Motorola debuts RAZR successors, iTunes phone

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US-based Motorola unveiled a range of new handsets yesterday that will be built around its RAZR model, and showed a long-awaited music phone with Apple`s iTunes music player software.

The popular RAZR ultra-thin flip-phone, which was launched last year, will be joined by three more hi-tech models, dubbed the RAZR black, the SLVR and the PEBL.

The black RAZR, nicknamed BLZR, will be available for the Oscars this spring. The SLVR, a model without a flip, will be thin like the RAZR with Motorola hoping to bring excitement back to monoblock phones, which have lost ground to clamshell designs.

Bigger rival Nokia has this year started moving a large part of its portfolio to clamshells after it lost market share in 2004 due to its focus on monoblock models.

The SLVR will come out in the third quarter, which is when Motorola will also introduce a round mobile phone dubbed the PEBL. Under Jim Wicks, who was elevated to chief designer last year, Motorola will develop two families of phones, one square and one round.

"We finally discovered the right direction," Amer Husaini, VP for Motorola`s mobile devices group in Europe, Middle East, Africa and South Asia, said at 3GSM in Cannes, the world`s biggest mobile trade show.

Under new chief executive Ed Zander, Motorola has turned around its handset operations last year. It gained global market share to 15.3% from 14.5%, and more than tripled operating profits after introducing popular new models of which it could make sufficient quantities -- breaking with a tradition of problems with logistics and manufacturing.

Four-letter models

While the new four-letter models will be for the standard second-generation networks, Motorola also unveiled three new handsets and one datacard for faster third-generation mobile networks aimed at multimedia consumers and computer users.

Many operators opened third-generation (3G) networks to consumers last year, with 61 UMTS networks open by late 2004, connecting 16 million subscribers. Vodafone started selling 3G services to consumers in November in 13 countries.

Motorola will introduce the E1120 monoblock model with a built-in camera of three-megapixels for high detail pictures, and the E1060 model which is aimed at music aficionados and which will feature iTunes Music Player, of which Motorola said last year will become the default music player on Motorola handsets.

"We are committed to have iTunes as the default music client, but we will also continue to support other music players such as RealPlayer [from RealNetworks]," Husaini said.

Apple`s iTunes Music Player has become popular on the back of the company`s iPod music jukebox, which is the world`s leading portable music player. Motorola phone users will be able to carry a limited number of songs in the iTunes format.

The A1010, available in the first half, will succeed the current A1000 3G phone, by adding more features. All phones will run on Motorola`s own operating system, except the A1010 which will run on Symbian. More Linux phones are in the pipeline for this year, but it is not clear if they will be sold outside Asia, Husaini said.

The computer datacard will be able to handle the higher speeds that come with HSDPA networks, the improved version of UMTS that will be used by some operators toward the end of 2005. That is also when Motorola`s card will be ready.

At the trade show, Motorola`s network division is showing how HSDPA can boost the speed of a 3G network so that 10 songs can be downloaded onto a phone in less than a minute.

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