Cellular phones for almost any lifestyle will hit the market for the Christmas selling season, with serious business users, active outdoor types, the entertainment-oriented, and the fashion-minded all getting something from carriers.
New products include the U.S. market's first clamshell-style BlackBerry-compatible phone, a ruggedized model that meets many military specs for harsh outdoor environments, a thin prepaid phone, Bang & Olufsen's first U.S. phone and many PDA phones.
By year's end, retailers can also expect to see the first W-CDMA smartphone for the U.S. market and a music-oriented phone with 1GB embedded memory, the most embedded memory of any music phone to date. Cingular will offer the smartphone, which will be based on the Windows Mobile smartphone platform and will feature QWERTY keypad. A CDMA 1x EV-DO carrier will offer the music phone. Additional details were unavailable.
Here's a product roundup by brand name:
Bang & Olufsen: The fashion-oriented home electronics company is entering the U.S. cellphone market for the first time, having sold cellphones in Europe for years. The company plans November availability of a $1,275 GSM handset, developed in conjunction with Samsung, and a companion Bluetooth hands-free headset. The price includes a docking/charging station and travel charger.
The phone is a triband GSM/GPRS phone operating on the 1.9GHz U.S. band and foreign 900/1,800MHz bands. Like many B&O products, the phone and docking station are made from anodized aluminum, and like the company's home products, the phone uses a motorized hinge to open the phone.
The display and microphone are placed in the lower shell in a landscape orientation, and a circular keyboard and loudspeaker are in the upper shell along with a thumb wheel in the middle.
The relatively large, wide display makes reading and writing on the screen even more pleasant. A reduced feature count reduces menu complexity to make use logical and intuitive, the company said.
A triangular table charger/docking station is made in polished anodized aluminum with a cut-out for the phone. If the phone is placed in the docking station or is set to table mode it can be used as mini-laptop, as the display can turn 180 degrees for convenient use in this position as well.
Hewlett-Packard: Cingular on Oct. 31 became the first carrier to offer HPs' iPAQ hw6920 PDA phone, which is based on the Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA platform and incorporates GSM/EDGE cellular, Wi-Fi and a GPS receiver. The phone, dubbed the Mobile Messenger, is Cingular's first phone to offer a location-based service, in this case, the TeleNav GPS Navigator application that provides turn-by-turn voice and on-screen driving and walking directions, for a monthly fee.
The IR- and Bluetooth-equipped device will be available from Cingular Wireless' B2B sales organization for as low as $359 with a two-year contract and qualifying voice and data plans. It will also be available through hp.com and select HP channel partners
Wi-Fi is used for data services, not voice service.
The hw6925 version adds a 1.3-megapixel camera.
Qool Labs: The Singapore-based maker of smartphones, portable media players and MP3 players plans a slim PDA-phone based on Windows Mobile 5.0. The 4.2 by 2.2 by 0.6-inch unit with 2.4-inch touchscreen features a w4-megapixel camera. It operates on 900/1,800/1,900MHz GSM/GPRS bands. Additional details were unavailable.
Samsung: The slim Black Carbon slider and the first clamshell phone with BlackBerry Connect service are among the company's late-2006 offerings.
The Black Carbon, a quad-band 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz GSM phone, is available direct from Samsung without SIM card at $399. It's a 0.51-inch-thick slider with soft-feel black finish. Features include a 3-megapixel camera, TV output for viewing pictures and videos on a TV screen, multi-format music player, 60MB internal memory, stereo Bluetooth, microSD slot and document viewer to view Microsoft Office, PDF, HTML and JPEG files on a 2.1-inch QVGA screen.
Carbon is the first phone that Samsung is offering direct to consumers.
The BlackBerry Connect clamshell, the SGH-t719, is a quad-band 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz GSM/EDGE phone launched by T-Mobile. Its dialing keypad doubles as a QWERTY keyboard with predictive text entry. Other features include a rotating 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth and voice recognition.
UTStarcom: The G'zone Type-V, designed for rugged outdoor use, meets multiple military specs, including minimum standards for withstanding vibration, heat, dust, submersion in water and solar radiation. It's available on Verizon's Web site and Communications Stores at $299 with two-year contract. The 800/1,900MHz CDMA 1x EV-DO phone features a 2-megapixel camera and optional VZ Navigator service, which delivers maps and turn-by-turn driving instructions for an additional monthly fee.
UTStarcom's Slice, launched by Virgin Mobile, is said to be the thinnest phone available as a prepaid phone, measuring only 0.4 inches thick and weighing only 2.3 ounces. It became available Nov. 1 at $49 from Virgin retailers and Virgin's Web site.
Among thin postpaid phones, Motorola's L2 from Cingular is slightly thinner at 0.39 inches but heavier at 3.03 ounces. Samsung's t509s from T-Mobile matches the Slice in depth at 0.4 inches but is slightly heavier at 2.7 ounces.