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ASUS, iRiver to Sell Unlocked Smartphones in U.S.

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ASUS, iRiver to Sell Unlocked Smartphones in U.S.

ASUS, iRiver to Sell Unlocked Smartphones in U.S.
ARTICLE DATE: 01.08.08

By Sascha Segan

LAS VEGAS—Asus and iRiver are well-known brands in the U.S., thanks to Asus' line of PCs and iRiver's MP3 players. Here at CES, they both announced they're diving into the U.S. cell phone market with a series of unlocked GSM phones that will probably be sold through their existing PC retail channels.

iRiver's single GSM phone, targeted for the end of this year, has more than a little of the iPhone to it. Like the iPhone, the "iRiver GSM phone" (they don't have a flashy name yet) has a big, 3-inch, 480x272 touch screen and no keypad; you navigate by touching, flicking or swiping the screen. The icons in the Linux-based phone's UI even look like the iPhone's.

The phone also appears to have 4-Gbytes of flash storage, music and video players with Rhapsody music support, a two-megapixel camera with camcorder, an Adobe Flash player, GPS and mobile TV of some variety. The phone's software was very unfinished, however. Even the wireless connections aren't fixed: it might have Wi-Fi or might not. One thing's clear, though – it will work on high-speed 3G cellular networks like the one run by AT&T. (As a GSM phone, it won't work with Sprint or Verizon.)

"It would be ridiculous for the phone to be 2G or 2.5G at this time," said iRiver spokesman Owen Kwon. Kwon added that the phone will be "more affordable" than the iPhone.

Asus' phones are much closer to market – the first one is just two weeks away, according to Asus spokesman Charlton Ho. Asus already makes phones for Asia, but the GPS-powered Windows Mobile 6 Professional phone known as the P527 will be its first full-scale launch in the U.S.

The P527 is a relatively wide, candy-bar style handset with a SirfStar III GPS running Asus' own mapping and driving directions application. It's based on a 200-MHz TI OMAP 850 processor and has a 2.6-inch, 320x240 display. The phone packs fast Wi-Fi 802.11g and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, but slow USB 1.1 for connection to PCs. It's a quad-band EDGE phone, so it's ready for AT&T and T-Mobile.

The P527 comes with all the usual Windows Mobile applications, such as Pocket Office. But Asus has also added an FM radio, business card recognizing application, backup program and RSS reader. They also wrote their own power management software which should help extend the device's battery life. The phone will sell for $499, Ho said.

"The iPhone is changing peoples' perspectives," Ho said. "People are now more willing to pay for their phones."

The P527 will be followed by the Galaxy Mini, a more "woman-focused" smartphone that's small, slim and pink, Ho said. The Galaxy Mini will run the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Mobile software and ASUS' GPS system, and should be available by the end of March, Ho said.

If ASUS' phones are successful here, they may bring in other models such as a Lamborghini-branded phone, he said. ASUS makes a Lamborghini-branded laptop that's currently available in the US.

ASUS, iRiver to Sell Unlocked Smartphones in U.S. - News and Analysis by PC Magazine
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