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AT&T Phone Focus: Productivity, Merriment

San Antonio — The sometimes-conflicting goals of productivity and merriment were on the mind of AT&T Wireless when it launched the GPS-equipped version of the BlackBerry Curve and announced plans for Samsung’s BlackJack II smartphone.

Like its predecessor BlackJack, the BlackJack II is a QWERTY-keypad-equipped smartphone with quadband GSM/EDGE and triband W-CDMA/HSDPA capability. The new version, however, adds built-in GPS and TeleNav GPS Navigator for turn-by-turn driving instructions, and adds AT&T Video Share service, which lets users share live video while on a voice call. It’s AT&T’s first business-oriented smartphone with Video Share.

It will also be one of the first phones compatible with AT&T’s planned Napster over-air music-download service. It’s also compatible with the carrier’s recently launched eMusic over-air download service.

BlackJack II also upgrades the smartphone OS to Windows Mobile 6 Standard from Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone edition. The Windows Mobile Standard OS differs from the Windows Mobile 6 Professional OS in that it does not support a touchscreen, nor does it allow users to originate documents; they can only view and edit existing documents.

The new model, available in black or red wine, will be available exclusively through AT&T and its retail channels later this year as low as $149.

When AT&T launches Napster service, the phone will download music over the air in protected 64kbps WMA form. A dual download to a home PC will be in protected 192kbps WMA. Unprotected eMusic over-air downloads are in 32kbps AAC+ format, with a dual download to the PC in unprotected MP3 format.

The Napster service, to launch in mid-November, will offer more than 5 million songs for over-the-air previewing and download and for download to a PC. Subscribers will get the option of downloading five tracks per month for a discounted $7.49 or make a la carte downloads at $1.99 each. The prices include dual downloads to the phone and to a PC.

On July 31, AT&T launched its DRM-free eMusic Mobile downloads from eMusic’s catalog of more than 2.7 million songs by independent artists, including Miles Davis and Paul McCartney. Subscribers can download five songs per month for $7.49, and an additional five songs are available for the same price whenever desired. The price includes a dual download in unprotected MP3 format to a PC.

Songs from eMusic can be downloaded over the air to such phones as the Samsung a717, a727, new versions of the Samsung SYNC and the Nokia N75.

Other BlackJack II upgrades include 2-megapixel camera, up from 1.3, and RSS reader.

Another new smartphone, the BlackBerry Curve 8310, is an upgrade of the Curve 8300. It adds GPS and TeleNav GPS Navigator to deliver turn-by-turn driving instructions in real time, bringing to three the number of BlackBerrys so-equipped. The others are the 8800 and Wi-Fi-equipped 8820, both targeted to enterprise users.

With the Curve, BlackBerry maker RIM is targeting a broader audience with GPS.

The quadband GSM/EDGE, 3.9-ounce Curve measures 4.2 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.6 inches and features a 2-megapixel camera. It is the industry’s smallest BlackBerry with full QWERTY keyboard and is available as low as $199 with mail-in rebate and two-year contract through all AT&T channels.

The Curve, BlackBerry Pearl and 8800 are BlackBerry’s first devices with A/V playback. The Pearl and Curve are also the first BlackBerrys with digital camera and among the first with push-to-talk.