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Smartphones Get Thin; Keyboards Still In

Nokia and Research In Motion (RIM) launched slender smartphones for AT&T’s cellular network, while Samsung launched two new keyboard-equipped messaging phones, including a second-generation dual-hinge Alias that can be flipped open in portrait or landscape mode.

The phones were among multiple models announced in May.

The Nokia E71x, dubbed the thinnest smartphone in the U.S. with a depth of 0.39 inches, became available through AT&T-owned stores and the carrier’s Web site at $99 after $50 rebate and two-year contract. The 3G device, based on the Symbian S60 v3.2 OS, comes with hard QWERTY keyboard, making it the first keyboard-equipped Nokia phone available through a U.S. carrier in about 2.5 years, although the company also offers keyboard-equipped phones on an unlocked basis in the U.S., Nokia told TWICE.

The 850/1,900MHz HSDPA phone with quad-band EDGE also features Wi-Fi, music player, 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera, and compatibility with AT&T’s Navigator GPS service.

For its part, RIM touts its BlackBerry Curve 8900 smartphone as its thinnest full-QWERTY smartphone yet, at 0.53 inches in depth. The quadband EGDE device, available only through AT&T-owned stores and the carrier’s Web site in early summer, will be AT&T’s first Curve with both Wi-Fi and GPS, complementing the GPS-equipped Curve 8310 and Wi-Fi-equipped Curve 8320. Pricing wasn’t announced at press time, but the device will be sold with free Wi-Fi access at AT&T’s more-than-20,000 hot spots. Other BlackBerry smartphones offering free AT&T hot spot access are the BlackBerry Bold, Curve 8320, Pearl 8120, and BlackBerry 8820.

Other features include Wi-Fi 802.11 b and g, 3.2-megapixel camera with autofocus and image stabilization, and microSD/SDHC memory card slot supporting cards up to 16GB. RIM expects the Curve 8900 to support planned 32GB microSD/SDHC cards

In messaging phones, Verizon Wireless launched the Samsung Alias 2, the next generation of the original Alias dual-hinge messaging phone. It’s available for $79.99 with two-year contract and after $50 mail-in rebate, which takes the form of a debit card. The Alias 2 opens vertically as a flip phone to reveal numeric keypad or horizontally to reveal a QWERTY keyboard.

Compared to its predecessor, the Alias 2 adds E Ink changeable-keyboard technology that enables the numeric keypad to change to an alpha-only keypad, or the QWERTY keyboard to change to a numeric keypad with symbols, depending on the functions being used. The changeable-keypad feature could be the first phone in the U.S. with the technology, Samsung said.

Other enhancements over the original include larger, more spaced out keys, threaded messaging, and more user memory.

For carrier AT&T, Samsung launched the entry-level Magnet messaging phone, a quad-band EDGE phone available through select retail locations and at The orange and black messaging device features a full QWERTY keyboard at $19.99 with contract and after rebates.