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Cellphones See Something For Everyone

The cellphone market has something for everyone, even in a market whose high-growth years are behind it.

In the latest round of phone launches, HTC targeted heavy users of multimedia functions with its flagship HTC 10, MVNO GreatCall targeted the elderly and growing baby-boomer populations with a new smartphone and flip phone, and Samsung targeted construction, distribution and manufacturing employees with a ruggedized 3G flip phone.

The phones hit the market at a time when flip phones sales continue to head down and smartphone sales are flattening.

Gartner forecasts North American smartphone sales will grow a mere 0.4 percent in 2016, and the research company expects smartphone replacement cycles to grow longer. “As carriers’ deals become more complex, users are likely to hold onto phones, especially as the technology updates become incremental rather than exponential,” said research director Annette Zimmermann. “In addition, the volumes of users upgrading from basic phones to premium phones will slow, with more basic phones being replaced with the same type of phone.”

InfoTrends also sees longer replacement cycles. In a consumer survey, the research company found that the end of subsidized handset pricing by most wireless carriers would cause more than 40 percent of smartphone users to wait longer to get a new phone, and about half that number would opt for a less expensive phone.

A significantly better camera, however, would entice more than 35 percent of each group to buy sooner or pay more, InfoTrends found.

HTC must have taken InfoTrends’ findings to heart with its launch of the HTC 10, which boasts new camera and audio technology.

Here’s what HTC and other handset makers have launched:

HTC: The all-metal-unibody HTC 10, due in May at $699 without subsidy, is said to be the first cellphone with optical image stabilization (OIS) on a selfie camera. The main camera also steps up to OIS.

Though the main camera goes to 12 megapixels from the HTC One M9’s 20 megapixels, the camera now uses HTC’s next-gen big-pixel UltraPixel technology to capture more light in low-light situations. HTC’s previous UltraPixel technology was limited to 4 megapixels, which produced lower-resolution photos when users zoomed in on a subject.

The main camera’s aperture also grows to f/1.8 from f/2.0, and the laser autofocus speeds up, the company said. Other main-camera features include 80-degree lens, dual-tone LED flash for more natural colors, face detection and auto HDR.

The camera has been improved to launch in as 0.6 seconds. A Pro Mode continues to offer such features as RAW format storage.

The UltraSelfie camera steps up to f/1.8 aperture from f/2.0, to 5 megapixels with 1.34um Ultra Pixel technology, to a wider 86-degree lens, and to a screen that doubles as a flash.

In audio, like its M9 predecessor, the HTC 10 features high-res 192kHz/24-bit playback. The new model, however, adds 24-bit stereo recording and embedded stereo speakers that now feature a separate woofer and tweeter for each channel.

The phone also adds Apple AirPlay in lieu of Qualcomm’s AllPlay wireless multiroom technology.

In other enhancements, the phone adds a fingerprint sensor to unlock the phone in 0.2 seconds, a touchscreen said to be 50 percent more responsive than the M9’s, and app launching that’s two times faster than before, the company said. The new model also adds a USB Type C connector.

In addition, the display steps up to a 5.2-inch Quad HD (2K, 2,560 by 1,440) display with 564 PPI from a 5-inch 1080p display. RAM goes to 4GB from 3GB.

The device also adds Chromecast, enabling users to cast video to a TV connected to Google’s Chromecast dongle.

GreatCall: The MVNO’s two latest cellphones offer such updates as larger screens on both models and smartphone capabilities on the flip phone.

The $149 Jitterbug Smart $99 Jitterbug Flip are available through GreatCalls’ web store, Rite Aid, Best Buy and Walmart.

Both Alcatel-made models feature a dedicated 5Star button to access GreatCall’s urgent-response agents on a 24/7 basis.

The Jitterbug Flip phone replaces the Jitterbug5 flip phone and adds app capability, 4G speed, larger chassis, bigger buttons, larger main screen, flashlight and a magnifying feature to make onscreen text bigger.

The Jitterbug Smart replaces the Touch3 and steps up to a 5-inch touchscreen that’s 35 percent larger than its predecessor’s screen, higher-resolution 720p display and 4G LTE data.

Samsung: The Convoy 4 for Verizon, which replaces the Convoy 3, is a ruggedized 3G flip phone targeted to construction sites, distribution centers, manufacturing facilities and outdoor work zones.

The phone is IP67 dust and water-resistant, surviving submersion in up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. It also meets military specifications (MIL-STA-810G) for surviving extreme temperatures and shock.

The phone is available for $192, or $8/month for 24 months on a device payment plan.