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Carrier Q4 Focus: Smartphones, Touchscreens

Smartphones, touchscreen phones and messaging phones dominate fourth-quarter cellphone launches by carriers eager to compete more vigorously with the iPhone and generate higher data revenues to offset declining voice revenues.

New phones include the first Windows Mobile 6.5 OS smartphones, a greater selection of Android-based phones, Sprint’s first Android-based phone, and the first media phone to incorporate HD video recording. Some new models support Qualcomm’s MediaFLO live-TV service.

Here’s what’s coming from the four biggest carriers:

AT&T: A sextet of new cellphones from AT&T will expand the carrier’s selection of touchscreen and keyboard-equippedphones. The models include AT&T’s first two Windows Mobile 6.5 PDA phones.

All six models — two each from Pantech, Samsung and HTC — become available in October and November. Three models — the HTC Tilt 2, Pantech Impact and Samsung Flight — feature touchscreen and hard QWERTY keyboard. Two touchscreen-only models are the HTC Pure and Samsung Mythic. The model without touchscreen but with hard QWERTY keyboard is the Pantech Reveal.

The Windows Mobile models are the HTC Pure and the HTC Tilt2, both with an advanced version of HTC’s TouchFLO 3D user interface. The Samsung and Pantech models are the carrier’s first phones preloaded with AT&T’s faster HTML mobile browser and Web service, which use Opera browser and Opera data compression to allow for faster HTML page delivery.

Among Windows Mobile models, the HTC Pure became available Oct. 5 for $149. The HTC Tilt 2 will be available in the weeks following at $299. The prices are after $50 mail-in rebate and with two-year contract for a minimum $69.99/month service plan.

The touch-only Pure features 3.2-inch WVGA touchscreen, 5-megapixel camera/camcorder and gravity sensor. The Tilt 2 features slide-out QWERTY keyboard and 3.6-inch widescreen WVGA display, which tilts up.

Among Pantech models, the non-touch Reveal features numeric keypad that slides up to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. The numeric and QWERTY keyboards are simultaneously active so users can access letters and numbers. It’s due Oct. 18.

Pantech’s Impact triband-3G worldphone features haptic-feedback OLED touchscreen with slide-from-the-side QWERTY keyboard. Sliding out the keyboard reveals a second display screen that makes it easier to type long messages, the company said. AT&T did not specify whether it would be available in October or November.

AT&T, however, plans November availability of the Samsung Mythic touchscreen-only phone with MediaFLO-based AT&T Mobile TV service and 3.3-inch display. Pricing wasn’t announced.

Samsung’s Flight, also due in November, features touchscreen and slide-down QWERTY keyboard. Pricing wasn’t announced.

Verizon Wireless: The carrier expanded its netbook and worldphone selections.

The carrier’s second netbook is the Gateway LT2016u, which became available Oct. 4 at a subsidized $149 after $100 mail-in rebate and new two-year wireless-broadband contract starting at $39.99/month. The Gateway operates in 3G mode in Verizon’s domestic Rev. A network, although the currently available Hewlett-Packard Mini 1151NR uses Qualcomm’s Gobi chipset to operate in Verizon’s 3G network as well as in EDGE and 3G HSPA modes overseas.

The new worldphone, the HTC-made Imagio, will expand the carrier’s selection of worldphones that operate in 3G mode in Verizon’s domestic network as well as in overseas 2.1GHz HSPA networks. The BlackBerry Tour and Storm also feature 3G roaming overseas. Additional Verizon world phones operate in 3G mode domestically but not overseas.

The touchscreen-equipped Imagio also stands out because it will be the carrier’s first Windows Mobile 6.5 phone when it becomes available Oct. 20 for $199 after a $100 mail-in rebate and new two-year customer agreement. It will also be Verizon’s first smartphone to support MediaFLO’s live-TV service, dubbed V CAST Mobile TV by Verizon and costing $15/month.

T-Mobile: Samsung will enter the U.S. Android-cellphone market with the launch later this year of the touchscreen-only Behold II through carrier T-Mobile, whose Android selection will grow to four models.

T-Mobile hasn’t announced pricing or a precise availability date for the Behold II, which is based on the non-Android Behold offered by T-Mobile since last year. The new model will join T-Mobile’s currently available Android phones, the HTC-made G1 and MyTouch 3G, and the soon-to-be-released $199 Motorola Cliq, which is due Oct. 19 for online preorder to existing T-Mobile subscribers and becomes available elsewhere Nov. 2.

Like the current Behold, the Behold II is a touchscreen-only phone featuring Samsung’s proprietary TouchWiz user interface, but the new version adds Android OS, AMOLED screen and second-gen TouchWiz. TouchWiz II adds motion response, six-sided rotating-cube display, downloadable widgets and three customizable widget screens. The display is 3.2 inches.

Sprint: In non-Android offerings, Sprint announced its next-generation Samsung-made Instinct, promoted as the first first phone from Sprint and Samsung to capture video and pictures in high definition. Both companies believe the Instinct HD will be the first such phone available in the U.S.

The touchscreen-only EV-DO Rev. A phone will capture 720p video for output directly to a TV via an HDMI adapter cable priced at $29.99.

The new Instinct became available exclusively in Best Buy Mobile stores on Sept. 25 and wasn’t scheduled to appear anywhere else until Oct. 11. Sprint priced the Instinct HD at $249 after $100 mail-in rebate and with two-year contract for select pricing plans offering unlimited data. Best Buy, however, added in its own $50 instant rebate to drop the price to $199.