Sophisticated Cellphones Get Industry Focus - Twice

Sophisticated Cellphones Get Industry Focus

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The wireless-phone industry focused on the high end in unveiling plans for a series of sophisticated cellphones, including new models with Android smartphone OS, customizable user interfaces and applications, and dual-mode CDMA/GSM technology for worldwide use.

New products here or on the way include:

T-Mobile's second-generation Android-based smartphone, the HTC-made full-touch MyTouch. Its user-customization capabilities include the ability to automatically customize location-based recommendations of nearby retailers, restaurants and attractions based on a user's likes and dislikes. (See story at right.)

Another HTC-made Android phone, the Hero, which lets users customize how they want to access people and content, in part through widgets.

More CDMA/GSM 3G worldphones from Verizon Wireless. They are the HTC Ozone and BlackBerry Tour, which arrive along with the carrier's first GSM/CDMA data modem. All operate in 3G mode in the U.S. and overseas.

Multiple touchscreen phones from Samsung, which launched the 2.0 version of its customizable TouchWiz user interface and launched a 3G Jet model with speedy 800MHz processor.

All phones are in market segments — such as smartphones, full-touch phones and hard QWERTY keyboard phones — that continue to post growth despite this year's worldwide decline in factory-level cellphone shipments.

Here's what retailers will be selling:

T-Mobile: With the July launch of the HTC-made Dash 3G, T-Mobile will offer nine 3G phones and its first 3G phone with Windows Mobile OS. It will be available at T-Mobile retail stores, select authorized dealers, and online at www.t-mobile.com for a price that wasn't announced at press time.

Dash 3G features Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard OS, QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, GPS and gloss-black finish with red accents.

HTC: The Android-based Hero touchscreen phone for North America will ship after a summertime launch in Europe and Asia. The company didn't specify a carrier partner.

The Hero, like T-Mobile's HTC-made MyTouch and G1 Android phones, are 3G phones incorporating 7.2Mbps HSPA high-speed data. All three feature touchscreen operation, but the G1 adds horizontal slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

The Hero, available in white, will be the company's first Android phone to ship with Adobe Flash for Web site video streaming. The Hero will also be the first phone incorporating HTC's Sense user interface, said to provide a “more natural way for reaching out to the people and accessing your important information.”

Sense lets users customize how they want to access people and content, in part through widgets. Consumers can customize the widgets to push content such as Twitter feeds, weather and the like “to the surface” for quick viewing, or users can push email and calendar information to the surface. In addition, the type of content pushed to the surface can change automatically based on specific functions in which the user is engaging.

Sense also integrates communications functions. With one glance, consumers can view the emails, text messages and call history of a single person along with that person's social-media status updates and Flickr photos.

The Hero features 3.1-inch HVGA touchscreen, beveled edges and a bottom that angles up toward the user to fit more comfortably against a user's face during calls. Other features include 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, GPS, digital compass, gravity-sensor and dedicated Search button, which lets users search through multiple applications at once, including Twitter.

Verizon Wireless: The global 3G BlackBerry Tour, made by RIM, will become available in Verizon Wireless stores on July 12 at $199 after a $70 mail-in rebate with two-year contract.

The device is RIM's second worldphone that operates in 3G mode in North American CDMA 1x Rev. A networks as well as in the 3G mode in overseas 2.1GHz HSPA networks. The touchscreen-only BlackBerry Storm, launched late last year, was RIM's first such model.

Tour is also due through Sprint at an unannounced date.

The less-expensive HTC Ozone at $49.99, also a CDMA/GSM worldphone, is based on the Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard OS. It also features 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and preinstalled GSM SIM card.

With the Ozone and Tour, Verizon will offer six worldphones.

The HTC Ozone became available June 29 direct to consumers and businesses and will arrive July 13 in Verizon Wireless stores and indirect retail channels.

Samsung: Five 3G phones in the smartphone and touchscreen markets have been launched. All models will be available outside the U.S., but at least one (the Omnia 2 smartphone) and possibly a second (the Jet) will make it to U.S. shores. Both are full-touchscreen models with no hard QWERTY or dialing keypad.

The Omnia 2 is scheduled for U.S. availability later this year from Verizon Wireless. It will feature EV-DO Rev. A data capability and Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 OS. No price has been announced.

Samsung is also in discussions with U.S. carriers to offer the touchscreen-only Jet as an EV-DO phone or as an HSDPA phone. It features a speedy 800MHz applications processor and proprietary Samsung touchscreen OS. Neither the Omnia 2 nor Jet feature hard QWERTY keyboard.

The Omnia 2 smartphone and the Jet, both with Wi-Fi, feature the company's TouchWiz 2.0 UI and wide-VGA AMOLED displays. The Omnia 2 is promoted as offering the industry's largest AMOLED cellphone display at 3.7 inches. The Jet features 3.1-inch-wide VGA display.

The Jet is also Samsung's first phone with dedicated 800MHz application processor and proprietary Dolfin Web browser. The processor's speed exceeds the processing speeds of phones with 300MHz processors, delivering instant touchscreen UI responsiveness, simpler multitasking, 3-D navigation and fluid Web browsing, Khan said.

The Dolfin browser lets users keep five Web page windows open simultaneously, each capable of simultaneously loading a Web page in the background. It also lets users launch a favorite Web site widget from the home screen, and it features one-finger zoom, and integrated ad blocker.

In comparing the Omnia 2 to the current touchscreen-only Omnia available from Verizon, Samsung said the new model adds ability to update the Windows Mobile Professional OS to 6.5, Touch Wiz 2.0 and a TouchWiz interface that's more deeply integrated with the phone's applications and features.

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