With CTIA just around the corner, AT&T introduced on March 30 six phones it will make available "in the coming weeks." This new lineup of smartphones and cell phones consists of the Nokia E71x, the Samsung Propel, the Samsung Impression, the Samsung Magnet, and the lighter-featured LG Xenon and LG Neon.
The phones vary in price points and features, suggesting AT&T hopes to reach a wide audience, from enterprise users-with the Nokia E71x and Samsung Propel Pro and Impression, in particular-to teens and adult consumers interested in making calls, sending texts and maybe getting directions, all relatively inexpensively.
Word of the new AT&T phones comes at a time when ABI Research is predicting that handset shipments will fall by 8 percent in 2009. The research company says 2010 will likely be the year when things begin to turn around-or at least to hold steady.
"Phone capabilities have basically exceeded what we need them to do for us," explained Kevin Burden, an analyst with ABI Research. In these economic times, he said, people are staying focused on the practical functions they need most.
"If you look at the messaging around these phones, they're not going hog-wild about what they can do," Burden said. "AT&T is simplifying the message and [focusing] on the applications that resonate most with users: voice, messaging and e-mail."
Neil Mawston, an analyst with research company Strategy Analytics, said, "The relatively attractive designs and keen pricing of the devices will encourage more midrange and younger users to upgrade from a keypad to a keyboard experience. High-tier smartphones from the likes of RIM and Apple continue to sell well in the [United States], but there is naturally always scope for operators to promote less expensive models and open up the market to wider adoption."
Until more information is made available, here's a brief summary of each:
At a svelte 10 millimeters, the candy-bar-style Nokia E71x is being called the thinnest smartphone on the market. Finished in black steel, its features include 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, an HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) data connection with speeds up to 3.6M bps for Web browsing and downloading, a full QWERTY keyboard, a 3-megapixel camera, the Symbian S60 operating system, and AT&T's Navigator application, which offers turn-by-turn driving directions. It will be available for $99.99 with a two-year contract, after a $50 mail-in rebate.
Samsung Propel Pro
The Samsung Propel Pro somewhat resembles the E71x, once its QWERTY keyboard is slid out. The Propel Pro is based on its predecessor, the Samsung Propel, though the central, circular navigation button-a prominent feature of the original Propel-has been reduced in size. The Propel Pro runs the Windows Mobile 6.1 OS, which allows for full enterprise applications, and offers 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, plus the expected camera and texting features. It will be available in April for $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate.
The Samsung Impression definitely looks to make one: It features a sliding, 3.2-inch touch-screen and the nation's first AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) touch-screen at that, making for a particularly clear and bright display. Also included is a 3-megapixel, camcorder-capable camera. Pricing will be $199 after a $50 mail-in rebate.
The Xenon could be the Impression at first glance, but it's geared toward a younger audience and the feature sets are scaled back along with the price. A QWERTY keypad slides out from behind a touch-screen-though not an AMOLED one-and the camera is 2 megapixels. The AT&T Navigator application is included, along with Napster Mobile and eMusic Music. The Xenon comes in your choice of black, blue or red, and will retail for $99 after a $50 mail-in rebate.
LG Neon and Samsung Magnet
These two colorful offerings are geared toward teens and "text-happy adults" who want an inexpensive device for quick texting and calls, AT&T said. The Neon comes in green or white and features a full keyboard, 2-megapixel phone and access to instant messaging, mobile e-mail, AT&T Music and the mobile Internet. The Magnet features a camera and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) browser. Pricing has yet to be disclosed.
All of these phones require a two-year commitment with AT&T.