Vodafone launches consumer-targeted Palm smartphone

Vodafone launches consumer-targeted Palm smartphone

Vodafone will offer Palm's new Treo 500v next month in an effort to draw more revenue from mobile data services.

As part of a strategy to generate greater revenue from mobile data services, Vodafone Group PLC has collaborated with Palm Inc. to launch a smartphone modeled after the Treo 750v but at a fraction of the price and with a newly designed user interface.

Vodafone will exclusively sell the Palm Treo 500v, which debuts in Europe in October, for three months, after which the handset will be available to other operators and retail outlets, in Europe and Asia, Roy Bedlow, vice president and general manager of Palm Europe Ltd., said Wednesday. Vodafone had a similar agreement with Palm when the operator launched the Treo 750v last year.

Pricing of the 500v will vary according to market. The handset will be available free or for a small fee together with a 12- to 18-month contract in the U.K., according to Vodafone spokeswoman Helen Brockett. In Germany, pricing for the handset will begin at €30 (US$41) and increase slightly according to the conditions of the operator's two-year contracts.

By comparison, the Treo 750v sold for more than €500 with a two-year contract in Germany when it was launched.

However, unlike the Treo 750v, which is targeted primarily at business users, the 500v lacks touchscreen capabilities, largely to lower the handset's cost, Bedlow said. The phone runs Microsoft Corp. Windows Mobile 6 Standard operating system, which doesn't support touchscreen capability, unlike the Professional version used in the 750v model.

Although the Treo 500v runs on 3G (third-generation) networks, it doesn't support the more recent version HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) protocol, again mostly for cost reasons, according to Bedlow.

But the new smartphone is packed with a few features missing in the 750v, including a new interface designed to give users faster and easier access to Vodafone Live mobile Internet applications.

The applications are shown in a carousel that users can manipulate for easy navigation, according to Bedlow. In addition to Live, the carousel includes a number of applications such as Google Maps, YouTube and eBay.

The Treo 500v is designed for one-hand use, according to Bedlow.

Like the Treo 750v, the 500v supports Microsoft Direct Push technology to deliver Outlook mail, as well as Vodafone's own push e-mail service. Users can also configure the handset to send and receive e-mail from the Vodafone account or from other e-mail accounts.

"With the Treo 500v, Vodafone wants to broaden its user base for mobile data services such as the Internet and e-mail," Bedlow said. "The handset makes more features of high-end mobile phones available to more users."

The new smartphone has 150M bytes of internal memory and a slot for a microSD expansion card. It is also equipped with Bluetooth wireless technology.

As part of the European rollout, Vodafone will offer the Treo 500v next month in Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and the U.K., with other European countries as well as the Asia-Pacific region to follow, according to Bedlow.

The Treo 500v will not be available in the U.S., although Palm is planning new devices later this year for North American market, according to a company spokesman.

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