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i-mate PocketPC Phone Adds QWERTY Keyboard

Two new Windows Mobile-based PDA phones introduced by i-mate for GSM networks include the company’s second PocketPC phone with full QWERTY keyboard.

The JAQ3 PocketPC phone is based on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 for PocketPC Phone Edition OS. It features a QWERTY keyboard and 2.4-inch touch screen and will complement a similarly equipped i-mate JAQ PocketPC phone.

Other companies offering PocketPC phones with QWERTY keyboard include HTC, Hewlett Packard, Palm, Samsung and UTStarcom.

i-mate’s second new PocketPC phone, the PDAL, lacks QWERTY keyboard but features a touch screen that is larger than the JAQ3’s touch screen.

Both new i-mates feature 802.11b/g wireless-LAN technology, EDGE cellular data, and quadband 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz radio for use in U.S. and foreign cellular networks.

In the United States, i-mate phones are available through online stores and a handful of retail locations and second-tier carriers.

The JAQ3 was to be available to these channels at the end of January at an unlocked suggested retail of $599. The PDAL will probably be available in April at an unlocked suggested $499, a spokesman said.

Excluding keyboard and touch-screen differences, the two new i-mate models are identical in all respects. They offer 2-megapixel camera/camcorder, stereo Bluetooth, 64MB RAM, 128MB ROM, microSD card slot, talktime up to fours hours, standby time up to 150 hours, mini USB, IR and Windows Mobile 5.0 applications including Direct Push e-mail from an Exchange server. Other Windows Mobile applications include Mobile Outlook, Windows Media Player, Excel, Word and PowerPoint. To these, i-mate adds anti-virus software, PDF viewer, games and other applications.

To navigate the JAQ3, i-mate includes five-way navigation pad, scroll wheel, QWERTY keyboard and stylus. In contrast, the keyboard-lacking PDAL features five-way navigation pad and stylus.

For these and its other phones, i-mate offers free services, including a virus-scanning service and a free hosted Microsoft Exchange account that lets users wirelessly synchronize their handset’s Outlook applications.

The i-mate also differentiates itself by offering free downloads of select games, ringtones and wallpaper to the phones via connected PC from its Club i-mate site, where users can also download ROM-code updates. Users also get 24/7 support over the phone and via live on-line chats as well as a free unlimited hosted email account.

i-mate also provides applications downloadable from its Web site, some for a one-time fee and other, such as security and virus-scanning applications, for a monthly fee. One such application enables i-mate users to remotely access their photo, music and Word documents from their personal or enterprise PC.

Five-year-old i-mate, which specializes in Windows Mobile-based GSM handsets, markets its phones unlocked in the United States to offer retailers a way to differentiate their products from carrier-sourced products that are often sold in carrier-branded stores across the street. The company, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, entered the North and South American markets in 2005 but also markets phones across the Middle East, Australia, Asia, Africa and many parts of Europe. Net profits for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2006, were $9.5 million on revenue of $110.8.

Though marketing in the United States for two years, the company admitted in its financial report for the quarter ending September that it had been “unable to secure significant sales and distribution due to the unavailability of devices.” The company, however, said, “The situation is being resolved by our new status as an OEM.”