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Phone Flurry Embraces Diverse Users

A flurry of phones falling into the market embrace multiple user interests and include an LG-made phone branded with the name of fashion design company Prada, the first iDEN/CDMA 1x dual-mode phones from Sprint Nextel and Motorola’s first music phone to store protected WMA music.

Another handset-related announcement includes carrier Alltel’s launch of a preloaded Celltops application that creates PC-like desktop shortcuts on a phone’s screen to speed access to an application and to handset-stored content, such as a call log, text messages, ringtone files, and network-pushed content such as live sports scores and weather forecasts. More than one shortcut can be displayed on a phone simultaneously, each displaying select information and offering a quick way to dig deeper into the information.

The high-end “Prada Phone by LG,” or KE850, uses a tactile touch screen to access almost all features, including call dialing through a virtual dialing keypad. The only front-panel hard buttons are the send, end and navigation keys. Hard buttons are also embedded on both sides of the phone, which is outfitted with A/V player, 2-megapixel camera and document viewer. The GSM/EDGE phone is banded mainly for overseas markets, given its triband 900/1,800/1,900MHz operation. It’s expected to retail for about $780 for its European debut in February, followed by an Asian launch. Plans for a U.S. debut weren’t announced.

Music can be played in the MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA and RA formats, and video can be stored in the MPEG-4, H.263 and H.264 formats. The document viewer displays PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Excel, PDF and TXT files.

LG said it and Prada worked closely to develop the user interface, preloaded content and leather case. The phone isn’t a limited-edition version of an already available phone but is a one-of-kind phone developed for Prada, LG said.

While LG and Prada teamed to merge fashion and function, Sprint Nextel merged two wireless technologies — iDEN and CDMA 1x — into one phone with the launch of the Motorola Buzz ic502 and Motorola Blend ic402. They’re reportedly the industry’s first phone to use the Sprint CDMA 1x network for voice calls and data and the Nextel iDen network for push-to-talk service. They’re priced at $59.99 and $39.99, respectively, with two-year service contract, or $249 and $229 without contract.

Two other new Motorola phones are entertainment oriented. One, the mid-tier Motorizr Z6 slider, due in the first half, will be the company’s first phone to play protected WMA downloads, including subscription downloads, transferred from a PC. Music can be stored in 64MB of embedded flash memory or on optional microSD cards with up to 2GB of capacity. The phone also plays music in the MP3, AAC, AAC+, AAC+ enhanced, AMR, WAV and XMF formats.

Motorola didn’t say whether the phone is designed for GSM or CDMA networks, but it did say the Z6 is the first Linux/Java-based phone to integrate Windows Media technologies, including Media Transfer Protocol (MTP). Because the phone supports MTP, a PC’s Windows Media Player will automatically recognize the Z6, enabling users to easily sync music from the PC to the phone.

The Z6 features a mirror-like finish, soft-touch feel, glass and metal casing, 2-megapixel camera with camera light and dedicated camera key, stereo Bluetooth and playback of video in the MPEG-4, 3GPP and H.263 formats. Other features include POP3/IMAP4 e-mail support and tools for PC synching of phonebook and contacts. Talk time is around 180 to 420 minutes, and standby time is around 200 to 400 hours.

In the future, Motorola and Microsoft will team to provide 3G handsets allowing for over-the-air downloads of protected music.

Motorola’s other new Linux-based phone, the GSM/EDGE-equipped Motoming, is positioned as a high-performance personal information manager, talking language translator and entertainment device. It’s due in the first quarter.

Motoming incorporates RealPlayer to play music files in multiple formats, including MP3, XMF, WMA v9, AAC+, WAV and others. It also features microSD card slot, Bluetooth stereo, 2-megapixel camera, FM radio business-card reader, Kodak Easy Share Gallery compatibility, document viewer and POP3/IMAP4 e-mail support. With its dual-language “talking” dictionary, users can write a word on the 1.5-inch by 2-inch display in their native language; and the word will be “spoken” aloud by the device in a foreign language. Simultaneously, the definition of the word is displayed on-screen in the native language.

For its part, carrier Alltel said select Alltel phones will come equipped with its exclusive Celltop technology and that by late-2007 all new Alltel phones will feature it.

BREW-based Celltop enables consumers to find the information they want without having to navigate through multiple pull-down menus.

Celltop-equipped phones will come preloaded with 10 cells, each one a category-specific half screen that features graphics and text. Consumers can choose the number of cells to display at one time, arrange them in the order of their choosing, add or delete them at will, and even choose their colors.