AOL Instant Messenger built into Nokia phone

Internet mammoth America Online Inc. (AOL), Nokia Corp., and VoiceStream Wireless Corp. have together released a version of the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service built into the Nokia 3390 mobile phone, the companies announced Thursday. The service will be available to VoiceStream Wireless customers.

The partnership marks the first time instant messaging has been offered as a built-in application for a mobile handset, the companies said in a statement.

The mobile phone -- which is only available in one color, gold -- will retail for US$69.99 from VoiceStream. Monthly pricing will vary depending on service area in the U.S., according to the VoiceStream and Nokia Web sites. For example, a user in Boston would pay $29.99 per month for the "talk and text" package for 200 nonweekend minutes, 1000 weekend minutes and 500 text messages per month, VoiceStream said. Any addition voice calls would be charged at $0.35 per minute and $0.05 per message, the company said.

Service for the built-in AIM on Nokia's 3390 mobile phone will only be offered to VoiceStream customers over its GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network, the companies said.

AOL, now part of AOL Time Warner Inc., announced in February that it was teaming with mobile phone operators in an effort to move its AIM and ICQ messaging services from the desktop to mobile phones by way of SMS (short message service) technology. As more business users take advantage of SMS and instant messaging technologies as a cheap, fast way to communicate, AOL and Microsoft Corp. have been fiercely competing for the lion's share of the market, especially as instant messaging technologies move to wireless devices.

According to a study released in May by the research and consulting company Gartner Group Inc., 52 percent of consumers and 40 percent of business users rely on AOL's instant messaging service, while 36 percent of consumers and 40 percent of business users turn to the Microsoft version.

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