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T-Mobile Readies $69 PND Phone

Wash. – The convergence
of cellphones and portable navigation devices (PNDs) will hit a new level when
T-Mobile launches a touchscreen 3G smartphone that doubles as a PND and costs
only $69.99 after $50 rebate.

The price, however, requires a minimum $39.99/month voice plan
and minimum $9.99/month data plan. A two-year service commitment is also

The full-touchscreen phone is the Symbian OS-based Nokia 5230
Nuron, due in the coming weeks in T-Mobile stores and select retailers with
3.2-inch display. Like a traditional PND, the phone incorporates on-board maps,
points-of-interest (POI) data and routing algorithm. Because the data reside on
the device rather than on a carrier’s servers, such phones provide multiple
advantages over carrier’s subscription-based navigation services. Consumers,
for example, don’t have to wait for maps and route information to download over
the cellular network; phones can be used for navigation even when cellular
signal is lost, and users don’t have to pay a monthly fee.

Nokia began offering its first unlocked PND phone in the U.S. late last year and expanded its unlocked
PND phone selection earlier this year, but the Nuron is the first Nokia
smartphone available through a U.S.
carrier with Nokia’s preloaded Ovi Maps navigation application. The phone is
also the first Nokia phone from a U.S.
carrier to come preloaded with an app to access Nokia’s Ovi store. Carrier-offered
Nokia phones from AT&T, in contrast, require users to download an Ovi Store
app from

before downloading store content, Nokia told TWICE. The cost of Ovi
Store content can be added to the user’s phone bill or to a credit card.

The Nuron comes preloaded with
maps for the U.S., Canada and Mexico
and lets users access maps of more than 180 countries when traveling at

. Like its unlocked counterparts, the
Nuron features pedestrian and driving
route guidance, automatic rerouting, and lane assistance. An embedded database that includes
points of interests (POI), speed-limit warnings and speed-camera locations
can be updated via over-the-air downloads. Free online services include real-time
traffic updates, event and movie listings, and weather forecasts. The phone also features IM, email access and full
HTML browser.

Nuron’s maps and navigation data are provided by digital map
maker Navteq, acquired by Nokia in 2007.

With the planned T-Mobile launch, PND phone options get more
affordable. Unlike Nokia’s unlocked PND phones, for example, the Nuron’s price
benefits from a carrier subsidy. Likewise, AT&T subsidizes the price of the
Garmin-Asus PND phone, which is priced at $99 after $100 rebate and requires
$30/month data plan. The pricier iPhone is also available with downloadable
third-party navigation apps that cost from $39 to $99. Those apps feature onboard
maps, routing algorithm, POIs and traffic reports.

The $199 Motorola Droid at Verizon Wireless, which requires
$30/month data plan, and $179 Google Nexus One at T-Mobile with required data
plan incorporate a navigation app called Google Maps Navigation, a hybrid
navigation technology that downloads a route’s maps and driving directions on
demand from the cloud for local storage. Unlike carrier-based navigation
services, the app continues to provide route guidance even if the cellular
signal is lost. The navigation service is included in the price of a subscriber’s
data plan.