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New Cellphones Target MP3 Users

LAS VEGAS — Cellphone suppliers Sony Ericsson and Motorola turned out at International CES with new music-focused cellphones, one of which was described by Motorola mobile devices president Stu Reed as “dispelling the myth that mobile phones with music features are inferior to stand-alone audio devices.”

That phone, Motorola’s ROKR E8 quad-band GSM/EDGE phone, features ModeShift technology to present users with only music-player controls or cellphone controls. When the phone is powered off, its surface is smooth and lacks visible keys, but when the device is powered up, a virtual numbered keypad appears on the front surface. Haptics technology provides tactile response when a virtual key is pressed. When a virtual music key is pressed, the phone keypad disappears, and music-player controls appear.

The Rokr E8, due in the first quarter, also features FM radio, navigation wheel, 2GB internal memory, microSD slot and compatibility with Windows Media Player 11 on the PC.

Also due in the first quarter is the Motorola Z10 multimedia phone, an HSDPA-equipped kick slider encased in spun stainless steel and capable of uploading videos that it captures to YouTube, Google and other Web sites. It also plays back video at 30 fps on its 2.2-inch QVGA screen. It features a memory card slot and Symbian/UIQ operating system.

Two other new Motorola music-playing phones are entry-level GSM models with FM radio and RDS. The candy bar W230 and clamshell W270 include microSD slot and FM recorder. They’re due in the first quarter.

For its part, Sony expanded its Walkman-brand selection of MP3 cellphones with two new models, including the company’s first Walkman-branded 3G phone for the North American market. That phone, the W760 slider, operates in high-speed HSDPA mode in three bands, including the European 2.1GHz band. It will support AT&T’s planned over-the-air music-download service when it launches midyear, executives said. The phone also features built-in games, tilt gaming controls and dedicated A-B game buttons. It offers Wayfinder Navigator GPS navigation, an included 1GB Memory Stick and Shake Control, which lets users shake the phone to skip through tracks or adjust the volume.

In a throwback to the 80s, the other Walkman phone, the triband GSM/EDGE W350, features a flip cover to cover the dialing keypad when closed. When the cover is closed, dedicated music controls appear on the front of the flip cover to make the phone appear more like a dedicated MP3 player. It’s only 10mm thin and available in four colors to target the fashion-focused music enthusiast, the company said. Both play MP3 and AAC-family files but not WMA files.

A third Sony Ericsson phone, dubbed an affordable fashion phone, features gesture control, which enables users to wave their hand above the phone to silence a ring or snooze the alarm.

All three Sony Ericsson phones are available in the second quarter through carrier channels and as unlocked phones.

Also here at CES, OQO demonstrated a Mobile WiMAX-embedded version of it O2 ultra mobile PC as part of a technology demonstration in conjunction with Sprint, which plans to launch commercial Mobile WiMAX service under the Xoxm brand in select cities later this year. The demo marked “the first trial of Xohm compatible WiMAX capabilities embedded in an ultra mobile PC,” OQO contended.