On Wednesday, just days after the venerable Sidekick messaging phone was given the heave-ho by T-Mobile, Motorola introduced a Sidekick of sorts, the Charm. It will be available this summer, Motorola said. Pricing was not announced.
The Charm — a squarish, Android-based phone with a physical QWERTY keyboard — is the newest phone running Motorola's social-networking-focused Blur interface. The smart phone is likely to replace T-Mobile's Motorola Cliq.
"I like the Charm’s form factor," Avi Greengart, Current Analysis' research director for consumer devices said. "It is unique for an Android device, and should stand out on the shelves. Similar squarish devices have tested very well with my teenage focus groups."
"The only question is how much T-Mobile is going to charge for it," he added. "It is an entry-level smart phone; if T-Mobile subsidizes it down to the $49 to $99 range, it should be a success."
Success may not be guaranteed, however. Kin, a similarly targeted phone launched by Microsoft and Verizon Wireless, was discontinued last month after only six weeks on the market. (Msnbc.com is an NBC Universal-Microsoft joint venture.) Some attributed the failure not to the phone's sticker price but to the higher monthly cost of data plans associated with smart phones.
Still, as a fresh Pew study indicates , more people are inclined to buy smart phones in order to take advantage of Internet applications.
T-Mobile said earlier this month it will stop selling the Sidekick phone, which gadget website Gizmodo described as the "granddaddy of messaging phones." The first Sidekick came out in 2002, and had a 2.6-inch monochrome screen that swiveled. (More fun facts at Sidekick Wiki.)
The Charm has a 2.8-inch touch screen, as well as a QWERTY keyboard. Motorola's Backtrack navigation pad, on the back of the phone, is "similar to a laptop touch panel," the company said, and "enables an unobstructed view of the Web, texts, e-mails and news feeds."
Other features include a 3-megapixel camera and Kodak Perfect Touch technology for photos, something Greengart said is a plus.
The phone also has one-touch capability for uploads to Facebook, MySpace, Picasa and PhotoBucket, Motorola said.
The company's Moto Phone Portal lets users access and manage their phone’s data "from any browser through a USB or Wi-Fi connection. Edit content and view important phone information while at home or on-the-go. Leave pictures on a friend’s PC, share a video at the local Internet café or share a presentation during an important business meeting," Motorola said in a press release.
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