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Value Phones Join Flagship Launches

NEW YORK – Two highly visible flagship smartphones – Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8) — hit the ground running in recent weeks at $199 under contract, but dealers and consumers could have easily overlooked the launch of several value-priced phones and other premium phones.

New phones include a Sprint-brand WeGo phone targeted to kids, the latest Verykool-brand 3G Android cellphone from Info- Sonics, and a low-cost Kyocera feature phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for Sprint and its Boost Mobile and PayLo prepaid brands.

The Kyocera and InfoSonics launches underscore a continuing need to offer low-cost feature and smartphones, particularly for use with no-contract services that don’t subsidize phone prices.

The WeGo phone joins a growing selection of phones and GPS-locator watches targeted to kids and their parents. Late last year, start-up MVNO Zact launched a Disney-themed Android smartphone for kids, and Filip Technologies launched a cellphone/GPS-locator watch for kids through AT&T. At International CES, Techno Source and KD Interactive, makers of the Kurio line of Android tablets, launched their first kids smartphone, which features Android and 3G. And start-up KGPS recently unveiled its HereO GPS-locator watch, which lacks ability to make voice calls or send/receive messages.

Firefly Mobile and MVNO Kajeet have offered kids phones since 2007.

On the premium side, Samsung launched its first Windows smartphone through Verizon.

Here’s what the phone’s offer:

Samsung brought its first Windows phone to the Verizon network. The Samsung Ativ SE is priced at $199 with two-year activation. A Windows Phone 8.1 update is planned for later in the year.

The no-contract price is $599, and the price under the carrier’s Edge trade-up program is $25.22/ month for 24 months for a total of $605.28.

The LTE-equipped device shipped from Verizon’s web store on April 12, and plans for sales through Verizon-owned stores weren’t announced at press time. The model joins a short Windows Phone selection at Verizon.

The global-ready device accesses voice and data networks in 205 countries and features a 5-inch FullHD Super AMOLED display, 2.3GHz quad-core processor, 13-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera and removable 2,600 mAh battery.

Sprint entered the kids-phone market with a $199 WeGo phone targeted to kids ages 5 to 12 and featuring parental controls and GPS tracking.

Positioned as a value-priced starter phone for kids, the WeGo is available in Sprint stores and indirect retailers at $199 up front or 24 monthly payments of $5. Service costs $9.99 per month for 1,000 voice minutes and 1,000 text messages.

A portal available via computer and iOS and Android apps lets parents locate their child’s device on a map, control device features such as contacts, and set up notifications.

A panic alarm consists of a string that a child pulls to activate a loud buzzer and send a text message automatically to a parent with the child’s location. A speed alert notifies parents if the child is in a vehicle that is exceeding a set speed.

Kids can also dial 911 by pressing the OK button quickly two times from the home screen.

Separately, Sprint and its prepaid brands Boost Mobile and PayLo announced the launch if a low-cost feature phone with slide-out QWERTY keyboard, underscoring a continuing need to offer low-cost feature phones, particularly with no-contract services that don’t subsidize phones.

The Kyocera-made phone features CDMA 1x data technology, which delivers data at real-world speeds averaging 80Kbps to 100Kbps.

The phone is called the Verve when sold with Sprint and Boost service, and it’s called the Contact when sold with PayLo service.

Sprint positions the phone for power texters who don’t need a smartphone. Features include text-to-speech capabilities for menus, messaging, web browsing, contacts, notifications and the like for the vision impaired.

For the Sprint-brand network, the phone became available in gray or pink on April 11 in Sprint’s direct-ship sales channels, web store, and tele sales. Consumers buying it on an installment plan with no contract pay $0 down (plus tax) and 24 monthly payments of only $5.42.

A navy blue version will be available without a contract at Boost Mobile beginning May 6 at $49.99 at Boost Mobile’s retail stores, select independent wireless dealer locations, and Boost’s web store with free shipping.

Under the Kyocera Contact name, the phone will be available with PayLo no-contract service at $39.99 beginning May 13.

InfoSonics added to its U.S. selection of value-priced Verykool-brand cellphones with the launch of the $139 s450 Onyx 3G smartphone.

In 2014, the company plans to ramp up U.S. sales efforts.

The Onyx is a quad-band GSM phone with 3G HSPA+21 technology operating in the 850/1900MHz bands. It features 4.5-inch FWVGA capacitive touchscreen, IPS technology, 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, Android 4.2 OS, 4GB internal memory, 32GB MicroSD card slot, main 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera, VGA front-facing camera, Wi-Fi hot-spot and modem tethering.

U.S. distribution channels include rural U.S. carriers, prepaid distributors and online retailers, including InfoSonics’ own online store.