AT&T Will Offer Users Karma

Posted by at 6:40 pm on July 2, 2009

AT&T will launch a new Motorola handset later this month that is designed to deliver mobile socializing capabilities. Karma, the 3G handset with QWERTY keyboard combines text messaging and instant messaging with one-click Facebook and MySpace icons on the device’s home screen.

“Unique visitors to Facebook from AT&T’s Media Net portal grew over 100 percent in 2008,” said AT&T Vice President Michael Woodward. “Karma’s one-click access to Facebook and MySpace will resonate with customers who are committed to keeping up with social-networking sites on the go.”

Mobile-phone users are looking for more from their devices than just an easy way to text, said Motorola Vice President Jeff Miller. “They want to update their social-networking status, instant-message multiple friends, make calls, and, of course, text, all while on the go,” Miller said.

Gartner Research Director Carolina Milanesi agrees. “Messaging is a really a sweet spot in the United States right now and specifically in the mid-tier,” she said.

But simply offering social-networking features on mobile devices isn’t enough, Milanesi said. “We’ll need to try the device to see how well integrated the applications actually are,” she observed. Last November, British mobile operator 3 introduced INQ’s Facebook phone, which “offers a well-integrated experience.”

QWERTY keyboards add a level of integration and accuracy that touchscreen technology simply cannot bring to handsets, noted William Stofega, program manager of mobile-device technology and trends at IDC.

“Keyboards in general are more suitable for message-based phones, and that is especially true with the new device from Motorola,” Stofega said. “Touch leaves behind twice as many mistakes.”

Milanesi was not surprised to see one-click social-networking keys on the Karma home screen. “Motorola did mention that this would be a focus, and I am sure there is an audience out there for it,” she said.

The game for operators is to drive more network usage and social networking certainly helps, Stofega observed. “And given the popularity of applications like Facebook, it is important to have that, especially in a mass-market phone,” Stofega said.

Measuring 3.46×2.52×0.70 inches and tipping the scales at just under five ounces, the Karma is equipped with a 2.5-inch color display featuring 240×320-pixel resolution, the slide-down QWERTY keypad, a two-megapixel camera, GPS and Bluetooth radios, USB 2.0, and up to 100MB of internal memory. The device’s MicoSD card slot also can accommodate memory cards with a capacity of up to 16GB.

Karma’s voice capabilities include a speakerphone, three-way conferencing, voice commands, and Crystaltalk noise-reduction technology. The handset’s 1170mAh battery delivers about 3.5 hours of 3G usage time or up to 366 hours of standby time, Motorola said.

The   Karma enables the playback of music and video files with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. The device which supports POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail accounts, also delivers IM-style texting together with the ability to send instant messages simultaneously to multiple friends via Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger.

The Motorola Karma can be purchased beginning June 28. AT&T’s $79.99 price after mail-in rebate requires two-year wireless voice and messaging commitments at $39.99 and $20 per month, respectively. Buyers will also get a free 30-day trial of AT&T Navigator, a GPS-driven personal navigation service that delivers turn-by-turn directions.

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