Verizon Wireless on Wednesday unveiled four new mobile phones for the 2007 holiday season, and it hopes that one of them is cool enough to shift the spotlight away from Apple's iPhone.
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The Voyager by LG sports a large external touch screen and opens laterally to reveal a full keypad.
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Attracting the most attention is LG Electronics' Voyager, which resembles the iPhone in several ways. The Voyager, exclusively offered by Verizon Wireless, has a large external touch screen that also slides open sideways for a full Qwerty keypad. This gives users a choice on how they access the phone's features, Verizon Wireless said.
The keyboard option is one advantage the Voyager could have over the iPhone's touch-screen-only design, in addition to Verizon Wireless' fast 3G data network that the Voyager will use to access the mobile Internet. The iPhone doesn't use 3G technology; instead, it uses the slower AT&T Edge data network.
The Shortcut Menu icons that appear on the Voyager's touch screen and another set of icons at the bottom of the screen bear another astonishing similarity to the iPhone.
The Voyager also comes with multimedia capabilities, including an HTML Web browser; Verizon Wireless' V Cast mobile TV, video, and music service; and the ability to play MP3, WMA, and unprotected AAC files. For more storage room, the phone has a removable MicroSD memory slot that holds up to 8 Gbytes of memory.
"The Apple iPhone shook things up. If you look closely at the iPhone, it's just an ordinary phone in an extraordinary package," said Jeff Kagan, a wireless and telecom industry analyst. "That's what this Verizon Wireless phone is doing. It is competing with the iPhone in this segment of the cell phone marketplace. It is Verizon's answer to AT&T's and Apple's iPhone. I fully expect Sprint, T-Mobile, and a variety of other carriers -- large and small -- to come out with their version."
Verizon Wireless' holiday lineup also includes the Venus by LG, the Juke by Samsung, and the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 by Research In Motion.
The Venus has two dual-front screens. The lower screen has touch input with vibration feedback for simpler access to the phone's features. Verizon Wireless is calling it a "music-centric slim, stylish slider" that also is a music player, a 2.0 megapixel camera, and camcorder.
The previously announced Juke can flick open 180 degrees to reveal a keypad. It has 2 Gbytes of internal storage to complement the phone’s music player, as well as a VGA camera with a night shot feature and Bluetooth stereo support.
The BlackBerry Pearl isn't new to the smartphone market, having been introduced over a year ago. But it's the first time Verizon Wireless is offering it on its high-speed wireless broadband network, called EV-DO. The BlackBerry Pearl has built-in GPS and comes with Verizon Wireless' Navigator service, which provides maps, audible turn-by-turn navigation, and more than 14 million points of interest.
Verizon Wireless hasn't yet disclosed when the phones will be available for sale, but they're expected to be in stores before Thanksgiving.