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Sony Ericsson Phone Plays Authorized Music Downloads

New York — Sony Ericsson’s second Walkman-branded cellular phone will be one of the U.S. market’s first phones to store and play music downloaded by PC from an authorized download service.

Only a handful of PDA-phones based on Microsoft’s Pocket PC platform offer that capability, analysts said. Those models include at least one Audiovox-branded PDA phone loaded with Windows Media Player 10. The Sony Ericsson W600, in contrast, lacks PDA operating system and form factor.

The Walkman-brand W600, available to U.S. consumers early in the fourth quarter, will be the first music phone in the United States to be compatible with Sony’s Connect download service. Consumers who download music in one of Sony ATRAC-family formats will use included PC software to transcode the music into a wireless-industry-standard format approved by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA). The standardized codec is ACC-wrapped in a digital-rights-management technology also approved by OMA to lock the music to the handset.

In non-Walkman phones, Sony Ericsson unveiled a pair of entry-level models and the Z520 music-playback phone, which like another non-Walkman branded phone stores and plays MP3 and AAC music. The Z520, however, doesn’t play authorized downloads and isn’t as “music-centric,” the company said. The Walkman W600, for example, features dedicated music buttons and 256MB of music-storing memory compared to the Z520’s embedded 16MB memory.

All of the introductions are GSM models.

Sony Ericsson is “working with operators and Sony to put a full [marketing, sales and promotion] program together” for the W600, said marketing VP Frances Britchford. Sony Ericsson’s president Miles Flint, however, also foresees direct-to-consumer sales, possibly via Sony’s Sony Style Web site or the Sony Ericsson site. Using the Walkman brand, Flint said, “creates an opportunity to take it to retail, direct to consumers, as well as to carriers.”

The company’s first Walkman-branded phone, available to U.S. consumers in the third quarter, won’t be sold by carriers at all but will likely be available on the Web, possibly on Sony’s Sony Style site, Flint added. The phone was unveiled at the CTIA convention in March. Like the W600 Walkman phone, it plays WMA and MP3 files but isn’t compatible with Sony Connect.

The triband W600 (850/1800/1900HHz) worldphone swivels open and closed, plays back MP3 files, and features 1.3-megapixel camera. It expands the company’s selection of U.S. phones with swiveling form-factor, high-speed EDGE packet-data technology and “dual-front” design. Dual-front phones look like a phone on one side and like a digital camera on the other.

The W600 also features built-in stereo speakers, stereo headset, music-focused user interface, and ability to automatically mute the music when a call comes in. It delivers up to 30 hours of music-playback time when the phone isn’t in standby and up to 15 hours when the phone is in standby.

Other Sony Ericsson introductions include the:

  •  The Z520 quad-band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) clamshell is targeted to youth, young women in particular, and features media playback of MP3 and AAC music, playback of MPEG-4 video downloads and streams, 16MB memory, VGA camera, 3D gaming, Bluetooth, infrared, and lighting effects. Lights flash in eight different patterns along the phone’s perimeter. Patterns can be assigned to caller ID numbers. It also plays downloaded Java-based applications. Music can be played through the built-in speakerphone or handsfree earphones. A range of Style Up color covers is available. It’s due in North America in the third quarter.
  • The K300 entry-level imaging phone is due “soon” said product marketing head Steve Walker. It is an 850/1800/1900 MHz model that is held horizontally like a camera to take VGA pictures. The clamshell phone comes in blue or silver and features 12MB on-board memory to store 120 10-second video clips or 500 VGA images. It also features speaker phone, PC synchronization, and 3D-Java game engine.
  •  The J300 entry-level voice-and-game phone features a slim, curvy design, 3D gaming engine, downloadable video clips and games, choice of three colors, choice of Style-Up replaceable color covers. It operates in 850/1800/1900MHz bands.
  •  Also available are multiple Bluetooth accessories, including three headsets and one car kit. All are the company’s first with Bluetooth 2.0, which accelerates Bluetooth’s raw data rate to 3Mbps from 1Mbps, is twice as efficient as the current spec, and offers CD-quality audio streaming.

The HBH-610 headset includes automatic volume adjustment, echo cancellation and noise reduction, 6.5 hours of talk time, and up to 13 days of standby time. It can be personalized with a selection of Style-Up covers.

The Akono HBH-662 headset includes a screen that displays the name and number of incoming callers, a call timer to record the length of all calls, and a digital battery reader. Users can adjust call volume right on the headset. It offers 5 hours of talk time or 150 hours of stand by.

The Akono HBH-608 delivers up to 10 hours of talk time or 270 hours of standby time.

The HCB-700 hands-free car kit features an on-dash display and a wired joystick-type controller. It’s the company’s first Bluetooth car kit with voice digit dialing. The dashboard-level display can be configured to match the car’s dashboard lighting. A Bluetooth phone connects automatically when the ignition key is turned.

Prices were unavailable.

The company will offer Appello’s Wisepilot server-based navigation application for the P910a PDA-phone in August. The service provides driving directions with 3D-perspective maps and voice instruction. The service will be bundled with three months of unlimited navigation service in the US and a Bluetooth GPS receiver. Regular subscriptions cost $9.95 monthly or $99 yearly.