Ericsson Unveils Web Phones

Mobile phones aren't just about voice anymore--not if L.M. Ericsson Co. has anything to say.

At the Wireless 2000 conference here, Ericsson announced two wireless application protocol phones that target a consumer-size wallet and give service providers a choice of wireless protocol. The A1288c is Ericsson's first Code Division Multiple Access phone. The A2218z, based on Global System for Mobile Communications technology, offers up to nine hours of talking time, among the best battery performance around. Ericsson expects to ship both phones in the United States in the third quarter. The phones will be priced up to $149 (or could be free through some carrier promotions).

Ericsson also unveiled a new communicator product that offers a full- color personal digital assistant built on the Symbian EPOC operating system.

"It's a little bigger than a Palm but it also has full voice capabilities," says Mike Isgrig, an Ericsson product marketing director. "You can use it as a speaker phone." Ericsson did not announce pricing or availability, but the unit will definitely cost less than $1000, Isgrig says.

Both the A2218z and the A1288c are long, slender phones contoured to the hand. The 4.5-ounce A2218z is smaller but has a bigger screen than the A1288c, and has a built-in WAP browser. It also has adjustable fonts and some PDA functions like a calendar, to-do list, and reminders, Isgrig says.

"The A2218z comes in blue or gray and has a built-in lithium ion battery that charges like the battery in a PDA," says Jeff Shafer, an Ericsson spokesperson. "That enables it to provide almost nine hours of talk time."

Like the A2218z, the A1288c has a WAP browser and supports new plug-in accessories from Ericsson like an MP3 player, Chatboard, and the HPR-08 FM radio. Both the MP3 player and Chatboard are available in Europe and will likely ship in the United States by midyear, says Rosemary Ravinal, an Ericsson spokesperson. Designed for teens, Chatboard will probably cost less than $30; price of the MP3 player will depend on the distribution channel, she says.

The A1288c works on the CDMA protocol, more popular in the United States than GSM. It weighs 6.1 ounces and supports 5.6 hours of talk or 225 hours of standby. Intended as an entry-level phone, the A1288c has predictive text entry to make it easier for you to use the data functions. You can synchronize contact lists with PC programs like Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes.

Along with new WAP phones for CDMA and GSM, Ericsson now offers Internet phones on all the major U.S. protocols, Isgrig says. In the next few weeks, AT&T will ship the R280LX phone, which Ericsson designed specifically for AT&T's wireless CDPD network.

The R280LX will be AT&T's first Web phone. "CDPD offers the fastest Web access currently available at 19.2 kbps," Isgrig says. Pricing of the phone is not yet available.

With Internet phones that work with almost any protocol, Ericsson is offering us the chance to surf from our handsets, not just our PCs.

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