You don’t need a smartphone to harness the cloud. That’s the message AT&T is pushing with its latest batch of sub-$50 messaging phones and a slate of new Web-based services to go with them.
The so-called “Quick Messaging Devices” offer full QWERTY keyboards without the processing power – and price – of a full-fledged smartphone. Although this class of device typically doesn’t run the powerful mobile operating systems that make many advanced features possible, AT&T will add them with a new basket of address book, messaging and media features.
Both the enhanced address book and messaging features will be available free of charge. AT&T Address Book will allow users to store their contacts in the cloud, accessing them either from the phone or the Web, and making it possible to import contacts from services like e-mail. Next Generation Messaging will emulate the threaded conversation style of smartphones, as well as adding features like “reply all” and group messaging.
For $10 a month, AT&T Mobile Share will let users quickly move images and videos from their phones to the Web, and store them on a 250MB “AT&T Locker” to share with friends. The company will offer pay-per-use pricing of 35 cents per transfer, and an additional 10GB of storage space for $5 monthly.
Two of the new messaging phones come from Samsung, and the two from Pantech. The Samsung Strive and Sunburst, priced at $20 and $40 respectively, both offer vertical sliding designs and full QWERTY keyboards, with the Sunburst adding GPS, a touch screen, and a customizable widget bar. Both will arrive March 21. Pantech’s Link adopts a slim and lightweight candybar design, while the Pantech Pursuit will offer a sliding keyboard, touch screen, and even face recognition and geotagging for photos. Both will be available in the coming weeks with prices yet to be announced.