Cellphone Update: New Features, Lower Android Prices Arrive For Holidays



New features are hitting the cellphone market at the same time that the first entry-level Android smartphones are making their debut.

Features that are firsts for the U.S market include a scrolling ticker, which appears on the Samsung-made Android 2.1 Continuum, and an E Ink keyboard, which appears on the Samsung-made Zeal and displays a QWERTY keypad when opened in landscape mode and a numeric keypad when flipped open in portrait mode. Both phones debuted on the Verizon network.

Another U.S. first is ZTE’s Sprint-network Peel, a battery-powered cradle that adds 3G data capability to second- and third-generation iPod Touches.

In entry-level Android smartphones, Motorola rolled out the $49.99 Citrus for the Verizon network, and LG introduced the $79.99 Vortex, also for Verizon. The Citrus and Vortex join four low-cost Android phones from T-Mobile at $9.99 to $99.99 and two Sprint-network Androids at $49.99 and $99.99.

Also at the high end, Motorola launched its enterprise- ready $179 Droid Pro through Verizon.

Here are the details on most of the new models:

LG Vortex:

The $79.99 LG-made Vortex became available Nov. 18 through the carrier’s stores and website. It’s targeted to first-time smartphone users and features Android 2.2 OS, 3.2-inch touchscreen with virtual QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi hot spot capability, Bluetooth 2.1 with stereo, Bing Search and Bing Maps, Google’s Mobile Services, preinstalled LG apps such as Twitter and Facebook access, five to seven customizable home screens, and Skype mobile capability. Other features include visual voice mail, Verizon’s cloud-based VZ Navigator navigation service, and 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera/camcorder with flash.

The Vortex’s $79.99 price through Verizon’s direct channels is after $100 mail-in rebate, which takes the form of a debit card.

As with other Verizon smartphones, purchasers must subscribe to a voice plan starting at $39.99/month and an email and web plan starting at $15/month for 150MB of data usage.

Motorola Citrus:

The $49.99 Citrus, available on the Verizon network, is a touchscreen-only model that operates on Verizon’s slower 1x EV-DO Rev. 0 data network and features Android 2.1, full touchscreen, 528MHz processor and Backtrack touchpanel, already available on several Motorola phones. The Backtrack touchpanel on the back of the phone lets users navigate websites, home screens, emails, music and more without placing fingers on the LCD touchscreen.

Motorola Droid Pro:

Promoted as the first Android smartphone optimized for business use, the Droid Pro retails in Verizon stores at $179.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate with a new two-year customer agreement.

The Droid Pro is a bar-style phone with hard QWERTY keyboard and ability to operates in 3G mode in Verizon’s U.S. 3G network and in overseas 3G W-CDMA HSPA networks in the 850/1900/2100MHz bands. Other features include touchscreen, 1GHz processor, latest Android 2.2 OS, Adobe Flash Player 10.1 for displaying web video and 3.1-inch display.

Samsung Continuum:

The Android 2.1 smartphone features the industry’s first scrolling ticker to display live RSS news feeds, incoming text messages and emails, social-network updates and missed calls. The information appears on an LCD screen below the phone’s primary screen.

The Galaxy-S class phone, which became available Nov. 18 at $199, features 3.4-inch WVGA Super-AMOLED full touchscreen with no hard keyboard. The primary screen is complemented by a 1.8-inch Super-AMOLED LCD screen that displays the ticker and is about a quarter-inch in height. Both displays are capacitive touchscreens.

Users set the ticker to display one of the following feeds at a time or a mix of feeds: RSS feeds, social-network feeds, voice mail indicator, the sender and subject line of emails, the first few words of a text message with the sender’s name, the phone number of missed calls, weather alerts, and Google Talk chats. On the ticker display, users can press an RSS-feed headline, an email, a text message and the like to open up the full RSS story, email or text message on the phone’s primary screen.

Samsung Zeal:

The Verizon-network phone is a dual-hinge clamshell Zeal. Its E Ink keyboard displays a QWERTY keypad when opened in landscape mode and a numeric keypad when flipped open in portrait mode. The messaging phone’s vertical numeric keypad can be switched by the user to an alpha-only keypad, and the landscape QWERTY keyboard can be switched to a numeric keypad with symbols.

The Zeal is available for $79.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate two-year customer agreement.

ZTE Peel:

Second- and third-generation iPod Touches got 3G cellular-data capability with Sprint’s launch of ZTE’s Peel, a battery-powered cradle with embedded Wi- Fi and 3G.

The $79.99 Peel communicates to the Touch via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, enabling the Touch to access Sprint’s 3G network via the Peel’s embedded CDMA 1X EV-DO Rev. 0 modem. The Peel is packaged with a $29.99 monthly service plan, allowing up to 1GB of 3G data usage with no annual contract.

The cradle doesn’t grip the first-generation or fourth-generation Touches because they are slimmer than the models in the other generations, but first- and fourth-gen Touches will access Sprint’s 3G network as long as they are within 20 feet of the cradle, a spokesperson told TWICE.

At the high end, a trio of Microsoft Windows Phone 7 phones launched through AT&T and T-Mobile, with AT&T offering the LG Quantum, Samsung Focus, and HTC Surround at $199 each and T-Mobile offering the HTC HD7 at $199.


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