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7/31/2006
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Verizon Wireless Launches iPod-Like Music Phone

The Chocolate lets subscribers browse, preview, download, and play music purchased over Verizon's broadband network or through the company's V Cast Music online store.

Verizon Wireless on Monday unveiled a device that takes mobile phones a step closer in form and function to Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod media player.

The Chocolate from LG Electronics MobileComm USA Inc. lets subscribers browse, preview, download and play music purchased over Verizon's broadband network or through the company's VCast Music online store. Verizon, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, offers more than 1.3 million songs.

In addition, the stylish device is built to play video and games from the Verizon network, and features a 1.3 mega pixel camera, support for Bluetooth-based accessories, a memory expansion slot for SanDisk 2GB cards and a navigation system. The phone is sold exclusively by Verizon.

U.S. wireless operators have recently started shipping devices that download and play music to increase revenue from their data services, which are still primarily used for text messaging. In adding music capabilities, the devices are entering the digital media player market that's dominated by the iPod.

Analysts, however, say it'll be awhile before carriers can offer a device that would pose a strong challenge to the iPod, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the portable music players used today. Nevertheless, Apple is not expected to wait, and experts believe the company is working on an iPod with phone capabilities.

Apple does not discuss future product plans.

LG, based in South Korea, claims to have sold 1 million units of the Chocolate outside the United States. Verizon, based in Basking Ridge, N.J., plans to start selling the devices Aug. 7 through its own stores. The phone is expected to sell for $200, with a $50 mail-in rebate available. Verizon sells songs for 99 cents a piece from its music store, and $1.99 each over its network.

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