#TBT: Fun + music = LG’s Fusic; Seeking the mobile MySpace; A Linux OS?… this week in 2006

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Editor’s Note: RCR Wireless News goes all in for “Throwback Thursdays,” tapping into our archives to resuscitate the top headlines from the past. Fire up the time machine, put on the sepia-tinted shades, set the date for #TBT and enjoy the memories!

Not just another clamshell, it’s a Fusic

Touting brand and pursuing differentiation is in vogue with nearly every original equipment manufacturer now chasing Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc. over the rainbow, looking for the proverbial pot of gold. LG Electronics Co. Ltd. is no exception and its newly released Fusic phone is an attempt to hit the market’s sweet spot of mid-tier, music-enabled devices aimed at the tech-savvy youth market that wants to carry tunes on-the-go. The Fusic-touted by LG and its exclusive carrier patron, Sprint Nextel Corp., as a name fusing “fun” and “music”-is a co-branded, clamshell-style handset priced at $180 at Sprint Nextel (“retail” is said to be $330, less an “instant savings” of $150 with a two-year contract), that can download MP3 tracks from the Sprint Music Store and carries Sprint Nextel’s Power Vision video service. The device offers a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an FM transmitter for sending users’ music to their car radio. Music controls have been placed on the outside of the closed handset and calls automatically ring through the music function. The handset offers only limited memory and comes with a 64 megabyte microSD card. So what does the Fusic device, feature set, price and deal with Sprint Nextel say about LG’s strategy in the United States and its ability to win converts in the music-phone space? According to LG Director of Marketing Jon Maron, the Fusic is an early result of the company’s research-and-development facility in San Diego and is aimed only at the U.S. market’s music-centric consumer in the 17-to-34-year-old age group. “It’s definitely right at the top [of LG’s U.S. music phone portfolio]in terms of positioning,” Maron said. “It’s not just another clamshell phone.” … Read more

Hurricane Katrina alters calling patterns

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of thousands of people were scattered across the country. People’s homes were destroyed, their neighborhoods were flooded or left without power, and many had no way of calling for help or simply to let loved ones know they had survived. While cellular networks were damaged along with nearly everything else, many carriers were able to get at least portions of their networks back up within days, supplemented by cells on wheels and cells on light trucks and working around flooded T1 lines with microwave backhaul. The quick response ultimately may have benefited the wireless industry by prompting people to rely more on their mobile phones. Katrina appears to have substantially changed the usage patterns in cities that were most affected by the storm, such as New Orleans and Houston. Though not in the path of the storm, the Texas city abruptly become home to around 100,000 Katrina refugees. Telephia found in a recent analysis of customer billing records that mobile use in Houston had jumped 31 percent since the first quarter of last year and subscribers were talking more than any other place in the country: about 1,100 minutes per month. Mobile-phone use had grown even faster in New Orleans itself, at a rate of 41 percent, putting the typical user talking on their wireless phone about 1,070 minutes per month. Both of those numbers tower over the national average in the first quarter of 2006, which Telephia put at 718 minutes per user per month. … Read more

Seeking the mobile MySpace

For more than a few mobile startups, MySpace has become MyObsession. The most popular of a throng of new Web sites featuring user-generated content, MySpace.com has an estimated 55 million users and reportedly accounts for 12 percent of online advertising. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the company last summer for a jaw-dropping $580 million in an effort to tap into the highly prized youth and adult demographic. Other sites have attracted eyeballs, as well, allowing users to do everything from creating profiles (Facebook, Friendster) to posting video clips (YouTube, Break) to sharing digital music broadcasts (Mercora). Investors and software developers are hoping to expand the phenomenon from the PC to the mobile phone. Traffix Inc. is the latest to wade into wireless. The publicly traded company has gained traction with nearly a dozen community-based, topical Web sites, and earlier this month launched its first offering for mobile-phone users. The site, Q121.com, offers both mobile content as well as social networking tools that allow users to send anonymous text messages and create mobile blogs. Like other companies that have established a foothold on the Internet, Traffix looks at wireless as a way to extend its reach and complement its other online offerings. … Read more

Looking to Linux for a new OS

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill.—Motorola Inc. and a handful of handset vendors, along with two major network operators, have agreed to establish a global Linux-based software platform for mobile devices, the companies involved announced. The alliance, which plans to solicit more participants, could stand directly against other operating system vendors including Symbian Ltd. (partly owned by Nokia Corp.) and Microsoft Corp., which makes the Windows Mobile OS. Motorola, second only to Nokia in global market share for mobile handsets, was joined by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., the world’s third-largest handset maker, NEC Corp. and Panasonic Mobile Communications (a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.). Vodafone Group plc and NTT DoCoMo Inc. joined on the operator side. Vodafone, based in the United Kingdom, is one of the world’s largest network operator and Japanese carrier DoCoMo is known as one of the most innovative. The Linux alliance aims to lower development costs and foster a mobile ecosystem among interested companies, including application developers, across the value chain. Specifically, the alliance will focus on the joint development and marketing of an application programming interface specification and architecture that will support source code-based reference designs, components and tools to leverage both community-based and proprietary development. … Read more

Cingular brings home the UMTS/HSDPA

ATLANTA—Cingular Wireless L.L.C. launched UMTS/HSDPA services for businesses and consumers in its home town of Atlanta. The high-speed wireless data and voice service is available on two handsets, the LG Electronics Co. Ltd. CU320 and the Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. SGH-ZX10; Cingular says it plans to add several other handsets in the coming months. A $20 unlimited data package is required for Cingular’s Video service, which includes local weather forecasts and a range of channels from ABC TV to CNN, the Disney Channel and Nascar.com To Go. Premium channels, such as HBO Mobile, have an additional subscription charge. Cingular’s BroadbandConnect service for businesses allows customers to link up to the high-speed network via a PC card or an integrated modem within two models of Dell Latitude laptops. The service also requires a contract and a data plan, which can include international roaming. The launch of the Atlanta metro area brings Cingular up to 18 major markets with UMTS/HSDPA availability. … Read more

3G handset market snapshot: June 2006

A snapshot of the 3G handset market in the United States reveals a nascent business on the verge of growth, as carriers upgrade their networks and more aggressively market their data-based offerings, and a broader portfolio of 3G handsets is presented to consumers. According to a survey of U.S. mobile subscribers by M:Metrics Ltd., Motorola Inc.’s handsets (the E815, the Razr V3c and its pink sister) running on Verizon Wireless’ network dominate the 3G handset space. 3G models from LG Electronics Co. Ltd. (VX8100, VX9800 and VX8000) and Samsung Electronics Co. (SCH-A950, SPH-A900, MM-A920 and SCH-a890) also place in the top 10 most popular 3G phones, running on either Verizon’s or Sprint Nextel Corp.’s networks. At this juncture, 3G phones in the Unites States are largely a CDMA play. Today these phones are sold based on price points and form factors, rather than their 3G capabilities, according to Seamus McAteer, senior analyst at M:Metrics. About half of the top 10 3G devices in the United States have been on the market for a year or more. “The message I’d convey is that these are not niche devices, they’re mainstream phones like the Razr V3 or the Samsung SPH-A900, which are marketed as cool, skinny flip phones,” McAteer said. “First, we need to get volumes up to get prices down on these phones. So we’re not seeing a flood of devices into the market-yet. “I think the 3G handset market in the U.S. is right where it should be at this point,” McAteer added. “We’re expecting to see three or four new models on Cingular’s network and five to 10 new CDMA models in the third and fourth quarter this year.” … Read more

Check out the RCR Wireless News Archives for more stories from the past

About Author

Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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