Sprint Releases New Phones for Holidays

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Sprint Nextel Corp. today announced five new consumer cell phones and one new Nextel Direct Push to Talk phone, the Motorola i576, for workers. All the phones will hit the market in time for Christmas sales.

Three of the consumer handsets incorporate a new user interface called Sprint OneClick, which provides one-touch access through either a touch screen or a key to bring up "tiles" of services and applications a user may want, said David Owens, director of consumer acquisitions for Sprint.

The OneClick is reminiscent of the carousel functionality that Apple Inc. has built into its laptops and other devices, allowing users to scroll through the carousel to the tiles they want, such as a music title, Sprint officials said.

Sprint hired an outside firm, Frog Design of Austin, to create the OneClick interface. Frog Design worked with Sprint and different manufacturers to make the OneClick common across three of the six new phone models, Owens said.

"A lot of research says usability is the number one driver of satisfaction," he said. "It's a pretty bold move for a carrier to move outside of the wireless space to drive a great user interface and to work with different manufacturers to implement it on top of Java."

Analysts said Sprint and other carriers must offer new technologies outside of their traditional areas of strength to be able to compete against the likes of Apple Inc. and its widely popular iPhone.

The three phones using OneClick are the Samsung Rant, the Samsung Highnote and the LG Lotus. The Rant has a full qwerty keyboard and features consumer-grade e-mail, TV and other services while selling at $49.99. The Highnote is primarily a music device, featuring a slider design to slide up for a keyboard. The LG Lotus shaped like a cosmetic compact, square in design, and will include a full qwerty keyboard as well. Pricing was not announced for the Highnote or Lotus.

The other two consumer-focused devices are the HTC Touch Diamond and Touch Pro, Owens said, although no pricing or details about Sprint's custom features on either device were available.

The i576 for workers is an update of the popular i570 PTT phone, and will sell for about the same price of $70, said John Tudhope, director of product developement for iDen Nextel Direct. He described it as a more compact clamshell design than the i570, that mixes features of rugged PTT devices and more traditional cell phones.

"We don't want it to look like a traditional heavy radio, since it is much smaller and more like a phone, but still has an edge of ruggedness," Tudhope said.

This story, "Sprint Releases New Phones for Holidays" was originally published by Computerworld.

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