Sprint Nextel is shipping a series of devices that combine the companys CDMA voice and data services with its iDEN-based push-to-talk services.
Sprints PowerSource phones provide both network redundancy and improved performance over phones that just use one or the other of the companys two networks, company officials said.
The first two phones in the new family of devices are the ic402 Blend phone, targeted primarily at consumers, and the ic502 Buzz, which is targeted at enterprises and government users including emergency workers. Both phones support GPS and data transmission, and the "ruggedized" Buzz also supports military standards for dust, shock, drop and vibration.
The Buzz is available for $59.99 with a two-year contract, while the Blend sells for $39.99 with a two-year agreement.
The phones use the companys iDEN network for the push-to-talk capabilities and the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network for voice and data, said David Owens, director of product marketing and management for devices at Sprint Nextel, in Reston, Va. "The first products launch with 1X data speeds," he said. Owens said that a future device would support EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized).
"This is an opportunity to give you the best of both worlds. If you look at the iDEN network and sub-second latency and the group features, you get what a normal Nextel user would see, but you get a better voice and data experience," Owens said. He added that the new Sprint phones would also be able to use the Nextel direct connection capability in which callers can talk directly using push-to-talk even if the service is down.
However, just because the new devices will work with Nextels iDEN network, theyre not exactly the same as actual Nextel phones. "There are some benefits and some drawbacks in running on both networks," Owens said. "If youre an existing iDEN customer, you may not get the same coverage that you did before," he explained. On the other hand, he said, "In a public safety environment, they love this device, because if one network is down, you have the other as a backup."
Owens said that he expects the companys navigation service to be the biggest single application added to the new devices.
There will be more phones to come in the PowerSource line. Owens said that the ic502 Buzz will be available in a new color—blue and silver—in the spring (black is the only currently available color). Also, he said that this summer Sprint would ship the ic902, which would feature a 2-megapixel camera and support for EvDO. He also said that a version of the ic502 Buzz with a camera would be available in August.
Owens said that Sprint customers will not have to have a separate account for access to the iDEN network. "Its on a unified billing platform, so you dont need separate accounts," he said. Owens said that he expected the new phones to appeal to a wide range of customers, especially existing Nextel customers.