AT&T on Monday introduced online services that make it possible to perform tasks associated with smartphones on lower-priced mobile phones.
The services include an address book, messaging, and the ability to transfer photos and video to a home computer or share them with people on other phones or with social networks, such as Facebook.
Initially, the services will be available on four phones, starting with the Samsung Strive, which sells for $20 for a limited time with a two-year contract and $50 mail-in rebate. On March 21, AT&T will offer the Samsung Sunburst for $40 under the same terms as the Strive, followed by the Pantech Link in the coming weeks, and the Pantech Pursuit in the summer. All the phones, which AT&T calls quick messaging devices, have keyboards.
"Quick messaging devices are among our most popular and fastest-growing phones," David Christopher, chief marketing officer for AT&T mobility and consumer markets, said in a statement. "They offer great value -- and now will offer cutting-edge services that enhance the overall experience consumers have with these phones."
In releasing the suite of Web-based services, AT&T is apparently hoping to build customer loyalty around its own brand. Most people today add services to smartphones through third-party online app stores. Apple, for example, has the App Store for the iPhone and Google has launched the Android Market for phones running its Android operating system.
AT&T's new online address book makes it possible for people to store contacts on AT&T's servers, where they can be managed from the handset or a home PC. If a person changes phones, then the contacts can be downloaded to the new phone.
The messaging service lets subscribers send messages to up to 10 contacts, organizing the conversations into threads to make them easier to follow. In addition, people can send photos and videos with messages or to social networks. AT&T is also offering online storage for pictures and video.
Sharing media costs $10 per month for 50 transfers. Customers also can choose a pay-per-use option at 35 cents a transfer. The first 250 MB of online storage is available at no charge. Customers can buy an additional 10 GB for $5 per month.