worldwide in quadband GSM/EDGE mode. It also operates in the high-speed HSPA mode in the U.S. 850/1,900MHz bands and in the foreign 2,100MHz band. It also features Wi-Fi

The Xperia X1 will be available unlocked through Sony Electronics and its authorized retailers beginning Nov. 28 at a suggested $799.